Changes in the distribution of the world fleet, 1970-87
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- Reports (SNF) 
The international shipping crisis of the 1970s and 1980s coincided with massive changes in the distribution of the world fleet. Emerging Maritime Nations and countries offering Flag of Convenience-facilities became more important, whilst the OECD-countries’ share of the world fleet was virtually halved. The apparent shift in the maritime hegemony can be explained by changes in the shipping industry and the international economy. It became increasingly difficult for OECD-countries to compete in a depressed shipping market. OECD-vessels were transferred to FoC-registries, and several Asian countries were provided with an opportunity to increase their involvement in the shipping industry. The single most important reason for the growth of these fleets was the reduced competitiveness of OECD-flag shipping and the increased focus on costs. The growth of Asian shipping mirrors the increasing importance of Asian countries in manufacturing. The combination of relatively inexpensive labour, high domestic and foreign investments and policies focussing on fleet growth are important explanations. The changes in the fleet distribution are illustrated by aggregate data on the registry of the world fleet and elucidated by means of a purpose-built database on Norwegian vessel sales. The Norwegian fleet had the highest relative reduction of all major fleets in the period 1973-87. The analysis shows that this development encompasses the changing pattern of registration. Moreover, it reveals that the ultimate owner interests of approximately 80 per cent of the tonnage transferred to FoC-countries remained with OECD-based companies. A large share of the decline of the Norwegian fleet can be explained by traditional “flagging out” of vessels, facilitated by changes in the Norwegian shipping policy. In the 1980s more than half of the vessels sold from Norway and registered in FoC-countries were managed by Norwegian shipowners, compared with less than ten per cent in the 1970s.