The global shipping sector has experienced far-reaching negative impacts as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but most players in the industry believe it will recover within the next two years, according to new research by multinational law firm DWF.

The firm carried out a survey of 200 traders and operators working in the shipping and commodities sector. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority (63%) said that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns had a negative impact on their revenues, with a similar number (60.5%) saying that there was also a negative impact on employee headcount. Meanwhile, almost half said that they had seen a negative impact on insurance premiums.

Despite this, the majority of those surveyed (64%) said that they were not concerned about the sector’s ability to recovery within the next two years.

“Traders’ and operators’ confidence demonstrates the resilience of the shipping sector,” says Jonathan Moss, DWF’s head of marine and trade. “The shape of globalisation is changing and international trade is sufficiently flexible to carry out the necessary adjustments to ensure that the sector will continue to thrive in the long term.”

However, this isn’t to say that shippers aren’t worried about future threats. New environmental regulations, geopolitical tensions, and cyberattacks were all highlighted by respondents as key issues threatening the sector.

Meanwhile, in light of recent high-profile insolvencies in the shipping and commodities world, from Hin Leong to Agritrade, 42% of respondents highlighted that more regulation is required, although 31% called for less regulation.

“The back and forth between regulation and deregulation is a feature of the shipping sector,” says Moss. “Financial collapses and scandals often prompt demands for new regulation. Whilst those polled believe that new regulations will provide the necessary safeguards, there should be a concentration on making existing regulation more effective. Misunderstandings and misconceptions about the regulatory framework are key contributors to the current rise in litigation.”

In more immediate concerns, 400,000 seafarers from across the world remain stranded on vessels because of the pandemic and are unable to be relieved due to travel restriction measures, according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Some seafarers have now been at sea for 17 months without a break, well exceeding the 11-month limit set out in the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), which has raised concerns about supply chain and human rights issues as a result.