More than a thousand delegates from the shipping industry gathered last month at the Hilton Athens for the Greek Shipping Forum, a day of speeches and panel discussions on private equity, ship recycling and financing.
The packed reception hall was a testament to how the nation’s ship owners still dominate the industry decades after Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos ruled the waves. The Hellenic fleet is the world’s most valuable at $106 billion, according to VesselsValue.com, accounting for 19 percent of the world’s tankers.
Greece’s seafaring mastery is a remarkable feat for the world’s 42nd-largest economy, where economic and political turmoil has left a quarter of the population unemployed.
“This is a business that’s part of their soul,” Matt McCleery, author of “The Shipping Man” and president of Stamford, Connecticut-based ship finance consultancy Marine Money International, said in a phone interview. “It’s so important to their culture, to their identity, and to their history.”
It’s also made billionaires of the country’s four largest ship owners by tonnage: John Angelicoussis, George Prokopiou, Peter Livanos and George Economou. The quartet control a combined fortune of $7.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. None of them appear individually on an international wealth ranking.
The richest is Angelicoussis, whose companies own 96 active vessels with a capacity of more than 18 million deadweight tons, the industry’s standard measurement for how much ships carry, according to data for December compiled by maritime newspaper Shipping Finance. His family’s stake in the fleet is valued at $2.4 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“He’s one of the great men of our industry,” Harry Fafalios, chairman of the Greek Shipping Co-Operation Committee, said in an interview in London.
The 66-year-old’s fortune is calculated based on data provided by London-based VesselsValue.com, an online ship valuation database. It includes his active fleet and vessels under construction and is based on the ships’ size, age and earnings, and excludes charters.