ECONOMY

Cruise firms react to new legal framework

The new legal framework for the cruise sector has raised serious concerns in the industry, as the lifting of restrictions, or cabotage, seems only to concern cruise ships sailing under flags from non-European Union states.

?We either get serious on the issue or lose our last hope of increasing Greece?s revenues,? a well-known entrepreneur in the sector said recently on the fringes of the Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum.

The two main stumbling blocks for the industry are the obligation for companies to sign a contract with the Greek state, something unheard of elsewhere in the world, and the steep port levies, that come up to 3.95 euros per cruise passenger – prohibitively high according to international experience.

The unique natural beauty of Greece and its numerous islands represent a golden opportunity for the country?s ailing economy, according to officials in some of the biggest cruise companies.

The Hellenic Chamber of Shipping has produced data showing that if Greece managed to increase the number of cruise ships conducting circular cruises starting from Piraeus or any other port in the country, it could immediately double its revenues from the sector and reach up to Spain?s level of 1.2 billion euros per year.

Port congestion is another issue. Owing to bad planning and insufficient infrastructure, cruise ships often find themselves gridlocked in the summer at popular ports such as Piraeus, Santorini and Myconos, forcing them to alter their schedules.