Greek Tragedy

After learning that a $ 145 billion rescue package for Greece had been approved by the EU, and that the deal probably would not defuse the potential threats to other European countries also suffering from mounting debts and troubled economies, we weren’t quite prepared for a story in SeafarerBlog reporting that Greek shipowners are gearing up for expansion despite the world’s economic turmoil. Their stated intention, according to the story, is to snap up vessel assets at distressed prices, in order to be “favorably positioned ahead of any world recovery.”

“The recovery of developed economies, the strong momentum of the Chinese economy, and the gradual upturn in world trade, will lead freight rates to higher levels compared with 2009,” said the economist at the National Bank of Greece.

“With the gradual recovery of bank lending and the fact that the international shipping market is somehow stabilized … we expect 2010 to be more intense in terms of purchases compared to 2009,” said Petrofin’s managing director. “Greeks may lead again in 2010 in terms of purchases”, he added.

Greece is said to have the world’s second-largest merchant fleet, after Japan, with more than 3,000 vessels estimated to be in its fleet. But if the international shipping market is not “somehow” stabilized, then the only sure prediction that can be made is that Greek shipowners will have the second-largest number of vessels being scrapped in Bangladesh and India next year.

Nonsense continues to spew from Greek maritime officials in spite of the fact that the European Union has been forced to come up with that hefty rescue package. Other officials have come right to the point, however.

“I have done and will do everything not to let the country go bankrupt”, said Prime Minister Papandreou, urging Greeks to accept “great sacrifices” in order to avoid “catastrophe”.

“The immediate impact may be soothing, but the inflammation will soon show up again,” predicted Edward Hugh, an economist in Barcelona. “My feeling is that the rot has gone too far.”

Although the rescue package has propped up the Greek government, similar predicaments are foreseen in other members of the European Union. Portugal, Spain and Italy, along with outside nations relying on the euro as common currency – like Latvia, Hungary and Romania – are all failing in their efforts to meet economic and fiscal goals set in conjunction with the IMF.

So where will the gung-ho Greek ship owners find the “recovery of developed economies” that will “somehow” generate the “gradual upturn in world trade”?

In their dreams. That’s where.

The only workable rescue package for the world? Another U.S. Emergency Shipbuilding Program.