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Latin American and the Caribbean shipping industry in the international context

23 May 2022|Briefing note

According to data disposed on UNCTADSTAT (2022), considering the total merchant fleet by flag of registration, represented by thousands of dead-weight tons (DWT), Panama occupies the first place of the list, representing in 2021 the 16.1% of the merchant fleet. Followed by Liberia, Marshall Islands, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malta, China, Bahamas, Greece, and Japan. The Bahamas, a Caribbean island, occupying the 8th place of the rank, with 3.5% of the world´s dead-weight tonnage. In Latin America and the Caribbean, it represented in 2021, 21.5% of the world fleet by flag. Flag by registration does not mean that companies have domicile in the country. In recent years, Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for about 17% of the world's total maritime cargo. Nonetheless, the regional share in the maritime transport industry is smaller. Even though most of Latin America's largest countries had their own shipping companies (either private or state capital) until 20 or 30 years ago, in practice the impact of those remaining in the market is much lower.

The shipping industry of Latin America and the Caribbean has distinctive features, which are displayed in companies in this industry are mostly private-owned, with small fleets, geographic coverage of not-too-far distances (in fact, mainly short-distance geographical coverage) and of diversified specialization.

The analysis is based on a survey conducted by the authors. From the survey, the authors found 317 companies that were active as of January 2022. Of those, 7.3% of the companies are State owned, with a marked prominence of 92.7% of private ownership. Only companies operating at least one vessel of 2,000 or more GT were included.


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