‘Ocean 100’: Small group of companies dominate ocean economy

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Researchers identify the 100 transnational corporations extracting the majority of revenues from economic use of the world’s ocean

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Credit: Science Advances

For the first time, scientists have identified the 100 transnational corporations (see table) extracting the majority of revenues from economic use of the world’s ocean.

Dubbed the “Ocean 100”, the group of companies generated US$1.1 trillion in revenues in 2018, according to the research published in the journal Science Advances.

“If the Ocean 100 was a country it would be the 16th largest on Earth,” said Henrik Österblom, a co-author on the study from Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University. “By revenue, the Ocean 100 is equivalent to the GDP of Mexico.”

The researchers from the centre and Duke University assessed eight core ocean industries: offshore oil and gas, marine equipment and construction, seafood production and processing, container shipping, shipbuilding and repair, cruise tourism, port activities and offshore wind. Combined these industries had revenues of $1.9 trillion in 2018, the most recent year analysed. According to the study, the 100 largest companies took an estimated 60% of all revenues in these eight industries.

The Ocean 100 list is dominated by offshore oil and gas companies with a combined revenue of $830 billion. The only non-oil and gas company in the top ten is the shipping company A.P. Møller-Mærsk at No. 9.

The researchers found a consistent pattern across all eight industries. A a small number of companies account for the bulk of revenues. On average, the 10 largest companies in each industry took 45 percent of that industry’s total revenue. The highest concentrations were found in cruise tourism (93 percent), container shipping (85 percent) and port activities (82 percent).

“Now that we know who has the biggest impact on the ocean this can help improve transparency relating to sustainability and ocean stewardship,” said lead author John Virdin from Duke University.

“Why do such a small number of companies dominate this sector? This likely reflects high barriers to entry in the ocean economy. A lot of expertise and capital are needed to operate in the sea, both for the established industries and emerging one such as deep-sea mining and marine biotechnology,” said Virdin.

The authors say that such high concentration is a risk to international goals for sustainable ocean use, but possibly also an opportunity. One risk is that a small number of companies headquartered in a few countries (by revenue, the largest companies are based in the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, France, the United Kingdom and Norway) could more easily lobby governments to weaken social or environmental rules for example to limit greenhouse gas emissions or stifle innovation. Conversely, with just a small number of companies it may be easier to coordinate action for ocean stewardship and harness private funding to support globally-agreed public initiatives in the ocean (e.g. ocean clean-ups, conservation, support for small-scale fishing communities).

One surprise in the study is the scale of offshore wind farms. This is now becoming a major sector in the ocean economy worth $37 billion in 2018 – and growing rapidly. “Since 2000, the capacity of offshore wind farms has seen a staggering 400-fold increase and this is expected to accelerate further as demand for renewable energy grows,” said Jean Baptiste Jouffray, a co-author of the study from the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

The idea for the new analysis began four years back while John Virdin was providing advice for governments on the future of the ocean economy.

“The OECD had just published a report on the future of the ocean economy which included more clearly defined economic sectors. Around this time, someone handed me Henrik and Jean Baptiste’s 2015 paper on keystone actors in the seafood industry. I wondered if we could apply the same keystone actor concept to the entire ocean economy using the OECD definitions,” said Virdin.

The analysis did not explore the ecological impact of the Ocean 100. Future research will explore the Ocean 100 environmental footprint with a focus on carbon emissions.

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The research contributes to UNESCO’s Decade of Ocean Science (2021-2030).

Largest corporations by revenue in the ocean economy

Corporation:

    1. Saudi Aramco

    2. Petrobras

    3. National Iranian Oil Company

    4. Pemex

    5. ExxonMobil

    6. Royal Dutch Shell

    7. Equinor

    8. Total

    9. A.P. Møller-Maersk

    10. BP

    11. Qatar Petroleum

    12. Chevron

    13. China National Offshore Oil Corporation

    14. Abu Dhabi National Oil Company

    15. Mediterranean Shipping Company

    16. CMA CGM

    17. Petoro

    18. Eni S.p.A.

    19. Carnival Corporation & plc

    20. Petronas

    21. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation

    22. China State Shipbuilding Corp Ltd

    23. COSCO Shipping

    24. Hyundai Engineering and Construction

    25. TechnipFMC

    26. Hyundai Heavy Industries

    27. Hapag-Lloyd

    28. Ocean Network Express

    29. Saipem

    30. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

    31. Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Equipment

    32. Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

    33. General Dynamics

    34. Huntington Ingalls Industries

    35. State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic

    36. Sonangol

    37. Maruha Nichiro Corporation

    38. ConocoPhillips

    39. Vår Energi

    40. Inpex

    41. China Shipbuilding Industry Company Ltd

    42. Fincantieri Group

    43. PTT Exploration and Production Public Company

    44. Nippon Suisan Kaisha

    45. Pertamina

    46. Sinopec Group

    47. Wartsila

    48. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings

    49. DP World

    50. Shanghai International Port Group

    51. Evergreen Marine Corporation

    52. BHP

    53. Occidental Petroleum

    54. Repsol

    55. Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A.

    56. Dongwon Enterprise

    57. Wintershall Dea

    58. Samsung Heavy Industries

    59. Ørsted

    60. Mowi

    61. Yang Ming Marine Transport

    62. Pacific International Lines

    63. CK Hutchison Holdings

    64. Naval Group

    65. APM Terminals

    66. Thai Union Group

    67. Subsea 7

    68. Perenco

    69. PetroVietnam

    70. Lukoil

    71. BAE Systems

    72. Chrysaor

    73. Bahrain Petroleum Company

    74. Aker BP

    75. Hyundai Merchant Marine

    76. Sembcorp Marine

    77. Dragon-ENOC

    78. Mubadala Development Company

    79. Mitsubishi Corporation

    80. Hitachi Zosen

    81. Imabari Shipbuilding

    82. Gazprom

    83. Yangzijiang Shipbuilding (Holdings) Ltd

    84. Zim

    85. MSC Cruises

    86. Dredging, Environmental and Marine Engineering

    87. PSA International

    88. Mitsui

    89. Royal Boskalis Westminster

    90. OUG Holdings

    91. Aker Solutions ASA

    92. Neptune Energy

    93. Austevoll Seafood

    94. OMV

    95. Hess

    96. Woodside

    97. Meyer Neptun

    98. Suncor Energy

    99. Spirit Energy

    100. Trident Seafoods

Publication

CITATION: “The Ocean 100: Transnational Corporations in the Ocean Economy,” J. Virdin, T. Vegh, J.B. Jouffray, R. Blasiak, S. Mason, H. Österblom, D. Vermeer, H. Wachtmeister and N. Werner. Jan. 13, 2021, Science Advances.

Paper available on request.

Graphics and table available on request.

Media Contact
Owen Gaffney
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