ECONOMY

Gov?t re-examines cruise sector

The government is mulling significant changes to the bill for the liberalization of the cruise industry regarding non-European Union flagged ships, so as to render Greek harbors more attractive for companies to make them their home ports, according to reliable sources. In doing so, the government is hoping to recover some of the time it has lost by experimenting for months on amendments that have met with the disbelief of professionals in the industry.

It is believed that Alternate Development, Competitiveness and Merchant Marine Minister Haris Paboukis could go so far in September as completely scrapping the contract which foreign companies had to sign with the Greek state, causing their strong reaction.

The same sources suggest that the government thinks establishing Piraeus as a home port will contribute significantly toward the increase of state revenues by at least 1 billion euros per annum.

?We have to make up for lost time and not wait until 2013 for companies to start coming to Piraeus, if they do so then. We need to move fast, along with the competent officials in the ministry, in order to make up for the time we have already lost if we want to make the most of the industry,? sector experts told Kathimerini.

Representatives of major foreign companies including Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Mediterranean Shipping Company Cruises have stated that they want to travel to Greek destinations, but are reluctant to include them in their schedules due to the unfavorable existing legal framework, which raises concerns about Greece?s capacity to serve thousands of tourists safely.

International cruise firms have notified the government that they need a stable regulatory framework allowing them to be more flexible, an improvement in port infrastructures for major ships to be able to moor, and a change in the structure of mooring charges.

The Piraeus Port Authority has already submitted to all major cruise firms an investment plan for expanding the port with six new mooring slots for the docking of new-generation cruise vessels, budgeted at 230 million euros.