BUSINESS

Shippers warn Brussels might strip the EU of its merchant fleet

ILIAS BELLOS

TAGS: Shipping

The head of Greek shippers has issued his second warning to the European Commission within a week concerning the risk of shipping companies taking flight from the European Union due to the institutional changes Brussels is demanding.

Theodoros Veniamis, the president of the Union of Greek Shipowners (EEE), noted in his message for the upcoming Posidonia 2016 event next month that Greek shipping, which accounts for almost 50 percent of the sector in the European Union, “can and should continue to contribute to the national and European economy by maintaining its competitiveness.”

However, he stressed that “the sector’s competitiveness today is under threat due to the recent flawed policies of the European Commission, risking the departure not only of the Greek-owned fleet but also of that of the European Union to other countries outside the bloc, relocating to more hospitable international shipping centers.”

A few days ago, addressing the Shipping Industry Conference Gala in Limassol, Cyprus, Veniamis also spoke about the danger of Europe losing its shipping fleet, just as Asia is turning into a global giant. He further stressed that, following the changes observed in recent years, oceangoing shipping in Greece now has to pay what are possibly the highest taxes in the world, and certainly more than in many other EU member-states, with a clear impact on the competitiveness of Greek shipping firms.

The issue stems from the European Commission’s decision to seek changes in the way shippers are taxed in Greece, as Brussels believes the current system does not comply with EU directives regarding state subsidies to maritime transport in the bloc.

Given that the Commission has declared that the changes to be implemented in Greece will constitute a model for all EU member-states, the risk to the entire European shipping industry is obvious. “EU politicians face dilemmas about the prospects of Europe, but shipping companies also face dilemmas of their own,” Veniamis poignantly said at the Limassol forum.

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