The number of shipping companies based and active in Greece has grown by 4.7 percent in 2007 compared with last year, reaching 725 from 693 in 2006, according to Petrofin Research SA. This has put an end to the decline that started in 1998, when companies were closing one after another. Back then there were 926 companies in Greece, but they declined to just 690 in 2005 due to the lack of competitiveness at small shipping firms who usually manage older vessels. «The Merchant Marine Ministry measures in 2006 aimed at increasing the competitiveness of the national register had a positive impact, stopping the flight of ships from the Greek flag, while their mass repatriation has also begun,» Hellenic Shipowners’ Union sources told Kathimerini. «This is why most of the 612 vessels ordered will raise the Greek flag.» Small shipping companies – those owning up to eight vessels – are proving to be the backbone of the industry in Greece as they account for 82.3 percent of all Greek shipping companies based in this country. The Petrofin survey found that of the 725 shipping companies based in Greece, 307 (42.3 percent) own one or two ships. Another 165 companies (22.7 percent) manage three to four ships, while 126 companies (17.3 percent) own between five and eight ships. The 63 companies that own nine to 15 vessels account for 8.6 percent, while there are 35 firms (4.8 percent) with 16 to 24 ships and just 29 companies (4 percent) with 25 or more vessels.