Analysis of vessel ownership often focuses on the major shipowning countries. This week we take a closer look to reveal the top shipowning cities, and find that even though shipping is a global industry, ownership is fairly well concentrated in a relatively small number of major centres. These include both shipping’s usual suspects as well as some perhaps less obvious locations.

Living For The City

A few weeks ago it was reported that the mayor of Copenhagen wished to rebrand the neighbouring southern Swedish region of Skane as “Greater Copenhagen”. While some inhabitants of Malmo and the surrounding area might not be too keen, the story serves to highlight the role that cities play in providing the infrastructure, access to service providers and networking opportunities that influence where businesses choose to locate.

The 20 most popular city locations for shipowners are featured in this week’s graph. It is headed, perhaps unsurprisingly, by Athens, with a fleet of 4,043 vessels of 161.5m GT. This is equivalent to 14%, or one seventh, of the current world fleet. After Athens comes Tokyo, with 98.3m GT, and Hamburg with 70.5m GT. Singapore and Hong Kong complete the top 5. Overall, nine of the top 20 cities are in Europe, eight are in Asia and three are in the Americas.

Close For Comfort

The top 20 cities account for a total fleet of 765.5m GT, almost two thirds of world capacity. The top 10 cities account for over half, and the top 5 almost 40%. Shipping is one of the most global of all industries, with mobile assets that can theoretically operate (almost) anywhere in the world. So why do shipowners choose to locate themselves in a relatively small number of cities?

Many of the top locations are major ports or large cities in key trading nations, and would seem to be natural locations for shipowners. However, not all of the cities are ports or major cargo destinations, or at least have not been for some time.

What these cities often have in common are well developed networks of owners, charterers, sources of finance and other service providers. These can act as magnets for suppliers and clients, which in turn attract competitors leading to the emergence of large shipping centres. Most of these cities have a presence across a range of vessel types, though in some cases specialisms emerge, notable examples being Hamburg (containerships) and Oslo (gas, offshore), while some are boosted by the presence of a major owner in a particular sector.

Cities Of The Future

The share of the biggest cities looks like it will be maintained by deliveries over the next few years. The top 20 cities account for 63% of tonnage on order, with 4 of the top 5 also possessing the 4 biggest orderbooks. Further down the list, London, Hamilton and Monte Carlo look set to move up the ranking, each hosting public listed shipowners active in the newbuilding market over the past few years. Locations in emerging economies also perhaps offer clues to the future. So there you have it. Everybody likes to spend time with friends, and shipowners like to keep theirs close. Have a nice day!