The Biggest Container Shipping Companies Operating Today

A container ship with a heavy cargo load sailing to the target destination.

Container shipping is one of the most important and necessary means of transporting cargo through sea routes. The shipping industry is not monopolized thus there exists no friction or tension in the international cargo shipping community. Since the businesses of transporting goods across the globe continue to expand at a rapid rate due to an increasing demand for products, shipping companies also increase the number of ships that traverse the globe. The size of a shipping company is determined by the capacity of world container ship fleets based on twenty-foot equivalent units or (TEUs) which is the number of twenty-foot shipping containers a company can carry at a given time. The number of ships a company has is also a factor in determining its size.

1. A.P. Moller-Maersk Group

Maersk is a Danish shipping company whose headquarters are based in Copenhagen, Denmark. The company was founded in 1904 and is not only the largest operating unit but also the largest overseas freight and cargo carrier in the world. Since 1996, the company has been the world's biggest container ship operator and supply vessel. Maersk Group has numerous offices in more than 135 countries worldwide with an estimated 89,000 employees. The company has 620 ships with a Twenty- foot equivalent unit (TEU) of 3,250,668.

2. Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC)

MSC is the largest privately owned shipping company and the second largest shipping line in container vessel capacity in the world. The company was founded in Naples, Italy in 1970 and its headquarters are based in Geneva, Switzerland. The Mediterranean Shipping Company has about 480 offices in 150 countries worldwide with an estimated 24,000 employees. The shipping line sails on over 200 trade routes around the globe, calls at a total of 315 different seaports and has about 490 ships with a TEU of 2,936,553.


CMA CGM is a French shipping company founded in1978 by Jacques Saadé. CMA CGM is the world's third largest shipping company whose headquarters are based in Marseille, France and Norfolk, Virginia. The company has a fleet of 447 vessels which use 170 shipping routes and call at 400 different seaports in over 150 countries. CMA CMG has more than 600 offices with an estimated 20,000 employees and a TEU of 2,165,570.

4. China COSCO Shipping

Following the merger between COSCO Group and China Shipping Group in January 2016, the company has become the fourth largest shipping company in the world, and among the only four companies that have a TEU of above 1 million. It is also the largest shipping company outside Europe. Before the merger, COSCO Group was founded in 1961 whereas China Shipping Group was founded in 1997. China COSCO Shipping is a state-owned enterprise whose headquarters are based in Beijing, China. At present COSCO owns five of the top ten container ships with a total of 294 ships with a TEU of 1,639,692.

5. Evergreen Marine

Evergreen Marine is a shipping company in Taiwan whose headquarters are based in the district of Luzhu in Taoyuan City, Taiwan. Evergreen is the fifth-largest container shipping company in the world. The company which was founded in 1968 currently operates 187 ships, calls on 240 seaports worldwide in about 80 different countries. Evergreen has a TEU of 989,592 and was ranked the fourth-largest company of its type before China Shipping and COSCO Group merged in 2016.

The Biggest Container Shipping Companies Operating Today

RankCompanyTEU capacityNumber of ships
1A.P. Moller-Maersk Group3,250,668620
2Mediterranean Shipping Company2,936,553490
3CMA CGM2,165,570447
4China COSCO Shipping1,639,692294
5Evergreen Marine989,592187
7Hamburg Süd594,327115
8Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation576,269100
9Orient Overseas Container Line555,12491
10United Arab Shipping Company520,25454

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