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Greek fleet magnetised by global demand

Exclusive Lloyd’s List Intelligence data shows that Greek-owned dry bulk and tanker operations are as well-spread geographically

CHARTING the trading movements in the Greek-owned fleet is a good reminder that shipping is as pure a market as there is in its obedience to the forces of supply and demand.

The mosaic of Greek shipping provides a handy rough guide to seaborne trading due to the critical mass as the world’s largest bulk, tramping fleet and its identity as a cross-trading community with a commensurate responsiveness to developments in global trade.

Exclusive Lloyd’s List Intelligence data for last year again showed the Greek-owned fleet was as well-spread as it is possible to be in terms of geographical operations.

Greece is negligible as a source of cargoes for the country’s shipowners and their tonnage is magnetised by global demand trends.


Leading competitors, increasingly in Asia, rely to a far greater extent on their own backyard, which is all the more natural as Asian trades have been outperforming the economies of Europe and North America.

Based on LLI data for well over 3.8m port calls in 2016, Greek-owned vessels accounted for about 13.9% of all the shipping capacity reflected in the calls. In terms of number of calls, the Greek share was barely 6%, a disparity illustrating the greater size of Greek-owned vessels versus the average of the world fleet.

Given that the Greek-owned fleet has no national trade to support it and relies on carrying trade between third countries with little in the way of co-ordination or central planning to secure cargoes or harmonise strategy, the fleet’s trading patterns have shown surprising consistency from year to year.

But that does not mean that there have been no remarkable developments.



In the last decade, Greek owners have benefited from the explosion of demand in the Far East. Greek capacity calling in Southeast Asia has doubled in the last 10 years while tonnage calling at ports in the China Sea region has tripled during that period.

While that is the single most important region for tonnage, Greek shipowners are no more reliant on Chinese demand than other owners are, as they controlled just a 9.7% share of tonnage moving in and out of China last year, according to LLI data.

South America is now the second-largest focus for Greek shipping capacity. As the region’s trade has grown over the last decade, so Greek tonnage-calls have almost tripled, from 483m in 2007 to nearly 1.3bn last year, while there has been a reduction of emphasis on calls in North America.

The importance of Greek-owned tonnage as the giant of European shipping and an important transport arm for the Continent’s external trade is impossible to overstate. European ports received well over 2.1bn dwt of tonnage-calls by Greek-owned ships in 2016.

Yet Greek shipping’s reliance on European trades has dropped significantly — from 26% of all the capacity calling in ports across the world in 2010 to just 19.9% last year.

By contrast, the trades east of Suez have grown proportionately in claiming Greek-owned capacity.

Broken down into 25 LLI sub-regions, the apparent market share of Greek shipping fluctuates considerably across various routes but is impressive in most corners of the globe.

The sole exception is Japan, where Greeks are behind only 3% of tonnage calling in the nation’s ports. In most other sub-regions the Greek-owned fleet accounts for a double-digit share of shipping movements by dwt.

The only exceptions, in addition to the China Sea segment of the Far East, are northern Europe — with the exception of the Black Sea — and the Canada and Great Lakes region of North America.


Dry bulk carriers

The volume of Greek-owned dry bulk tonnage calling in Indian ports increased by an eye-catching 22.5% in terms of capacity in 2016.

That was equivalent to an additional 41m dwt of arrivals, sufficient to pull the Indian subcontinent back into the Top 5 of destinations for Greek bulkers at the expense of the Middle East.

During the year, Greek bulker owners made 2,708 calls at Indian ports, representing 186m dwt, or 23.6% of all dry bulk tonnage calling in India. One of the factors encouraging such a hefty presence is no doubt the relatively modest share of the country’s dry bulk shipping needs that can be catered for by Indian owners. Last year they managed about 11.6% to judge by the dry bulk port call data.

Purely in volume terms, the Indian subcontinent was not the destination with the largest year-on-year increase in Greek tonnage-calls.

That distinction went to the Atlantic coast of South America, where Greek bulker calls increased by 74m dwt last year. The 12.4% surge kept it comfortably in second place among the top sub-regions for Greek-owned tonnage.

The Asean region including Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam saw a 53m dwt, or 11.2%, jump of its own in Greek capacity calling in the region, which ranked third for calls.

The Far East as a whole hosts the largest flow of Greek-controlled dry bulk shipping, with 16,618 port calls representing well over 1.5bn dwt in 2016.

That represents more than 34% of all Greek tonnage-calls worldwide, although by comparison the world dry bulk fleet was dependent on the Far East for an even greater 41% share of global tonnage-calls last year.

