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Greece has the second largest merchant marine fleet in the World based on deadweight tons (dwt). A total of 3996 ships were registered with a total capacity of 1000 gross tons. Greece shipping fleet accounts for 8% of the worlds fleet. Greece has a strong strategic positioning in terms of shipping lanes, serving as an important gateway to the central Balkans and the Middle East. The shipping industry in Greece is dominated by domestic businesses although foreign competition is increasingly active within the shipping industry.
The lack of financing over recent years combined with declining or stagnant global trade volumes has placed the freight shipping market in turmoil and reduced freight rates, earnings and asset values. However, more recently, this industry has seen an improvement in demand and activity. In 2010, the Registry of Shipping reported that Greece owners controlled 152.6 million gross tonnage of cargo carrying capacity. Greece's transporting capacity of 263.5 million dwt covers 16.5% of the world's transportation needs.
The average age of the Greek's shipping fleet has declined over recent years. The average age of the Greece fleet is 1.3 years younger than the world's average age. In total, Greek ships are registered under 47 different flags and out of the total of 3996 Greek owned ships, 969 are registered under the Greek flag. In terms of flag registry, Liberia has 581 ships, Malta 524 ships and Marshall Islands 470 ships.
In 2009, the Greek ship owners delivered 230 new ships with 367 ships delivered in 2010. It was estimated that in 2010, Greek ship owners invested approximately US$1.5 billion in new ships. The leading purchases of new ships in the world are Greek owners, purchasing their ships from countries such as Japan, South Korea, China, Germany and the Ukraine.
The Greek economy is relatively weak at the current time although Greek shipping contributed Euros 13.55 billion to the economy in 2009. However, the shipping industry's contribution has decreased by 29% from a total of Euros 19 billion in 2008. In terms of employment the Greek shipping industry employs an estimated 250,000 people out of the total workforce of 5 million.
Greece has a total of 123 cargo and passenger ports which handle passenger ships, cruise ships and cargo. The main ports include Piraeus and Thessaloniki, with other ports namely Patras which is the primary entry point to Italy and Western Europe., Igoumenitsa, Volos, Iraklion in Crete, Kavala, Corfu, Elefsina, Lavrion, Rafina and Alexandroupolis. Foreign investors have recently been invited to invest in Greece's largest ports such as Piraeus and Thessaloniki. This government initiative opened interest from major Chinese and Arab funds as these ports represent important gateways to three different continents.
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