Expansion of the world fleet is today creating more “big” shipowners. Over the past decade membership of the “100 Club” – owner groups with 100 or more vessels – has more than doubled. As the fleet continues to grow, more members are expected to join the club, and there are plenty of incentives for them to do so.
The past decade has been a period of intense investment in the world fleet. Since the start of 2005, the number of vessels has grown by a third. However, the number of active ownership groups has grown much more slowly – by just 12% – leading to an increase in average fleet sizes, and a significant increase in the number of “big” ownership groups.
After several years of low vessel earnings, attention has focussed on the issue of consolidation in the shipping industry. For shipowners, bigger fleets provide opportunities to grow revenue, reduce unit costs and enhance client services. They can also offer greater access to a wider variety of financing sources, including capital markets. These can be attractive benefits for owners with big ideas.
Ship ownership as a whole has traditionally been fragmented. The current sea-going merchant fleet of 100GT and above stands at 89,335 vessels, which are owned by 22,708 different identified ownership groups – an average of less than 4 vessels per group. 85% of these companies own less than 5 vessels, with a further 12% responsible for between 5 and 19 ships, and 2% between 20 and 49. This leaves just 182 groups with more than 50 vessels, including an exclusive club of 50 with 100 or more.
The graph shows that over the past decade this “100 Club” has been by far the fastest growing category. Since the start of 2005, the number of ownership groups with 100 vessels or more has climbed from 20 to 50. In terms of tonnage, this section has now established itself as the biggest, with 26% of the total fleet. Just below it, the 50-99 category has grown by 80% over the same period, while the 20-49 and 5-19 size ranges have grown by 59% and 33% respectively. The slowest-growing category has been ownership groups with less than 5 vessels, which have grown by just 8%.
Some fleets have grown due to mergers and acquisitions, but for the most part companies have grown bigger as a result of investment in new ships. The “100 Club” fleet has the lowest average age of all the size categories, standing at 12.8 compared with 20.2 for the fleet as a whole. So, big owners also tend to be in a position to benefit from the advantages of more modern fleets, with more modern, possibly more fuel-efficient designs more likely to be favoured by charterers.
So, there are advantages to being one of the big boys, and not surprisingly more owners want to join the club. By the time today’s orderbook has been delivered, another 13 ownership groups will have crossed the 100-ship threshold, and as the fleet continues to grow it is likely that more will join them. Have a nice day.