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Singapore Keeps Top "Maritime City" Status, and UAE Moves Up the Ranks

Port of Singapore
iStock / Primeimages

Published Apr 22, 2024 10:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

The latest edition of the DNV Leading Maritime Cities report is out, and it has some surprises - and some consistency.  

The ranking rates maritime cities on five elements: shipping centers, finance and law, technology, ports and logistics, and attractiveness and competitiveness. The categories are evaluated through 45 different indicators (and for the first time this year, this list includes factors related to the green transition). 190 experts contributed to the evaluation, evenly distributed among shipping's primary geographic areas. 

Singapore took top ranking in three categories - attractiveness, ports and shipping centers - and scored in the top five for technology and finance. In measures of "green" technology, it also ranked first. Taken together, these factors were enough to put it over the top for pole position. Experts chalk up Singapore's success to carefully-considered government policies to support and grow the maritime sector, as well as consistent efforts by Singaporean businesses to develop capacity and continuously modernize. The shifting geography of shipping activity has also helped. 

“The center of international trade is gradually moving towards the East or Asia, with more shipowners emerging from this region. This shift could elevate Asian maritime cities like Shanghai and Singapore," said one study participant from Shanghai. 

All four top rankings remained the same as the last report, with Rotterdam, London and Shanghai taking runner-up after Singapore. The rest of the top ten showed more movement. Oslo, New York, Hamburg and Copenhagen improved their positions, and Busan moved into 10th place for the first time. Hong Kong's ranking declined markedly, from fourth in 2019 to sixth in 2022 to twelfth this year. 

The Middle East's big hubs are on the move upwards. Abu Dhabi showed remarkable improvement, jumping from 32nd place to 22nd. "This is a result of strategic public policies and consistent investment, making the city a magnet for talent and companies," DNV said. Neighboring Dubai is on track to move into the top-five within a few years' time, study participants predicted. 

Athens retains 2nd place on the list of major shipping centers, reflecting its high concentration of shipowners and operators, and ranked 35th overall. It has by far the largest and most valuable fleet of ships of any maritime city, and that fleet is still growing. "However, there remains a perception that Athens primarily serves local Greek shipping companies rather than international shipping entities," DNV found. "Consequently, experts have shifted their confidence toward other prominent shipping centers, notably Singapore and Dubai. These cities have emerged as preferred choices for global shipping activities."

Athens remains the most prominent shipowning city (DNV)