“Imagine the impossible. A Greek shipowner NOT grumbling! It’s happening.

Rates for dry bulk cargoes on some routes more than doubled during first quarter. Rates for tankers in good condition have risen by nearly a third since last December when the tanker Erika sank and its heavy crude oil cargo polluted some of Brittany’s finest beaches. After two years ( 1998- 99) of the deepest downturn since the slump of the early 1980s, the shipping market is making a strong recovery.

• The economies of southeast Asia are picking up again after their meltdown in 1997-1998. Russia appears to be stabilising.

• Global GDP growth is good and trade generally is anticipated to grow – at least for the next couple of years.

• The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in late March agreed to resume 85% of the liftings that had been suspended for the past year. With oil stocks sorely depleted around the world, shipments are set to be strong for some months to come. Not everything’s perfect.

• Most rates have yet to fully recover their pre-slump levels.

• A steep decline in construction costs in Far Eastern yards during the crisis has meant a rush of newbuilding orders. These will start to enter the market this year and next. Unless this is matched by concomitant scrapping there could be a glut of available tonnage which would ki’ll the momentum ofthe rate recovery. But on balance things are looking up. There is a fresh breeze of optimism blowing in a market that has been through a deep doldrums. The concern is lest it should prove to be hot hhot air.”

This is the introductory text of the June 2000 issue of Greek Business File, dedicated to Greek shipping and available here.