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Economy

Beating Back Chinese Challenge, Greek Shipowners Still First in Tonnage

ATHENS – Long the ruler of the world’s waves, Greek shipowners have been fending off tough competition from China, and now Japan, but still are first with 17% of the globe’s fleet in terms of Dead Weight Tonnage (DWT.)

That was noted in the Bank of Greece’s annual report, said Naftemporiki, indicating the strategic and economic performance of the shipping oligarchs, who pay only voluntary taxes and in the past threatened to move their headquarters if taxed.

But only 13% of the Greek-owned fleet is registered under the Greek flag, although much is managed in Greece, although the shipowners prefer to fly Flags of Convenience to register their vessels in tax havens to avoid paying in Greece.

“Greek shipping – especially in the current juncture of historical changes in terms of regulatory framework, fuel, geopolitical instability and global trade shift – can benefit from the successful operation of a dynamic shipping cluster,” said Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaris in his report.

Revenues from maritime transport, which in 2022 reached an historic €21 billion ($22.31 billion) from 2019-23 also accounted for more than 42% of total receipts from services and 21% of total exports of goods and services.

A study estimated the impact of shipping on Greece’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at 7.9% from 2018-21, shipowners enjoying an essential tax-free status and no report how much they would pay if taxed similarly to other businesses.

The Flags of Convenience let Greek shipowners register their vessels in  other countries and tax havens such as the Marshall Islands while finding themselves tested by China, whose fleets are rising in how much cargo is carried.

That was shown earlier in an analysis from the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) which said it will get bigger because of growing orders favoring ships from the two countries, reported Marine Insight.

BIMCO said that Greece had 61,000 cargo ships with a total deadweight capacity of 2200 million DWT and has 19% of the sector compared to China’s 15%, growing rapidly over the past few years.

The Greek maritime industry is also diverse, with many traditional shipowners and operators, and seven Greek companies each have a fleet with 10 million DWT while China is focusing more on container ships and general cargo vessels.

There are only three Chinese companies with the biggest fleets, and they are also dominated by COSCO Shipping Company, which is state-owned and whose management arm runs Greece’s biggest port of Piraeus.

The Chinese side is being aided by Chinese financial institutions backing entering the leasing market and with the 10 biggest shipowners controlling 41% of the Chinese-owned fleet.

China also now has a 21% larger order book than the Greeks and shipowners in both countries are also focused on Car Carriers and LNG Tankers, two of the strongest segments in the industry today.

While Greek shipowners in 2023 placed a third of all orders they are only third overall with 359 ships on order, while Chinese shipowners placed an order for 5,554 ships, and Japanese owners placed orders for 496 vessels.

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