Due to unfavorable weather conditions, Ever Given, one of the world’s largest container ships chartered by Evergreen Marine Corporation, ran aground in the Suez Canal earlier in March this year. The stranded vessel blocked the canal’s two-way traffic, paralyzing the waterway and also global trade. Although it was successfully unmoored after six days, the disruption to global shipping had already resulted in direct and indirect economic losses of hundreds of million dollars.
Sea freight has been the backbone of international trade as it is a cost-efficient way to ship in large quantities across a comprehensive network of routes. In fact, a near-to-total global trade volume is carried by sea. To capture different countries’ connectivity to the global shipping networks, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has calculated the Liner Shipping Connectivity Index (LSCI) based on five components of data collected for each country, namely the number of vessels deployed, the total carrying capacity of all vessels, the size of the largest vessel, the number of shipping lines, and the number of service providers. The LSCI serves to assess the countries’ port competitiveness and their levels of integration into the global shipping industry.
Among the 178 countries assessed, China retained the top spot it has held for several years, with a score of 163.81 in the first quarter of 2021. Singapore (112.77) and South Korea (107.75) ranked second and third, respectively, trailing behind China with a significant gap. The United States (105.56) came in fourth place. Taiwan witnessed an improved performance, ranking 12th with a score of 85.61 thanks to its sea-surrounding geography and its strategic location at the hub of the East Asia shipping network. In addition, 7 out of the top 12 countries/regions were in Asia.
As an island country, the Taiwanese government has been advocating for an ocean-oriented national development plan for the past twenty years. Over time, the outcomes were mainly declared policy goals, such as the Nation Ocean Policy White Paper and the White Paper on Maritime Education Policy. The formal legislation known as the Ocean Basic Act came only after 19 years of endeavor. Even though Taiwan got off to a late start compared to other countries, its geographical advantages offer tremendous potential in growing the nation’s shipping and harbor services and nurturing local maritime professionals to address the sector’s talent shortage. These efforts are envisioned to enhance Taiwan’s competitiveness in the global shipping industry.