Despite the coronavirus crisis that has affected the entire world, Greece remains among the top five ship-owning nations — along with China, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong — with Greek ship owners controlling 20.67 percent of global shipping capacity and 54.28 percent of the EU tonnage, according to 2019 data.
This welcome news comes from the annual report by the Union of Greek Shipowners (EEE), presented by EEE President Theodoros Veniamis. The report highlights that in the period from 2007 to 2019 Greek shipowners more than doubled the shipping capacity of their fleet, while at the same time they lowered the age of their fleet to an average of 9.17 years, well below the mean age of the global fleet (9.61 years).
The Covid-19 pandemic has understandably created new challenges in the shipping sector, and this is pointed out in the introductory note of the annual report:
“It is absolutely clear that shipping was also inevitably hit by the global economic and trade shock due to the pandemic, resulting in a major drop in the freight market, where for some categories of ships there was a sharp drop in fares and almost zero demand for transport services.
“Therefore, the viability of shipping companies must be ensured immediately, a key condition of which is to ensure their liquidity and to provide flexibility in repaying their loans,” Veniamis points out.
To that end, the industry has also asked European institutions and banks to include shipping firms in their economic relief measures related to the pandemic.
“In the vortex of the pandemic that humanity is experiencing, shipping and seamen offer irreplaceable services, providing the basic goods that our society needs both in times of peace and times of crisis. The role of shipping requires and deserves international recognition and support from the authorities, in order to ensure every possible aid for the unimpeded provision of maritime transport services,” Veniamis notes.
And he continues: “Above all, however, the serious problems that have arisen in the movement of seafarers and crew changes must be resolved immediately. The international community must ensure the smooth movement of seafarers around the world, with a view primarily to their health and well-being, which has a direct impact on the safety of ships and navigation.”
Veniamis emphasizes in conclusion that “within our national borders, the challenge, but also the vision, of Greek shipping remains the immediate strengthening of the competitiveness of the Greek register, in order to stop the leakage of ships from the flag, before the situation becomes irreversible, as well as the revival of the seamanship of our people.
“The two interrelated issues need a holistic approach and strategy and are priorities of national maritime policy,” he stated.