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Who owns world fleet?

The data in this graph reflects data from top 35 shipowning countries in 2017 (according UNCTAD secretariat calculations) as they represent 88%  in terms of number of world fleet and 95% in terms of controlled deadweight  tonnage.

Notes: Propelled seagoing vessels of 1,000 gross tons and above, as at 1 January. For a complete listing of nationally owned fleets, see (accessed 9 September 2017).

Shipowning countries

In 2017 Greece continues to be the largest shipowning country in terms of cargo-carrying capacity (309 million dwt), followed by Japan, China, Germany and Singapore. Together, these five countries control almost half of the world’s tonnage . Only one country from Latin America (Brazil) is among the top 35 shipowning countries; none are from Africa. In terms of vessel numbers, China is the leading shipowning country (5,206 ships of 1,000 gross tons and above), including many smaller ships deployed in coastal shipping.

The share of shipowning by the traditional maritime nations in Europe and North America has continued to decrease, while that of middle-income developing countries, especially from Asia, has increased. Shipowning is not a high-technology industry that would require the latest, most sophisticated technologies and thus provides opportunities for emerging economies. At the same time, shipowning is not a labour-intensive business, where low-wage countries could benefit from any cost advantage – as is the case for ship scrapping. It is for this reason that middle-income countries in particular have increased their market share over the last decades, while the least developed countries are not among the world’s major shipowners.

A somewhat different picture emerges if the estimated commercial value of the fleet is considered. Here, the United States fleet leads with $96 billion, followed by Japan, Greece, China and Norway. The average value per ship of owners from Qatar is $75 million, reflecting its fleet of expensive liquefied natural gas tankers and other specialized tankers. In comparison, Indonesia, Thailand and Viet Nam own fleets with low unit values. Indonesian-owned fleets have an average commercial value of $3.6 million per vessel, reflecting the large number of smaller and older general cargo ships and ferries that are employed in interisland transport.

The source of this information is UCTAD Review of maritime transport 2017.  The main aim of this graph is by using infogram functionalityu to increase visibility over data provided in table 2.3. regarding ownership of world fleet in 2017.


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