The removal of 62 vessels from the Greek ship register within the space of a year highlights the Greek flag’s declining competitiveness. Along with the losses observed in 2015, the Greek register appears to have shrunk by 100 oceangoing ships in just two years.
Although the Greek-owned fleet remains the world leader in terms of both ship numbers and capacity, the Greek flag has dropped to third among those that Greek shipowners prefer, according to the annual report of the Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee in London.
Topping the chart is the Marshall Islands, with 791 Greek-owned ships at end-February (74 more than a year earlier). Liberia is in second place with 774 Greek-owned vessels (up 31 on last year). There are only 747 left sailing under the Greek flag, although their total capacity is largely unchanged from last year. That is because while certain owners switched registers or sold their vessels, others with newer and bigger ships raised the Greek flag.
The reason ships are leaving the Greek register is that, compared with foreign registers, it is expensive and overloaded with bureaucracy, and that is cause for concern.
Fewer Greek-flagged ships – albeit with a bigger capacity – means fewer Greek officers on the bridge and in the engine room. It is estimated that the loss of 100 vessels since 2015 signifies the job losses of 400 Greek officers, along with the revenues lost both from register fees and seamen’s taxes.
“In a country without a collective labor contract since 2010 and where the unions still demand salaries unheard of by global standards while those hired have increased uncertainty if hired on market terms, it is normal that ships are disappearing from the register,” one expert commented.
The Greek-owned fleet currently numbers 4,085 ships, according to IHS Markit data processed by the Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee, seven less than last year. In capacity terms, though, it expanded by 8.1 million deadweight tons to 328,763,767 dwt.