Greece has been toppled from its decade-long standing at the top of the global tonnage charts by China, according to Clarksons Research.

The Chinese-owned fleet has grown strongly since 2015, backed by investment in bulkers and container ships to edge ahead, according to the shipbroker’s researchers.

The Chinese-owned fleet amounts to 249.2m gt with Greece at 249m gt, according to the latest rankings. Japan (181m gt), South Korea (66m gt) and the US (66m gt) round out the top five, said Clarksons.

Greece retains the lead in deadweight tonnage terms and has the leading market share for tankers and LNG carriers.

Stephen Gordon, Clarksons Research’s managing director, said China’s ascendancy has been built on its strong cargo base, its powerful shipbuilding sector and its increasingly active finance sector.

It has the largest fleet share in bulkers, with 24%, and boxships with 16%, it said. The largest shipowners are state companies China Cosco Shipping and China Merchants Group.

“China has been more active in the newbuild market — now almost double the Greek-owned orderbook — and more active in S&P,” Gordon said.

Greece became the largest owner by gt in 2013 after swapping the lead with Japan during the 2000s. China overtook Japan in 2018 and has been edging towards Greek levels since then.

Gordon said the change at the top comes amid a long-term shift with Asian ownership overtaking European in 2019.

The balance is likely to be affected in the coming years by increasingly complex changes in trade and technology choices around decarbonisation, Gordon said.