ATHENS – Essentially tax-free and escaping their country’s economic crisis while expanding their rule of the seas, Greece’s world-leading shipping industry opened its annual Posidonia exhibit on June 4 with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras praising them, after reneging on vows to make them pay more to help their country.
Speaking to an audience of heads of states, European Union officials, Greek cabinet members, foreign maritime ministers, board members of the Union of Greek Shipowners, chairmen of international organisations as well as 1,500 VIP’s, Tsipras gushed.
“Greek shipping owns the largest international commercial fleet operating 20% of the global and 50% of the European capacity. This economic activity is responsible for a significant portion of the gross domestic product of Greece. It is worth noting, that the 2017 receipts from Greek shipping activity exceeded the Euro 9 billion mark, showing an increase of 20% compared to 2016,” he said.
Despite that, they contribute almost nothing in direct taxes apart from the spillover effect their sector brings and as they fly Flags of Convenience of foreign countries instead of the Greek flag.
The ceremony signaled the start of the global biennial maritime calendar’s most anticipated weeks which this year will see a record of 2,010 exhibitors from 92 countries welcoming some 22,000 maritime executives from nearly every country of the world.
It included thousands of delegates who arrive to Athens to attend the more than 40 conferences, seminars and workshops, scheduled to take place at the Athens Metropolitan Expo Posidonia next to the international airport – inland, not by the sea.
As the event opened, the magnitude of their oligarchs astounding wealth as shown in the latest figures, from Clarksons Research, showing the top 50 own and manage vessels that exceed 250 million Deadweight Tonnage (DWT), how much weight they can carry.
The business newspaper Naftemporiki produced a special edition for the event, showing that the Greek-controlled commercial fleet comprises 17 percent of the global total based on Gross Tonnage (GT), the measurement of ship volume, followed by the Japanese fleet at 13 percent, and with China a close third, at 12 percent.
According to Stephen Gordon, the managing director of Clarksons Research Services, over the last few years Greek shipowners and executives have solidified their position as leaders in the global marine shipping sector, with their share of the global transport capacity increasing from 14 percent in 2008 to 17 percent in 2018.
The most recent estimates place the value of the Greek-controlled fleet at $103.5 billion and the owners are prospering while their country is suffering, buying new ships and expanding their dominance of the seas around the world.
The biggest Greek-controlled shipping concern in the world is the Angelicoussis shipping group, named after the family headed by John Angelicoussis, with 125 vessels (47 tankers, 52 bulkers and 26 LNG carriers) and a capacity of 24 million DWT.
The Navios group, led by Angeliki Frangou, comes in second with 168 vessels (48 tankers, 75 bulkers and 41 container ships and another five in other categories) and 15.9 million DWT.
Dynacom, run by Giorgos Prokopiou, is in third place with a fleet of 112 vessels and 14.2 million dwt – 60 tankers, 38 bulkers, two containerships and 12 LNGs.