Infographic: Visualizing Global Shipping Container Traffic
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Visualizing Global Shipping Container Traffic

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Shipping container traffic

Visualizing Global Shipping Container Traffic

Globalization owes a lot to the humble shipping container.

In the distant past, loading a ship was a complicated affair involving pallets, crates, and winches. This process was labor-intensive and expensive, meaning most goods were simply not worth shipping overseas.

In the 1970s, the standardized shipping container solved this problem on a wide scale and turned the world economy on its head. This standardization drove the cost of shipping down as the efficiency of ports skyrocketed. Modern ports can now move upwards of 70 containers per crane per hour.

It doesn’t matter anymore where you produce something now, because transport costs aren’t important.

– Rainer Horn, Hapag-Lloyd

Made in China

With the barrier of shipping costs effectively removed, production began to migrate to countries with cheaper production costs.

China is at the center of this new paradigm: nearly one-third of all global containers move through Chinese ports, and seven of the top 10 ports in the world are all located in China.

Countries Moving the Most Units

Here are the 50 countries with the most 20-foot containers passing through their ports:

RankCountry20-Foot Container Count (2017)
1China (inc. H.K.)234,489,920
2United States51,425,464
3Singapore33,600,000
4South Korea27,427,000
5Malaysia24,719,000
6Japan21,904,444
7U.A.E.21,280,900
8Germany19,447,600
9Spain17,065,000
10Netherlands13,951,000
11Indonesia13,859,500
12India13,259,000
13Vietnam12,284,395
14Belgium11,857,009
15Thailand10,732,000
16Italy10,698,030
17United Kingdom10,530,328
18Brazil10,049,282
19Turkey9,927,385
20Saudi Arabia8,404,000
21Philippines8,196,961
22Australia7,693,643
23Egypt7,430,000
24Panama6,900,000
25France6,714,551
26Mexico6,305,000
27Canada6,298,590
28Sri Lanka6,000,000
29Oman4,784,712
30South Africa4,634,900
31Morocco4,570,000
32Russia4,515,000
33Greece4,461,000
34Chile4,189,669
35Colombia3,444,503
36New Zealand3,227,100
37Portugal3,220,100
38Malta3,203,000
39Iran3,091,000
40Pakistan2,985,600
41Israel2,865,028
42Bangladesh2,587,000
43Poland2,459,900
44Peru2,368,989
45Ecuador1,944,135
46Finland1,920,800
47Argentina1,750,102
48Jamaica1,689,000
49Nigeria1,656,000
50Sweden1,593,450

Asian countries dominate shipping container traffic, taking up four of the top five spots. Singapore, with a population of just 5.4 million, moved nearly 34 million 20-foot containers in 2017. That’s more than Italy, France, Russia, Sweden, and the U.K. combined.

The United States is still the number two country in the world in terms of the number of containers handled. Two massive ports in Los Angeles control over a quarter of the North American market share, and the Port of New York & New Jersey is the largest on the Eastern Seaboard.

The Stack Keeps Growing

Except for a brief slip in 2009, the number of containers moving through ports has increased every year this millennium so far.

Global container shipping chart

In spite of the recent volley of tariff actions, there appears to be smooth sailing ahead for the growth of containerized shipping.

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Prediction Consensus: What the Experts See Coming in 2023

Using our database of 500+ predictions from reports, articles, interviews, and more, we highlight what experts think will happen in 2023

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Prediction Consensus: What the Experts See Coming in 2023

In this, our fourth year of Prediction Consensus (now part of our more comprehensive 2023 Global Forecast Series), we’ve learned a few things about the universe of predictions, experts, outlooks, and forecasts.

  1. Experts are reasonably good at predicting the future one year out, though they are also in a strong position to help shape the future through their influential thought leadership and actions.
  2. Situations can and will flare up in unexpected ways, which can have knock-on effects on the whole system (e.g. COVID-19, Ukraine invasion).
  3. Experts are just as susceptible to hype as the rest of us, as evidenced by the glut of Web3 predictions in 2022 and AI predictions this year.

Of course, we’re susceptible to hype as well, which is why we asked ChatGPT to write the intro to this article:

prediction consensus ai chatgpt intro

Not bad. But, simple curiosity aside, it’s the practical considerations we’ll focus on today. This article serves as an overview of how experts think the markets will move, how trends will develop, and which risks and opportunities to watch over the coming 12 months.

Let’s gaze into the crystal ball.

The Economic Vibe Check

First, we’ll look at some big picture themes, and how experts see them playing out over 2023.

Inflation: This was the top economic story of last year, so it’s a natural starting place. Many of the expert opinions in this year’s database (now at 500+ predictions) are pointing to inflation easing off as the year progresses*. On the downside, few predict that inflation will drop back down to the 2% range that Fed policymakers favor.

GDP: Forecasters have been revising their economic projections downward in recent weeks. The latest was World Bank, which now sees global growth declining to 1.7% in 2023, down from 3% just six months ago. Most of the predictions in our database see global economic growth in the range of 1.5% to 2%.

