UK shipping fleet contracts

The UK shipping fleet contracted to its lowest level in 2014 since 2006
The UK shipping fleet contracted to its lowest level in 2014 since 2006

Shipping is a complex international business and many different parties, often based in different countries, may have a commercial interest in a single vessel.

The chart in the full document illustrates four of many ways that the UK shipping fleet might be presented, in each case looking at the deadweight tonnage (dwt – a measure of cargo carrying capacity) of the vessels concerned.

By all four measures – registered, direct owned, parent owned and managed – the UK shipping fleet experienced substantial growth between the late 1990s and 2008/09, when the industry started to feel the impact of the global recession.

Since 2009 there has been a period of decline, with measures falling by between 16 per cent (UK managed ships) and 27 per cent (UK registered ships). The number of ships registered in the UK shipping fleet is currently at its lowest level since 2006.

Despite the decline in recent years, the registered UK shipping fleet is still four times the size it was in the late 1990s, having increased from 2.7 million dwt to 12.6 million dwt. Over the same period, UK direct owned tonnage more than doubled, from 7.2 million dwt to 16.5 dwt.

United Kingdom Type of Vessels
Different measures of interest in a vessel have different proportions of vessel type, for example container ships accounted for much of the larger share of the UK registered fleet than the UK owned fleet. In 2014, the majority of UK registered fleet comprised of container vessels (60 per cent of deadweight tonnage) and nearly one fifth was accounted for by oil, or oil-chemical tankers (18 per cent). Eleven per cent of UK registered tonnage was formed of bulk carriers.

Approximately one third of UK direct owned deadweight tonnage was formed of container ships (35 per cent), and another third came from bulk carriers. Liquid gas tankers accounted for 13 per cent of the UK direct owned fleet and oil and oil-chemical tankers accounted for 10 per cent.

Since 2009 the combined deadweight tonnage of the world fleet has increased by 34 per cent to 1,669.7 million dwt. In comparison the UK fleet has decreased by 27 per cent to 12.6 million dwt. In terms of the number of vessels, the world fleet increased by 5 per cent from 54,125 to 56,759 ships and the UK registered fleet decreased by 36 per cent, from 712 to 453 vessels.

The UK’s share of the world fleet was stable between 1999 and 2008, at around 1 per cent. Since 2009, this has decreased from 1.3 to 0.8 per cent in 2014.

Click to read the full UK government report in pdf format in full detail. 

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