Greek fleet gets bigger and younger despite crisis

The Greek-managed merchant fleet has retained its strength and competitiveness this year, increasing its capacity in the face of the continuing global financial crisis, according to data published this week in a survey by Petrofin Research.

The capacity of the Greek-owned fleet expanded by 3 percent to 263,635,420 deadweight tons (dwt) against 256,174,041 dwt in 2011 and 242,802,092 dwt in 2010, according to the survey titled “2012 Greek Fleet Statistics.” This was despite the fact that the fleet has contracted by 137 vessels since October 2011 to 4,577 units.

At the same time, the average shipping capacity per vessel increased by 6 percent while the average age went down to 14.7 years, as a result of the investments that Greek shipowners have made in the last few years in new ships.

The global crisis and banks’ inability to continue funding all shipping companies -- opting instead to only fund their big and reliable clients -- has resulted in expansion for the big, financially robust firms at the expense of their smaller counterparts. Consequently, according to Petrofin Research, the 30 biggest shipping companies account for 52.6 percent of the whole of the Greek-owned fleet, up from 52 percent last year and 50.7 percent in 2010.

In recent years Greek shippers have been tending to opt for vessels of relatively large capacity: Ships with a capacity of over 20,000 dwt number 3,015 this month against 2,982 in October 2011 and 2,823 in October 2010. Dry-bulk carriers are still the favorites among Greek shipowners, as those carrying at least 10,000 dwt number 1,727, while the figure for tankers is just 754 and container ships come to 243. Still, container ships have shown remarkable growth within the last 12 months as they totaled 204 in October 2011. Among ships in excess of 20,000 dwt there are 1,693 dry bulkers, 740 tankers and 224 container ships.

The report suggests that at the moment conditions are particularly difficult in the shipping sector, with the exception of two areas: maritime oil drilling and liquefied natural gas transport. Ship transactions have been reduced, the number of vessels going to the scrapyard has increased, while the number of newly built ships delivered to their owners is gradually decreasing.

“This situation is expected to affect the course of the Greek-owned fleet as far as the number of ships is concerned in 2013 and 2014,” the report claims.

As far as the average age of ships of the fleet managed by Greeks is concerned, the Petrofin Research study estimates that the pace of age reduction will slow down, as the positive impact of the rise in the rate of ships heading for scrapping will not come with a rise in the rate of entry of newly constructed vessels in the fleet.

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