An Industry Insight Into The World’s Largest Shipowning Nation



  • Greek shipowners own 20.67% of global tonnage and 54.28% of the European Union -controlled tonnage, making it the world’s largest shipowning nation.
  • It is also one of the safest fleets worldwide, ranked 8th internationally, and 2nd in the EU (in terms of dwt).
  • Greek shipping is one of the cornerstones of the global economy and is very flexible and adaptable to changing economic environments and trade flows. 
  • A recent study concluded that the total contribution of the Greek shipping industry in 2019 accounted for 6.6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

An article published by the Union of Greek Shipowners highlights the major characteristics of the Greek Shipping Industry.

Global shipping outlook

The pace of global economic activity remained weak throughout 2019, with declining momentum in manufacturing activity and rising trade and geopolitical tensions, especially between the United States of America (U.S.) and China. 

Uncertainty about the future of the global trading system and international co-operation more generally has had an impact on business confidence, investment decisions, and global trade, with trade volumes increasing by a marginal 0.3% in 2019. 

The unprecedented global crisis that was brought about by the coronavirus pandemic has made the outlook for the global economy and international seaborne trade for 2020 even more precarious and gloomy. 

Recession in the shipping industry 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has declared that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely push the global economy into its worst recession since the Great Depression, warning that prospects over a global rebound are highly uncertain. 

The recession in shipping is projected to last more than a year and shipping activity is not expected to improve in the following few months. 

This is also because, with shipping being a global industry, much of its activity takes place in the southern hemisphere, where major exporting countries of raw materials, such as Brazil, have only recently started being hit by COVID-19 as hard, if not harder.

The Greek-owned fleet

The top five shipowning nations include Greece, Japan, China, Singapore, and Hong Kong. 

These five countries account for more than 50% of the world’s tonnage. 

Greece remains the world’s largest shipowning nation. Though the country accounts for only 0.16% of the world’s population, Greek shipowners own 20.67% of global tonnage and 54.28% of the European Union (EU)-controlled tonnage.

Between 2007 and 2019, Greek shipowners have more than doubled the carrying capacity of their fleet, while they control:

  • 32.64% of the world tanker fleet, 15.14% of the world chemical and products tankers, and 16.33% of the global LNG / LPG fleet,
  • 21.7% of the world bulk carriers, and
  • 8.92% of the world container vessels.

It is one of the safest fleets worldwide with 0.96% of the Greek merchant fleet (based on the number of ships) and 0.37% of the fleet (based on tonnage) being involved in minor accidents. 

The Greek Register numbers 706 vessels (over 1,000 gt) amounting to 39.19 million gt. 

The Greek-flagged fleet ranks 8th internationally and 2nd in the EU (in terms of dwt).

Economies of scale

Greek shipowners have been investing heavily in new, efficient ships, with the average age of the Greek-owned fleet (9.17 years) being lower than the average age of the world fleet (9.61 years).

The average size of Greek-owned vessels at 81,118 dwt is almost double than the average vessel size of the world fleet which is 43,766 dwt. 

Economies of scale improve efficiency and environmental gains, thereby reducing even further the carbon footprint of Greek shipping.

Major facilitator of global trade

Greek shipping is one of the cornerstones of the global economy.

The shipowners are primarily involved in bulk/tramp shipping, which is an example of a sector with characteristics of perfect competition. 

Comprising mostly small and medium-sized, privately-owned / family businesses, Greek shipping is very flexible and adaptable to changing economic environments and trade flows. 

It mainly carries staples that are essential for the EU and global economies, including agricultural and forest products, oil and oil products, gas, chemical products, iron, and other ores, coal, and fertilizers. 

Importantly, the Greek-owned fleet is the world’s largest cross-trading fleet, with more than 98% of its trading capacity carrying cargoes between the third countries.

4.05% growth in balance of payments

Greek shipping is also of strategic importance to the EU, as both its economy and the welfare of its citizens rely on access to affordable energy. 

With energy security concerns on the rise, Greek shipping plays a crucial role in securing the EU’s diverse energy imports from remote regions of the world. 

Greek shipping remains one of the pillars of the Greek economy. 

The receipts in the country’s Services Balance of Payments from maritime transport amounted to approximately €17,303 million for the fiscal year of 2019, which represents a 4.05% year-on-year growth.

Greek shipping, a billion-dollar industry 

Greek shipping is at the heart of a thriving maritime cluster that generates investments and employment opportunities in the country. 

A recent study concludes that the total contribution of the Greek shipping industry in the country, including indirect and induced effects, exceeded € 11 billion in 2019 accounting for 6.6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Its total contribution in terms of jobs created or sustained in Greece, including indirect and induced employment, surpasses 3% of total Greek employment. 

Greek shipping, by its size and characteristics, also sets Greece apart as the lynchpin of the multilateral trading system, despite the country’s relatively modest size. 

It is an essential and strategic partner of major trading nations: approximately 22% and 20% of the fleet’s activity serves the U.S. and European trade respectively, while the largest share, approximately 32%, serves the fast-growing Asian economies.

Greek shipping is one of the cornerstones of the global economy and a major facilitator of international trade while constituting a major pillar of the Greek economy. The Greek-owned fleet is one of the safest, most energy-efficient, and environmentally-friendly fleets.

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Source: Union of Greek Shipowners


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