World Merchant Fleet, Tonnage Registered per Ship Size, 1970-2017

World Merchant Fleet, Tonnage Registered per Ship Size, 1970-2017

Source: Lloyd’s Register of Shipping. Statistical Tables, World fleet statistics and Equasis.

About 90,000 ships of more than 100 tons are in operation around the world, half of them performing transport functions and the other half performing service functions (e.g. tugs). The most significant trend has been the growth of the average tonnage, notably after WWII. The growth in tonnage during the 1970s is the outcome of introducing very large ships, particularly for the tanker trade. In the 1980s, the emergence of containerization relied on smaller ships than regular cargo ships. As economies of scale became dominant in maritime container shipping in the 1990s, the tonnage growth resumed and increased substantially in the first decade of the 21st century. This is particularly the outcome of the application of economies of scale in container shipping.