Finding the largest shipping companies on earth is quite a bit of a challenge. At first, I thought this was an easy task.
Just by thinking about the ships I see while sailing, it’s deceiving to conclude the company behind them is the biggest.
Sailing for more than ten years made me think that the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) could be the largest since I always see them everywhere.
Or perhaps, companies specializing in tanker ships could be big too since this world is run by oil. Even vessels are fueled by oil so this would be a no-brainer.
But as I dive deeper into the web and company profiles, I slowly realize that one question that keeps bugging me.
How do I measure the size of a company?
So, how do you measure the size of a shipping company?
Well, there are various criteria that you can employ.
As I continued my research, I found other articles narrating the largest companies in the shipping world. However, they reviewed only a certain category of the shipping industry.
For example, we can rank the largest shipping company based on their market share or twenty-equivalent units (TEU) capacity. Alphaliner does a great job at that!
But that’s only the container shipping industry. How about other companies operating on cruise ships, bulk carriers, drill ships, tanker vessels, and many others?
Fleet Size, Market Share, and DWT
Another way to find the largest shipping company is through their fleet size. However, as I continued my journey, I met another wall. Companies have ships of varying sizes and numbers.
Even if we use the total deadweight of their fleet, it still doesn’t accurately measure the company size.
Because some of them have subsidiaries or hold stakes in other shipping companies. How much of the DWT do they share?
Market share is also more complicated. Comparing the market share between the oil market, container market, and cruise market is like debating which tastes better- apples, grapes, or oranges.
To measure the size of a company operating various types of ships, we must use a denominator that they commonly share. The criteria must be simple and easy to understand.
Since there are many metrics to consider in finding the size of a company, I decided to use their trailing twelve-month revenue.
Previously, I used a company’s Enterprise Value and its Market Capitalization. However, I found that revenue, specifically the trailing twelve-month revenue, offers a more direct and comprehensive measure of a company’s size.
Additionally, I compiled a table of these companies with their enterprise value, Market Cap, and net income for the last 12 months. You can see them at the end of this post.
Revenue, also known as sales or turnover, is a measure of a company’s ability to generate income.
Put simply, revenue is the total amount of money that a company receives from its customers in exchange for goods or services.
Revenue is a common way to measure the size of a shipping company. It is easy to compare companies of different sizes and specialties using revenue.
Potential buyers, investors, and industry analysts often consider revenue when evaluating shipping businesses.
Largest Shipping Companies in 2020
The Maritime industry plays a major role in keeping the supply chains running which in turn fuels globalization.
Since shipping is a worldwide business, the biggest companies extend their services to all over the world. They have offices in the US, China, Canada, and all throughout the seven continents.
Starting from the 10th spot, here are the largest shipping companies on earth.
10. HMM Co. Ltd.
Hyundai Merchant Marine is consistently the eighth-largest container line in terms of capacity. It is also South Korea’s number one container carrier.
The company earned various awards and innovations throughout the years. Last 2017, it ranked top 1 out of 18 global carriers for its on-time global performance.
A year later, they started a ‘-60ºC Ultra-Freezer’ Service. They also welcomed their first-ever female Captain and Chief engineer.
While rebranding their name from Hyundai Merchant Marine to HMM Company Limited in 2020, they launched the largest container ships in the world at that time – the HMM Algeciras and HMM Copenhagen.
Both ships have a capacity of 23,964 TEUs and 23,820 TEUs respectively. Although these ships are the largest, they still follow the normal shipboard organizations similar to other vessels.
HMM’s goal is to become the world’s number 1 shipping company in the world. One of their strategy is to build huge ships.
Hence, they also operate Oil Tankers (Crude/ Product Tankers) and LNG Carriers.
Although their net loss mounts to US$-286 million in 2020, their net income in 2022 is at 3.48B with revenue of US$9.6 billion.
9. Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL)
To solve the mystery of the acronym within its name, OSK actually stands for Osaka Shosen Kaisha. MOL resulted from the merger of two companies- the Osaka Shosen Kaisha and Mitsui Steamship Co., Ltd.
The company operates bulk ships, tankers, container ships, cruise/ ferry/ domestic shipping, terminals and logistics, and tugboat operations.
Currently, it owns the second-largest fleet in the world with hundreds of ships of different types.
Though they were previously in the 7th place, these figures helped them maintain among the top 10 largest shipping companies in the world.
The company is worth US$10.45 billion (market cap) with a trailing twelve-month revenue of US$11.96 billion.
8. Royal Caribbean Group (RCG)
Royal Caribbean International previously belonged to the 3rd spot on the world’s largest shipping agency. But that was before the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the third largest cruise ship company in the world, Royal Caribbean Group was also severely hit by the coronavirus. But they are recovering now and their “WOW Effect” is coming to light again.
RCI’s enterprise value stands at US$45.19 billion dollars with a market cap of US24.89 billion. The company suffered a net loss of US$-56.39 million from its revenue of US$12.01 billion.
As of September 2023, this company owns other cruise lines:
- Royal Caribbean International
- Celebrity X Cruises
- Silversea Cruises
- TUI Cruises
- Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
The total combined fleet stands at 64 cruise vessels calling on more than 1,000 destinations on all seven continents.
7. Evergreen Line
With its primary base of operation in Taiwan, Evergreen Marine Corporation operates in about 240 ports worldwide 320 cities across 80 countries.
They currently rank as the 6th largest container fleet in the world with 215 fully containerized ships moving 1.69 million TEUs.
You can easily spot these ships because of their green hull with a huge stencil mark on their side with the letters “EVERGREEN”.
For the last twelve months, this company’s net income was around US$4.39 billion from its revenue of US$12.97 billion.
When it comes to market cap, this is the “cheapest” company among the top ten which is currently valued at US$7.06 billion.
6. Orient Overseas (International) Limited
This is a newcomer in our top 10 largest shipping companies in the world but I bet you’ve seen their ships already. Notice those vessels with huge OOCL in their hulls? Thats them!
Orient Overseas (International) Limited (OOIL) is a Hong Kong-based investment holding company involved in international transportation and logistics, and property investment and property development.
It is the parent company of Orient Overseas Container Line, one of the world’s largest container shipping companies.
Though having an enterprise value of US$-559.08 million, their revenue stands at US$13.3 billion with almost half of that as their net income.
5. NYK Group
Established in September 1885, NYK Group was an outcome of the merger between Mitsubishi Mail Steamship Company and Kyodo Unyu Kaisha.
Their integration resulted in the adoption of its present name, the Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Group).
Fleet and Offices
Starting with 58 steamships in 1885, the company expanded its fleet to 802 vessels with offices in 61 countries and regions. They employ 35,500 people in Europe, Asia, the US, and North, Central, and South America.
Their main office is in Japan.
If you want to buy this company, its worth (enterprise value) is about US$17.07 billion.
From the eighth spot in 2020, they are now in the 5th spot of the world’s largest shipping company on the planet.
From time to time, NYK offers maritime scholarships to deserving cadets. It would be an honor to work in the 5th largest shipping company in the world.
4. Carnival Corporation & Plc
Just like Royal Caribbean Group, Carnival Corporation also slid from the second spot after the coronavirus pandemic.
However, they are still the biggest cruise ship company in the world with shares and subsidiaries from other cruise companies.
Their combined fleet totals 91 vessels across 10 cruise line brands.
Some of their cruise brands include the following:
- P&O Cruises
- Cunard Lines
- Carnival Cruise Line
- Holland America Line
- Princess Cruises
- Seabourn Cruises
- Costa Cruises
- Aida Cruises
These vessels visit 700 ports around the world hosting 13 million guests annually.
Because of the pandemic, their net income is down to US$-3.47 billion with their US$17.49 billion in revenue.
