Seven players split most of the world's car-carrier capacity. But cross ownership and areas of specialization limit the competition even further.
The primary split is between deep-sea operators, which move cars between continents, and short-sea specialists, which move cars shorter distances.
Among European ports, United European Car Carriers dominates northern Europe and Baltic Sea routes.
Italy's Grimaldi handles most Mediterranean traffic.
"We're No. 3 globally with something less than a 30 percent market share," says Ray Fitzgerald, chief operating officer for ocean services for Wallenius Wilhelmsen of Norway. It is jointly owned by Norway's Wilh. Wilhelm-sen and Wal-lenius Lines of Sweden.
In terms of vessels, the largest player is Japan's Nippon Yusen Kabushiki (NYK), a deep-sea specialist. It competes with Tokyo-based fleets Mitsui OSK Lines and K Line and Canada's HAL Shipping. United European is a short-sea specialist. It is a 50-50 joint venture between NYK and Wallenius Lines.