Shipping Transport

The world’s largest container fleets

World trade heavily depends on the global shipping industry. The maritime sector accounts for 90% of the movement of world freight. The companies ranked in this list of shipping fleets are based on their TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) capacity. A TEU is a measure of the number of standard sized containers (20 feet long, 8 feet wide and 9 feet high). Therefore, if a company has a TEU of 600,000, which means it has a capacity of 600,000 containers.

Today, the world’s largest operators of container ships by capacity are dominated by either Asian-Pacific or European operators. Many are a result of a series of mergers or acquisitions that have taken place in the global maritime sector. Below is a list of the world’s leading container vessel operating companies.

1. A.P. Moller–Maersk Group

Maersk is the world’s largest container shipping company, based in Copenhagen Denmark, employing some 79,000 people in 130 countries. The company’s 2017 annual revenue was US$35 billion (2017). Also in 2017, the company was one of the main victims of the NotPetya ransom malware attack, which severely disrupted its operation for several months. This Danish owned conglomerate founded in 1904 has fleet of some 707 vessels, which visit some 300 odd ports across the globe. It has a TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) capacity of 4 million (17.7% market share). Not surprisingly, Maersk operates the world’s largest container vessels named the Emma Maersk, which has the capacity of 14,770TEUs.

2. Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC)

MSC is part of the Cargo Division of the MSC Group shipping conglomerate, a global business engaged in the shipping and logistics sector. This Italian owned shipping company, headquartered in Geneva is a leading operator of not only container vessels but also cruise ships. This shipping company was established in 1970, when it had just one vessel called Patricia. Today its cargo fleet operates 517 vessels fleet with a capacity of 3.3 million TEU (14.5% market share). It’s Chief operating port is the Belgian port of Antwerp. Also, operates 15 modern cruise liners including the soon to be launched MSC VIRTUOSA, registered at 177,100 gross tons, able to carry 6,297 passengers (at full occupancy) and span a length of 331 meters (1,086 feet).


COSCO (China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company) is a state-owned Chinese carrier with headquarters in Beijing. It is the largest Chinese owned shipping company, due to a merger in 2016 with China Shipping Group, acquiring Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) in July 2018, it became the world’s third biggest container fleet operator. COSCO has a market share of 12.4% with a combined TEU capacity of 2.8 million across 473 container ships. COSCO SHIPPING Lines operates 362 international and domestic shipping routes, consisting of 227 international services (including international feeder services), 49 domestic services, 86 Yangtze River and Pearl River shipping services, covering 289 ports in 90 countries and regions worldwide.

4. CMA CGM Group

CMA CGM S.A. is a French shipping company based in Marseille, which was established in 1996 following the merger of Compagnie Maritime d’Affrètement (CMA) and Compagnie Générale Maritime (CGM). It has a rich history, which can be traced back to 1851, and it is now the fourth largest shipping company in the world. CMA CGM has 492 vessels and a TEU capacity of 2.6 million (11.6% market share).There are 2,400 staff members working at the Group’s head office, the CMA CGM Tower in Marseille. It is a building worthy of a major player in the French economy. The Group has 6,300 French customers and CMA CGM is the largest private employer in Marseille, the city where the company was founded in 1978.

5. Hapag-Lloyd

In Hamburg in 1970 Hapag-Lloyd was created following the merger of Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft (HAPAG) and Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL). It has since merged with Compañía Sud Americana de Vapores (CSAV) in 2014, to become a German-Chilean owned conglomerate and the world’s fifth largest shipping company. Today the company has 223 vessels, and a capacity of 1.6 million TEU (7.1% market share).

6. Ocean Network Express (ONE)

This Singaporean based but Japanese owned company has been in existence since July2017 following the amalgamation of Nippon Yusen Kaisha (38% stake), K Line (31% stake) and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (31% stake). It has a fleet of 220 vessels and a TEU capacity of 1.5 million (6.7% market share).

7. Evergreen Marine Corp.

Today this Taiwanese-based company is the seventh largest shipping company in the world, with a capacity of over 1.2 million TEU (5.2% market share). Founded in 1968, it has a fleet of 203 container ships and headquarters in Taoyuan City, Taiwan.

8. Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation

Headquartered in Keelung, Taiwan, Yang Ming was founded in 1972 and is the world’s eighth largest shipping company. It has a capacity of 632,647 TEU (2.8% market share) and a fleet of 97 container ships.

9. Pacific International Line (PIL)

Incorporated in Singapore, PIL is a privately held company that operates 135 vessels with a TEU capacity of 417,670 (1.8% market share). Founded in 1967 by Chinese entrepreneur Chang Yun Chung, it is the world’s ninth largest shipping company.

10. Hyundai M.M.

Based in South Korea, Hyundai M.M. was founded in 1976. The company initially established a container service between the Far East and Middle East, and has since grown to become the world’s tenth largest shipping company. It has a capacity of 408,947 TEU (1.8% market share) with 77 container ships.

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