April 1 (Reuters) - Greece’s shipping industry is one of the pivotal industries in the Greek economy. How the sector fares this year is crucial for the country, which is battling with a debt crisis.
Here are some facts about Greek shipping:
* Shipping is one of the top contributors to Greece’s 240 billion euro ($323.7 billion) economy along with tourism and construction. It accounted for about 5 percent of GDP in 2009.
* Greeks have been seafarers for thousands of years. Ship owners made fortunes running the British naval blockade in the Napoleonic wars and in the 20th century the riches and rivalry of Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos were legendary.
* Greece owns one seventh of the world’s fleet in terms of deadweight tonnage (dwt). Its merchant fleet is the second largest in the world after Japan and ahead of China and Germany, at 140.7 million deadweight tonnage.
* Greece’s fleet accounts for about 8 percent of the world’s fleet in terms of vessels. The total number of ships it operates stands above 3,000.
* Greek ship owners are key players in the dry bulk shipping sector, which ferries strategic commodities including coal and iron ore, as well being active in the oil tanker market.
* Greek shippers have taken delivery of 230 newbuildings since the start of 2009. About 367 vessels are on order in 2010 and 249 will be on order next year.
* Foreign banks account for about 75 percent of lending to the Greek shipping industry. Total loans related to Greek ship finance booked last year fell by nearly 9 percent to $67.02 billion from $73.23 billion in 2008.
* The number of Greek companies operating ships stands at 1,142, managing on average three ships of 43,795 dwt capacity each.
* The Greek controlled fleet is registered under 47 flags. About 969 ships are Greek-flagged. Other big flags in the Greek fleet are Liberia and Panama, under which 581 and 558 vessels are registered respectively.
* Greek shipping companies have to pay a tonnage tax but are exempt from income taxes on profits from operating Greek registered vessels. Analysts expect Greece to maintain the favourable tax regime further cushioning the sector, adding that if direct taxation was introduced companies would relocate to other countries.
* While shipping accounts for just over 1 percent of Greece’s 5 million workforce, its economic influence is far higher. Foreign earnings from shipping were about 13.5 billion euros last year, according to the central bank.
* Earnings hit a 10-year record high in 2008, at 19.2 billion euros ($25.78 billion) with the sector accounting for more than 7 percent of GDP.
* Greek shipping magnates invest in everything from Greek banks to construction and tourism.
Sources: Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee/IHS Fairplay/ Petrofin/Deloitte (For an analysis on Greek shipping click on [ID:nLDE63017I]
Compiled by Renee Maltezou