The Saudi Arabian merchant fleet has shrunk by one fifth in recent years, and by 10 percent in the last year alone, according to the kingdom's shipowners' association head. Captain Mohammed Aboud Bawhitan said that local owners had decided to flag their ships elsewhere, and a number of infrastructure projects that might have driven increased local shipping activity have not realized in recent years.
Bawhitan described the growth of the national fleet as weak, with little happening since the merger between Bahri and Vela two years ago. He also pointed out that no new local shipping lines have been created in the past two years.
Figures obtained from online ship pricing platform VesselsValue.com support Bawhitan's claims.
The Saudi national fleet has shrunk over the past 12 months from 14.21m dwt to 13.65m dwt and the value of the fleet has shrunk from US$3.25bn to US$3.1bn, despite a global uptick in tanker prices in recent months.