Overview of Most Influential Countries in the Maritime Industry|Shipping|Ship Building|Ship Registering and Ship Recycling|

What is the Merchant Navy? How Vast is the Shipping Industry?

The merchant navy is a mode of shipping vital for transporting goods as well as for passengers internationally. It is essential for global trade as it interconnects countries and economies, including the most influential countries in the maritime industry. People employed in the merchant navy undertake the operation and maintenance of these vessels, therefore facilitating the movement of various products and resources across the vast expanses of the world’s oceans, furthermore to facilitate smooth Maritime Operations there is an International body regulating all these procedures called International Maritime Organisation (IMO)

This industry as of today contributes to the transportation of almost 90% of the world’s goods by volume.

Container Ship

In this Blog, we will be discussing the most influential countries in the shipping/maritime industry and the purpose they serve in Global Shipping:

  1. The Key Players
  2. The biggest shipbuilders
  3. Countries with the most ship registration/ flag state 
  4. The biggest ship recyclers

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The Key Players of the Maritime Industry

The Maritime sector serves as the backbone of global trade and commerce, facilitating the movement of goods, resources, and people across vast oceans and seas. Furthermore, several countries play pivotal roles in shaping and driving this industry’s growth and evolution. 

1. Japan

Flag of Japan
  • Japan’s maritime industry has a rich history and continues to thrive through innovation because of which it is renowned for its shipbuilding prowess, producing high-quality vessels across various segments.
  • Japan is the biggest country in terms of fleet value.
  • There has been a huge increase in the valuation of Japanese vessels due to the recent boom in LNG Industry.
  • Japan is also one of the world’s largest shipbuilding nations and is home to some of the world’s largest shipbuilders.
  • Japanese shipyards specialize in building high-tech vessels such as LNG carriers, cruise ships and RO-RO vessels.
  • Japan’s commitment to safety, technology, and environmental protection has propelled it as a leader in the industry.
Japanese Cargo Ship

Major Companies

  1. NYK Line (Nippon Yusen Kaisha)
  2. K Line (Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha ltd)
  3. MOL (Mitsui O.S.K Lines)

2. China

china flag

China has secured a good rank in the list of most influential countries in the Maritime Industry because of several steps taken by China such as:

  • China has rapidly ascended to the forefront of the maritime industry, boasting the world’s busiest ports and a colossal merchant fleet.
  • China is the biggest in terms of the number of vessels owned, with a total of 6,908 vessels.
  • China also owns the largest container fleet in the world.
  • China is the world’s largest shipbuilding nation, accounting for more than 40% of the global shipbuilding market.
  • Chinese shipyards specialize in building bulk carriers, tankers, and container ships, as well as offshore support vessels and floating production storage and offloading(FPSO) units.

Major Companies 

  1. COSCO shipping
  2. China Shipping
  3. Orient Overseas Container Ltd

3. Greece

Greece flag
  • Greece is a maritime nation by tradition, as shipping is arguably the oldest form of occupation of the geeks and has been a key element of Greek economic activity since the ancient time
  • Greece has the highest-valued tanker fleet
  • Shipping employs about 3892000 people in Greece (14% of the workforce)
  • The Greece shipping industry is dominated by family-owned businesses
  • Greek shipowners operate a wide variety of vessel types, such as bulk carriers, tankers, and container ships. 

Major Companies

  1. MTM (Maran Tankers Management INC.)
  2. Dynacom Tankers Management LTD.
  3. TMS Cardiff Gas LTD. 

Ship Building

What is Shipbuilding?

Shipbuilding is the construction of ships. It involves designing, engineering, and assembling the components needed to create a functional ship for various purposes, for instance, transportation, trade, and defence.

Dry Dock

These are the biggest shipbuilding nations in the world. The top three nations account for 93% of total shipbuilding.

RankCountryCombined (GT)Percentage
1China 67,000,00045%
2South Korea53,000,00029%
5European Union4,500,0001%

Biggest Ship Building Companies

  1. Hyundai Heavy Industry(12.9 Million GT)
  2. China State Shipbuilding Corporation(12.4 Million GT)
  3. Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering(11.2 Million GT)
  4. Samsung Heavy Industry(10.6 Million GT)
  5. China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation(9.6 Million GT)


Japanese shipbuilders are globally recognized for constructing some of the strongest and safest ships, also they are renowned for their exceptional quality and advanced engineering.

Ship Building

Countries with the Most Ships Registered

What is a Flag State?

Flag state refers to the country under whose laws a ship is registered or flagged. It is responsible for regulating and overseeing the safety and environmental performance of the vessel, as well as ensuring that it complies with international conventions and regulations.

Example- If the ship is registered in India then it has to follow the rule imposed by the government of India.

Flag State

Why do certain countries have more ships registered?

The three biggest flag states in terms of gross tonnage includes Panama, Liberia, and the Marshal Islands. These countries offer favourable tax and regulatory environments, because of which they become the first choice of shipowners who want to take advantage of lower taxes, less restrictive labour laws, and other benefits.

List of Countries

  1. Panama 
  2. Liberia
  3. Marshal Islands
  4. Hong Kong
  5. Singapore
  6. Malta
  7. Bahamas 
  8. Greece
  9. China
  10. Cyprus

Ship Recycling 

What is Ship Recycling?

Ship recycling is the process of dismantling and disposing of old and retired ships to obtain steel and other valuable materials for reuse.

Ship recycling


  • Bangladesh is the biggest country for ship recycling, hence making up about 30% of the worldwide market.
  • The country’s ship recycling yards are primarily located along the Chittagong Coast, owing to the employment of tens of thousands of workers.


  • India stands as the world’s second-largest ship recycling nation, therefore commanding a significant 20% market share.
  • Most of the ship recycling yards are situated in the western state of Gujarat, result in employing numerous workers.


  • Pakistan ranks as the world’s third-largest ship recycling country, because of which Pakistan hold about 10% of the market share. 
  • The main ship recycling yards are mainly situated in the Gadani region.


Container Ship at sunset
Container cargo ship in San Francisco Bay in San Francisco at sunset, California, USA

In recent years, the shipping industry, one that has been significantly impacted by advancements in technology, shifts in the market, and the introduction of new regulations, has witnessed substantial changes. As competition intensifies within the market, especially among the most influential countries in the maritime industry, it’s probable that the positions of leading companies and nations will remain fluid. However, this ongoing fluctuation ultimately benefits consumers by fostering improved services, competitive pricing, and innovative solutions. Embracing change as a norm in this dynamic industry can pave the way for an even more efficient and consumer-focused shipping landscape in the future.

Disclaimer :- The opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author and may not necessarily reflect those of Merchant Navy Decoded. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided and disclaim any responsibility for it. Data and visuals used are sourced from publicly available information and may not be authenticated by any regulatory body. Reviews and comments appearing on our blogs represent the opinions of individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of Merchant Navy Decoded. We are not responsible for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on these reviews or comments.

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[…] shipping industry has grown a lot in the past years. It is one of the most influential countries out there in the market. It’s like a big game of moving things on huge ships. In the 1990s, […]

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Paraic Garry

How can Greece have almost 4 million people working in the industry when their population is only around 10 million? Definitely not 14% as stated either.

Last edited 7 months ago by Paraic Garry
Aman Manwal

Hi Paraic, The thing is that we have written 14% of the total work force in Greece not of the whole population. Hope it helps.