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Average age of Greek fleet rises, number of owners falls

The delivery of fewer newbuildings has led to an aging yet still expanding Greek fleet capacity wise though the number of shipping companies is in steady decline according to a new study of the Greek shipping.

Despite a number of new start-ups on an off the Piraeus' Akti Miaouli in 2018 the number of companies operating ships out of Greece declined as departing companies outnumbered arrivals. However, the decline was small and the recovery in the dry bulk and some other market segments has enabled smaller owners to keep going and run their vessels profitably, concludes Petrofin Research in its annual look at the status of Greek shipping companies.

The steady annual decline in the number of companies has slowed and the 588 companies operating on 31 December 2018 is just nine fewer than at the beginning of the year. However, the average age of the fleet rose slightly as owners kept trading tonnage rather than disposing of it.

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A feature of the 21st consecutive edition of the research by the ted Petropoulos-led Petrofin is that it reveals the number of fleets of over 25 vessels is slightly down though the group's carrying capacity (dwt) is up by 15.6m dwt year-on-year. But the dwt of the 25-plus vessel fleets aged 0-9 years, comes in at 168.136m dwt, compared to 199.8m in 2017 and 188.4m in 2016 and 154.333m dwt in 2015. Twenty-three companies run these fleets compared to 31 in 2017, 30 in 2016, 24 in 2015, 22 in 2014 and to 14 in 2013.

"An explanation for this can be found in the slowdown of newbuilding deliveries and some consolidation in the overall number of 25-plus company fleets due to sale of older vessels," said Petrofin.

Owners of fleets above 1m dwt are now 77 compared to 75 in 2017, 68 in 2016 and they have now reached 80% of the total Greek fleet, compared to 79.58% in 2017, 77.47% in 2016, 76.7% in 2015, 74% in 2014 and 71.33% in 2013. This leads Petrofin to conclude that “for the time being, the 80% share of the tonne millionaires may not be easily breached, as it represents a significant level”.

Overage fleets of 20 years plus are down to 198 from 200 in 2017, 235 in 2016. Interestingly, companies running young fleets (0-9 years of age) are 172 a dozen less than in 2017, and 187 in 2016 "reflecting the relatively fewer newbuildings and the small increase in the average age of this segment".

Companies with one or two vessels are down to 218 from 233 in 2017 and 265 in 2016 as the level of consolidation, especially among the smaller companies, continues.

Another interesting development is the slight rise in age of the fleet to 12.08 from 11.8 in 2017 and 12.19 years in 2016. Again Petrofin noted "the slowdown of newbuilding deliveries, acquisition of relatively younger tonnage and positive market sentiment".

Generally, the research points to a continuation of the growth of Greek shipping, in terms of both capacity and concentration. Petrofin said: "The process of consolidation, due to diseconomies of scale for small companies, continues. 

"Despite an active year in s&p transactions, but fewer newbuilding deliveries, the fleet’s age marginally increased, something which is not deemed significant,” said Petrofin.