ATHENS, June 4 (Xinhua) -- Greek caretaker Prime Minister Panayiotis Pikrammenos inaugurated here on Monday Posidonia 2012, the world's leading maritime exhibition held in Greece every two years, voicing confidence that shipping can become a vehicle for exiting the current economic crisis.
With the participation of 1,870 exhibitors from 87 countries and regions, which sets a new record in the four decade history of the biennial exhibition, and 17,000 visitors expected to go through the gates of Metropolitan Expo Centre, next to the Athens "Eleftherios Venizelos"International Airport, until June 8, the 23rd Posidonia projects a positive image of Greece and a message of optimism in times of major challenges, organizers stressed.
"More than ever before Greece needs new investments and job positions. The shipping industry can make a significant contribution in this direction," Pikrammenos said, addressing the event, noting that despite the negative economic climate in 2011 the Greek maritime industry posted satisfactory results.
From 2000 to 2011 the Greek shipping industry, operating the world's largest commercial fleet with 3,325 vessels (15 percent of the global tonnage), contributed approximately 154 billion euros to the nation's economy, according to the Greek Shipowners Union.
The volume represents half of the Greek sovereign debt burden as it stood in late 2009 that has alarmed the international financial system. In 2011 the sector's profits, which is vital to the country's economy, declined by some 8.6 percent.
"Still, according to a recent survey of the Greek Foundation of Economic and Industrial Research, it was estimated that Greece could gain about 26 billion euros if Greek shipowners were convinced with the right incentives to refocus their activities in Greece," Greek Development, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Yannis Stournaras stressed addressing the fair.
But, beyond the strong presence of Greek shipowners, the Posidonia exhibition which was named after the god of the sea, Posidon in Greek ancient mythology, represents a significant opportunity for the international maritime community to showcase achievements, exchange views and boost collaboration.
The Chinese shipbuilding industry once again fields the strongest contingent of exhibitors with 241 participations. Chinese ambassador to Greece Du Qiwen, who attended the opening ceremony on Monday, visited many impressive pavilions, as Greek and Chinese sea trade professionals highlighted the excellent bilateral cooperation in the sector and underlined its future potential.
According to the Greek Statistics Authority, for example, a total of 76 percent of the 2,066 Greek-flagged ships operating today, were built in Chinese and South Korean shipyards.
"My experience has been extremely good with China working there for the last 20 years," Dimitris Vranopoulos, Managing Director of Marine plus, a company that specializes in shiprepair and conversion, with most of its business conducted in China since 1992, told Xinhua.
"They are very stable partners, easy to deal with, in my opinion. In terms of Greek-Chinese relations the shipping factor has been very strong .. There is a lot of good blood between the Greek and Chinese shipping fraternities,"he said.
Vranopoulos noted that despite worries about the economic future of Greece, Greek and Chinese continue business as usual, expressing optimism that Greece will get through the current crisis.