In this article we are going to list the 15 biggest shipping companies in the world. Click to skip ahead and jump to the 5 biggest shipping companies in the world. The shipping industry is one of the oldest industries in the world and one of the first true methods of transporting and facilitating international trade. Remember, airplanes are slightly over a century old and planes capable of carrying large weights are even more recent. Therefore, the only method left was shipping, through which goods could be sent over extremely long distances. The fact that it has continued being a major industry even though airplanes are much faster show that the value of economical and efficient transport through shipping still remains.
Every year, at least 11 billion tons of goods are transported through shipping, which means an average of around 1.5 tons per person across the world, based on the current population of the world. Now that the world is more globalized than ever and things being manufactured in the US are wanted in China and vice versa, and the power of the consumer has been increasing significantly as well, and shipping is a pinnacle of the modern global cycle. If we look at just the European Union, by volume, around 80% of the exports and imports made are through shipping, mainly due to its capacity of storage being much higher than airplanes as well as much cheaper. By value, the imports and exports made in the European Union are around 50% of the value. In 2019, the value of the shipping industry across the globe was worth more than $14 trillion.
Among the major products transported by the shipping companies are crude oil (approximately two billion tons), iron ore (approximately one billion tons), and grain (approximately 350 million tons). Due to the sheer weight of the products as well as the level of storage required, these goods could not be transported in this quantity by road, rail or air. And the importance of these products cannot be understated. They are raw materials for absolutely massive industries and integral for the proper functioning of the economy and some of the biggest companies in the world, more of which you can learn about if you visit the 15 biggest oil companies in the world and the top 10 largest agricultural companies by revenue in the US. Being unable to ship these goods in these quantities would lead to the collapse of industries worldwide and would also cause damage to the standard of living being enjoyed by people globally. Apart from these products, large volumes of chemical and manufactured goods are also transported through ship. If you want to learn more about the companies (whose revenue exceeds trillions of dollars), you might want to consider going through the 15 largest chemical companies in the world and the 15 biggest manufacturing companies in the world. Most global supply chains depend on shipping and this is why the shipping industry has created highly complex and technological logistics networks.
Like I said earlier, apart from the advantage of being able to provide large quantities of a product within the same shipment, another advantage is the low cost, and these two factors are intrinsically linked. Since the shame shipment can cover a large quantity of goods, the total shipment cost is divided by the quantity of goods, which means the cost of transporting just a single item is extremely low. This is why shipping is responsible for just 0.3 pence of a 2.5 pounds cup of coffee, or 20 pence for a 5 pound bottle of wine, or just $5 to a Nike trainer which costs $100. Also, the environmental footprint of shipping is much lower than other modes of transport, and this is extremely important in an environmentally conscious world which is just now witnessing the effects of climate change on the weather patters and the change in temperatures across the world. If we fail to act now, we will only be condemning the world as the weather patterns worsen and leave us in a disastrous place.
When the Covid-19 virus hit China, few would have predicted it would become a global pandemic which would cause more than 80 million cases and nearly 1.8 million deaths globally, affecting every continent including Antarctica and more than 200 countries and territories across the world. As countries across the world went into lockdowns, barring international travel, the shipping industry, which is responsible for around 90% of the international trade, was particularly hard hit. Further, as more and more companies went into recessions and depressions, trade reduced dramatically as uncertainty prevailed and this led to a decline in shipping. The main affected was the dry bulk segment which supplies iron ore, coal and grain. In a report in June, the decline in shipping year on year when compared to 2019 was 6%, though things may have improved since most lockdowns were lifted in summer. However, now that the second wave has hit and a new, more easily transferred variant has been discovered and lockdowns are being partially re-imposed, the next few months for the shipping industry seem quite uncertain and in the air right now.
The biggest shipping companies in the world are truly globally, in that they belong to various countries across the world and surprisingly, not a single one is from the United States. Companies listed in the United States such as Matson Inc. (NYSE:MATX), Genco Shipping & Trading Limited (NYSE:GNK), Globus Maritime Limited (NYSE:GLBS), Performance Shipping Inc. (NASDAQ:PSHG) and Sino-Global Shipping America (NASDAQ:SINO) all missing out. Our rankings were based on the latest TEU capacity of each shipping company, while we have also mentioned the number of ships each company owns. Our list is dominated by Asia, with China having a particularly strong showing. So now let’s take a look at the champions of the shipping industry, starting with number 15:
15. IRISL Group
Twenty foot equivalent (TEU) capacity of the company in 2020: 151,706
Total market share of the company in 2020: 0.6%
Number of ships owned by the company in 2020: 47
Iran’s biggest shipping company has made our list despite the sanctions imposed on the country which greatly limits the business opportunities there. The company’s revenues have dropped significantly over the years due to the sanctions, which fell to below $1 billion.