Greece has the largest merchant marine fleet in the world with 3,760 ships that have a capacity of over 1,000 gross tons and control 15 percent of global tonnage.
Greece’s vast coastal waterways and its geographic location, which serves as a gateway to the central Balkans and the Middle East, has generated increased opportunities for U.S. firms and demand for maritime transportation services and marine products in general.
Domestic business interests dominate this sector; however, foreign competition is increasingly active, in partnership with Greek companies. While British and Dutch interests are strong, U.S. marine equipment and service providers continue to be well represented.
The global financial crisis in 2008 has had a definite impact on the shipping industry. The lack of financing severely diminished global trade and freight rates, earnings and asset values, putting the shipping industry in turmoil. Despite this crisis, it should be noted that Greek-owned shipping companies have managed to retain their impressive strength and also continue investing in newbuildings.
According to the Lloyd’s Registry of Shipping (March 2012 statistics), Greek owners control 155.9 million of gross tonnage (gt) of cargo-carrying capacity. It’s transporting capability of 264 million deadweight tons (dwt) covers 15 percent of the world transportation needs. The Greek flag fleet ranks fifth internationally and first in the EU in terms of deadweight tons.
The average age of the Greek shipping fleet has been decreasing over the last years and today is 2.3 years below the average age of the world fleet.
Globally, Greek ships are registered under 43 flags. According to Lloyd’s Register of Shipping (March 2012), out of 3,760 Greek-owned ships, 862 were registered under the Greek flag; In terms of flag registry, behind Greece, Liberia has 630 ships, Malta 523 ships, Marshall Islands 491 ships, Panama 408 ships, Bahamas 293 ships and Cyprus 235 ships under their flags.
From the beginning of 2012, Greek ship owners have spent approximately $549 million for the purchase of 29 ships of different types while worldwide other strong maritime nations have spent $1.2 billion for the purchase of 184 ships. Greek ships constitute 6.5 percent of world orders. In 2011, Greek ship owners invested approximately 11 billion Euros (approx. 13.8 billion US Dollars) for 156 newbuildings which represents a decrease from 239 newbuildings that they ordered in 2010.
Greek ship owners are the leading customers of the world’s shipyards, purchasing their ships from Japan, South Korea, China, Germany and Ukraine and to a lesser extent from France and Italy.
According to the Union of Greek Shipowners, Greek shipping contributed 14.09 billion Euros to the Greek economy in 2011 which represents 6.55 percent of the GDP, while in 2010 it contributed 15.4 billion Euros as an 8.57 percent decrease.
The Greek Government that was elected on October 9, 2010, changed the previously implemented structure of the Ministry of Merchant Marine, and assigned responsibilities to three different ministries, namely, the Ministry of Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping (responsible for the merchant marine, coastal shipping and ports) and the Ministry of Citizens’ Protection (responsible for the Greek Coast Guard).
Greece has 123 cargo/passenger ports which handle passenger ships, cruise ships and cargo. The main ports, so-called national ports, are in Piraeus and Thessaloniki (the gateway to the Balkans). Other major ports are Patras, the primary entry point to Italy and Western Europe, Igoumenitsa, Volos, Iraklion in Crete, Kavala, Corfu, Elefsina, Lavrion, Rafina and Alexandroupolis.
The Greek government has opened Greece’s biggest ports, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, to foreign investors. Such opportunities attracted the interest of major Chinese and Arab funds competing for the ports lucrative container transshipment hub, strategically situated at the crossroads of three continents.
The partnership between the Chinese company COSCO and the Piraeus Port Authority initiated in October 2009 for the concession of the development and operation of Piers II & III of the Container Terminal has created a positive climate concerning the future prospects of this venture. It is expected that the privatization of the Thessaloniki Port (the second largest port in Greece), and other major ports will follow soon.
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