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Overview Of Ship Types And World Fleet Economics Essay

Back in the time the basic type of ships included container ships, bulk carriers, tankers, ferries, cruise ships and specialized ships. General cargo ships made up about 37% of the world’s fleet in terms of deadweight tonnage (dwt), 25 % tankers, 14% bulk carriers, 12% passenger ships and 8 % container ships. The remaining 4% includes ships of specialized nature and which cannot be included in the above mentioned categories.

The world’s cargo carrying fleet is 54,897 ships of 1,349.4 million Dwt (910.1 million GT) and average age of 19 years.

In January 2011, there were 103,392 seagoing commercial ships in service, with a combined tonnage

of 1,396 million dwt. Oil tankers accounted for 475 million dwt and dry bulk carriers for 532 million dwt – an

annual increase of 5.5 and 16.5 per cent respectively.Container ships reached 184 million dwt in January

2011, an increase of 8.7 per cent over 2010. The general cargo fleet remained stable, standing at 109

million dwt (Source :UNCTAD 2011)

Ships are build as per the requirement of shipwoner and that will depend broadly as Stopford suggests, on three main influences

1.Cargo Type – Physical and commercial properties of the cargo.

E.G. – Unitised ,Solid Bulk ,Liquid or Gas cargo.

2.Type of Ship operation – It will be upto shipowner as to where to employ the ship

E.G.- Long term charter – where it is known to some extent the type of cargoes the

ship will carry and the ports the ship will visit.

Spot Charter – Where the shipowner has just a general idea regarding the carriage,but absolutely clueless about the calling ports.

Liner operations – Where shipowner has specific knowledge of the ports to be visited as well as the cargo volume however this can very much change throughout the life of the vessel.

3.Commercial Philosophy – Some shipowners may like their vessels to be flexible,such as multipurpose which can carry bulk and even containers. Another owner may just ask for specialized ship able to carry one particular type of cargo without being flexible but offering greater efficiency.

Above criteria cannot be utilized to forecast demand for particular type of ship in the shipbuilding industry.

“The composition of the world fleet reflects the demands for seaborne trade of different commodities, including

dry and liquid bulk and manufactured goods, As manufactured goods are increasingly containerized, the containership fleet has increased its share from 1.6 per cent of the world fleet in 1980 to over 13 per cent in 2011. This has happened mostly at the expense of general cargo vessels, whose share has dropped from 17 to 7.8 per cent during the same period, The share of dry bulk tonnage has gone up from 27 per cent to 38 per cent since 1980, while the share of oil tankers has decreased from almost 50 per cent to

34 percent.”.(UNCTAD 2011)

Age distribution of the world merchant fleet

In January 2011, there were 103,392 seagoing commercial vessels plying the world’s oceans, with a

combined tonnage of 1,396 million dead weight tons(DWT).

However,research indicates that the age per deadweight ton decreased as the present trend of shipconstruction and design is tending to be on the larger side as compared to their older sisters.

“Vessels built during the last four years are,on average, 6.5 times larger than those built 20 years earlier.

Container ships continue to be the youngest vessel type,with an average age per ship of 10.7 years, followed by bulk carriers (15.3 years), oil tankers (16.4 years), general cargo ships (24.2 years) and

other types (25.1 years)”(UNCTAD 2011)

World’s ~ 103,392 commercial cargo vessels can be broadly divided into four sectors based on economic activity(Stopford 2009)

General Cargo

Dry bulk

Oil /Chemical

Liquid Gas

These can be further split into 19 ship types based on the ship’s design e.g Tankers have tanks,Bulk Carriers have Holds and Car Carriers have multiple decks.

Size of the ship’s also play an important role in shipping industry as depending on the size the

Ship can be then presented to fetch business and make profits for the shipowner and the manger on a particular route or worldwide depending on the type of commodity the ship

Is trading in.

An overview to show from how far technology has come :series of ship comparisons

(In his paper ―How shipping has changed the world and the Social impact of shippingâ€- Dr Martin Stopford,)

a. Bulk carriers: John Bowes 650 dwt built in 1852 ,Today the average bulk carrier is 50,000 dwt and the largest are 300,000 dwt, Brasil Maru built 2007 and Berge Stahl 364,768 built 1986.

b. Tankers : the first purpose built tanker was the Gluckauf a 3,000 dwt vessel built in 1886. The biggest modern tanker Jahre Viking was (564,765 dwt tanker with a length overall of 458.45m,as reported by shipping facts 2012,) dwt, though this was not a great success commercially. Scrapped in 2009.

c. Containerships: The Agamemnon delivered in 1865 to Alfred Holt is one of the first modern cargo liners. With capacity of 2,280 gt, a steam engine, a propeller and a speed of 10 knots this was a state of the art cargo liner built for the Europe to China trade. Its modern counterpart is the Emma Maersk 170,000 gt and an engine of 110,000 HP. Just to put that in context, the engine weighs 2,300tonnes, the size of the Agamemnon’s total cargo capacity.

A quick guide of the classes of Some of the ships Viz . Tankers & Bulk Carriers.

Oil Tankers

Panamax : The largest size crude oil tanker that can travel through the Panama Canal: up to 70,000 DWT.

Aframax: Size of crude oil tanker which uses the Average Freight Rate Assessment (AFRA) method to calculate the

cost of transportation: 70,000 to 120,000 DWT.

Suezmax: largest size crude oil tanker that can travel through the Suez Canal while Loaded: 120,000 – 200,000


Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC): Size of a large crude oil carrier (200,000-325,000DWT)

Bulk Carriers

Size Deadweighttonnes

No. in World fleet


10 – 49,999 dwt



50 – 79,999 dwt



80,000+ dwt


Source : Inter Cargo

Most important thing to note about the figure (103,392 seagoing commercial ships) is that it has increased by more than half since 2005.Growth in the world’s shipping fleet are showing signs of slowing, Clarksons, the world’s largest shipbroker,still predicts a 2012 delivery book of 218.9 million DWT – a 16% increase this year alone(cited in Ferriers Focus March 2012).

One of the reason for this growth has been, as stated before, the enhancements in ship design and shipbuilding, which has lead to the construction of larger vessels with far more cost-efficient transportation than before, which has also lead to a greater usage of sea transport.

Also the growth of intercontinental trade has been a reason behind the design of larger and more specialized ships as is seen in the case of container carrier Emma Maersk, in order to achieve economies of scales in shipping. This growth has led to an increase in its business related markets as well ,such as the shipbuilding, ship-broking, insurance, and finance and investment.

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