A world leader in a sector where fair competition rules

Greeks know practically nothing about Greek oceangoing shipping. In the country that leads the world in this field, the public associate shipping with coastal shipping, which they are familiar with because of their country’s vast island complex. Few of them are aware of the following: – Oceangoing shipping brought in 9.75 billion euros in 2003, an increase of 10.94 percent over 2001. And in 2004, it is expected to bring in 12 billion euros in exchange, meaning that it accounts for as much as 20 percent of the trade balance. – The Greek-owned fleet numbers some 4,000 ships, with a capacity of 170 million tons, in second place after Japan (about 115 million tons), with Norway and China third and fourth. – The Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) estimates that 95 percent of the Greek commercial fleet operates on the international market, and 20 percent of the cargo that goes to the United States is carried by Greek ships. – Around 400 new ships have been ordered by Greek shipowners since 2000; orders for new craft are worth $8 billion. – By March 2004, 310 of the new craft, with a capacity of 26.5 million tons, had been delivered to Greek shipowners. – Of those ships, 200 carry liquid fuel (VLCC, Suezmax, Aframax, Panamax, products carriers and gas carriers). – More than 74 Greek companies have ordered new ships. – Greek interests account for 17 percent of the turnover of shipyards worldwide in terms of tonnage, and 9 percent in terms of number of ships. – According to the UGS, Greek shipowners have invested the equivalent of two national Greek budgets in the construction of new ships. – On the international new order market, some 350 ships changed hands in the first 10 weeks of 2004 and Greeks were involved in 20 percent of those transactions. – During the same period, Greek shipowners invested $1.6 billion in the second-hand ship market. – More than 60 percent of the global production of crude and refined oil is transported by sea every year. Greek shipowners control more than 25 percent of the global fleet of oil tankers. – More than 90 percent of the European Union’s external trade and 41 percent of its internal trade is conducted by sea. The Greek flag flies over 40 percent of the European fleet, and when Greek-owned ships flying under the Cypriot and Maltese flags are included, Greek-owned ships represent about 60 percent of the European fleet. – Some 44 Greek commercial fleets belonging to 44 companies are currently in operation, each with a capacity of more than 1 million metric tons. – There are more than 50 companies which each control more than 20 ships. – Greek oceangoing shipping is one of the country’s largest employers, with 190,000 people employed at sea and on land, according to a study by Piraeus University. – There are about 1,000 shipping companies in Piraeus offering financial, insurance and advisory services, ship’s supplies, spare parts, repairs, crews and representation. More than 123,000 people are employed in that sector. – There are more than 60,000 Greek sailors and 50,000 foreign sailors working on Greek ships. No other branch of the Greek economy offers so much or works so effectively without becoming a burden on state coffers. Yet the average Greek knows little about the achievements of Greek shipping, and the State discourages young people from entering the trade. It is time the State paid due attention to the only sector of the economy which gives without making demands, and which is the only one to make Greece an unqualified leader on the world map. Spotlight on shipping The recent Posidonia exhibition put shipping in the spotlight. The presence of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at the opening and the clear views he expressed in his speech also helped. He spoke in favor of competitiveness and of upgrading ships and sailors so as to improve shipping. The previous premier, Costas Simitis, had a negative attitude to shipping that was also adopted by the stock exchange, which was dazzled by bubbles and failed to recognize the size and potential of shipping. Karamanlis appears to know that shipping had been operating along globalized lines of fierce competition long before those terms were supposedly discovered by economic sages. Without asking for money or loans, oceangoing shipping makes an enormous contribution to the national economy, and it is time this contribution was made known and duly acknowledged.