World merchant ship fleet growing steadily


Sustained growth in the world fleet of merchant ships is a positive backdrop for employment of shipping professionals. And further enlargement is likely, although signs point to a slowing expansion rate.

But this broad view masks varying changes among the fleets of the main vessel types – bulk carriers, tankers, container ships and gas carriers. These ships comprise over 90% of the entire carrying capacity, transporting a wide variety of dry and liquid bulk commodities and manufactured goods around the world.

Building today’s fleet

Looking at statistics for merchant ship fleet growth, it soon becomes clear that expansion has been remarkably steady. During the past five years, the average annual growth rate was 3.2%, following a 3.4% average in the previous five years. This pace enabled the capacity to grow by almost two-fifths, from 1639 million deadweight tonnes at end-2012 to 2265m dwt at end-2022, according to Clarksons Research data.

On closer examination of the figures for different vessel types, some contrasts are evident. Bulk carriers, the biggest world fleet segment, saw 3.4% average growth in the past five years, after a 3.5% average in the previous period, quite similar to the overall merchant fleet averages. For tankers – the second largest segment – the corresponding averages were 3.0% and 3.3%, also in line with overall progress. In the container ship segment, average growth rates for the past five and previous five years were quicker at 3.7% and 4.2%. By contrast LNG carriers saw much faster 7.7% and 6.9% averages.

This data confirms what many people in the industry have been aware of, that the LNG carrier fleet was growing rapidly, while container fleet expansion was also quite brisk. Another feature is more moderate growth in the past five years compared with the previous period, except for LNG carriers where an already fast expansion rate accelerated.

What is predictable tomorrow?

A tendency towards slowing fleet expansion seems to be a realistic outlook for the next two years, based on expected inflows and outflows of ships. This expectation is partly based on current relatively low shipyard orderbooks for newbuildings. Prospects for scrapping, which diminished in the past few years, are much more difficult to assess.

The overall world orderbook currently remains equivalent to only 10% of the existing merchant ship fleet, with many of the ships on order due for delivery this year or next. One notable exception is container ships, numerous newbuildings having been ordered during the recent boom period, resulting in a current orderbook equivalent to 26% of the existing fleet. For LNG carriers, where there are expectations of fast future trade growth, the percentage is remarkably high at 52%.

Despite large orderbooks in a couple of segments, the general picture is one of restrained ordering. Likewise sales for recycling have been restrained. These outcomes are partly explained by charter and second-hand market trends, resulting in freight rates, vessel prices and market expectations that provided insufficient incentives to order more new tonnage. Market trends were solid enough to support employment of existing ships.

There is huge uncertainty about shipping market prospects. An especially large aspect causing much anxiety, because it is so puzzling, is how to tackle the drastic carbon emissions reduction that the industry is under pressure to achieve. It seems clear that the conundrum, of what alternative fuels and technology to adopt, has limited both newbuilding orders and scrapping. Until a clearer route towards decarbonisation emerges many shipowners seem inclined to prolong the lives of older ships.

Nevertheless it is widely predicted that recycling sales will pick up over the next couple of years. An acceleration could be greatly influenced by the tightening of carbon emissions regulations starting at the beginning of this year. Potentially a large number of older ships unable to comply with the new EEXI and CII rules, the impact of which will become more evident in 2024, will be scrapped. This expectation reinforces the idea of decelerating merchant fleet enlargement unfolding.

Article written by Richard Scott FICS Committee Member, London & South East Branch, Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers

Interview Advice from Matt Cornelius, Director of Recruitment, Spinnaker


As maritime recruitment specialists, we have been putting candidates forward for interviews with our ship owning and ship managing clients since 1997.

The interview process can be stressful. Often this may begin with a telephone or Teams interview before moving to either a one, two or even three stage face-to-face interview. The client will undoubtably have multiple candidates to interview, many of whom will possess similar skills and experience.  It’s important that you stand out from the competition and make a lasting impression on hiring managers.

Earlier this year we asked Spinnaker’s Recruitment Director Matt Cornelius for his top tips when it comes to interview techniques.  Here’s what he had to say:

Solve the problem

Identify the problem you are being brought in to fix, visualise how you will solve the problem the employer faces and walk them through exactly how you will solve this for them. If the hiring team can visualise you in the role and recognise the benefit you will bring them this will massively boost your chances of succeeding in the interview process.

Always be closing

This is a classic sales mantra, but it really applies to interviewing too. Try to leave the interview knowing you’ve addressed any point of concern they might have. I would recommend asking if they have any concerns about your suitability for the role. Unless you ask you might leave the interview without knowing they had a concern and therefore missing the opportunity to address this.

Research, Research, Research

This is a pretty obvious recommendation but surprisingly overlooked. You really need to research the company you are interviewing with, read any press releases you can find, find out who their key personnel are etc… Showing you know about the company demonstrates you are serious about the position and will also give you the basis from which you can answer their questions. Having not researched is a sure-fire way to put the hiring manager off. If you are applying for a position via a Recruiter I would always recommend asking them for any guidance on who you are meeting with and what format to expect if they haven’t already told you!

Stick to the Question asked

Try to listen as carefully as possible to what you are being asked. You don’t need to answer right away so taking a pause and properly thinking about how to address the specific question asked of you is important. Try not to go off on tangents and lose sight of what was originally asked.

Be Honest

Questions will often be asked where you perhaps lack experience of. If you try to fabricate an answer, 9 times out of 10 the interviewer will know that you don’t have the experience they have asked of. There is no harm in saying that something is a current blind spot in your experience, but you would be excited to learn. Companies will value integrity and enthusiasm over trying to cover up for something!

Ask Questions

Interviewing is a 2 way process. As much as a company is assessing your credentials for the role, you are also assessing whether the company is the right fit for you. An interview should be a conversation, not a Q and A session and asking questions yourself not only helps shape your view of the company/ the role for your own guidance but also demonstrates you are taking an interest in learning about what you are potentially going to be walking into. 


This is particularly relevant for those with less interview experience but applicable to even seasoned interviewees. There will be some standard questions that frequently come up in one guise or another so practicing how you would respond and having a good idea of what to say already is recommended i.e. what attracted you to this role? Involving family members and partners in helping to ask questions will get you in the mindset of thinking on your feet even if it’s difficult to recreate an interview environment.

Matt Cornelius is Director of Recruitment at Spinnaker, and you can read his full article on LinkedIn.

You can contact him via email [email protected] or call +44 (0)1702 480142

The Day of the Seafarer – Day 3

In today’s blog we asked Captain Alexandros Serpanos, Fleet Personnel Manager at Euronav, for his thoughts on a career at sea and any advice for those starting out in the industry. 

What do you enjoy most about your career at sea? 

There are unlimited opportunities for development, whether that be personal, professional or financial. 

What drove you to pursue a career at sea? Who inspired you? 

There wasn’t any source of inspiration, the primary drivers were my adventurous spirit and the total absence of financial resources. 

What challenges have you faced in your career as a seafarer, and how have you overcome these? 

In my opinion, the greatest challenge for a seafarer/officer, is feeling either unappreciated or undervalued by the industry’s stakeholders (regulating and enforcing authorities or ship managers/owners) which became more than evident during the COVID19 pandemic. I overcame the challenge by being stoic. 

What advice would you give to young people who are looking to start a career at sea? 

They should have vision, discipline, dedication, consistency and patience. 

They should prioritize their physical and mental health by investing in proper nutrition, exercise, rest, reading and minimize practices such as smoking, alcohol, social media etc. 

You can follow the hashtag #DayOfTheSeafarer for 2023 content and come back to this blog page tomorrow for another interview.