The HellenicMerchant Marine development took place from around the middle of the 18th Century .The Greek merchants had the chance to exploit the International opportunities due to the vacancy left by the Anglo-French antagonism in the Commercial Routes.

Initialy as Agents ,Brokers and later on as indepentent Merchants and Seamen the Greekswere spreading to Eastern Meditteranean starting mainly from the islands of the Aegean Sea.

The Russian - Turkish war(1769-1774)and the Russian expansion in the Black Sea and the commercial priveleges granted to Russia by the treaty of Cioutsouc Kynartzi(1774) and of Aynali Cavak (1779),have given the possibility to the Greek ships to raise the Russian Flag during that era to penetrate to South Russia and Ukraine.

Thus the Greeks little by little established their Maritime position ,trading mostly the surplus agriculture products (wine,wheat,cotton) and investing in Shipping Company's and Transportation Trade.

These activities were profitable and the profits were multiplied as the Greeks took the risk by breaking the Land and Sea blockades of the time,thus approaching the European seashores carrying mostly wheat.In a very short time the Greek Merchants and Seamans had made a fortune.

At the eve oh the French Revolution (1789) the Greks reported that they owned 400 vessels.

The Frenchman Pouqueville in 1813 raises their number to 615 vessels out of which the island of Thera reports that 32 vessels are owned by the islanders(8th in line)with a capacity of 2560 tonns,out of a total of 193,580 tonns also with manning crews of 480 persons out of a total of 37,528 persons and armed with 120 cannons out of a total of 5,878 cannons.

With the Greek Revolution of Independence (1821) the Merchant Navy was converted to a Revolutionary Nave Force.

After the revolution the only vital section of the economy was that of the Mercantile Marine and when the wheat trade dominated the markets the Greeks had the monopoly in S.Russia and the Black Sea.

Around the year 1850 the island of Thera shows an increase in commercial activity far more that the rest of the islands.It trades directly with Russia .Almost the total wine production is being exported there.From Russia they are loading cereals,part of which are discharged on the island and the rest are being transported by the Therean Merchants towards France ,Italy and England.

It also exports Therean pumice stone to Austria ,but mainly it supplies the newly established Greek state for the building of sea ports and hydraulic works.Froma Europe it imports fabrics, cotton, silk, fumiture, perfumes, groceries and hardware.

Due to the above activities Thera owns vessels of large tonnage.At 1852 it has 126 vessels of a total capacity of 1094 tonns (smaller than 30 tonns each) and 74 vessels of a total capacity of 13.661 tonns (larger than 30 tonns each).

Circa 1850 steam makes its presence along with the Merchant Marine crisis which just started to appear.

The Hellenic State was unable to follow these changes , thus the readjustment of the Merchantile Marine took place mainly in the commercial centers of The Black Sea and that of the Danube Delta , changing orientation only towards the Sea Transportation Routes which at that time were profitable .

At that period Greek shipowners were purchasing old second hand vessels mainly of British Registry and they also transfered the Main offices of their enterprises first in London and later on in New York.

The low priced vessels , the low paid crews , the short manning and employing masters from their own shipowning families made the Greek vessels highly antagonistic and able to carry goods to far off places.

The Therean seafareres follow this changes , they also owned a competent Fleet for local transportation.

At the turn of the 20th century and especially between the years 1879-1902 the international circumstances favor once again the Sea Transportations.

Espacially during the Bowers War (1899-1902) and with the involment of the British navy in S.Africa the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea was free for the Greek seafares.

At that period the Greek shipowners are accumulating substancial profits,investing in new tonnage,building houses* and are seeking new markets beyond the Mediterranean.

Following 1910 , the shipping capital is employed in the purchase of large tonnage vessels , capable of Transatlantic voyages.However, the profits made as well the business interests of the Greek shipowners are not connected to the well being of the Greek economy.

*Most of the mansions of Thera were built around that period(end 19th century beginning of the 20th) and are evidence of the above mentioned prosperity.The same applies to the construction of certain works on the island (as the marble laying of the central mall) etc.
November 1993,
Mary Kavagia
Architect H.M.P.

Hellenic Marine and Thera island (Greek text),
the museum of Thera,
the island of Thera(Santorini)