15 Largest Water Transportation Companies In The World

By Chris Kolmar - Mar. 16, 2021

Find a Job You Really Want In

According to the International Chamber of Shipping, around 11 billion tons of goods are transported across oceans every year. That’s about 1.5 tons per person per year. The ICS also states that the world shipping trade is worth around $14 trillion annually.

Globally, there are around 6,000 active ships. If all these ships were fully stocked with cargo and crew, they would collectively weigh around 294 million metric tonnes.

Given how much of our planet is covered in water, it makes sense that transportation via water would be such a large industry, yet many of us can’t name a single ocean shipping company off the top of our heads.

Below we have a list of the top 15 largest water shipping companies, listed by their shipping capacity. Shipping capacity is measured in TEU or twenty-foot equivalent units. Essentially, 1 TEU is the number of materials that can fit in one twenty-foot shipping container.

Thus, a forty-foot shipping container would be equal to 2 TEU. This is the standard measurement for how much cargo one ship can transport. Further, with each listing is the estimated share of the market each company controls.

These data were found at Alphaliner’s Top 100, and are accurate as of March of 2021.

15 Largest Water Transportation Companies In The World

  1. Maersk

  2. Mediterranean Shipping Co.

  3. COSCO Group

  4. CMA CGM Group

  5. Hapag-Lloyd

  6. Ocean Network Express

  7. Evergreen Line

  8. Hyundai Merchant Marine Co Ltd

  9. Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp.

  10. ZIM

  11. Wan Hai Lines

  12. Pacific Int. Line

  13. Zhonggu Logistics Corp.

  14. KMTC

  15. IRISL Group

Taking a Deeper Dive

  1. Maersk

    Maersk is the largest water transportation company globally, and it has been the largest container shipping line since 1996. Many of us have probably seen their gray shipping containers, made notable by their white star logo. They are a Danish company, originally founded in 1904 in Copenhagen.

    Today, they are estimated to control a market share of around seventeen percent, and their shipping capacity is approximately 4.1 million TEU. In 2018, the company reported around $40 billion in revenue.

  2. Mediterranean Shipping Co.

    This Swiss-Italian shipping line was founded in 1970 in Naples, Italy. Today, they operate in all major ports in the world and sail on more than 200 trade routes.

    They are a formidable competitor to the long-reigning champion, Maersk. They control a similar share of the market, at around sixteen percent, and they have a shipping capacity of 3.87 million TEU. They reported annual revenue of approximately $30 billion.

  3. COSCO Group

    Otherwise known as China Ocean Shipping Company Limited, COSCO was founded in 1961. It was formerly owned by the Chinese Government, and it is the largest liner carrier in China. Their headquarters is located in Beijing, and their fleet calls at (stop at) over a thousand ports worldwide.

    COSCO Group controls a smaller portion of the market than the first two on our list, at around 12.5 percent, but their shipping capacity is similar to that of Mediterranean Shipping Co. at 3 million TEU. In 2019, they reported a revenue of around 151 billion yuan, which is approximately $23 billion.

  4. CMA CGM Group

    This French group was founded in 1978, when two companies, la Compagnie Maritime d’Affrètement (CMA) and la Compagnie Générale Maritime (CGM) combined into one. Today, they operate in 420 ports, using 200 shipping routes.

    According to their website, they are active in over 160 countries, and they report around $30 billion in USD. CMA CGM Group and its subsidiaries control a similar portion of the market to COSCO, around twelve percent, and they have a similar cargo capacity of 2.99 million TEU.

  5. Hapag-Lloyd

    This German international shipping company is also one you may have seen before. Their shipping containers are recognizable by their logo: a bent H, made to look like an arrow.

    They were founded in 1970 and currently have their headquarters located in Hamburg, Germany. Their origins are in a merger between two German transportation companies, Hamburg-American Line (HAPAG) and North German Lloyd (NGL), both of which were originally formed in the early 1800s.

    Today, they control a smaller share of the market, around seven percent, and their shipping capacity is around 1.7 million TEU. In 2019, they reported a revenue of €12 billion or $14 billion.

  6. Ocean Network Express

    Also known by the acronym ONE, this company is often recognized by its pink liners and shipping containers, a color inspired by the famous cherry blossom trees in Japan.

