China overtakes Greece as world's largest fleet owner

Wang Xiang
Chinese ship owners hold a fleet of 249.2 million gross tons, a market share of 15.9 percent, with a fleet value of about US$180 billion.
Wang Xiang

China has surpassed Greece as the world's largest ship owner by gross tonnage, according to the latest data from Clarkson Research.

The report shows that China's shipping industry has grown rapidly since 2015, particularly in the dry bulk and container ship sectors.

Chinese ship owners hold a fleet of 249.2 million gross tons, a market share of 15.9 percent, with a fleet value of about US$180 billion, slightly higher than Greece's 249 million GT, and a market share of 15.8 percent with a fleet value of around US$163 billion.

China overtakes Greece as world's largest fleet owner

Japan comes in third with 181 million gross tons, followed by South Korea and the United States.

However, Greece still holds the largest share of deadweight tonnage (DWT) at 423 million, or 18 percent of the market, and remains a leader in the oil tanker and LNG transportation sectors.

China's two largest ship owners are COSCO Shipping Group and China Merchants Group.

Stephen Gordon, an analyst at Clarkson Research, noted that China's shipping industry benefits from its strong freight volume, powerful shipbuilding industry, and growing financial sector.

As a result, Chinese ship owners are very active in the new construction market, with almost twice as many orders as Greek ship owners. They are also active in the second-hand ship sales market.

The fleet held by Asian ship owners exceeded that held by European ship owners in 2019 and the gap is widening, Gordon said.

This suggests that the center for world shipping is indeed shifting.

However, Gordon also said that over the next few years, this trend may be affected by the increasing complexity of trade and technological choices surrounding decarbonization.

Despite holding the No. 1 spot in gross tonnage, China's market share of 15.9 percent is still relatively low compared with its trade strength, which accounts for 22 percent of global imports and 33 percent of container exports.

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