Over the last 2 decades, China has been rapidly monopolizing every aspect of world trade. From buying out the worlds ports in almost every country on the planet, to being the worlds supplier of nearly 30% of the worlds goods, China has made itself the king of every aspect of World trade… Well that is except for one aspect. Shipping. you see, despite investing hundreds of billions of dollars into their shipping industry, China is still behind two much smaller nations in regards to its shipping power.
Japan by most metrics is the 2nd most powerful shipping nation in the world, while having a population 91% smaller than that of China’s. But this somewhat makes sense as Japan in popular culture has been known as the top shipbuilding nation in the world for the past 100 years.
However, the true shipping superpower of the world is actually the small Mediterranean nation of Greece. You see, greece has a population of just 10 million people, thats about half the population of the state of new york, or 30% less than the population of the los angeles metropolitan area.
Yet, despite having a population that is 140 times smaller than China, Greece has been the worlds shipping superpower for much of the past 50 years.
Meaning that if your country imports bulk resources like oil, metals, coal, or grain...Or if you have simply bought an item from overseas, then you have most likely relied upon a Greek ship at some point in recent memory.
But that brings up the question. How did such a small country become the dominant player in one of the worlds largest industries? And what does this mean for you, the economy, and the worlds superpowers going forward?
Well...if you were to take a look at a map of Greece, you would see one of the key reasons why Greece has been a key player in the worlds shipping industry for over 2000 years.
First of all, 80% of Greece is covered in mountains. And even though there are some benefits to having a mountainous country, one of the downsides is that it is tough to grow large quantities of food. So throughout history, the Greeks have turned to the sea in order to get fish, and turned to maritime trade in order to get food like wheat and resources like Gold.
Secondly, Greece is a nation with over 5000 islands, and hundreds of which are populated. Meaning that having an up to date shipping industry was vital to the island population centers.
And lastly, Greece is in a unique geographical position in the world. It is essentially in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, it is close to the suez Canal...which is one the most important trade routes in the world, and it also has a short land connection to some of the wealthiest european nations in the world. Meaning that Greece has been destined to be a maritime, and trading nation ever since it made its geographical boundaries.
However, in modern times, it wasn’t until about 80 years ago that Greece would truly begin to takeover the worlds shipping industry.
You see, in the early 1900’s, Greece was a top 10 shipping nation in the world, but it was far behind the more powerful countries like Great Britain, The United States, and Germany..
You see, after world war 2, where Greek ships played a key role in helping the allies win the war...Several Greek businessmen thought of an idea. What if they invested heavily in the shipyards of the nations that needed to be rebuilt from the war?
Well thats what Greek businessmen like Aristotle Onassis did. For example, Onassis in 1949 invested in West German shipyards, and placed 36 large ship orders during the next several years. He also invested heavily into Japanese and other south east asian countries as well. He also began to buy up ships that were being sold off by the united states after the war as well. And because of this, Aristotle Onassis would go on to become the largest private shipping fleet owner in the world.
But he wasn’t the only greek that had this strategy. Other Greek businessmen like Stavros Niarchos ended up doing the exact same thing. And that is why by the 1960’s, about a dozen Greek shipowners had the largest shipping fleet in the world. And they became known as the Golden Greeks.
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