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Number of merchant ships by type 2019

Of the around 53,000 merchant ships trading internationally, some 11,000 ships were bulk carriers. General cargo ships accounted for the majority of ships in the world merchant fleet as of January 1, 2019.

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 2018, there were 53,732 ships in the world's merchant fleets. General cargo ships 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 2019.

General cargo ships had a combined capacity of around 116 million tons deadweight in January 2019; this is almost half the volume of container ships’ combined capacity, which came to around 265 million tons deadweight. The growing pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the industry asks for manufacturers’ response. With that in mind, new builds of general cargo ships are predicted to produce an average of 40 percent less carbon dioxide emissions by 2040.

Bulk carriers 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 2019, the number of bulk carriers stood at around 11,562. Crude oil tankers and container ships are the third and fourth most common types, with about 14 and 10 percent of the share, respectively. The number of crude oil tankers rounded up to about 7,400 units, while the number of container ships in the world was at about 5,150 units in the beginning of 2019.

Number of ships in the world merchant fleet as of January 1, 2019, by type

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Release date

November 2019



Survey time period

January 1, 2019

Supplementary notes

The information has been translated from German. The German original terms have been translated as follows:
General cargo ships : Stückgutschiffe
Bulk cargo carriers : Massengutschiffe
Crude oil tankers : Rohöltanker
Chemical tankers : Chemiekalientanker
Container ships : Containerschiffe
Ro-Ro/ Passenger ships : Ro-Ro/Passagierschiffe
Liquefied natural gas tankers : Flüssiggastanker

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Statistics on "Container shipping worldwide"

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