Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras speaks during the opening ceremony of the International Shipping Exhibition of Posidonia in Athens, Greece, on June 4, 2018. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras inaugurated on Monday in Athens the 2018 Posidonia maritime exhibition, one of the most prestigious shipping events globally, voicing confidence for the future of the strong Greek shipping industry and post-bailout Greece. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
By Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, June 4 (Xinhua) -- Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras inaugurated on Monday in Athens the 2018 Posidonia maritime exhibition, one of the most prestigious shipping events globally, voicing confidence for the future of the strong Greek shipping industry and post-bailout Greece.
Despite the debt crisis that brought Greece at the brink of default in the past eight years, Greek shipping remained the global leader in commercial fleet operating 20 percent of the global and 50 percent of the European capacity, the Greek leader noted, citing recent data.
In 2017, receipts from Greek shipping activity exceeded 9 billion euros (10.5 U.S. dollars), up 20 percent year on year compared to 2016.
The government supports this traditional pillar of the Greek national economy, Tsipras said, addressing the event which was attended by Greek and foreign officials, ship owners and representatives of all sectors of the maritime industry.
"Our policy regarding the Greek ports, through selected partners who invest in their strategic growth -- such is the case with Piraeus' establishment as an international maritime hub, with the required structure and infrastructure -- can further contribute to the country's economic development and its position on the world map," he said.
Referring to the Greek economy as a whole, he said that it has recovered and will soon stand on its feet after exiting the third bailout program this August without further aid mechanisms, reiterating a call to international lenders to give Greece a good debt relief.
"We are working and we are seeking not 'just a debt solution', but a solution which will give Greece a stable and continuous access to financing markets, as I repeat Euro group's decisions from last year have clearly stated," Tsipras stressed.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc underlined the need of cooperation to solve all common challenges.
"The challenges will continue to come. There is no doubt. But just the feeling that we know that if we stick together and find solutions, like we are finding in all the Shipping challenges when we are at the same table, gives us the courage that we don't see challenges as a problem but as a real opportunity," she said.
On his part, the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization Kitack Lim pointed to the common challenges the shipping industry faces worldwide.
"We must ensure that the opportunities presented by modern 'mega trends' like digitalization, artificial intelligence and the so-called 'fourth industrial revolution' are carefully integrated into shipping, balancing the benefits against safety and security concerns, the impact on the environment, on international trade, and on the human element," he said.
Delivering a speech at Monday's event Theodore Veniamis, President of the Union of Greek Ship owners, underlined that nothing should be taken for granted and more efforts should be invested to support shipping as a driver of economic growth.
"The European Union's world leadership in shipping should not be taken for granted. Without a competitive business environment, shipping as an international economic activity can neither survive nor can it progress. This is a fundamental principle," he said.
On behalf of the organizers, Theodore Vokos, Executive Director of Posidonia Exhibitions noted that this year's event is the largest in the 50 year-long history of the show which is considered as the Davos forum of shipping.
"(Posidonia) is a unique policy forum where the leaders of the international maritime community can meet and debate the important issues that face the maritime industry," he said.
The 2018 Posidonia set a new milestone with 2,011 exhibitors from 92 countries participating, Vokos noted. The Chinese is once again the largest among the national pavilions, organizers said.
Until the show ends on June 8 about 22,000 maritime executives from over 100 countries are expected to tour the stands, participate in seminars and network, according to Vokos.
The event is organized under the auspices of the Greek Shipping Ministry, the Union of Greek Shipowners and the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping.