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Case: Shipping scenarios 2030: alternative views on the future of the industry

The modern shipping business is a global puzzle, made up of many pieces, that connects people and businesses around the world. Since 90 per cent of global trade is carried by sea, shipping obviously has a huge daily impact on people's lives. Shipping is also the most efficient and cleanest way of transporting goods over long distances, and must continue to be so in the future.

The future of shipping will be determined by economics, technological development, geopolitical trends, energy resources, social values, and environmental aspects, as well as by the shipping industry itself. The effects of these factors on companies, governments, and people's everyday lives will be significant.

Scenarios represent one means of making sense of a complex environment, and are widely used to understand different ways that future events might unfold. They help companies, governments and organisations with long-term strategic thinking in a fast changing world. Wärtsilä's Shipping Scenarios 2030 were produced by combining extensive expert input, quality research, hard work, dedication, and some imagination, and were published in 2010.

Complex world condensed into three scenarios

The analysis of a massive amount of information yielded three plausible scenarios.

Rough Seas 

In the world of Rough Seas, a scarcity of resources is predominant. Wealth is divided unequally among nations, resulting in tension. Climate change adds further stress. New trade routes have emerged as a result of two key developments: an increase in bilateral agreements, and industries moving to resource-rich areas. The entire logistics chain is optimised regionally and national governments control ports. The volumes of water and agricultural products being transported have increased significantly. Global tensions have increased the need for armed escorts, also at sea.

Yellow River

In Yellow River, China dominates the global arena economically, geopolitically, and in shipping. China is no longer the world's cheapest manufacturer. Instead, labour and resource-intensive manufacturing has moved to Africa and to other Asian countries. Economic growth is significantly slower in the West, and climate change is tackled only on a regional level. Most of the big shipping companies are Chinese-owned, and trade routes have shifted according to Chinese trade interests. New ports are being built in Africa, Eastern Russia and India, and Chinese ports have grown into sophisticated, integrated logistics centres.

Open Oceans

The world of Open Oceans is a strongly globalised one. Global mega-corporations and mega-cities have gained power over the nation states. Governments co-operate on the governance of climate issues and free trade protocols. Climate change is perceived as an opportunity, and innovating green solutions has become a lifestyle. In this world, logistics is king. Most goods are transported between the mega-cities, and areas rich in resources such as clean water, food and energy. Environmental challenges have led to the development of new types of vessels; desalination, waste management, and recycling ships are anchored outside mega-cities. Sustainable cruise vacations are a growing trend.

Wärtsilä Shipping Scenarios 2030 can be viewed at

Wärtsilä Power Scenarios 2023 are available at