Posidonia, the world’s largest shipping fair opened in Athens on Monday, amid growing concerns about the global economy and worries about the host country’s uncertain future.

The five-day event, now in its fifth decade, includes 1,870 exhibitors from 87 countries, a new record, and was expected to attract 17,000 visitors, showing that Greece “remains open for business,” said organizer Theodoros Vokos.

The Chinese shipbuilding industry was once again fielding the strongest contingent of exhibitors, as one of 21 countries from Africa, Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia, including Japan and South Korea, with national pavilions.

Held every two years, one of the main talking points at the conference was expected to be prospects for the global economy, with volumes of goods shipped around the oceans of the world a key indicator.

Worse-than-expected US jobs data on Friday reignited worries about the strength of the recovery in the world’s largest economy, the eurozone remains in crisis and indicators from China and India have also disappointed.

The Greek shipping industry, the biggest in the world by tonnage, already saw profits slump by 8.6 percent last year, according to the Union of Greek Shipowners — and not because of the crisis in their home country.

“Shipping is an international industry. Therefore the good thing for Greek shipping is that it is not affected by the Greek crisis,” Vokos said.

“However, the international crisis has an impact on the industry, because of the lower volumes of goods being transported as a result of the recession.” Other problems, he said, included a surfeit of ships and the reluctance of banks to lend money.

Source: AFP / Kathimerini