Commercial shipping began perhaps with the activities of the Phoenician merchants who operated their own vessels, transporting goods in the Mediterranean. The practices they developed were adopted by the merchants of ancient Greece and Rome and were continued by the maritime powers through the Middle Ages to modern times. The Venetians, from 1300 to 1500, owned a huge merchant fleet that served the interests of the merchant traders and the city-state exclusively. From 1600 to 1650 the Dutch ranked first in shipping activity, operating a globe-circling tramp service for merchants of western Europe.