Greek shipyards are reborn. European shipyards are fighting for survival

By Marek Grzybowski

The Greek shipbuilding industry has been revived in the last decade and will be clearly visible – promise the organizers of Posidonia 2024. It is openly said that after years of decline, or even ruin, Greek shipyards have entered a state of dynamic recovery. In this process, it receives the support of the world’s third largest navy (in terms of value), international business and government.
The Greek shipbuilding sector revived following the completion of the consolidation of the shipyards in Syros and Elefsina, as well as the reopening of the Skaramangas shipyard and increased activity in Halkida. We receive such optimistic information after the alarmist SEA Europe manifesto, which calls on EU bodies and European governments to support the European shipbuilding industry with subsidies and orders.
SEA Europe claims that only with active financial support will the European industry come to life and even be able to build 10,000 units by 2030. The condition is that a number of postulates included in the declaration: “Setting sail to build in Europe 10,000 sustainable and digitalized vessels by 2035 – SEA Europe’s call for a European Maritime Industrial Strategy”.

The Greek shipbuilding cluster is coming alive
The revival of the Greek shipbuilding industry began a few years ago with the ship repair industry. In 2019, the Neorion Shipyards in Syros and Elefsis Shipyard were taken over by the American group ONEX Shipyards and Technologies. Since then, Greek shipbuilders have renovated over 500 ships of foreign and Greek owners.
We also managed to launch domestic production. Thanks to the activity of repair and production shipyards, Greece is now seen as making a significant contribution to the annual production value of European shipyards. It is estimated that in 2023 sales will reach approximately EUR 43 billion. This is the value of contracts completed for civilian customers and the Greek Navy.
– Greece is emerging on the market as a credible shipbuilding cluster involved in the repair, conversion of ships and potentially the construction of new ships for Greek and foreign shipowners and naval forces. This recovery comes after decades of poor performance and underinvestment, marked by a lack of strategic vision, said Theodore Vokos, Managing Director, Posidonia Exhibitions S.A.
The revival of Greek industry did not happen without government support and financial drips. The basis was openness to the business environment. The government treated the shipbuilding industry as a strategic economic sector for the country. Domestic and international business as a sector bringing real profits.


The Greek fleet supports the shipyard
No wonder, since Greece ranks third in the world fleet ranking, both in terms of the total number of ships in its fleet and the overall value of the fleet. – While China has the most tankers, the Greek tanker fleet has the greatest value, estimated at USD 69.5 billion – VesselsValue analysts found.
– The Greek-owned fleet maintains a leading role in the maritime industry. Today it represents 21% of the world’s tonnage and 59% of the European Union (EU) fleet. In particular, it controls, among others: 32% of the world’s tanker fleet, 25% of bulk carriers and 22% of gas carriers – says Melina Travlos, President of the Association of Greek Shipowners.
The shipbuilding industry therefore has a strong base in the Greek shipping cluster. After the reconstruction of the structures and multi-million investments, the Greek shipyard owners and the Greek government declared that they would engage in the stable development of the shipbuilding industry. It currently provides 1% of the country’s GDP. In 2023, it approached USD 242.4 trillion, according to the Greek Statistical Office.
It is assumed that the revival of the shipbuilding business will strengthen both the Greek economy. It is emphasized that this sector will also strengthen the country’s security. In the latter case, a strategic partnership with the United States in the expansion of the navy is envisaged. It is assumed that the new generation of Constellation frigates will be jointly designed and co-produced.

Innovation and ecology on the course
Much attention is paid to the development of equipment and the production of ship systems. It is assumed that investments and support from ship equipment suppliers will strengthen the position and support Greek manufacturers of these equipment. This should have the effect of increasing Greece’s contribution to the European market. The development is even believed to be so promising that it will support the EU shipbuilding industry in achieving global dominance in the production and supply of selected marine equipment.
Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, the recently appointed president of the Skaramangas shipyard, has the ambition to transform the facility into a multi-million-dollar company. He recalls that “Since 2010, the shipyard has been exclusively engaged in the repair and modernization of the Greek Navy’s fleet.”
– Now, with a new owner and management, we are ready to present our world-class infrastructure and state-of-the-art equipment enabling complex and specialized repairs. We will promote [at Posidonia – MG] our plans for the future and explore opportunities to undertake important and sophisticated new projects, announces Varvitsiotis.
The shipyard intends to actively use the existing infrastructure, with its main advantage. One of the largest dry docks in the Mediterranean Sea is located here. It is prepared for docking of VLCCs, LNG tankers and aircraft carriers. Skaramangas carries out large-scale modernization investments. Plans were made to put a large dock that had been inactive for about 20 years back into production.

