Fairplay’s tonnage titans

“My law in business is to be the one buying, not selling.” So said Aristotle Onassis, probably the 20th century’s most famous shipowner.

Depending on who you speak to, the ‘average’ shipowner has a fleet of between five and nine vessels. A rich concentration of small owners exists, supplying a bedrock of services, often in far-flung places. Given asset values in shipping, being average still means you need considerable wealth to belong to the club. But in being average, you are no better protected to weather shipping’s storms than the next person. And when it rains in shipping, it pours.

For those looking to lead in this industry, it’s all about size. I am not saying that being big makes you immune to shipping’s struggles – the industry witnessed the spectacular demise of Hanjin Shipping, South Korea’s largest shipping line, in 2016 – but it sees you better cushioned. It also means you have the muscle to push ahead and expand when others are forced to retreat.

In an industry that is well known for its cycles, positioning one’s vessels to ride the peaks and troughs of trade is the dominant focus for all. Those who excel succeed in building scale; the amount of steel they control is king.

To quantify just how much skin shipping’s leaders have in the game, the Fairplay team, using IHS Markit Maritime and Trade data, has produced a list of the top 60 shipowners by gross tonnage, of which we have profiled the top 50.

Included are the in-service and on-order fleet, and the six main vessel types: container, bulk, tanker, ro-ro, gas carrier, and general cargo.

It is the first time that we have run this dataset – the intention is to revisit it every couple of years – and we believe it will serve as a barometer for the consolidation that is rife within the maritime industry, as well as the disruptors that may enter the fray.

Had we run this list a decade ago, in those heady days before the Beijing Olympics and prior to the financial crisis of September 2008 that plunged the industry into a period of darkness, Chinese leasing would have been absent and the container sector, where we have seen so much consolidation, may not have enjoyed such top-10 dominance. Who’s to say how this list may change over the next 10 years, but tracking these should give us a better idea of how the industry is evolving.

There are annual lists of influence in shipping, where the year-on-year rankings reflect the loudest voices on current issues, or what some consider the most significant deals of the day. But not everyone is shipping wants to share their views and many in the industry just get on with their business.

This is a ranking of pure fleet power, based on a data metric, and the hope is that the biennial review will give rise to some significant insights.

See who has made it on to the list or visit the Tonnage Titans homepage

  1. COSCO
  2. Maersk
  3. Mitsui OSK Lines
  4. NYK Line
  5. Angelicoussis Shipping Group Limited
  6. China Merchants Energy Shipping
  7. CMA CGM
  8. Mediterranean Shipping Company
  9. BW Group
  10. Fredriksen Group
  11. “K” Line
  12. National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (Bahri)
  13. Hapag-Lloyd
  14. Shoei Kisen Kaisha
  15. Economou companies
  16. Zodiac Maritime
  17. Thenamaris Group
  18. Navios Group
  19. Bank of Communications
  20. CMB
  21. Dynacom
  22. Teekay Group
  23. Evergreen Marine Corporation
  24. Petronas
  25. Nissen Kaiun Co
  26. Sovcomflot
  27. National Iranian Tanker Company
  28. Polaris Shipping
  29. Sinokor Merchant Marine
  30. Hyundai Corporation
  31. Scorpio Group
  32. Pan Ocean
  33. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)
  34. Doun Kisen
  35. Mitsubishi Corporation
  36. SK Shipping
  37. Seaspan Corporation
  38. Peter Döhle Schiffahrts
  39. Qatar Gas Transport
  40. Egon Oldendorff
  41. Tsakos Shipping
  42. Grimaldi Group
  43. Capital Maritime & Trading
  44. Ceres Shipping
  45. Xihe Holdings
  46. Costamare
  47. Eastern Pacific Shipping
  48. Formosa Plastics Marine Corporation
  49. NS United Kaiun Kaisha
  50. Pacific International Lines