Taking into account the past few years and the unfortunate and disheartening events of the past year and a half, it is clear that the global community is experiencing a period of increased and challenging volatility. The crises, from COVID-19, climate change and war in Ukraine to name but a few, affect the global community, economically, socially, culturally, affecting all people in a variety of manners. In all times, but especially in such challenging periods, it is the duty of all mankind to act in a united and mutually beneficial manner.

In this socio-economic environment, our industry has and will rise to the challenges at hand, as it always has, thus continuing its long tradition of bringing disparate people and cultures together, through efficient trade and logistics, helping turn the global community into an ever more prosperous and interdependent global village.

In this ever-changing environment, Greek shipping, with its long-standing know-how and collective dynamism, continues to successfully rise to the current challenges, maintaining our leading role, both in quality tonnage and market share, thus continuing to offer reliable, high quality services to the international market.

In June 2022, during the Posidonia International Shipping Exhibition, we emphasised the critical role of shipping in the global economy. Be it war, pandemics or other global disruptions, it is shipping that links the world, allowing for the smooth flow of vital goods, the link that keeps the global economy ticking and unites the world.

Shipping is essential for the smooth functioning of nation states and their economies. It contributes to the survival and livelihood, as well as the symbiosis of nations worldwide, transporting 90% of global trade. It is the most cost-effective means of transport, due to its economies of scale and the efficiencies it has achieved. It performs this task, both in terms of operations and geographic coverage, with a surprising small carbon footprint, emitting about 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

Shipping is an irreplaceable part of the global economy. Within the European Union (EU), 60% of the EU-controlled fleet is controlled by Greek interests. Although not often acknowledged, shipping, and by extension Greek shipping, secures supply chain resilience, food security, energy autonomy, prosperity and growth for the EU, to say nothing of the potential geopolitical influence.

In an environment of fast flowing information and disinformation, it is vital that society as a whole and especially decision makers at national, European and international levels, not only recognise but also value shipping’s key role. It is of utmost importance that institutions legislate and function with an in-depth knowledge of the significance of shipping and of the special characteristics of our work and trade. It is only with this in mind that a long-term strategy can be developed, which will viably ensure our sector’s sustainability. Being one of the truly global industries it is vital that legislation is global and homogenous, if EU shipping is going to survive in the face of fierce international competition.

The Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) represents the world’s largest shipowning community, a community that works collectively and dynamically in order to help shape and effect international and local legislation so that said legislation can be both effective and viable. To this end, it is imperative that the UGS reaches out to and holistically informs, society, legislators and institutions, of our positions, and the reasons for said positions. Shipping and its role in global trade cannot be effective unless the concerned parties have a sound understanding of the multi-layered services shipping offers in all circumstances, whether it be at times of peace, conflict or other unforeseen events.

It is our priority to ensure that not only the European but also the international regulatory and legislative framework contribute to shipping’s progress and that they do not lead to false dawns and market distortions. Universally applicable and viable legislation is imperative.

Greek shipping, with its international commercial activities, has and continues to prove an especially successful sector in our nation’s economy. In 2021 we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution. Recent studies have shown that without the ships, without its seafarers and shipowners the Revolution of 1821 would not have begun, let alone been won. History demonstrates that from the creation of the Greek State and through to today, Greek shipping and its entrepreneurs, decisively contribute to the development and prosperity of our homeland.

At a national level, our main objectives are twofold: the enhancement and development of our seamanship and of our national registry. Our competitive advantage is based on our human resources both onboard and ashore. In order to grow further, our sector needs well-trained human capital. Continued corporate and national investment in this regard is vital.

Maritime education needs to be modernised. In this respect, it is our duty and responsibility to effectively communicate to our youth the prospects and features of the maritime profession, whilst providing globally leading education and continued opportunities. It is the duty of the shipping community, led by the UGS and the State, to work together in this most valuable of common goals.

Along with maritime education, an area of vital importance is the competitiveness of the Greek registry, which is directly linked to the upgrading and digitalisation of its services.

Greek shipping, which is a symbol of national pride, has long been associated with social solidarity and to this day is synonymous with social contributions. Giving back to our homeland is a duty and way of life for the Greek shipping community. In this context, we strive to continue, ever more dynamically our contribution to society, in fields such as health, education, social welfare and support for vulnerable groups. Amongst the many recent projects we have undertaken I would like to highlight the donation of 28 state-of-the- art ambulances, as well as the award of 100+1 scholarships for postgraduate studies to young women and men of our nation. It should be noted that this is the largest scholarship programme in the history of the UGS.

In the current challenging environment, it is vital we work together with a common vision. Concerted and concrete actions are required to maintain our historical seamanship and advance our industry, whilst in parallel maintaining our leadership and positioning ourselves for an ever-changing global status quo. Our goal is to safeguard Greek shipping, to safeguard our national asset.

It is with the Oracle of Delphi in mind that the salient words, “the wooden walls save the city” ring most true.