A few months ago (see SIW 1,119) we profiled the fascinating growth strategies of the different ship owning nations, concluding that the wily Greeks were winning the latest phase in the game but Asian owners might have the last laugh. In this week’s analysis we take a closer look at the 23,000 active owning companies tracked by Clarkson Research.

A “Model” Company?

Ranging from single ship owners with a 30 year old Handy through to corporates running a diversified fleet with hundreds of vessels, there is no single “model” for owning ships. While the “average” owner has less than four ships, a deeper dig reveals the wide spread in strategies.

Does Size Matter?

Over the years there has been serial discussion regarding consolidation in shipping. As the Graph of the Week shows, the largest proportion of global tonnage is now owned by “Large” companies with 21 to 50 vessels, followed by “Very Large” companies with 51 to 100 vessels. There are also 22 “Extra Large” owners with more than 100 ships (ranked by GT, our analysis suggests that Mitsui OSK (22m GT) is the largest owner and MSC the largest private owner (10m GT)) but there is still nearly a third of the fleet controlled by owners with 10 ships or less.

Trends do suggest a general consolidation – for example on the orderbook where the average number of ships per company increases and finance is generally easier for large “top tier” names – but progress is gradual. Of the major owning nations, Greek companies own an average of 4 vessels and the German owners 8, while there are large variances between shipping sectors (see SIW 1,128).

Public or Private?

A route that has attracted many owners over the years has been the well-trodden path down Wall Street to a public listing. Today over 50% of tonnage is still owned by private companies but around a third is now owned by listed owners (NYSE with 66 owners is the most popular). Following the pick-up in capital market activity in the past twelve months, the share of the orderbook for listed owners increases to nearly 40% (of the companies with the top twenty orderbooks, 12 are public listed including Scorpio, Seaspan and Navig8). Listed owners are, not surprisingly, larger than their private counterparts on average (17 ships on the water versus 3).

Outside of these groups, 8% of tonnage is owned by “State Interests”, 3% by Oil Companies and a further 2% by other “Cargo Interests”. Interestingly oil companies and cargo interests are over-represented on the orderbook relative to their fleet position (perhaps lower prices have been attractive and access to finance easier) while National Oil Companies now own more tonnage than International Oil Companies.

It Takes All Sorts!

So owners come in all shapes and sizes and what works for some is certainly not the model for everyone. The key trends are all important if you are planning a marketing campaign or hoping for consolidation in certain sectors, so it’s well worth crunching the numbers further!