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Countries with the Largest Merchant Navies

Name the countries of the world that have the most shipping tonnage registered in their name.
Many of these are Flags of Convenience used by foreign shipowners to avoid regulation
Quiz by Quizmaster
Last updated: December 15, 2018
First submittedDecember 15, 2018
Times taken8,431
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Gross tonnage
216 mil
124 mil
117 mil
China / Hong Kong
81.1 mil
Marshall Islands
59.2 mil
48.3 mil
45.0 mil
41.1 mil
40.9 mil
United Kingdom / Bermuda
19.7 mil
Gross tonnage
18.5 mil
18.0 mil
17.8 mil
14.4 mil
13.7 mil
11.3 mil
11.1 mil
South Korea
10.6 mil
Antigua and Barbuda
10.1 mil
9.9 mil
United States
level 76
Dec 15, 2018
Some of these seem extremely random... I presume there's some kind of logic that I'm missing? Do countries register ships with other countries for tax reasons or something?
level 67
Dec 15, 2018
Tax havens, baby!!!! The very rich register ships in countries across the globe that they'll never ship to or from so they don't pay or pay fewer taxes to the countries they do ship to and it's perfectly legal! Tax evasion is illegal except when you're rich.
level 77
Dec 15, 2018
Except for some (usually very low) registration fees, ships themselves are generally not taxed. The flag has no bearing on the taxation of shipped goods. There are many reasons behind the choice of a flag, including crew costs, maintenance costs, safety requirements, access to market (cabotage in the US is generally limited to American ships), access to funds, crew nationality requirements, the applicable regulatory framework, etc. Makes perfect sense for ship owners to optimize all these factors. It is also completely unworkable to appoint a flag. What would the criteria even be?
level 68
Dec 15, 2018
The purpose is to reduce costs by enabling companies legally to extract more work, for as little pay as possible, from workers drawn from anywhere in the world. When a limiting regulation is uncovered or appealed to – such as Panama’s labour law guaranteeing no more than a six-day work week – lobbying by the shipping company (in this case, cruise lines) is likely to earn an exemption - important since workers often work months-long shifts without days off.
level 69
Jan 27, 2019
Liberia is not a tax haven... does have loose regulations on shipping though
level 57
Jan 28, 2019
Labor cost differences and lower or no insurance costs.
level 64
Dec 15, 2018
Liberia was my first thought
level 49
Dec 15, 2018
I thought of Liberia too, but didn't try it.
level 67
Dec 18, 2018
Surprised the average score is as high as it is. There are quite a few very random countries on here.
level 80
Feb 21, 2019
Probably because there's enough time to guess a solid proportion of the coastal countries. :-)
level 39
Jan 27, 2019
I missed Liberia, Marshall Islands and Cyprus.
level 46
Jan 27, 2019
I tried a few Central American countries but since they weren't on the list, I moved on to other places. Missed Panama because of it...
level 45
Jan 27, 2019
Great quiz! I was slightly confused by the seeming randomness of the countries as well, but was found the answers pretty interesting!
level 80
Jan 27, 2019
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig was flagged by the Marshalls. But not because BP is anywhere near the Marshalls - they sell their flag so companies like BP have fewer regulatory hoops to jump through. Also, the Marshalls get about half of their Flag of Convenience revenue from oil rigs (not ships) and the country is threatened by sea level rise, so figure that one out. Oh, and the Marshalls doesn't actually get much money from selling their flag because the government sold the operation to a private company based in Virginia in the 1990s. So, yeah, flags of convenience.
level 80
Jan 27, 2019
Not surprised by Cyprus, I mean it does have the added benefit of being both European AND Asian ;)