Footwear imports into the South China Sea could become slower and more expensive if local tensions continue to escalate, warns a new report.

The Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) pointed out that, with more than 95% of footwear shipped into the US coming through the South China Sea, continued skirmishes could have “major implications” for speed to market and transit costs.

It said that insurance rates could “skyrocket” thanks to the increased risks posed by growing nationalism and expanding regional navies.

As well as having a major effect on speed to market for footwear, impacts on shipping lanes in the southern part of the sea could hinder China from obtaining the oil required by cargo ships, with even a slight shortage likely to cause disruption.

Meanwhile, other countries in the region, such as Vietnam and Indonesia, could be prevented from crossing the sea altogether.

With China responsible for 84% of US footwear imports, and Vietnam and Indonesia’s business growing fast, the FDRA warned that now was a “critical time” in the history of global footwear production and sourcing.

It added: “With the continued reshuffling of footwear sourcing throughout the region, conflict in the Sea, both large and small, could have a substantial impact on costs, delivery, and quality.”