Greek Shipowners Lead Shift in Container Market Dynamics

May 1, 2024

ATHENS – The latest data from Clarksons, as reported by Naftemporiki, reveals significant shifts in the relationship dynamics between independent containership owners and liner shipping companies.

Previously dominating the sector, German shipowners have seen a steady decline in their fleet’s size since the global financial crisis of 2008. Over the past 16 years, Greek shipowners have now taken the lead, marking a significant transition in the industry landscape.

This change is indicative of broader trends, with Greek, Canadian, British, Chinese, and Japanese shipowners currently spearheading larger shipbuilding programs compared to their German counterparts.

The decline in the German fleet’s share has been pronounced, shrinking to 17% or 1.9 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) from its pre-crisis level of 70%. This contraction was largely precipitated by the collapse of Germany’s KG (limited liability) system, which previously incentivized investments in container ships.

Conversely, Greek shipowners have experienced robust growth over the last decade, with key players like Costamare and Danaos doubling their fleets between 2010 and 2017. Many Greek shipping companies seized opportunities arising from the collapse of KG companies, either through ship acquisitions or investments in shipbuilding projects. This strategic positioning has solidified Greece’s prominence in the global shipping industry.

Canada has also witnessed a doubling of its share in the independently owned fleet since 2017, primarily driven by Seaspan’s impressive expansion efforts. Meanwhile, Japan and China have consistently expanded their fleets since 2010, further contributing to the evolving industry landscape.

While the fleet share of independent shipowners has decreased to 40% from 47% over the past decade, largely due to a surge in new ship orders from liner companies, the container charter market remains favorable for independent shipowners. Recent weeks have seen increased activity, particularly for vessels ranging from 1,500 to 2,900 TEUs.

TEUs, or twenty-foot equivalent units, are a standard measure used in the shipping industry to quantify cargo capacity. One TEU represents the cargo capacity of a standard 20-foot shipping container. This unit of measurement allows for easy comparison of cargo volumes across different types and sizes of containerships.


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