The Greek shipping industry’s global standing is continuing its robust growth, having recorded a 3.6 percent increase in its total 2006 deadweight tons (dwt) compared to 2005 figures. In addition, the average age of ships was reduced from 15.3 years in 2005 to 14.3 years in 2006, according to data included in the 2006-2007 annual report compiled by the Greek Shipowners’ Association (EEE). The report is aimed at providing information on the fundamentals and prospects of shipping, Greece’s strongest industry. In spite of a reduction in freights in 2006, foreign exchange inflows rose 3.3 percent year-on-year (or -453 million), to reach -14,324.7 million. Net revenue from sea transportation accounts for 4.23 percent of GDP and contributes significantly to reducing the country’s trade deficit. Foreign exchange inflows from the shipping industry have been steadily swelling since 2000, when the figure stood at $7,914 million, rising to $12,493 million in 2003. The expansion of activities of Greek oceangoing shipping contributed to an increase in the total fleet capacity by 3.6 percent, while at the same time retaining its leading global position, representing 16.9 percent of global capacity in dwt. Data in the EEE’s annual report show that Greek interests manage 19.7 percent of the global fleet of chemical and product carriers (crude oil) and 23.2 percent of the global fleet of bulk cargo carriers in dwt. In terms of the European Union shipping industry, Greek-owned vessels account for 48.2 percent of total capacity in dwt. Moreover, Greek shipowners have been especially active in shipbuilding operations. According to official data up to the end of February 2007, orders for new vessels of Greek interests stood at 612 ships of total capacity 47.9 million dwt, up an incredible 86 percent compared to 2006 figures. Most of the 612 vessels are expected to sail under the Greek flag, 340 of them tankers, representing 19.8 percent of total global newly built vessel capacity. Data show that the average age of ships is constantly improving, i.e. dropping, with the age of foreign-flagged Greek-owned vessels in 2006 falling to 14.3 years from 15.3 years in 2005. With regard to Greek-flagged ships, the average age dropped to 11.1 years from 11.7 years in 2005. Significantly, Greek-flagged vessels are featured on the so-called «White List» of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the fifth consecutive year, meaning their quality is deemed by IMO to be in full and complete compliance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). Employment, competitiveness The domestic fleet management industry is operated by more than 1,150 shipping companies, offering employment to more than 11,500 people, primarily of Greek nationality. In addition, National Bank of Greece data show that as many as 160,000 jobs have been created in the country’s shipping industry, with 50,000 of these accounted for by seamen. Measures adopted by the Merchant Marine Ministry (YEN) in early 2007 to bolster the domestic shipping industry’s competitiveness, are expected to attract many newly built and existing vessels sailing under foreign flags to operate in local waters. Commenting on the ministry’s measures, EEE president Nikos Efthymiou said they are expected «to further boost the Greek shipping register and create even more jobs for Greek seamen and officers,» adding that the majority of the more than 600 vessels to be delivered within the next few years are expected to sail under the Greek flag. «Such measures will enhance the hub of shipping activities based in the port city of Piraeus, maximizing the Greek economy’s benefits from shipping,» Efthymiou added.