Archives for category: Greek Shipping

In the recent passing away of Muhammad Ali, the world lost perhaps its greatest ever heavyweight boxer. Amongst his many famous catchphrases was “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!”. This week’s Analysis takes a look at something else that floats – the world’s major shipping fleets. How do the largest shipowning nations perform when it comes to punching above their weight?

Greeks Bearing Goods

SIW 1223 pointed out that Greek owners as a whole command a powerful ‘sting’ when one compares their share of the world fleet to their country’s share of global seaborne trade. Greek owners, the classic ‘cross-traders’, punch substantially above their weight, accounting for 16% of the tonnage (in GT terms) in the world fleet whilst Greece accounts for below 1% of world seaborne trade. And as a whole, the top 10 owner nations are highly potent, accounting for 70% of global tonnage, twice as much as their estimated share of world seaborne trade in tonnes (35%). Stinging like a bee indeed!

Heavy Hitters

Aside from the Greek owners, the top 10 contains a couple of other owner nations who hit particularly hard. In GT terms, Norwegian owners are the world’s seventh largest with about 4% of the fleet. This is about 8 times more than Norway’s share of world seaborne trade. Not far away, Danish owners (with one very prominent owner in particular) account for 3% of all tonnage, whilst Denmark accounts for less than 1% of trade.

Powerful Punchers

But these owner nations aren’t the only power punchers. A number of shipping’s other traditional big hitters also punch well above their weight. Japan accounts for 4% of world seaborne trade but as the second largest owner nation, 13% of the fleet (a ratio of 3.3). Meanwhile, German owners account for 8% of the fleet and Germany 2% of seaborne trade (a ratio of 3.8). Italian and Singaporean owners also seem to punch above the trading weight of their respective countries.

Down The Weights

But not everyone in the heavyweight division offers such a stinging punch. China, the ultimate trading powerhouse, accounts for 16% of seaborne trade, but despite being the world’s third largest owner nation, accounts for only 11% of the world fleet (a ratio of 0.7). The US accounts for 5% of world tonnage but 6% of trade (a ratio of 0.8), while South Korean owners only just punch their weight with 4% of the world fleet and Korea accounting for 4% of volumes.

Tale Of The Tape

Nevertheless, despite the fact that three of the world’s largest owner countries don’t hit too far above their weight, as a whole the top shipowning nations account for twice as much of global tonnage ownership as they do in terms of total world seaborne trade. The modern seaborne transportation system, the framework of asset ownership and the global nature of the shipping industry has afforded owning communities this opportunity. If you want to pick a fight in terms of ship ownership, be careful to watch out for the weight of the punch of your opponent! Have a nice day.

SIW1226

Despite the many domestic and market challenges facing the Hellenic ship owning community, Greece has continued to strengthen its position as the largest ship owning nation in recent years. As the shipping community begins to gather for another Posidonia, Greek owners today control some 18% of the world fleet, with a 333m dwt fleet on the water and a further 40m dwt on order.

Greek owners continue to top the league table of ship owning nations with a 196m GT fleet and global market share of 16% (by GT), followed by Japan (13%), China (11%) and Germany (7%). In recent years this position has in fact been consolidated, with the Greek fleet growing by over 7% in 2015 – the most significant growth of all major owning nations. Aggregate growth since 2009 is even more significant; some 70% in tonnage terms. The big loser in market share in recent years has been Germany, while China’s aggressive growth in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis has slowed (the Chinese fleet doubled between 2009 and 2012 as solutions were found to distressed shipyard orders). Athens/Piraeus also features as the largest owning cluster globally, with Tokyo, Hamburg, Singapore and Hong Kong/Shenzhen making up the top five.

Punching Above Their Weight!

Greek owners remain the classic “cross traders”, developing their market leading position as the bulk shipping system evolved in the second-half of the twentieth century. Today, the Greek owners’ share of the world fleet at 16% compares to a seaborne trade share for Greece of less than 1%. By contrast, Chinese owners control 11% of the world fleet relative to the Chinese economy contributing to 16% of seaborne trade.