The company is priced at US$30.65 billion (Market Cap) making it the 4th largest shipping company on the planet.
If you wish to work in the largest cruise ship company in the world, their subsidiaries have various manning agencies. You can get in touch with them. by sending applications online.
3. Hapag-Lloyd AG
Hapag-Lloyd is a merger between two German companies Hamburg-American Line (HAPAG) and North German Lloyd (NGL).
With 258 modern ships, Hapag Lloyd ranks as 3rd largest container shipping company on the planet. They own 6.9% share of the global container shipping market.
This company transports 11.8 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) per year to 600 ports in Asia, Europe, Africa, and North and South America.
With an enterprise value of US$32.11 billion, the company managed to earn US$27.61 million in revenue and a positive net income of US$11.28 billion.
2. COSCO Shipping Holdings Co. Ltd.
Headquartered in Shanghai, this Chinese giant offers multinational transportation services, stevedoring, chartering, and shipbuilding.
Last 2019, COSCO Shipping handled a shipping volume of 25.739 million TEUs representing an increase of 2.7%. It was also included in FORTUNE China 500 which topped at 75th on the list.
After the pandemic, COSCO managed to raise US$8.36 billion in net income after taking US$37.08 billion in revenues.
This company was one of the top 3 largest shipping companies in the world before the pandemic. Now, they moved to the second spot.
If you want to buy this company, it’s actually “cheaper” due to its debt. It has an enterprise value of US$5.59 billion.
This is a significant drop from three years ago when it was valued at US$22.65 billion dollars (enterprise value).
1. A.P. Møller Maersk
Still reigning in the first spot even during the pandemic is A.P. Møller Maersk.
Established in 1904, A.P. Møller Maersk became the largest container ship and supply vessel operator since 1996.
The company has gone through many mergers, acquisitions, and sales of its subsidiaries. In 2017, A.P. Møller Maersk sold Maersk Tankers to APMH Invest. They also acquired Hamburg Sud that same year.
A year later, they sold Maersk Oil to Total S.A.
Even with the series of sales on some of their subsidiaries, A.P. Møller Maersk still holds the title of the largest shipping company in the world.
In container shipping alone, they rank number two with a market share of 15.1% moving 4,152,144 TEUs worldwide. The first and third spots in Alphaliner’s ranking belong to the dark horses below.
Hands down this company is the most expensive. Tier enterprise value stands at US$237.52 billion with a revenue of US$67.78 billion.
For context of their growth, in 2020, Maersk’s EV was only US$44.28 billion.
0. Dark Horse
Since I can’t find actual data from these companies, I labeled them as our dark horse.
I know they’re big but I just can’t fathom how big they are if we can’t find their revenue, enterprise value, and even net income.
However, they may come within easily within the top 3.
These two are the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and the CMA-CGM Group. Both companies are giants in the container shipping industry.
As per Alphaliner Top 100, MSC ranked the 1st largest and CMA-CGM in the 3rd place. Their respective market share stands at 19.3% and 12.8%.
Not Publicly Listed
The reason these two are my dark horse (or unranked) among the largest is because their financial statements are not visible to the public.
All other companies here can be found online and are publicly listed that’s why it’s easier for me to find them. But these two are not.
However, I still vouch for them to be within the top 3! I just don’t have the numbers yet.
It Keeps Changing
Rankings here could change anytime as the numbers are dynamic. A company’s share price changes every time it is publicly traded.
Hence, this too affects their market cap which in turn has a huge impact on the enterprise value. Their revenue may also change especially if it is updated every quarter.
Anyway, a company’s size, no matter how big, is not directly proportional to a seaman’s salary. There are small companies giving hefty salaries and bonuses to their crew.
However, as per observation, the largest shipping companies have one of the best benefits offered to their mariners.
Working for the biggest also brings prestige and honor. It feels good when the company we are sailing with makes positive headlines.
Are you working with the top ten largest shipping companies in the world right now? Tell us about your experience.
May the winds be in your favor.