BUSINESS

Shrewd attitude helps Greeks retake global shipping lead

By Nikos Roussanoglou

Greeks have returned to the top spot in the global chart of merchant fleet capacity, according to data from Clarksons, the world’s leading provider of integrated shipping services.

Greek shipowners now control ships with a gross tonnage of 164 million tons, overtaking the Japanese on 159.4 million tons. As a result, Greek shipping is back on top after about a decade in second place.

This global lead has been achieved even though the Greeks rank third in ship numbers behind the Japanese and the Chinese: Greek shipowners control 4,984 vessels against 8,537 managed by the Japanese and 6,427 by the Chinese. This shows that the Greek ships are on average much bigger than those of the Japanese and the Chinese, as well as the Germans and the South Koreans which follow.

In its latest global shipping snapshot Clarksons also makes reference to the conservative attitude of Greek shipowners throughout the international shipping rally from 2004 to the start of the credit crisis. Although Greek shipping was seen as the biggest risk-taker for at least 20 years and since the mid-90s had overtaken the Japanese to conquer the top spot through the size of its fleet, the Japanese had dominated the industry in the last decade by investing more funds during the price growth period in the sector, which led to them sustaining significant losses during the three-year crisis.

On the other hand, the Greeks were more self-contained during the period of industry growth, which meant the crisis had less of an impact on them. Now they are in the position to stage a dynamic return to investing as vessel prices have declined considerably compared with previous years. In the first quarter of 2014 alone Greek shippers have invested a total of almost 5 billion euros in new ships.

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