Sticking With Wet And Dry

Although a number of Greek owners have diversified into other shipping sectors, Greek owners have generally retained a focus on the “wet” and “dry” sectors. Today, the Greek fleet is largely made up of bulkcarriers (47% by GT) and tankers (35%) with this combined share hovering around 85% for most of the past twenty years. There has been some development of the Greek owned containership fleet (up to an 11% share) and gas carriers (up to a 4% share) but this is still generally limited. By contrast, Norwegian owners have trended towards more specialised vessels (e.g. offshore, car carriers) and the German fleet has remained liner focused.


Asset Players

Greek owners have also retained their role as shipping’s leading asset players and today operate a fleet with a value of some $91 billion (actually third in the rankings behind the US due to the value weighting of the cruise fleet). In 2015, Greek owners were the number one buyers (followed by China) and number one sellers (followed by Japan and Germany) in the sale and purchase market. Greeks have not been quite so dominant in the newbuild market recently and in 2015, Greek owners ($6.9bn of orders) trailed Japan ($13.1bn) and China ($10.7bn) in the investment rankings.

So despite facing many challenges, Greek owners continue to “punch above their weight” as the world’s leading shipowners for yet another year!

SIW1223

Recent economic news has been dominated by events in two countries. Headlines have focussed on Greece and its ongoing bailout woes and possible ‘Grexit’, as well as on China and the slump in its stock market and the impact on the wider economy. In the shipping sector, trends in the development of the world fleet are equally tortuous and, once again these two countries play a leading role.

World Leaders

In terms of ownership Greek and Chinese ownership interests are amongst the most prominent on the planet. The Greek owned fleet at 314.3m dwt is the largest in the world, and Greek owners also account for the largest orderbook today (48.5m dwt). Chinese owners meanwhile account for the world’s third largest fleet at 199.6m dwt and until very recently accounted for the largest orderbook (today 45.9m dwt).

Greeks Buy Gifts

Greek owners have long been shipping’s great asset players. As the graph shows their fleet is currently growing by just above 5% y-o-y. The expansion of the Greek fleet has been partly driven by newbuild investment, with delivery of 56.6m dwt since start 2012, 14% of the world total. But their acquisition of secondhand assets has also been key. Since start 2012, Greek owners reportedly accounted for ‘net acquisitions’ (reported purchases less reported sales) of 35.5m dwt, not far below the level of their delivered tonnage – a useful way to grow the fleet.

Chinese Take Away

Chinese fleet growth stood at a heady 15.8% y-o-y back at start 2012, but today stands at 3.6%. What’s been going on? Since start 2012, Chinese owners have taken delivery of 61.3m dwt, even more than Greek owners, but they have been much less pronounced ‘net acquirers’ of secondhand tonnage (5.0m dwt). Chinese owners have also been demolishing ships backed by the state scrapping subsidy which also encourages newbuilding. This is another way to renew the fleet, but growth has slowed. However, the Chinese orderbook is equal to 23% of its fleet, so expansion looks set to return.

A Third Way?

A third economy never far from the news is Japan, and Japanese owners remain today the world’s second largest owner of tonnage with 249.9m dwt. Japan’s fleet growth has clearly slowed, from 7.4% at start 2012 to 0.9% today. In this period, Japanese owners have been ‘net sellers’ by a huge 38.0m dwt. But this year they are also very nearly the world’s leading ordering nation, placing contracts of 5.5m dwt, 15% of the world total, so despite being a clear secondhand asset divestor, their fleet should be on the way to faster growth in the future once again.

More Headlines

So, focussing on the developments in these fleets shows that there’s more than one approach to being a pre-eminent owner nation. And today’s fleet and orderbook suggest that, whatever the state of their domestic economies, owners from these three countries will retain their position in the headlines for some time yet. Have a nice day.

SIWK20150724