Number of ships in the world merchant fleet as of January 1, 2016, by type

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Number of ships

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This statistic represents the world's merchant fleet as of January 1, 2016, with a breakdown by type. Of the around 51,400 merchant ships trading internationally, some 16,900 ships were bulk carriers.
Bulk carriers account for about one third of the global merchant fleet

How many ships are there in the world? The number of ships in the world exceeds 50,000: as of January 2016, there were 51,405 ships in the world's merchant fleets. Bulk carriers – ships designed to carry solid bulks such as coal and grains – are ranked as the most common type of ship in the global merchant fleet, accounting for about a third of the fleet: There were almost 17,000 such ships in the merchant fleet as of the beginning of 2016. The willingness to embrace larger ships with increasing capacities remains high in the industry. Bulk carriers had a combined capacity of around 112 million tons deadweight in 2016, about half the volume of container ships’ combined capacity, which came to around 244 million tons deadweight. The growing pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the industry asks for bulk carrier manufacturers’ response. With that in mind, new builds of bulk carriers are forecast to produce an average of 40 percent less carbon dioxide emissions by 2040.

As the name suggests, general cargo ships are multi-purpose vessels, and carry a range of products and goods. General cargo ships are ranked as the second most common type of ship in the world, accounting for over 20 percent of the global merchant fleet. As of January 2016, the number of cargo ships stood at around 11,000. Crude oil tanks and container ships are the third and fourth most common types, with nearly 14 and about 10 percent of the share, respectively. The number of crude oil tankers rounded up to more than 7,000 units, while the number of cargo container ships in the world was at about 5,200 units in the beginning of 2016.
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Release date
November 2016
Survey time period
January 1, 2016

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