How Many Ships are there in the World?
July 31, 2012 8 Comments
I was recently asked; how many ships are there in the world?
Like about 90% of people in shipping I reached for the latest copy of Clarksons Shipping Intelligence Weekly (SIW) and rattled off the latest figure, which at 1st July 2012 is 58,900 ships (and a recommendation on how to buy a copy of SIW). This number refers to cargo carrying vessels, but the inquirer was looking a number for all ocean-going ships. Then I referred to the World Fleet Monitor (WFM), which covers everything else (except fishing boats, naval and so on). The figure in the latest WFM is 87,483 ships.
There were only two meaningful answers to variations of the question; how many ships? In wiki.answers.com someone had posted the reply “”about 55,000” in October 2008. The other answer appears on the International Chamber of Shipping website marisec.org and is from around the same time and roughly the same number. Looking back though Clarkson Research’s SIW it becomes clear the uncredited source in both cases is very likely to be Clarksons Research. So a member of the public would find a four year old figure for the cargo carrying portion of the fleet.
What if I was a member of the public that knew some of the shipping organisations, such as the IMO, and searched the same question? With such a big website it is not surprising the IMO search throws up several answers. The IMO Maritime Knowledge Centre report quotes a figure of 104,304 ships. Be careful, this is not comparable to the CLarksons figures above as it includes fishing boats and other small craft. This figure dates from 2011 and comes from IHS Fairplay, which is the main supplier of shipping data to the IMO is .
So it seems that it is not easy for the general public to find up to date figures for such a frequently asked question.