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Did You Know These 10 Fascinating Facts about the Maritime Industry?

Did You Know These 10 Fascinating Facts about the Maritime Industry?

Eve Jones

We know that the maritime industry is responsible for 90% of the world’s transportation. You know that too. But this percentage made headlines mainly thanks to Ninety Percent of Everything, a book written by British journalist, Rose George.

The book aimed to explain the magnitude of the maritime industry to those not working in, or knowledgeable about, the sector. In fact, it would seem that this 90% was and is a source of amazement to outsiders, so we thought we’d put together a few more fast facts that you can use to blow the minds of non-mariner friends next time anyone asks you: “What exactly it is you do again?!”

10 fun and fascinating facts about the maritime industry


  1. In one year the average container ship travels the equivalent of three-quarters - or 75% - of the way to the moon and back. Add up all the trips a ship makes across the oceans in its lifetime and the distance works out to around ten return trips to the moon. Neil Armstrong had nothing on the average seafarer!
ray of golden light arcing into the early night sky

2. Large cargo ships' engines expend approximately 1,000 times more power than the regular family car. But bear in mind that vessels of this nature only travel at an average of 23 knots (or 26.5 miles per hour to your non-seafaring friends)  in perfect weather conditions.

3. Globally, there are around a staggering 55,000 cargo ships on the oceans at any one time. How many containers are they carrying between them? Oh just around 20 million or so!

4. Japan (3,962 vessels), Greece (3,032 vessels) and Germany (2,321 vessels) are the proud owners of the three largest fleets in the world. That’s based on the total DWT that is controlled by parent companies located in those countries.

5. Here’s one that probably won’t surprise you: almost every nationality on the face of the planet has someone crewing on a ship. Let’s break that down a little further: there are approximately 1.5 million seafarers working in the shipping industry worldwide. 98% of those are male and only 2% are female. Filipinos make up a third of all crews with almost a quarter of a million people at sea. Therefore, the average crew member is a male Filipino.

6. You may be working in an extremely valuable environment! It can cost in excess of $200 million to build some of the bigger shipping vessels.

old map of the world surrounded by bank notes

7. Shipping is a big deal. You know that...but did you know that in the UK, the industry accounts for more GDP (Gross Domestic Product) than civil engineering, restaurants and takeaway food (fish and chips anyone?!) combined.

8. Three cheers for shipping: it’s still the safest way of transporting commercial goods. And we can be even prouder of ourselves than we are anyway as the maritime industry was one of the first to implement international safety standards way back in the 19th century.

9. Cargo ships are still one of the most affordable ways to transport goods. Here’s another mind boggling fact: it’s actually cheaper for Scottish cod fish to be shipped to China for filleting and then returned to Scotland than it is to pay Scottish staff to do the same job. We’re not sure what that says about wage rates in Scotland versus China but it certainly shows how economically viable shipping is as a form of transport.

10. Finally, shipping is not only the biggest method of transportation - it’s also the greenest. That’s because if you compare the energy that is needed to move cargo by truck or plane, shipping releases far fewer harmful greenhouse gases. In fact, as Rose George explains in her book, if you send a container from Shanghai in China to Le Havre in France (that’s 11,743 nautical miles), it will emit fewer greenhouse gases than the truck that then takes that container onto Lyon - a total of 514 miles.

container ship being pulled by tug on blue sea near port

We hope you’ve found some of these cargo ships facts interesting and whether or not you’ve heard any of them before, we’re sure you’ll agree they’re definitely food for thought.

A couple of the facts came from George's book and were accurate at the time of its writing but may have changed slightly now. However, it all goes to show what a crucial part of daily life cargo ships and shipping companies are - and ones that the majority of people don’t stop to think about.

How to find  jobs at sea in the maritime industry



Meanwhile, if you’re a seafarer looking for your next seafarer jobs, Martide have plenty of jobs at sea vacancies to choose from. Register your account on our website or through our mobile app today and start applying! The app is free and simple to use and is available now from Google Play and the Apple Store.

And if you’re a shipowner or manager who’d like to know more about how Martide can help shipping companies streamline their maritime recruitment process while making operations even more economically viable, take a look here.