Posidonia 2002, the 18th biennial international shipping exhibition, starts today with a congress at the Athens Concert Hall. Loyola de Palacio, the European Commission’s vice president, is scheduled to attend. The congress is expected to address economic, trade and energy issues and their impact on sea transport. Speakers will also look into the role played by regulators, financial markets and the media and how they affect the shipping industry. They will attempt to evaluate the sector’s image and discuss the perceptions and misconceptions surrounding that public image. De Palacio and Greek Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis will be the keynote speakers at the congress. Others from the shipping industry scheduled to talk include Phillipe Louis Dreyfus, president of the French Shipowners’ Association; easyGroup Chairman Stelios Haji-Ioannou; K.H. Koo, chairman of the Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association; Richard du Moulin, president of Intrepid Shipping; Rosendo Zambrano, director of PEMEX Internacional Mexico, and Nicholas Tsakos, chairman of the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association. The Greek-flagged element of the Greek-owned 3,500-strong fleet presently accounts for more than 40 percent of merchant shipping sailing under European Union flags. Posidonia 2002 is expected to break the records set two years ago when 65 countries and 1,420 companies participated, drawing some 30,000 visitors from Greece and other countries. This year’s event has attracted 1,505 companies and also marked the return of Germany and Singapore which have set up their own national pavilions. Other countries with national pavilions include Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Japan, Korea, Malta, Netherlands, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, Hong Kong and Romania. Posidonia 2002 ends on Friday. The International Monetary Fund has paid or pledged a total of $31 billion in loans in return for bank reform and other measures to steer the country back to growth.