BERLIN, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- Germany remained the world's fifth largest shipping nation with a 4.9 percent share of the global maritime shipping fleet at the end of 2019, a decrease of 0.6 percentage point year-on-year, the German Shipowners' Association (VDR) said on Wednesday.
At the end of last year, a total of 2,140 ships were registered in Germany with a gross tonnage of 52.8 billion, 184 fewer ships and 4.7 million less in gross tonnage than the year before, according to the VDR.
In terms of total 20-foot equivalent units (TEU), Germany was "no longer the biggest nation in the container shipping sector," the VDR noted.
China has taken over Germany's position and now has the largest fleet of container ships. This development was "quite foreseeable," said VDR President Alfred Hartmann.
"Many of the Chinese ships have been built in the last ten years and are much bigger, so that more containers can be transported," a VDR spokesperson told Xinhua on Wednesday.
According to the VDR, the German shipping companies are facing the "immense challenge" of offering their services today although revenues have remained roughly at the same level as over 20 years ago.
"To be able to survive in the prevailing intense global competition, the shipping industry must be able to operate competitively from the location of Germany on an international scale," said VDR Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ralf Nagel.
The VDR noted that besides competitiveness, climate protection was the "biggest" challenge for the German shipping sector.
To achieve the climate targets laid down by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the German shipping sector would "need a technological revolution," Hartmann said. "The point is that all efficiency measures implemented in ship construction alone will not be sufficient. We will need other fuels."
Since the beginning of the year, stricter environmental regulations by the IMO only allow fuels with a maximum sulfur content of 0.5 percent instead of 3.5 percent.