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Japan Continues to Lead Shipowner Rankings

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

February 27, 2024

© Carabay / Adobe Stock

© Carabay / Adobe Stock

VesselsValue has unveils this year’s top 10 shipowning nations, reviewing the total asset values for vessels by beneficial owner country. From Japan's resolute leadership in the top position with a USD 206.3 billion fleet to the emergence of Hong Kong at USD 44.7 billion, asset values and ownership strategies have changed considerably over the last 12 months, says Rebecca Galanopoulos-Jones, Senior Content Analyst, Veson Nautical.

The data provided by VesselsValue and analysed by Veson is valid as of February 2024. The total fleet values include the vessel types covered by VesselsValue: bulker, tanker, container, small dry, LNG, LPG, OSV, OCV, MODU, vehicle carrier, roro, reefer, renewable and cruise.

1. Japan

Japan continues to lead, taking number one spot owning the highest valued fleet and, holding a total of approximately USD 206.3 billion in assets. This is an increase of about 5% since the last report in November 2022.

Significant investment has taken place in the tanker sector with almost 100 vessels added to the fleet, increasing the total value by around 15.5%. In addition, values for this sector have continued to gain strength over almost all sub sectors and age categories over the last year. For example, 10-year-old Suezmaxes of 160,000dwt have increased by around 19.8% year on year from USD 53.43 million to USD 64.01 million.    

Out of the top ship owning countries, Japan owns the highest value fleets for LNG and LPG vessels by both value at USD 37.8 billion and USD 13.4 billion respectively and by volume at 202 LNG vessels and 344 LPG vessels. Japan also owns the largest and most valuable fleet for vehicle carriers with 334 vessels and a total value of USD 22.9 billion.

2. China

Once again, China maintains its top position by vessel ownership, boasting a total of 6,084 vessels and a current fleet value amounting to USD 204 billion. China owns the largest bulker fleet, both in terms of vessels and values. As a result of improved market fundamentals, earnings for bulkers have been firm, particularly for the Capesizes. This has had a positive impact on values which have increased by around 30.36% year-on-year for newly built vessels of 180,000 DWT which have increased from USD 54.75 million to USD 71.37 million, the highest levels since March 2010.

China also owns the largest number of tankers and container ships. The tanker fleet consists of 1,576 vessels with a total value of USD 47.4 billion and the container fleet has 1,011 vessels, worth an impressive USD 42.6 billion. Although the container fleet has grown since the last time this report was put together, the value of the fleet has decreased by around 23.8%. This comes as the market has slowed significantly from the highs of 2022, and this has had an impact on values that have fallen across many sectors. For example, values for 20-year-old handy container vessels of 1,750 TEU have fallen by around 20.1% year-on-year from USD 8.55 million to USD 6.76 million.

3. Greece    

Greece has maintained its position as the third-ranked country by both total number of vessels in its fleet and overall value. While China owns more tankers, the Greek tanker fleet has the highest value at USD 69.5 billion, surpassing China by USD 22.1 billion.

Over the last two years, the ongoing Russian sanctions and the resulting surge in tonne-mile demand has continued to bolster earnings for tankers. In addition, the situation unfolding in the Red Sea is providing further support to earnings, at least in the short term. This has kept tanker values hovering around the highest levels since 2010 for most sectors, for example values for 15-year-old Suezmaxes of 160,000 DWT are currently up around 20.62% from the same period last year, from USD 38.37 million to USD 46.28 million.

Greece is also the owner of the second largest LNG fleet, with 143 vessels and a fleet value of USD 31.1 billion. The values in this sector have consistently remained at elevated levels since 2022, driven by a surge in demand.

4. US

The US has remained in fourth place with a total of USD 99.9 billion, up over USD 1 billion from our last report.

Of the overall asset value, USD 49 billion is represented by cruise ships, solidifying the US's position as the world's largest cruise owner. This is to be expected, given that the two leading cruise companies, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, have their headquarters in the US. Despite a decrease in the fleet value by a total of USD 4.7 billion since the last report, the US maintains its dominance in the cruise industry.

