Greece has the largest merchant fleet in the world and it's the country's biggest generator of income. But a Reuters examination of official data by Tom Bergin has now shown that the industry may not be all it seems. Here's his report.
Greek shipping companies may contribute a lot to the economy on paper but since most of their activity takes places off shore the impact on Greece is much less. One part of the shipping industry which remains firmly Greek is the management of the fleet. One of the biggest groups is Navios Shipping, which has funded past research on the industry's positive effect on the economy. Last year, the firm had a turnover of one billion dollars. BUT, it only employed 167 people here in Greece. Data from firms which account for almost half of Greece's recorded shipping exports shows that only ten percent of their turnover flowed back to Greece. Critics say firms are exaggerating their worth. (SOUNDBITE) (English): GEORGE PAPACONSTANTINOU, FORMER FINANCE MINISTER, SAYING "I have yet to see very convincing evidence that quantifies, apart from the flows of funds that comes to about 6-7 billion a year, the exact impact on the economy. Many people in the industry like to bring forward more than perhaps it means to the economy." Ship owners say they cite officials data and respected studies when highlighting their contribution to the economy. And they add, if they did not ave tax breaks they could not afford to operate in Greece With Brussels pressing Athens to get its books in order that argument may soon be tested.