The Greek-owned fleet has expanded this year by about 5 percent from 2005, as the 693 shipping companies belonging to Greeks own 4,164 vessels, up from 3,970 vessels last year, according to the latest annual report by Petrofin. The return to rising ship numbers, after a decline in 2005, is attributed to the delivery of several new vessels by shipyards, the low number of ships that went for scrapping, the general consolidation of the market and sales of used ships. A slight rise was also recorded in the number of companies, rising by three from 690 last year. This reverses the trend seen previously, since the number of shipping firms has shrunk by 284, or 26.44 percent, since 1998. Greek shipping continues to be dominated by small companies that control just one or two ships, although their portion of the total company number has declined from 52.16 percent in 1998 to 41.55 percent this year. On the other side, the number of companies that own more than 25 vessels keeps rising, as these 28 companies make up 4.04 percent of the whole, up from 2.05 percent in 1998. What is even more promising for the Greek-owned fleet is the lowering of the average age of its vessels. The delivery of many newly built vessels after orders placed in shipyards, mainly in Asia over the last few years, has decreased the average age of ships from 23 to 19.14 years. Another factor is investment by shipowners in newer ships to replace older ones. More than half (239 ships) of the fleet’s 467 ships that are over 20 years old belong to companies with one or two vessels. These ships are active in the local market or on routes where their age is not an obstacle. If we exclude ships with a capacity below 10,000 deadweight tons, then the average age is even further reduced to 16 years. The number of companies operating vessels bigger than 10,000 dwt has decreased further this year to 413, from 420 in 2005 and 432 in 2003. These companies control a total of 2,794 vessels against 2,629 ships in 2005, while their combined capacity has risen to 191,052,878 dwt, from 173,276,726 dwt last year. The Petrofin report estimates that in the near future the number of Greek-owned ships will remain around the 4,000 figure, but their capacity will rise thanks to the addition of bigger ships compared with those scrapped or going for scrapping. It is also near certain that the average age of the fleet will keep declining, as over the next couple of years a significant number of vessels will have to withdraw due to new rules about the withdrawal of single-hull vessels by 2010 regardless of their age. The number of companies is also to shrink, as shipping today dictates concentration and economies of scale, leading to mergers among smaller companies, as is already happening abroad.