Greece has long been a formidable maritime nation. The country's culture and mythology are intrinsically tied to the sea and shipping remains a key strength of the modern nation.
"We've always been a seafaring nation and our contributions to shipping are extremely important to the world," says George Gratsos, president of the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping.
The country's modern shipping industry started taking shape after the second world war when shipowners, such as Aristotle Onassis, purchased Liberty cargo ships from the United States to rebuild fleets destroyed during the war.
Today, Greece maintains the world's largest merchant fleet consisting of 3,185 vessels greater than 1,000 gross tonnage - well over 200 million dead-weight tonnes (dwt). This figure represents almost 15 per cent of the world dwt market.
Greek owners control about 22 per cent of the world's tanker fleet and 16 per cent of the world's bulk carrier fleet in terms of dwt.
At the end of 2010, the overall capital invested in new building orders by Greek shipowners amounted to 10 per cent of the entire global order book. These orders place Greece in the number one position internationally with 8.7 per cent of the world's fleet by units and 13.5 per cent by capacity.
Since 2000, Greek ship owners have ordered nearly 500 vessels from China's shipyards with 267 under construction. "Greek shipowners have good relations with Chinese shipyards and I expect relations to strengthen as Chinese shipbuilders focus on more energy efficient vessels," Gratsos says.
While Greece is at the centre of the European sovereign debt crisis, the country's economic woes have had little impact on the powerful Greek shipping industry. From 2000-2010, the shipping industry contributed Euro140 billion (HK$1.37 trillion ) in foreign exchange earnings to the Greek economy and today shipping accounts for 6 per cent of Greece's gross domestic product.
"Shipping is different from the rest of the Greek economy because we operate internationally," says John Pachoulis, president of the Hellenic Shipbrokers Association. "We are affected by events in the global economy rather than our local economy."
As Greece and China celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations today, the maritime cluster remains one of the most important pillars of co-operation. China's investment in Greece's largest port, Piraeus, is a flagship project for the two nations. Cosco operates two of the three container terminals at Piraeus and employs about 600 Greek workers.
"We enjoy doing business with the Chinese and would like to facilitate more exchanges. Once the Chinese start investing in Greece, they will quickly enjoy the benefits of working with us," Pachoulis says.
The strength of the Greek shipping industry will be celebrated at the "Posidonia" maritime trade fair which continues until Friday.
"The 'Posidonia' Exhibition reveals the dynamism and resilience of the Greek shipping industry," says Theodore Veniamis, president of the Union of Greek Shipowners. "Despite concerns about the world economy and the difficult times Greece is facing, we will maintain our international shipping reputation and overcome the challenges of the future."