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Sunday, December 15th, 2019

Hellas: Shipping Fleet Retains World Crown says latest UNCTAD Report

by November 7, 2016 General

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Hellas maintained and increases its share of the global shipping fleet over the course of the past 12 months, said UNCTAD in its latest survey on the global shipping industry. Hellas’s share grew to 16.36% from 16.1% in terms of dwt capacity, as all other competitors saw their fleets diminish, with the exception of Singapore.
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The global commercial shipping fleet in terms of dwt grew by 3.48 per cent in the 12 months to 1 January 2016 (figure 2.1), the lowest growth rate since 2003. Yet the world’s cargo-carrying shipping capacity still increased faster than demand (2.1  per cent; see chapter 1), leading to a continued situation of global overcapacity. In total, as at 1 January 2016, the world commercial fleet consisted of 90,917 vessels, with a combined 1.8 billion dwt. The highest growth was recorded for gas carriers (+9.7  per cent), followed by container ships (+7.0  per cent) and ferries and passenger ships (+5.5  per cent), while general cargo ships continued their long-term decline, with the lowest growth rate of major vessel types (table 2.1). Their share of the world’s tonnage is currently only 4.2 per cent, down from 17 per cent in 1980 (figure 2.2). In 2015, there were 211 new container ships delivered, less than half the number (436 ships) delivered in the peak year of 2008. However, as vessel sizes in this market segment have increased significantly, in terms of container-carrying capacity, 2015 set a historical record in the building of container ships. Globally, shipyards produced 1.68 million TEUs in 2015, an increase of 12.7 per cent over 2014 and 12.4 per cent over the previous peak number of deliveries in 2008. The average size of container ship newbuildings has risen by 132 per cent over the last seven years. Only 5 per cent of TEUs built in 2015 were geared ships (that is, ships that carry their own container-handling equipment), compared with 12 per cent in 2008. Large container ships invariably depend on the availability of ship-to-shore container cranes in terminals, still a challenge for some smaller seaports in developing countries.

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Age distribution of world merchant fleet
At the start of 2016, the average age of commercial ships had reached 20.3 years, a slight increase over the previous year (table 2.2). Following additions to the fleet over the last 10 years, the current average age remains low, compared with previous decades. There were slightly fewer newbuildings and somewhat reduced scrapping activity, as many ships are too new to be demolished. Among the main vessel types, only dry bulk carriers were newer in early 2016 than in early 2015; 42.8 per cent of dry bulk ships are 0–4 years old. The oldest ships are general cargo carriers (24.7  years). The age distribution of the fleet also reflects the growth in vessel sizes over the last two decades. In particular, container ships have increased their average carrying capacity; those built 15–19 years previously have an average size of 28,516 dwt, while those built in the last four years are on average 2.8 times larger, with an average size of 79,877 dwt. In the early 2000s, a typical dry or liquid bulk ship was 2–3 times larger than a container ship newbuilding, while at present new container ships are the vessel type with the largest average tonnage.

The tonnage registered under a foreign flag (that is, where the nationality of an owner differs from the flag flown by a vessel) is 70.2 per cent of the world total (table 2.3). The system of open registries (that is, where the owner and flag are from different countries) has been an opportunity for many developing countries – including many small island developing States, such as the Marshall Islands, and least developed countries, such as Liberia – to provide the services of vessel registries.

At the same time, the majority of shipowners remain in developed countries, and it is due to the system of open registries that they may remain competitive against fleets owned by companies based in developing countries. For example, under the flags of Liberia, the Marshall Islands or Panama, an owner from Germany or Japan can employ thirdcountry seafarers, for example from Indonesia or the Philippines, who work for lower wages than their German or Japanese colleagues.


As at 1 January 2016, Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands continued to be the largest vessel registries, together accounting for 41.0 per cent of world tonnage, with the Marshall Islands recording the highest growth among major registries, at 12  per cent over 2015. The top 10 registries account for 76.8 per cent of the world fleet in terms of dwt. More than 76 per cent of the world fleet is registered in developing countries (including many open registries), a further increase over 2015. Some nationally flagged fleets are also nationally owned. Notably, in countries with long coasts and important cabotage and interisland traffic, national legislation often limits the options of shipowners to flag out. For example, many of the ships flying the flags of China, India, Indonesia and the United States are deployed on cabotage services.

With regard to the share of regional groups among the national flags of the world fleet, 11.42 per cent of the 12.97 per cent of tonnage registered in Africa flies the flag of Liberia and 11.07 per cent of the 11.49 per cent of tonnage registered in Oceania flies the flag of the Marshall Islands. Put differently, 88 per cent of the African-registered fleet flies the flag of Liberia and more than 96 per cent of the Oceania-registered fleet flies the flag of the Marshall Islands. Different registries focus on different vessel types. Antigua and Barbuda has the largest market share of general cargo multipurpose vessels, while Liberia is the most important registry for container ships, the Marshall Islands for oil tankers and Panama for dry bulk carriers. One reason for such specialization is traditional linkages with shipowning countries. Japan – with a large share of dry bulk carriers – often registers its ships in Panama. Germany – specializing mostly in container ships – has a close relationship with Liberia; the two States have an income tax treaty or double taxation agreement, which is beneficial for German officers employed on ships flagged in Liberia (German Federal Ministry of Finance, 1975).

Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide