The global lead of the Greek flag in terms of numbers and quality and the promotion of the country’s ports as centers of international economic activity are among the government’s shipping strategy objectives, said Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis yesterday. Speaking at the conference of the Greek American Chamber of Commerce, the minister presented the four main pillars of Greek shipping policy and placed special emphasis on the action plan for their implementation which contains 10 main policies. He said there are measures being planned for strengthening the terms and conditions regarding the entry of new ships to the national register, while at the same time improving the conditions and growth opportunities for the onshore activities of shipping companies. Other measures are being implemented in order to upgrade the education level of Greek seamen and convince young people to work at sea. The government is also creating infrastructures for combined transport and Greece’s inclusion in international transport routes. «Our aim is to include shipping in the procedures and practices of logistics,» said Voulgarakis. Athens is additionally implementing policies aimed at creating a suitable investment environment so that ports become modernized and strengthen their competitiveness, thereby assisting the national economy. Sea tourism is another priority while new technologies are being used for research and innovation in shipping. The policies being applied secure the quality of transport links with the islands throughout the year. The ministry is taking further action to protect the environment and provide support to the coast guard in order to ensure the enforcement of safe navigation rules and the guarding of the country’s sea borders. Voulgarakis said that Greece is preparing the creation of a «maritime cluster» model to coordinate partnerships and cooperation among its members and link shipping with other production sectors. «The cluster will contribute to the development of the credit sector and help attract new capital and investment both from Greece and abroad,» he said. The figures – One-quarter of the maritime transport of oil to the US and one-quarter of all US exports is conducted by Greek-owned ships. – Greeks manage about 18 percent of global capacity. Almost half of the European Union fleet is in Greek hands. – Greek shipowners manage 23 percent of the global fleet for carrying dry cargo and 20 percent of the tanker fleet. – In 2007 shipping is expected to provide Greece with foreign currency that will reach -15 billion. This is almost equal to this year’s expected inflows from tourism and amounts to 8 percent of gross domestic product. – This year Greek shipowners have ordered 650 new vessels of various types and size at a total cost of $18.5 billion. – For the administration of the Greek-owned fleet there are 1,200 companies operating in Greece employing over 11,500 people, most of them highly paid Greeks.