Japan, China Pass Greece in Vessels, Values Among Top Shipowner Countries

February 28, 2024

ATHENS – Once dominating the world’s maritime industry, Greece’s shipping fleet now finds itself trailing Japan and China in total asset values for vessels and fleet size.

According to VesselsValue, Japan leads the world’s shipowning nations in value, followed by China, Greece, and the United States. Despite being the smallest country among them, Greece maintains significant dominance in the sector.

This shift is attributed to Japan’s fleet value increasing by 5% over the previous four months, as reported by Splash247. While China leads in vessel count – with Greece sourcing many ships from there – Clarksons notes Japan ranks third in value, with Greece second and China first. In August 2023, China surpassed Greece as the world’s largest merchant fleet in gross tonnage (GT) terms, as per data from Clarksons Research, marking a competition for supremacy in the shipping sector.

Greek shipping magnates face increasing competition from China, whose fleets are expanding in cargo capacity, collectively accounting for a third of all deadweight capacity for global goods transportation.

This trend was highlighted in November 2023 analysis by the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO), indicating further growth due to rising orders favoring ships from both countries, as reported by Marine Insight. BIMCO’s report indicates Greece’s control over 61,000 cargo ships, with a total deadweight capacity of 2200 million DWT (deadweight tonnage), capturing 19% of the sector compared to China’s 15%, a figure that has rapidly risen in recent years.

The report underscores Greek shipowners’ dominance across various sectors, including tankers, gas carriers, and dry bulk vessels, reflecting their broad influence.

The Greek maritime industry boasts diversity, with numerous traditional shipowners and operators, including seven companies each managing a fleet with 10 million DWT. In contrast, China prioritizes container ships and general cargo vessels.

Notably, three Chinese companies dominate the largest fleets, with COSCO Shipping Company, a state-owned entity managing Greece’s largest port, Piraeus.

Chinese financial institutions’ support for entering the leasing market has bolstered their side, with the ten largest shipowners commanding 41% of the Chinese-owned fleet.

China also boasts a 21% larger order book compared to Greece, with shipowners in both countries targeting Car Carriers and LNG Tankers, two thriving segments in the industry.

While Greek shipowners placed a third of all orders in 2023, they rank third overall with 359 ships on order, trailing behind Chinese shipowners who placed orders for 5554 ships, and Japanese owners with orders for 496 vessels.


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