Recession: As 2022 came to a close, the broad sentiment among experts in the financial industry is that recession is all but inevitable in developed markets this year. As dawn breaks in 2023, a few analysts now feel that the U.S.—and possibly Europe—could narrowly avoid recession.

Markets: Experts on Wall Street and beyond are cautiously optimistic about equities, and after the worst year on record for bonds in 2022, most analysts are declaring that “Bonds are back”.

*Interestingly, this was also last year’s prediction, but the scale of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a curve ball that caught many experts off guard.

AI is Eating the World

Jobs being displaced by automation is far from a new theme, but given the exponential improvements in AI in recent years, the risk to entire industries feels more existential today.

As an example, let’s consider art and design. One of the ways many illustrators and artists earn a living is through commissions⁠—essentially being hired and paid to create a specific piece of art in their style.

Today though, free, powerful AI tools, such as Midjourney, allow users to generate high-quality art in an infinite number of styles with just a few clicks. Real art will never truly go out of style, and accomplished artists will always attract an audience, but this one example shows how quickly technology can disrupt an industry. (Artists can take solace in the fact that AI is still comically bad at rendering hands.)

predictions about artificial technology for 2023

Of course, there are obvious positive aspects to this technological advancement as well. Generative AI tools are useful for generating ideas and mock-ups, and even functional snippets of code. AI systems like AlphaFold unlock a world of possibilities in scientific domains.

From the hundreds of predictions we evaluated, it’s clear that experts view AI as a major catalyst this year. AI start-ups are forcing Big Tech to innovate faster, and employees are finding new ways to use AI-powered tools to increase productivity.

Experts predict that AI will impact peoples’ lives in a much more visible and tangible way in 2023 than in past years.

The China Factor

As world’s second largest economy and linchpin of global trade, events in China have a major impact on the world economy.

Xi Jinping’s reversal of Zero-COVID restrictions should drastically change the trajectory of the country’s economy. For one, reopening will unleash a flood of household spending and consumption.

china predictions 2023

China’s reopening will also impact other economies as well. For example, the resumption of travel will be a boon to destinations favored by Chinese vacationers. Economically, Hong Kong stands to benefit immensely—its GDP could jump upwards of 8% after reopening is complete. Emerging market commodity exporters could see a lift as well, though inflation could be reinvigorated as a result.

In the U.S., a storm is brewing over the extremely popular video app, TikTok. Many experts predict that regulators will either ban the app altogether in 2023, or force the sale of the company to an American entity. Regardless how that situation plays out, it underscores the souring relationship between the U.S. and China. The rivalry will continue to have ripple effects on the global markets throughout the year.

Energy

Energy was the S&P 500’s top performing sector two years in a row, and many experts feel that more growth is on the horizon.

The global system that supplies us with energy is breathtakingly complex, with a lot of unpredictable factors at play. Of all factors, conflict can create the most volatility, and 2023 has a number of geopolitical risks that could impact energy supplies. First, Europe will continue to diversify its energy imports away from Russia. Recently, liquefied natural gas from the U.S. has helped fill gaps.

energy predictions 2023

Next, Iran could be a flashpoint in the Middle East this year. A brewing conflict in the region could cause instability, which will have knock-on effects on the energy industry—particularly in the event of attacks on oil and gas infrastructure.

Here are a few other factors to consider this coming year:

  • The U.S. Energy Department will aim to replenish its Strategic Petroleum Reserve
  • Easing of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela could lay the ground work for increased oil production
  • In post-Zero-COVID China, economic activity will increase, pushing up demand
  • In the UK, the energy price guarantee will rise in April, meaning higher energy bills for households

The Elon Playbook

After a lull in December (nobody wants to be the company that fires people during the holiday season) tech and tech-adjacent companies have resumed their zealous slashing of headcounts.

There had been a slew of layoffs already in 2023, topped by Salesforce, which is trimming 7,000 jobs, and Amazon, which is cutting 18,000 roles—primarily impacting the corporate side of the business.

Given the influence of Elon Musk in the tech industry, many experts are suggesting that his strategy of ruthlessly slashing headcount at Twitter might serve as inspiration for other technology leaders.

tech layoff predictions 2023

Employees in the tech industry are very well compensated, and many were hired during periods of intense competition between companies to attract talent and capture market share.

During a downturn, it’s tempting—and often necessary—for companies to course-correct. There were also predictions that the whole start-up and investment ecosystem could be switching from a hypergrowth to a value-focused mindset, which is a theme that is worth consideration in 2023.

🔮🔮🔮
The Prediction Consensus was created using our database of 500+ expert predictions for 2023.

Today, we also launched the 2023 Global Forecast Series report, which dives into these themes and predictions in much deeper detail.

Make sure you get this cheat sheet for 2023 by becoming a VC+ member right now.
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