Why Greek shipowners are so keen on the war in Ukraine

Christina Ziaka

Around this time last year, in May 2021, Panos Laskaridis, a Greek shipowner and then member of the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) Board of Directors, made a truly astonishing statement

People who are in shipping don’t need the Greek government, don’t need the ministry, don’t need the IMO, don’t need the prime minister. They can shit on the prime minister. They have no need of the prime minister. Why? Because shipping has nothing to do with Greece. There is nothing that a shipowner will gain from Greece. No cargoes to Greece. No contracts from Greece, nothing in Greece. Only his office is here. 80% have foreign flags. They don’t care about the Greek flag.

He was forced to resign from the Board of the UGS a few days later because of this outspoken honesty. 

One year later, it is obvious that other concerns are on the Greek shipowners’ minds: the sanctions against Russia regarding the transportation and handling of oil and gas. Panos Laskaridis, in that interview, said something else that didn’t receive so much attention at the time, but has again been proven in the case of the sanctions against Russia. He said:

“the Greek Government does what the Union of Shipowners tell them to do”

To prove him right, the Greek government, together with the governments of Malta and Cyprus, blocked the Commission’s proposal for a blanket ban on the transportation of Russian oil and gas by all shipping companies based in Europe, including the Greek ones. They actually did so at the best timing for Greek shipping capital, which is currently enjoying huge profits because of the war in Ukraine!

An analysis published at Lloyd’s List (an analytical information service for international shipping) has documented this new… miracle for Greek capitalists.

From the end of February, when Russian imperialism brought about the invasion of Ukraine, until the end of April, and despite international sanctions, some 4.5 million barrels of crude oil, worth $509 million, were shipped from the main Russian ports on a daily basis. Between April 1 and 27 in particular, 76 out of the 190 tankers carrying crude oil and diesel, belonged to Greek shipowners! A year ago, for the same period, there were 30 Greek ships used! 

Many reports also name the shipowners who used this opportunity to increase their turnover out of the Ukraine war. These are:

1. Oikonomou Group of Companies (TMS Tankers)

2. Andreas Martinos (Minerva Maritime)

3. Konstantinos Martinos (Thenamaris Shipping)

4. Diamantis Diamantidis

5. Dimitris Prokopiou (Centrofin)

6. Thanassis Martinos (Eastern Mediterranean)

7. Tsakos Group

The above groups’ profitability is truly shocking! According to Baltic Exchange data, the freight rates for direct charters from Russian ports in the Baltic and Black Sea have climbed from about $6,000/day before the invasion to $350,000/day after the invasion! This means that their profits have multiplied 60-fold!

Greek shipping is once again proven to be the “jewel in the crown” of Greek capital. 

Indeed, with a fleet of 5,000 ships, Greek shipowners control 20% of the world’s tonnage (this term is used in shipping to compare sizes on the basis of the available space for transporting goods) and 60% of European tonnage. In particular, they control 30.25% of the global tanker fleet, 14.64% of the global chemical and oil derivatives fleet, 15.58% of the global LNG/LPG fleet, 20.04% of the global non-packaged dry cargo fleet (e.g., grain, coal, etc.) and 9.53% of the global container fleet.

On the other hand, this “jewel” of Greek capitalism has been enjoying 56 special tax exemptions for decades. These exemptions are guaranteed by special laws. The shipping industry is actually one of the most protected fields by the state. This is how Greek shipowners have come to not give a damn about anyone or anything, be it flags, rules, taxes and above all society and workers!

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