Shippers, ministry clash

Passenger shippers and the Merchant Marine Ministry are at loggerheads over the former’s denial to submit their schedules for the period from November 2003 to October 2004. Ministry sources said yesterday that the Association of Passenger Shippers yesterday sent a letter to Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis informing him that they would not submit their schedules, as required by law. Currently, the ministry can oblige shippers to offer a minimum service to the many remote islands in the Aegean Sea. Providing regular service to these islands is a politically sensitive issue. On their part, shippers consider that the notion of «public interest» included in the law gives the government too great a latitude to regulate. They also want greater freedom to set prices, especially in the economy class, and a revision of the obligatory discounts to several categories of passengers. In any case, shippers believe, the present law is valid until the end of 2003, since, in 2004, the deregulation of the market, mandated by the European Union, will be applied. «We want the minister to make clear whether deregulation will be applied from January 1, 2004… so that we can make our plans. No one will risk planning ahead if things do not clear up,» a shipowner said.

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