All parties should assist shipping, owners suggest

The lack of a national shipping policy, aiming at the constant strengthening of the Greek register’s competitiveness and the attraction of new ships, explains why only one in four out of the 3,033 Greek-managed ships fly the country’s flag, according to the Greek Union of Shipowners (EEE). «The competitiveness of the Greek register does not only concern one or two ministers or one government; it is the responsibility of all political forces in the country, EEE’s president, Nikos Efthymiou, stated last week. The EEE annual report suggests that the shipping sector brings multiple benefits to the Greek economy, headed by the influx of foreign currency amounting to 13.871 billion euros in 2005 (an increase of 4.2 percent, or 564 million euros from 2004) with prospects for a further rise if the state decides to take measures to strengthen the competitiveness of the Greek flag. Despite international pressures, such as the rise in oil prices by 46.3 percent in 2005 after another 33.6 percent in 2004, Greek shipping continues to contribute to the country and to maintain its leading position worldwide with 16.1 percent of global capacity, recording a 4.1 percent rise from 2004. Greek-owned vessels under EU-member flags make up 49.7 percent of the bloc’s fleet. Greek shipowners manage 19.8 percent of the global tanker fleet and 23.6 percent of the global dry-bulker fleet in deadweight tonnage, excluding ships under construction. This March, orders for the construction of new ships for Greek interests came to 364, reaching a total capacity of 25.8 million deadweight tons (dwt), excluding passenger vessels. Of that number 183 are tankers, covering 14.9 percent of the global capacity in dwt under construction. They also include 62 crude oil tankers, or 17.6 percent of the world’s capacity, and 121 chemical and oil product carriers, or 10.2 percent of global capacity. Another 92 vessels are dry-bulkers, covering 14.4 percent of the world’s capacity in the category. All this activity has brought down the average age of the Greek-owned fleet from 15.9 years in 2004 to 15.3 years in 2005, while the average age of Greek-flagged ships stands at 11.7 years. «The total value of Greek oceangoing shipping is today estimated at about $40 billion,» the report argues. More than 1,000 shipping companies operate in Greece managing this fleet, employing over 11,000 people, the vast majority of whom are Greek citizens. The EEE report further suggests that «the complex of shipping activities creates some 200,000 jobs in Greece, of which 50,000 jobs concern seamen.»

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