While South Korea and Japan were the dominant players in the global shipbuilding and ship-repair industries in the early 1990s, China has since developed into a leading player and is expected to overtake South Korea as the largest shipbuilding nation by gross tonnage in the near future.
"My first business trip to China took place in 1991," says Dimitris Vranopoulos, managing director of Marine Plus.
"Our first repair of a Greek vessel in a Chinese yard was conducted a year later and I realised then that China would become a major centre for ship repairs. China has potentially unlimited manpower capacity and competitive labor costs - these two factors play key roles in labor intensive activities such as ship repair."
Marine Plus is engaged in repairs, conversions and new-building services for the Greek shipping community. The company's loyal customer base consists of more than 130 companies and today 80 per cent of repairs and conversions are carried out in Chinese ship repair yards.
"Our official role is to represent ship yards in China within the Greek market. We also facilitate information, ideas and technology exchange between our team and our Chinese principals and it has become imperative for partners to find new ways of offering more attractive packages for our Greek clientele," he says.
Marine Plus repairs around 100 ships annually in China and the company is the main agent for CSSC Chengxi shipyard, Chengxi (Xinrong) Shipyard, Shanhaiguan Shipbuilding Industry and Guangzhou Dockyards in addition to its role as the exclusive agent for Yiu Lian Dockyards in Hong Kong.
"We have become involved in new-building activity in China through our co-operation with several state-owned yards. We will be more active with our partners in China over the next few years," says Vranopoulos.
Marine Plus recently opened a branch office in Istanbul and strengthened its position in the Far East by establishing a branch office in Singapore last April.
Considered a trailblazer in Sino-Greek relations, Vranopoulos' is proud of his connections with China.
"The Chinese and Hong Kong shipping fraternity should continue exploring co-operation opportunities at all levels within the Greek shipping industry. At a time when Greece as a nation does not seem to have many friends, at least on the European front, it is comforting to know that we are true friends with the world's second largest economy and that we understand each other and enjoy doing business together," he says.