Greece’s shipowners tap soaring rates

Greek-owned shipping now accounts for almost a quarter of international sea transportation, having further bolstered its capacity in 2004 to 3,800 vessels totaling 160 million deadweight tons (dwt), according to the annual report of the Union of Greek Shipowners (EEE). This capacity represents 17.1 percent of the world’s total, while Greeks own 22.4 percent of the world’s tanker fleet and 24.6 percent of bulk carriers. Greek-owned ships sailing under EU flags account for 51.5 percent of the Union’s dwt capacity. The report notes that, according to Bank of Greece data, shipping currency earnings represented 31 percent of the country’s trade deficit and, directly or indirectly, accounted for 4.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. According to Nikos Efthymiou, EEE’s president, the continuing growth of Greek shipping is mainly due to two factors: the steep rise in freight rates to 60-year record levels, chiefly fueled by strong demand from China and India, as well as its extensive renewal with new orders and the acquisition of used but relatively young vessels. In March 2005, Greek shipowners placed orders for 320 new vessels (excluding ferries), totaling a capacity of 26.8 million dwt. Of these, 192 were tankers and 82 bulk carriers, representing 17.1 and 10.1 percent respectively of the total number being built worldwide in these two categories. The report says EEE would like to see Piraeus evolving into the main hub of Greek shipping, keeping at home the added value of the industry’s activity and promoting its further growth. EEE urges the government to pursue a policy of capitalizing on the productivity of this most outward-looking sector of the Greek economy.