As 2019 begins, the global shipping industry can expect factors, such as consolidation, policy change, and technology, to be key drivers of change. With each new year, the shipping industry further develops and advances, requiring businesses to stay ahead of the trends to anticipate any possible issues to adapt and overcome.

Here are five trends expected to shake up the global shipping industry in 2019.

Consolidation. As of January 2019, the ten largest logistics and shipping operators control nearly 70% of the global carrier capacity. As 2019 furthers, this trend is likely to continue. As more and more companies consolidate into larger organizations, smaller operators are pushed out of the market forcing their hand in bankruptcy or  sell-out.

Policy Change. The policy change that may await in 2019 is far from certain; between U.S. trade wars and Brexit negotiations, many different factors could impact the global shipping market. Although we may not be able to predict what is to come, businesses can prepare by staying on top of information, monitoring all regulations and trade agreements that may affect operations.

Trade War. In late March of 2018, the USTR (United States Trade Representative) released its investigation into unfair Chinese trade practices and recommended tariffs. By July of the same year, tariffs had been placed on $34 billion of Chinese imports, which was met by retaliation of Chinese tariffs on $34 billion of U.S. imports. By the end of the year, the U.S. had implemented tariffs on nearly $250 billion of Chinese imports and China had implemented tariffs on roughly $110 billion of U.S. imports. According to Bloomberg, 2019 will likely bring an increase of U.S. tariffs on China from 10 to 25% and retaliation of increased tariffs by the Chinese government. By the end of 2019, more than half of US companies reported slower approvals and enhanced inspections by Chinese authorities, one of the many consequences of increased tariffs. While the trade war is not expected to last, it is likely to intensify in 2019, leading to many companies restructuring supply chains and a .4% reduction in global economic output in the long term.

Rate Levels. While the trade war has impacted many, U.S. importers have paid the ultimate price. As tariffs were implemented and importers accelerated their shipments and stock to protect against higher tariffs, rate levels rose to their highest levels in almost eight years. Due to the uncertain nature of the trade war and how it will impact the industry, it is nearly impossible to predict freight rate levels.

Technology Usage. While many new technologies may be implemented or used, the most significant impact on the global shipping industry will come from blockchain. As there are already multiple developments underway by new startups and established industry heads, it is expected for the usage to accelerate in 2019.