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The number of ships that are used in the world’s oceans has grown from just over 100 million in 2010 to almost 500 million today, according to a report from the United Nations’ oceans office.
That figure is likely to grow further if countries like India, which is expected to overtake China as the world leader in ships this year, continue to invest heavily in new ships and technology, the UN’s oceans office said.
That includes more than 100 million ships, mostly in the oceans of Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, that have been built or acquired since the 2020 Olympics in Beijing, China.
“The rapid increase in ships and equipment means that we have much more room to improve our capabilities,” the oceans office’s executive director, Peter Wadhams, told Reuters in an interview.
It is not clear how many of the ships are being used in international waters, but Wadham said the figure was likely to be much higher.
Wadham told Reuters that many of these ships were used in humanitarian operations, disaster relief and other humanitarian activities that often involve shipping.
The UN’s seas office does not have a full tally of the total number of vessels that are being operated in international seas.
The oceans office estimated in 2017 that there were around 500,000 ships operating in the international waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, which encompass most of the world, and said there were nearly 200 million vessels operating in international territorial waters.
That is about three times the number of current US warships, and nearly three times as many as the number that were deployed in the Falklands War of 1982.
The seas office estimates that the number and size of ships operated in the Indian Oceans have risen from around 100 million to about 500 million since 2020, according the report.
It also says the number is likely growing because of increased use of the ocean in commercial fishing.
The United Nations says it is not aware of any international incidents involving vessels in international oceans.
But it did say in a statement that “international law obliges states to take appropriate measures to prevent and deter human rights violations and illegal fishing.”