Does Disney really have the world's third/fourth/fifth/sixth/seventh largest "navy"? I've often seen this claim being bandied about on trivia sites and the like. But there are never any credible sources backing it up.

  • What about all the ships used in the Pirates of the Carribean films and other films? I know film houses have amazing collections of classic and period cars, maybe they have a shed full of ships somewhere too? – user13410 Apr 16 '13 at 12:05
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    The version I heard many years ago was that Disney had the Nth largest submarine fleet in the world. – Keith Thompson Oct 17 '13 at 19:56
up vote 57 down vote accepted

By most standards, the answer is no.

A navy, strictly defined, is an armed force for prosecuting warfare on bodies of water. The Walt Disney Company has no known ships that would meet this definition. For the sake of discussion, of course, we'll take navy as a jocular synonym for fleet, giving them a foot in the door.

A second consideration is that a navy (or civilian fleet) may operate all manner of vessels, but will not include all of these in their fleet count. The U.S. Navy, for example, has not traditionally included mine sweepers or coastal patrol boats as combatant vessels (is reconsidering definitions in light of developments in warfare). Certainly, vessels under a certain displacement are generally excluded from consideration regardless of role, although there is no universally accepted cutoff. Mounting a machine gun at the bow of a dinghy will not likely satisfy maritime spotters.

But let us count the vessels operated by the various branches of the Walt Disney Company that would meet a fairly broad definition of "ship":

I exclude DisneySea's SS Columbia, which I don't believe actually floats, and small craft like the "Venetian gondolas" and Davy Crockett/Beaver Brothers canoes that would never be counted in any trade accounting of a fleet's size. I count 61 total.

Wikipedia's more strictly defined list gives these totals for navies:

  1. United States 431
  2. PR China 425
  3. Russia 283
  4. The Philippines 155
  5. Japan 109
  6. India 103
  7. United Kingdom 100
  8. North Korea 98
  9. Turkey 85
  10. France 72

(Note that the above listing includes coastal patrol boats and anti-mine ships but excludes support craft such as tenders and oilers). Disney would tie with the Republic of Singapore, certainly nowhere near the top ten.

What about private fleets? Numbers are harder to come by, as ships are swapped with greater frequency. According to Dow Jones Statista at least, Disney would enter the top ten behind Hapag-Lloyd, but again only by granting them a much more generous standard for inclusion than the others:

  1. Maersk 234
  2. Mediterranean 194
  3. COSCO 101
  4. PIL 97
  5. CSCL 90
  6. Evergreen Line 88
  7. CMA CGM Group 88
  8. Hapag-Lloyd 60
  9. NYK 54
  10. Yang Ming 46

Unlike their claim to operate one of the largest monorail fleets in the world, which is verifiably true, the various figures that Disney operates the third-largest, fourth-largest, etc. ship fleets depend upon exceptionally loose definitions of "ship" in the same way their past claims to have operated the world's largest peacetime submarine fleet depend on rather broad definitions of "submarine"— if I recall correctly, their submarines never even actually submerged.

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    "I count 61 total." - I count 4 total, which would classify as ship, rather than boat. The Wikipedia page you quote states "Surface vessels displacing less than 250 tonnes are not included, regardless of other characteristics." – vartec Oct 26 '12 at 9:41
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    @vartec As I noted, I am trying to give Disneyphiles the benefit of a doubt and use an exceptionally inclusive count, essentially any vessel that has been named. This makes the falseness of the claim the more striking. – choster Oct 26 '12 at 13:38
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    Whata bout all the boats on its a small world and pirates of the carribean, and the other water rides. I think that is where the claim comes from. – Chad Oct 31 '12 at 19:10
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    @Chad If we inflate Disney's fleet count even further, we'd need to inflate their competitors as well, not only with full-size vessels like hospital ships and oilers but small craft like harbor tugboats, salvage ships, Zodiacs and other boarding craft, marine tractors, "patrol yachts," and so on. If Disney has a fleet of four hundred by that measure, then the US Navy has thousands upon thousands, from nuclear aircraft carriers down to the Naval Academy's racing sculls. – choster Nov 6 '12 at 18:30
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    so we would need to add all small boats from the other navies to compare? – Nikko Aug 26 '15 at 17:53

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