More than half the total of Greek-owned bulker capacity calling the Far East went to China.

The volume of Greek dry bulk shipping calling at Chinese ports reached 827m last year but — as a share of all bulker movements in China — Greek tonnage-calls slipped back slightly to 13.6%, which was equivalent to 2013 levels.

A key difference between the dry bulk trades to China and India is that domestic Chinese shipowners enjoy a dominant share of the market, indicated by about 37% of tonnage-calls in 2016 being by Chinese-owned vessels.

Another region to see significantly more Greek-owned bulker capacity last year was Australasia, which ranked fourth with 490m dwt after a 10.5% increase from 2015.

To set against these significant increases, Atlantic basin bulker trades virtually all decreased in terms of Greek tonnage-calls.

Coal and iron ore imports into Europe and European Union grain exports all came under pressure last year, while North American trades also saw reduced levels of Greek bulker capacity.


Crude oil tankers

Greek crude tanker activity grew again in 2016 as measured by global port calls and by arriving tonnage.

A total of 18,495 port calls were recorded for the year, an increase of 7.8% from 2015. Meanwhile, the aggregate of Greek crude carrying capacity loading and discharging at oil terminals around the world reached more than 2.9bn dwt, a rise of 8.6%, and reflective of an estimated 25% share of Greek owners in the world crude oil-carrying fleet.

The Middle East Gulf last year reinforced its status as the top gathering point for Greek-controlled crude oil tonnage with a 12.6% increase in loading.

With 650m dwt in crude tanker calls last year, the Gulf saw more than twice as much Greek-owned tonnage as any other load or discharge region.

Among the most significant trading regions for Greek crude oil tankers, the growth rate for the Middle East Gulf was outdone only by the Black Sea, where last year Greek suezmax and aframax calls boomed by 27%. But the area only ranked ninth among the 25 sub-regions, with 836 port calls during the year, aggregating 103m dwt.

The Asean region and the China Sea remained second- and third-placed in Greek tonnage-calls, with increases of 16% and 11.9% respectively.

But some other prominent regions for Greek tanker calls were flat last year, such as South America and South Europe, in fourth and fifth spots, or else saw a reduction as was the case with West Africa, in sixth place.

Greek tanker owners collectively had 18.1% of crude oil capacity calling in China last year, compared with 27% controlled by Chinese owners.

In India, the data indicates that last year Greeks enjoyed a share of something like 34.5% of crude oil tonnage entering the country’s ports.

But even this dominant position is exceeded by Greek owners’ collective share of a number of European tanker trades.

Last year, Greek-controlled tankers were responsible for nearly 43% of all tonnage-calls in the Black Sea, 47.5% in southern Europe, and 54.9% in ports of the eastern Mediterranean.


Product tankers

Greek product tanker calls continue rising by number and by tonnage arrivals, although the sector is less of a Greek stronghold than is true of crude oil tankers and dry bulk carriers.

For last year, LLI gathered data from 17,662 port calls of 798m dwt all over the world. Calls by Greek product tanker owners rose by 4.4% and volume of tonnage-calls increased by 9.6%. 

The Top 5 operating regions for Greek product tankers remained the same as in 2015, although a number of these saw significantly more Greek-owned products carrying tonnage than previously.

South America’s Atlantic coast remained the busiest for Greek product tankers after a 40.6% increase in the volume of calls extended its lead over the Middle East Gulf in second place.

The US Gulf, too, was a fast riser, with 26.9% more Greek product tanker tonnage arriving in the region last year than in 2015.



To date the Far East has not played as important a role for Greece’s product tanker owners as it has done for the country’s crude-carrying fleet, even though the China Sea region and Southeast Asia are overall the busiest operating regions for the world petroleum products fleet.

The Asean area, which ranked fifth for Greek calls, logged an 11% increase in volume of Greek calls hosted during the year.

By contrast, Greek calls in India fell for the second straight year and represented about 7.8% of all product tanker tonnage arriving in India. About half of the product carrier movement in the country’s ports comes from Indian-owned tankers.

West Africa, the third most important sub-region for Greek product carriers as recently as 2014, has also seen a significant reduction, slipping from 52m dwt to 31m dwt in the last three years. 

Greeks have higher market shares in some of the second-tier markets, such as the Caribbean where last year Greek-owned product tankers accounted for more than one third of the 69m dwt of tonnage-calls.

In the East Mediterranean, Greek-owned product tankers racked up 12.6m dwt in 461 calls. That represented about 37% of the aggregate tonnage calling in the region last year.


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