Greece remains the global leader in shipping with over 20% of the world fleet by capacity even though the country accounts for just 0.16% of the planet’s population.
Greek shipowners control 20.67% of the global shipping capacity and 54.28% of capacity in the European Union, the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) reports in its latest annual report.
Released 7 September, the report highlights that between 2007 and 2019 the Greeks more than doubled the shipping capacity of their fleet; they have invested to a great extent in new and energy-efficient vessels, taking the average age of the Greek-owned fleet to 9.17 years, below the mean rate of the global fleet which stands at 9.61 years.
Along with Singapore, China and Hong Kong, all of which have recently added to their fleets, as well as Japan, Greece completes the world’s big five shipping powers.
However, the EU needs to help shipping companies retain their liquidity for the continuation of their essential services through the Covid – 19 crisis and during the subsequent recovery, claims the UGS. The impact of the pandemic “has been widespread, manifold and yet not fully known”, said the UGS.
“As the crisis unfolds, operations of shipping companies and related industries, such as terminals, ports, freight forwarders, have severely been affected and the ensuing financial problems have placed shipping companies under great strain.”
“Certain recovery measures that mainly focus on the provision of the necessary flexibility and liquidity of shipping companies should urgently be adopted and speedily implemented in order for them to reach businesses effectively in practice,” said the UGS.
The shipowners group continued on: “Such measures should ensure shipping companies can survive during this extraordinary crisis and can recover from its devastating effects once it is over, safeguarding their long-term sustainability.
“Indicatively, measures should include, inter alia, the granting of a deferral on amortisation and suspension of payment of scheduled installments of shipping loans for a determinable time frame, e.g. an 18-month period, as well as the suspension of the contractual function of the legal consequences of the default clauses of shipping finance agreements and the incorporated Loan-to-Value clauses,” said the UGS.
The main challenge for Greek shipping remains the “immediate strengthening of the Greek register’s competitiveness, so as to contain the outflow of vessels from it before the situation becomes irreversible,” UGS President Theodore Veniamis notes in the report, adding also the need to revive the seafaring character of the Greek people.
Those two issues, the national register and maritime employment, “are intertwined matters that require an integrated approach and strategy, constituting the priorities of the national shipping policy,” said Veniamis.
In this context he believes the recent reforms for recruiting Greeks to Greek-flagged ships under conditions compatible with practices in the international shipping labour market will offer fresh strength to the Greek register, “rendering our vessels an attractive option”.
As for the recession the pandemic has brought, the report records that it has led to a deterioration in the chartering market, with some ship categories experiencing a nosedive in rates and demand next to zero. Therefore, Veniamis argues, “the sustainability of shipping companies must be safeguarded, which requires securing their cash flow and some flexibility in the repayment of their loans.”