China becomes world's No.1 maritime fleet owner due to 'strong manufacturing, resilient trade and financial support'
Published: Aug 13, 2023 09:01 PM
The world's largest ro-ro passenger ship MOBY manufacutured by Guangzhou Shipyard International Co (GSI) Photo: Courtesy of GSI

The world's largest ro-ro passenger ship "MOBY" manufacutured by Guangzhou Shipyard International Co (GSI) Photo: Courtesy of GSI

China has overtaken Greece as the world's largest maritime fleet owner in terms of gross tonnage (GT), global shipping information provider Clarksons Research said on Saturday.

Greece held that position for a decade, but China's position as the world's manufacturing hub, its resilient cargo trade and strong financial support for the shipping sector propelled it to the head of the industry, analysts said. 

The latest rankings from Clarksons Research showed that the Chinese-owned fleet stands at 249.2 million GT. Greece was second with 249 million GT and Japan third with 181 million GT.

Experts said that these rankings aligned with expectations, given China's continued status as a major production center and other positive factors.

"China's shipping industry has been in a continuous state of development, and our role as the world's largest manufacturing hub remains steadfast. These factors contribute to the high ranking," Li Yanqing, secretary-general of the China Association of the National Shipbuilding Industry, told the Global Times on Sunday.

During the first half of 2023, Chinese shipyards completed 21.13 million deadweight tons (DWT) of new ships, up 14.2 percent year-on-year, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in July.

New orders amounted to 37.67 million DWT, up 67.7 percent, and orders on hand stood at 123.77 million DWT, up 20.5 percent. All these indicators secured China's top global rank.

"As China's fleet expands, the need for new ships naturally rises ... our shipbuilding industry is fully capable of meeting domestic demand, and more than 70 percent of our new orders come from foreign countries," Li said.

Behind the leadership in fleet size lies the fact that China's leading positions in the global economy and world trade remain resilient.

"China's economic influence in the world is increasing, with trade having become a big driver of shipping capacity," an industry insider told the Global Times on Sunday on condition of anonymity.

China's consistent growth in importing dry bulk cargo and sustained high demand for containerized goods for export have propelled the rapid expansion of the country's fleets in bulk cargo ships and containerships, the insider said.

Strong support from China's financial sector has also supported the development of the shipping industry, particularly in terms of leasing companies.

While China's maritime fleet construction has achieved remarkable results, there are still some shortcomings.

For example, although China holds the lead in terms of total tonnage, from the perspective of DWT, Greece still commands the largest share, Xu Kai, chief information officer of the Shanghai International Shipping Institute, told the Global Times on Sunday, adding that this could be primarily due to the higher proportion of containerships in China's fleet.