GREECE has retained its position as the world's leading maritime nation for the fourth consecutive year. According to figures compiled by Greek shipping magazine Naftika Chronika, the Greek-controlled fleet comprised 2,793 ocean-going vessels totalling about 61.5 million gross tonnes (GRT) at the end of last year. This compares with 1,294 ships totalling 33.9 million GRT owned and/or managed by members of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association. The Greek ships are registered under 17 different flags, while the Hong Kong fleet is spread over 31 registers. During the year, the Greek-owned fleet increased by 134 ships of 6.03 million GRT, whilst the national register gained 51 ships and 3,763,605 GRT, raising the percentage of Greek-owned tonnage from 43.47 per cent to 45.32 per cent. Naftika Chronika does not include in its statistics ships of less than 1,000 GRT. Counting these, as well as passenger ships, tugboats and fishing boats, it is estimated the fleet has an additional 150 vessels of some two million GRT. Last year, Greek owners took delivery of 18 newbuildings totalling 1.38 million GRT and purchased 313 second-hand ships of 9.58 million GRT. Also during the year, 106 ships of 1.5 million GRT were sold to foreign interests; 92 ships of 3.42 million GRT were sold for scrap, and 13 ships of 163,808 GRT were written off as total losses. Out of the 313 second-hand ships purchased last year, 118, representing 37.6 per cent of the total, were registered in Greece. Of the remainder, 73 ships totalling 1.53 million GRT were registered in Cyprus, 30 ships of 688,459 GRT in Panama, 14 ships of 505,797 GRT in Liberia, and 50 ships of 1.54 million GRT in Malta. Twelve ships of 347,125 GRT were registered in the Bahamas, three ships of 31,194 GRT in Honduras, three ships of 81,934 GRT in St Vincent and two ships of 26,862 GRT in Vanuatu. In addition, three bulk carriers of 50,567 GRT were registered in the Philippines, one bulk carrier of 35,706 GRT went to the Hong Kong registry and two tankers of 72,511 GRT were registered in Egypt. The newbuildings currently on order by Greek shipowners worldwide are valued at about $2.3 billion. The newbuildings were ordered following the improvement seen in the drybulk shipping markets during the first nine months of last year, and the need to replace older tankers in view of hardening anti-pollution legislation. The decision to order new ships last year was sparked by South Korean yards offering much lower prices in order to cover empty berths in 1994-95, according to Naftika Chronika. Currently, the Greek-owned orderbook includes 12 bulkers (one capesize and 11 Panamaxes), 22 tankers (including 15 product carriers, bulk Aframaxes and three Suezmaxes) and three cruiseships and another three large and fast passenger ferries.