The world fleet has experienced a sustained period of growth during the last decade, with owners based in the Asia/Pacific region responsible for the largest share of this expansion. However, since the start of 2014, European owners have regained market share. Whilst European fleet growth has traditionally been driven by private owners, recently it has been public companies growing at the fastest rate.
Since the start of 2014, the European owned fleet has grown by 49.4m GT, accounting for 51.6% of global fleet growth. This has seen European owners retain a steady market share, accounting for 43.9% of global tonnage at the end of 2013 and 44.5% of the fleet at the start of May 2016. During the same period Asia/Pacific owners have experienced a 0.9% decline in fleet share. However, European fleet growth has not been uniform across the region, but has been driven primarily by Greek owners. The Greek owned fleet has increased by 31.9m GT since the start of 2014, the result of strong deliveries, 24m GT since the start of 2014, and significant S&P activity. In contrast the German fleet, Europe’s second largest, declined by 4.2m GT during the same period. Since the start of 2014, Greek fleet growth has been equivalent to 64.6% of total European growth, and 33.3% of global fleet expansion.
Growing Up In Public
Historically European ownership has been dominated by private companies, who account for 71.4% of current tonnage. However, during the last few years public companies have seen a stronger rate of fleet growth, with the public listed European fleet growing by 14.2m GT in 2015, double that of the privately owned fleet. Although the strongest rate of growth amongst Greek owners has remained in the private sector, unsurprising considering the strong traditional owner base, the public owned Greek fleet has still grown by 28.5% in the last two and a half years. There has also been particularly strong growth amongst public companies in the rest of Europe. Listed Norwegian owners experienced fleet growth of 6.8m GT during 2015, whilst public listed Italian, Danish and Belgium based owners have also seen significant fleet growth since 2014. Overall, the European public owned fleet has grown by 30.9m GT since the start of 2014, compared to 28.4m GT of growth in the privately owned fleet.
An Old Style Orderbook?
Despite recent trends, the orderbook highlights how future fleet development could return to former patterns. Asia/Pacific based owners hold the largest proportion of the orderbook, 45.7%, with 23.2m GT more on order than their European counterparts. This could reshape recent fleet developments, with Asia/Pacific owners getting back to the fore. Similarly, the European orderbook is dominated by private companies, holding 66.6% of the 65.4m GT on order. Consequently, public companies may see lower levels of annual fleet growth.
So, the reasons for recent changes in regional fleet development are complex. Whilst European owners have regained fleet share, and public owners have grown relatively rapidly, the orderbook indicates that fleet growth patterns will continue to evolve over the coming years.