Greek Shipowners and Local Content
For some time now, Greek shipyards have been investing heavily to improve their competitiveness and the attractiveness of their offer. Orders are placed mainly by investors from the environment of Greek shipowners. Their share in the shipyard’s production reaches 80%. Greek local content includes orders for renovations and construction of new ships.
The ONEX group’s business plan assumes investments in the shipyard worth USD 550 million. they are intended to enable the shipyard to increase its activity on the repair market. It is expected that throughput will increase to 300 ship repairs and inspections per year.
Panos Xenokostas, president and CEO of ONEX, said: “Our goal is to transform the historic shipyards into a modern maritime center for the Mediterranean region.”
– We strive to make the Elefsis and Syros shipyards the first choice for shipowners looking for high quality, speed and personalized service, while maintaining appropriate safety standards and always taking into account a sustainable maritime model – explains the Xenokostas shipyard strategy.
ONEX aims to transform its shipyards into a hub supporting commercial shipping, energy transition, naval platforms and industrial solutions. The owners want to use the region’s industrial resources. There are also political aspects. The shipyard owners want to contribute to strengthening both the economy and the geopolitical position of Greece.

Photovoltaics and qualified staff
The Chalkis shipyard is building an installation of photovoltaic systems to meet the energy needs of the shipyard and moored ships. Infrastructure investments are being carried out to increase the production potential enabling the construction of specialized ships up to 100 m long.
The strategic goal is to develop operational capabilities to approximately 240 ships per year. We are also thinking about servicing ships with larger capacity. Space is planned for the construction of small ships using new technologies.
– In addition, we have trained our staff and are constantly investing in qualified labor who can install environmental protection devices on ships, such as scrubbers and propulsion systems based on new technologies. In recent years, we have completed the installation of scrubbers on many ships, says Ashraf Bayoumi, general director of Chalkis Shipyards, which is preparing to present the shipyard at the Posidonia exhibition for the eighth time.
It is emphasized that private and state investors recognize the opportunity created by Greece’s geographical location, maritime heritage, the involvement of the Greek community in the development of the shipbuilding industry, shipowners and the political will to finance this sector.
The recent takeover of Skaramangas by shipowner George Prokopiou and the loan of USD 125 million granted by the International Development Finance Corporation to Elefsis Shipyards and Industries (ONEX) demonstrate the great interest of investors in the Greek shipbuilding sector.

Investments and innovations
Greeks invest heavily in innovative solutions. it’s a necessity. But at the same time, it is intended to increase their competitive position in the Mediterranean. As advances in maritime technologies gather pace, Greek shipyards are introducing a number of innovations in the use of artificial intelligence, green energy and automation. The idea is to increase efficiency, further improve productivity, increase the attractiveness and develop order portfolios.
Chalkis Shipyards is already adopting new technologies and leveraging digitalization in its repair design, new construction and customer relationship management (CRM) programs. Implements 3D. Skaramangas specializes in emission-reducing technologies. It is winning markets among operators ordering the installation of scrubbers. The shipyard is involved in the development of new ship designs using a new generation of ecological fuels.
– A strong shipbuilding sector creates conditions for the modernization of national defense, makes a decisive contribution to the development of the national economy and green transformation, and strengthens Greece’s position in the regional geopolitical arena through the implementation of large projects of international importance – emphasizes Xenokostas.
For a long time, the Greek shipbuilding industry was less and less represented on Posidonia. The country with a third fleet was becoming less and less visible on the ship repair and production market. Like most EU shipowners, Greek shipowners ordered ships from China and South Korea.
More than 85 shipyards from 26 countries have already confirmed their participation in Posidonia 2024, which will be held on June 3-7 at the Athens Metropolitan Expo. The fair management emphasizes that “Posidonia 2024 is organized under the patronage of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping and the Association of Greek Shipowners.” The fair organizers have the support of the Piraeus administration