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Greek Shipping Retains its “Crown” as the World’s Leading Maritime Force in Terms of Tonnage

In its latest annual report, headlined for the first time by the newly elected President Ms. Melina Travlos, the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) highlighted the importance of shipping as a “beacon of stability in the volatile global environment”. “Greek shipping, which ranks first in the world with almost 21% of the world’s tonnage and accounts for 59% of the European Union fleet, has a responsibility to undertake and support initiatives, in order to inform and enlighten the wider public about the strategic importance of the industry and the need for its prioritisation by the political leaders worldwide”, Ms Travlos noted.

Greece remains the top shipowning nation in the world (Figure 1), as Greek shipowners with 5,514 ships currently control approximately 21% of the global fleet, in terms of capacity (deadweight tonnes – dwt)1 . The total capacity of the Greekowned fleet has increased by 45.8% compared to 2014, while even during the COVID-19 pandemic, i.e., since 2019, capacity rose by 7.4%. The Greek-owned merchant fleet transports cargoes between third countries with more than 98% of its fleet capacity, thus being the world’s largest cross trader. Greek shipping is predominantly engaged in bulk/tramp shipping (Figure 2), which is a truly entrepreneurial sector that maintains characteristics of perfect competition: a very large number of private, mainly Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), compete globally for business on a daily basis, with flexible, lean and efficient administration and asset management, abundant and transparent access to information, and low entry and exit costs. Shipowners/operators in the bulk/tramp sector are price takers, transporting cargoes on an ad hoc basis. Most vessels in the bulk/tramp trades operate under time charter contracts. The timecharterer assumes the commercial operation of the vessel and determines the cargo type and quantities to be transported, as well as the vessel’s itinerary, routeing and speed.

The Greek-owned fleet represents 59% of the European Union (EU)-controlled fleet (Figure 3), with more than 75% of the EU-controlled fleet being active in the bulk/tramp sector. One third of the Greek-controlled fleet flies an EU Member State flag.

Greek shipowners are constantly investing in new, energy efficient ships and in environmentally friendly equipment, with the average age of the Greek-owned fleet (9.99 years), being lower than the global average (10.28 years). Newbuilding orders from Greek shipowners amount to 173 ships (from 104 ships the year before), corresponding to 17.3 million dwt3. More than one third of the oil tankers and almost one out of six LNG carriers currently being built in the world will be delivered to Greek shipowners. In addition, more than one quarter (27.6%) of the Greek-owned tonnage (in terms of dwt) falls within the scope of the global standard Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), a technical measure of the United Nations (UN) International Maritime Organization (IMO) which ensures an improved energy efficiency for ships.

Greek shipowners have steadily been investing in larger vessels, which also exhibit greater efficiency and environmental gains due to the economies of scale they provide. Since 2014, the growth of the deadweight capacity of the Greek-owned fleet has been much higher than the growth of the number of ships.

While in 2014 the average capacity of a Greekowned ship was 71,308 dwt, today the average capacity of Greek ships is estimated at 86,247 dwt, a figure almost double that of the world fleet (45,020 dwt)5. Ιt is important to note that shipping is the most efficient mode of cargo transport. This can be demonstrated also by the fact that, during the past 50 years (Figure 9), world seaborne trade has quadrupled in terms of volume, while CO2 emissions from shipping have just almost doubled.

In her message, Ms. Travlos noted the following:
“In this context, the issue of environmental awareness and the green footprint of shipping is connected to the major issue of climate change. Shipping, as an industry, has timely adopted and implemented an environmental and efficient mode of operation, which is constantly improving. In addition, it continues to be at the heart of legislative spate at both international and regional level, for the adoption of drastic environmental measures, which aim at a complete carbon-free shipping.

The fact is that shipping is drastically minimising pollutants, while at the same time it is constantly investing in new, modern technologies, which are environmentally advanced and certified, with the Greek-owned fleet, leading in environmentally friendly new ships.

In any case, it should be underlined, that shipping needs international rules and in no case regional measures, which distort international competition. Moreover, shipping cannot move towards a carbon-free future on its own. Collective action is required, together with out-of-sector stakeholders, such as ship engine manufacturers, marine fuel producers and suppliers.

Horizontal and cross-sectional measures, such as the current EU Emissions Trading System, are not in accordance with the special characteristics of shipping. Greek shipping, as a leader, utilising its accumulated know-how, remains a forerunner of developments, always with realistic proposals and substantial goals, such as the research and development of alternative, environmentally friendly maritime fuels

At national level, we cooperate with the State to preserve the competitiveness of the Greekowned fleet, which is a substantial parameter for the maximisation of the multidimensional contribution of shipping to our country. The choice of the Greek flag, the modernisation of the Greek Ship Register as well as the choice of shipping companies to be based in Greece, all constitute a common goal of the State and the shipping industry.

In addition, it remains our priority to communicate to the younger generation the prospects of choosing seafaring as a profession. To achieve this goal, we work with the responsible academies, organisations and the State, aiming at a holistic reform of the maritime education system, in order to create the right modern foundations, so that young people, women and men, can be educated and integrated and also progress in our industry, revitalising the seamanship of our nation

Last but not least, the impact of social solidarity of Greek shipping, both at an individual, as well as at a collective level, is recorded and acknowledged over time. For decades, both national and global institutions, organisations, programs have been funded and operating with the decisive contribution of Greek shipowners. Beneficence has always been an inspiration and a guide for all of us. At UGS, our mission is to contribute to society. The UGS with SYN-ENOSIS, in a period of 10 years, have raised over 80,000,000 euros for the implementation of welfare activities in the health and education sector, in initiatives to provide for and support vulnerable social groups and to handle emergency crises. My personal goal for SYNENOSIS is to UNITE all of us, all members of the shipping community, in a common vision for a better world, a more humane world.

We are obviously going through a period during which ongoing developments are both rapid and destabilising. In this demanding environment, Greek-owned shipping stands ready and strong to meet national and international challenges with prudence, realism, vision and knowledge as a global leader in shipping”.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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