In 1828 Southern Greece and the islands of the central Aegean were officially proclaimed free and Ioannis Kapodistrias came, the first Governor of the liberated half of the country. Capodistria from the beginning showed great administrative and organiser ability. He grasped the great importance of a strong merchant marine for Greece and in Aegina, which was the temporary seat of the Governor; he issued the first decree after the liberation for the organization of the mercantile marine.
The few overage, worn-out merchantmen that remained after the war formed the nucleus for the expansion of the Greek Merchant Marine until the end of the l9th c. The experienced captains and sailors played a decisive part in the rebuilding of the fleet and in the new ventures. The first decades of the l9th c. were marked by the appearance of steam propulsion for ships. The Greek shipmasters, exhausted financially and without capital, were unable to keep up with the rapid developments taking place with the use of steam in ships, but they continued to build new brigs and barks in the Greek shipyards on Hydra, Spetses, Andros, Galaxidi, Samos, Kasos as well as on Syros, which developed into the most important Greek commercial harbour.
Greece acquired its first steamships in 1856 with the founding of the Hellenic Steam Navigation Company. This company, as a matter of interest, later made some of its vessels available to assist the Cretan Revolution (1866-68). Among them was the legendary "Enosis", which was converted into a cruiser and which, with the heroic Mykonian captain, Nikolas Sourmelis, in command, made glorious history in the Aegean by running in supplies to help the revolting Cretans.
In the second half of the l9th c. the Greeks went on to build better and larger sailing vessels, but at the same time, realising the importance of steam, they began, towards the end of the century, buying more and more steamships.
These ever-growing developments and needs stimulated the shipping world to improve the organization of the merchant marine.
Syros grew into the most important mercantile shipping centre in the Aegean. In 1861 a steam-powered iron-works was opened on Syros, "an establishment unique in the East" (as was said at the time), later to be known as the "Syros Dry-docks and Engineering Works" (Neorion), with the Englishman Smith as chief engineer. In it old ships were repaired and new ones built, and it was also the first training establishment for the steam engineers who manned the ever- growing fleet of Greek steamships.
Syros was filled with many shipping offices, bunkering stations, repair units, shipyards, insurance companies and banks. Merchants and shipmasters gathered in Hermoupolis from all the nautical islands of the Aegean, and especially from Chios, Spetses, Hydra, Psara, Andros, Mykonos, Kasos and Santorini. This great shipping activity on Syros continued until almost the end of the century, with a parallel development following later on in Piraeus. In 1870 the Nautical Bank "Archangelos" established the first Greek Shipping Register. It gives the following picture of the growth of the Greek merchant marine:
1871: 2,228 sailing ships totalling 292,382 tons. 24 steamships totalling 6,161 tons. Ι879: 3,025 sailing ships totalling 371,362 tons. 49 steamships totalling 12.021 tons.
At the end of the I9th c. Greek sailing ships had significantly decreased and steamships had increased to about 200.
By the end of the century the decrease in sailing ships became more rapid, and they began to give place to mechanically propelled ships. The beginning of World War Ι found the Greek Merchant Marine with 475 steamships and some 1,100 sailing ships.
In the 20th c. the Greek Merchant Marine underwent great fluctuations. In the midst of them, however, the Greek's close ties with the sea, his inherent seamanship, his stubbornness, courage and faith in the value of shipping remained unchanged, and these qualities helped the Greek merchant fleet at the beginning of the 1980's to take first place in the world. Various types of Greek-owned vessels are to be found today plying a1l the world's seas, and still the eternal trechandiri, descended from the ships of our ancient forefathers, continues to traverse the Aegean waters, following the distant tradition.