ATHENS – Riding high, Greece's shipping industry now accounts for 53 percent of vessels in the European Union despite being one of the smaller countries, and 21 percent worldwide, showed the annual report of the Union of Greek Shipowners, said the business newspaper Naftemporiki.
Essentially tax-free and having successfully repulsed by every government to rein them in – including former Premier and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras who promised to “crush the oligarchy” and make the rich pay a 75 percent tax – the shipping tycoons said they do have some challenges to meet.
Those include restricted borrowing sources, and political pressure for better environmental specifications for vessels although they've been able to ward off any attempt at tighter government regulations over the years.
The report came 15 months after data showed they continued to build up the world's biggest fleet by far, despite their country's 9 1/2-year-long economic crisis – which they escaped – and as they preferred to fly flags of convenience from other countries so they could avoid taxes.
Allied Shipbroking, a Greek company, reported then that that the shipowners bought another 65 vessels at a cost of more than $900 million from January-March out of 414 ocean-going ships sold during that time.
Data show that Greek-owned companies acquired 45 dry bulk carriers, 15 tankers, six container ships and one liquefied gas carrier, Kathimerini said in a report about the growing acquisitions.
The second biggest buyers after the Greeks were the Chinese who invested $607 million dollars in 53 ships, followed by the Germans who bought 43 vessels for some $272 million as the Greek fleet, which prefers to use flags from other countries so it can avoid paying taxes to its homeland, still ruling the waves.
A large part of the investments Greek shippers made in used vessels was funded by the sale of older or other types of ships, by ship-breaking revenues and through borrowing, the paper said,
Greek tycoons who control the world’s largest shipping fleet – and are untaxed in their country during a crushing economic crisis – have seen the worth of their holdings soar to $99.589 billion, as estimated by VesselsValue.