BUSINESS

Illegal fuel trade shifts from heating oil to ships

By Chryssa Liaggou

Despite the leveling of the special consumption tax on diesel with that of heating oil, the illegal fuel trade’s turnover remains at high levels and the government is now being forced to take additional measures.

In a meeting hosted on Friday at the Finance Ministry by Minister Yannis Stournaras with the participation of Development and Energy Minister Costis Hatzidakis, Merchant Marine Minister Constantinos Mousouroulis and two deputy ministers, the situation in the market was reassessed, resulting in an estimate that the illegal fuel trade has been halved from 600 million euros before the leveling of the taxes to 300 million.

Shipping fuel is seen as the biggest problem area. A study by the Merchant Marine Ministry, presented during yesterday’s meeting, confirmed market estimates regarding a shift in the illegal fuel trade from heating oil to oil for ships. The volume of shipping fuel appears to be unjustifiably high, which confirms the growth of smuggling in this type of fuel, which enjoys a privileged tax rate.

The meeting yesterday decided in favor of a closer cooperation between the ministries of Finance and Merchant Marine to contain the phenomenon. The first step to that direction will be installing GPS systems on all fuel tank vessels and to establish specific mooring spots in ports for them to be better monitored.

The installation of inflow-outflow systems at fuel stations was also discussed during the meeting. This is an obligation Greece has agreed to with the country’s international creditors. A ministerial decision has been issued forcing all fuel stations in Attica and Thessaloniki to install the systems by March 27, those in Larissa, Achaia (Patra), Iraklio, Magnesia (Volos) and Ioannina by September 27, and gasoline stations in the rest of the country by March 27, 2014. The country’s creditors have demanded that any stations that do not comply will have to close.

The ministers agreed yesterday that no extensions would be made to the above deadlines, although most fuel stations in Attica and Thessaloniki are yet to install the system. Realizing the funding issue there, Hatzidakis plans to negotiate the allocation of European Union funds to this end with Greece’s creditors.

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