World merchant fleet hits new highs as newbuild orders slump to 1980s lows

According to Clarksons Research’s just launched annual World Fleet Register, the world merchant fleet grew by 3.1% in tonnage terms last year to reach an all-time high of 1.3bn gt.

“While annual fleet growth has dropped from a peak of 8.6% in 2010, today’s fleet still represents 50% more tonnage in the active fleet compared to 2009 and the aftermath of the financial crisis,” the London-based analysts noted.

Also of note in the report is the following statistic: newbuild contracting activity fell to its lowest level in over 30 years, with just 542 orders of 19.3m gt reported, down 70% year-on-year.

Demolition volumes rose 25% year-on-year in 2016 to 29m gt, with strong container (7.6m gt) and bulk carrier demolition (15.8m gt).

Greek owners still have the largest fleet, at 202.6m gt, up 5.4% year-on-year in 2016, followed by Japan (163.1m gt), China (139.2m gt), Germany (86.6m gt) and the US (63.4m gt). Greek owners were also the most active in the S&P markets, as both buyers and sellers.

The Panama flagged fleet remains the largest in the world at 223.8m gt, while DNV GL has the largest classed fleet in tonnage terms with a fleet of 268.8m gt.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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