    It was founded in 2017, making it one of the youngest companies on our list, and it is owned by three Japanese shipping companies: Nippon Yusen Kaisha, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and K Line.

    ONE controls around 6.6% of the market, and has a shipping capacity similar to Hapag-Lloyd, at 1.6 million TEU.

  7. Evergreen Line

    This particular water transportation company is also known for its colorful shipping containers, which tend to be painted green. Evergreen is a Taiwanese shipping company, with its headquarters in Taoyuan City, Taiwan. Evergreen was founded in 1968 and today stops at 240 ports worldwide, in about 80 countries.

    Evergreen line controls around five percent of the global market and has a shipping capacity of 1.3 million TEU.

  8. Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. Ltd.

    Also known as HMM, Hyundai Merchant Marine was founded in 1976 and is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. In 2020, HMM made history by building the world’s two largest container ships, both with an approximate cargo capacity of twenty-four thousand TEU.

    Today, they control a three percent share of the market, and they have a shipping capacity of around 700 thousand TEU.

  9. Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp.

    This Taiwanese shipping company was originally founded in 1972, but has historical roots in the Qing Dynasty, thanks to its merger with China Merchants Steam Navigation Company. It is currently based in Keelung, Taiwan.

    Today, they control around 2.6% of the global market and have a shipping capacity of 627 thousand TEU.

  10. ZIM

    Officially known as Zim Integrated Shipping Services Limited, this Israeli cargo company was founded in 1945, and it has its headquarters in Haifa, Israel. They are known for being the only maritime connection to the state of Israel during the War of Independence from 1947-1949, supplying much-needed aid and military equipment.

    In 2019, they reported revenue of $3.299 billion, a significant feat considering their shipping capacity is so small, around 400 thousand TEU. ZIM controls a small portion of the global market as well, around 1.7 percent.

  11. Wan Hai Lines

    Another Taiwanese shipping company, Wan Hai Lines was founded in 1965. Though it originally served mainly Taiwan, Japan, and Southeast Asia, today they have expanded to the Americas, Africa, and the Middle East.

    They are estimated to control 1.3 percent of the global market, and they have a shipping capacity of approximately 300 thousand TEU.

  12. Pacific International Lines

    Originally founded in 1967, this company started with just two ships. It was founded by Chang Yun Chung, who was the world’s oldest billionaire until his death in September 2020 at 102 years old.

    Today, PIL controls an estimated 1.1 percent of the global market, and they have a shipping capacity of around 250 thousand TEU.

  13. Zhonggu Logistics Corp.

    According to Bloomberg.com, Zhonggu Logistics Corp, also known as Shanghai Zhonggu Logistics Co Ltd, provides a variety of logistics services, including both sea and land transportation. It was founded in 2010 and is headquartered in China.

    They are estimated to control 0.7 percent of the global market, and they are reported to have a shipping capacity of around 170 thousand TEU.

  14. KMTC

    KMTC, or Korea Marine Transport Co, Ltd. was founded in 1954 and, in 1967, they became the first company to operate semi-container ships in Korea. Today, they serve India, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Japan, China, and Russia.

    They are similar to Zhonggu Logistics Corp. in that they control an estimated 0.7 percent of the global market, and they have a shipping capacity of 164 thousand TEU.

  15. IRISL Group

    IRISL, or the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line Group, was founded in 1967. It has a fleet of 115 ocean vessels. Recently, the IRISL has been placed under sanctions by the United States, United Nations, and the European Union, as a result of complications with the Iran Nuclear Deal.

    Despite this, however, they remain on our list due to their large shipping capacity, of around 150 thousand TEU, and they are estimated to control around 0.6% of the global shipping market.

Final Thoughts

These shipping companies are the organizations that are making the world a smaller place, bringing billions of people the goods they need, such as oil, iron ore, and grain. Without these companies working to get us our materials, we would be without certain types of food, steel for buildings, and gasoline for our vehicles.

Shipping companies give us access to the raw materials that our economy is based on. Furthermore, they complete this daunting task all while maintaining a relatively small environmental footprint and while keeping costs low.

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.
Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

Find The Best Job That Fits Your Career

Major Survey Entry Point Icon

Where do you want to work?

Related posts