The US is also a prominent owner in the roro sector, with the largest fleet in terms of value, worth USD 2.5 billion. However, with 40 vessels, the US ranks behind Japan, which own 84 vessels.

5. Singapore

Singapore has retained fifth place once again this year, with a fleet value of around USD 85.7 billion and fourth place in terms of the number of vessels owned. Singapore’s container fleet is the third most valuable globally, worth USD 22.1 billion, accounting for almost a quarter of the value of the entire fleet.

Improvements in the LPG sector and stronger values have sparked an increase in sale and purchase activity for Singapore. The current valuation of the LPG fleet stands at USD 9.3 billion, marking a substantial 57% increase from the last report. This surge elevates Singapore to the second position in terms of value within the LPG sector.

6. South Korea

South Korea has retained its place in sixth position this year, and the value of its fleet now stands at USD 67 billion, an increase of just over USD 1 billion since the last report was completed.

However, the country has moved out of the top 10 in terms of the number of vessels owned, overtaken by newcomers such as UAE, Russia and the Netherlands.

South Korea’s investment in the LNG sector continues to pay off, with values for this sector remaining firm and at high levels.

South Korea has maintained a pivotal role as a global car exporter and there has been considerable investment into the newbuilding sector. HMM placed an order of six LCTC vessels and an option for a further four more vessels to be built at Guangzhou CSSC and scheduled to be delivered between 2026-2028.

7. Norway

Norway has moved up to seventh place, surpassing Germany, with a total fleet value of USD 59.3 billion. This has mostly been driven by investment in the gas sectors and the value of the Norwegian LNG fleet increased by around 16.7% since the last report from USD 12.2 billion to USD 14.2 billion. The value of the LPG fleet increased by around 55% from USD 2.9 billion to USD 4.5 billion, led by an increase in second hand sales and newbuilding orders. Over the course of 2023, Norway added 10 LPG vessels to the global orderbook, including an en bloc deal by Solvgang ASA who ordered five VLGC LPG vessels of 88,000 CBM from Hyundai Heavy Industries, scheduled for delivery in 2026-2027 and ranging in value from USD 107.41 million to 106.65 million.  

Norway is also the second largest owner of vehicle carriers. The current value of this fleet stands at USD 9.2 billion, up from USD 8.2 billion, an increase of around 13% from the last report.

8. UK

After a brief period in ninth position, the UK has now moved back up to eighth place with a value of USD 53.8 billion. The cruise sector is the most valuable to the UK, accounting for c.25% followed by the container sector with c.15%, this share has decreased significantly, due to a cooling in market sentiment and therefore values. Due to strong gains in the tanker sector, the value of the UK tanker fleet has increased by around 36.5% since our last report, moving up from USD 5.2 billion in November 2022 to USD 7.2 billion.

There has also been notable investment in the LPG sector and the value of this fleet has moved up from a value of USD 2.9 billion in our last report to USD 5 billion today, an increase of around 30%.

9. Germany

Germany has experienced a decline in its global rankings, dropping from seventh place to ninth place this year. A significant portion of its fleet has traditionally consisted of container ships, where Germany currently holds the second position in terms of the number of vessels. As earnings continue to undergo a correction following the boom of the early 2020s, values in this sector have also decreased. Consequently, the value of Germany's fleet has fallen from USD 32.1 billion in the last report to USD 17.8 billion, representing a decrease of approximately 45%.

This year, Germany’s investment in the LNG fleet has increased in value by USD 625 million to stand at USD 1 billion.

10. Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a newcomer to the list with a total fleet value of USD 44.7 billion. Notably, its significant investment in the bulker sector has catapulted Hong Kong to the fifth position in the top 10 list. This sector alone contributes over a quarter of the total fleet value, approximately 29%, amounting to USD 13 billion. This has been supported by strong bulker values which have risen across all sub-sectors for modern vessels, for example five year old Capesizes of 180,000 DWT have by 32.14% year on year from USD 42.53 million to USD 56.2 million.

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