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Strategically located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, Greece has a thriving shipping industry. Dating back to ancient times, its fleet and ports always were key elements of its economic activity. During the 1960s, the size of the Greek fleet nearly doubled, primarily through investment by shipping magnates such as Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos. The basis of the modern Greek maritime industry was formed after World War II when Greek shipping businessmen were able to amass surplus ships sold to them by the U.S. government through the Ship Sales Act of the 1940s.

Clockwise: Port of Piraeus (panoramic view), Port of Piraeus, Port of Thessaloniki, Port of Patras.

Strategically located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, Greece has a thriving shipping industry. Dating back to ancient times, its fleet and ports always were key elements of its economic activity. During the 1960s, the size of the Greek fleet nearly doubled, primarily through investment by shipping magnates such as Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos. The basis of the modern Greek maritime industry was formed after World War II when Greek shipping businessmen were able to amass surplus ships sold to them by the U.S. government through the Ship Sales Act of the 1940s.

Today, shipping still is one of the country's most important industries. It accounts for 4.5% of GDP, employs about 160,000 people (4% of the workforce), and represents 1/3 of the country's trade deficit.

Greek merchant navy: facts & figures

According to a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report in 2011, the Greek merchant navy is the largest in the world representing 16.2% of the world's total capacity, up from 15.96% in 2010, but down from the 18.2% from 2006. Some key figures:

  • first in the world with a total tonnage of 202 million dwt;
  • total number of Greek merchant navy ships: 3,150 ships of which 741 registered in Greece and 2,409 sail under other flags.
  • total number of ships flying a Greek flag (includes non-Greek fleets): 1,517, or 5.3% of the world's dwt (ranked 5th);
  • ship categories in global ranking:
    • 1st in both tankers and dry bulk carriers;
    • 4th in the number of containers;
    • 5th in other ships.

Ports of Greece

With hundreds of islands, Greece has many seaports, 16 of which are international. The port of Piraeus is one of the busiest ports in Europe and is the country’s main cargo port, followed by the ports of Thessaloniki, Patras, and Igoumenitsa. Greece has more than 140 ports servicing passengers and cargo. Greece’s port infrastructure is being constantly upgraded and improved to meet the needs of cargo shipping, security concerns, and visitors, totalling 15.5 million in 2012.

Port of Pireaus

Pireaus is the busiest port that handled 14 million tonnes of cargo and almost 20million passengers in 2012. Due to the economic crises, volumes have dropped significantly in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Since November 2008, the China COSCO Holdings Company Ltd runs a part of the Port of Piraeus, resulting from a 35-year 4.5 billion EUR deal that is slated to significantly increase the port’s cargo capacity and efficiency. This agreement, along with the strategic collaboration between COSCO and Hewlett Packard, will position Piraeus as a leading point of entry for goods from Asia destined for the European market.

Port of Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki is the second port in Greece. In 2012, it handled 14.5 million tonnes of cargo. Liquid bulk represented 6.8 million tonnes, dry bulk 3.9 million tonnes and general cargo including containerised cargo 3.8 million tonnes.

Port of Patras

The Patras Port plays an important role in the economic life of Patras, Western Greece and Greece in general. The Patras Port consists of a commercial port and a passengers port handling an important part of the total passengers sea traffic between Greece and other countries. The commercial port especially handles trucks and vehicles.