Minister of Maritime Affairs Plakiotakis' keynote remarks at the 21st Capital Link Forum, New York
Keynote remarks on the occasion of the 21st Annual Capital Link ‘Invest in Greece’ Forum
New York, December 2019
Distinguished Representatives from the International Business and Shipping Community,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to participate to the 21th Annual Capital Link ‘Invest in Greece’ Forum, among distinguished members of the international shipping and business community and share with you our vision, trust and high expectations of the shipping sector for the years to come.
Allow me first of all to congratulate you for the excellent organization of this Forum and to warmly thank you for honouring me to address it, especially this December which marks the 21st year - milestone of Capital’s Link commitment to raising awareness about Greece as an investment destination to the wider business community.
For the Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, 2019 is also a landmark year, since we celebrate the hundred (100th) anniversary of the Hellenic Coastguard’s offering to our economy and society.
Allow me also to underline the great importance we attach to our presence here today.
Nowadays, after intense fiscal consolidation and structural reforms, under the leadership of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek economy is on an excellent track in the pathway to sustainable growth.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Maritime transport is inextricably linked with developments in the global economy and seaborne trade. During the past years, global economy has been undergoing a period of change and this has had a considerable effect on the demand side for shipping services.
Generally speaking, the shipping industry has, during the last years, been under pressure stemming from overcapacity, low freight rates and high bunker costs, altogether influencing the economics of the industry.
Despite such difficulties in both the internal and global economic environment, Greek shipping managed to retain its international position. This is due to the professionalism and adaptability of our shipping industry which, in constant support from the Greek government, managed to respond to the challenges and look with optimism towards the future.
We use to say that the performance of the maritime sector is witnessed by the fact that during the era of the ailing Greek economy, it was the only economic sector in Greece that kept its employment records unaffected. The shipping industry is by far the most extrovert sector of the national economy, a leading global player and a major source of income, wealth and prestige for Greece.
In a rapidly changing world, Greek shipping, in general, is a reliable world trade player, by covering a considerable part of the transportation needs of the world in energy and raw materials and by playing a significant role as an excellent ambassador of our country in all major ports and trading centers worldwide.
Allow me to present some figures that show the magnitude of the Greek Shipping, which leads the international shipping industry by providing high quality maritime services with a modern fleet and operating with the most up-to-date management techniques and the highest safety and environmental standards.
The Greek merchant fleet counts 670 ships. In addition to the national fleet, Greek shipowners control an impressive number of almost 5,000 vessels of various categories, with a carrying capacity of 400 million dwt, distributed among 43 different flags around the globe. The fleet controlled by Greek interests is at a record high. Greek owned fleet ranks first accounting for 21% and 53% of the global and the EU dwt tonnage, respectively.
The Greek shipping cluster is a uniquely successful bright spot in the Greek economy. More than 1.430 shipping companies active in ocean-going shipping and further 3,674 maritime companies active mainly in cabotage and short-sea shipping, operate in Greece, highlighting Piraeus as a maritime center of global range and basis of expertise in vessel management.
These companies, offer direct employment to over 16,000 employees and constitute the driving force for the entire maritime cluster, employing directly and indirectly almost 200,000 people. The key contributing factor to the cluster’s competitiveness is the highest degree of experience and expertise in shipping’s genuinely competitive environment.
Greek shipping remains a reliable strategic provider of quality maritime transport services for its trading partners, both state and private, with 22.5% of the Greek-owned fleet’s activity being dedicated to the U.S. In addition, the greatest share of the Greek-owned fleet’s activity, i.e. 31.8%, takes place in Asia serving the fast-growing Asian economies.
Despite an economic landscape offering few investment incentives, the receipts in the Services Balance of Payments from maritime transport reached € 16.6 billion in 2018 representing 9% of the national GDP. It is obvious that greek shipping substantially underpins the development of our national economy, bringing at the same time added value to all connected sectors, employment on-board and on-shore, as the heart of the Greek maritime cluster.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In terms of identifying shipping policy priorities, it comes without saying that the major emphasis is placed upon the improvement of competitiveness of the shipping sector in general, the uptake of new opportunities from digitalization and automation, which can reduce operational costs and increase efficiency and the human factor and the necessity to maintain maritime know how by ensuring the constant upgrade of the maritime education.
Sustainability of shipping business is considered as a top policy priority. A global industry like shipping requires global rules and international regulations for its smooth operation under equal terms of competition. Equally global in its nature, is the problem of climate change which cannot be handled effectively in any other way than by global uniform action. Thus, we should altogether give credit to the work of IMO done so competently for almost a century already, for developing by consensus the rules that will enable a sustainable shipping to flourish in the next decades.
The realistic implementation of the IMO initial strategy on the reduction of GHG emissions from shipping and the consistent and smooth implementation of the new 0.5% sulphur limit from 01.01.2020, by ensuring global availability of safe compliant fuels, remain high on our agenda.
Last but not least, we are focusing also on energy economics and geopolitics, port and hinterland interfaces, security of the supply chain, a stable regulatory framework as well as on corporate governance and a friendly business environment.
All the above are only a few globalization trends in the shipping sector, which should be stressed and constitute at the same time a concrete shipping grid for both current and future challenges.
From our part, as staunch supporters of free and fair maritime trade, we will continue to promote further liberalization in international maritime transport services, the inclusion of those services in maritime and Free Trade Agreements with important trade partners and put the spotlight on competiveness and services based on cutting-edge technologies for business and operators.
It is more than evident that living in a truly globalized environment, we have to recognize the trends and the new challenges in order to be able to identify the barriers to trade and capital mobility, and to make best use of technological progress, so as to maximize efficiency and reduction of costs.
In this dynamic and volatile economic environment, we, as policy makers, should be able to decide and act on the basis of a strategic vision looking into the development of shipping, ports, and related sectors for the short, medium, and long term. This is essential for all decision makers and those who shape maritime policies at national and international level.
Soon, the following weeks, Hellenic Republic Asset Management Fund (the well-known TAIPED) will present to our Ministry feasibility studies for the 10 big peripheral ports of the country for which there is already a strong investment interest.
Greece is a crossroads of three continents and its geostrategic position is ideal. The political and economic stability that exists today in Greece justifies the investment interest. In particular, for each port it is carried out a rigorous feasibility study. We would like to know their real potential, so that every decision can be targeted for their development, and that is because we believe that ports can become growth locomotives for both the regional and Greece's national economy.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, the economic profile of Greece is changing steadily and constitutes a solid base for the development of our national economy which will allow us to attract new investments, which in turn will contribute in growth and prosperity. In this respect, our shipping industry is traditionally, as it was for centuries in our maritime history, the main economic pillar underpinning new investments, growth and development.
In closing, on behalf of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, but also on behalf of the Greek Commercial and Maritime Community as a whole, I would like once again to express my honor to address this Forum. I am convinced that, once more, it will lead us to important conclusions and will reveal the great potential of the Greek maritime economy.
Thank you for your attention.