Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis yesterday presented the draft Coastal Shipping Network, a schedule of shipping routes that covers the whole country and which is binding for passenger shipping firms. The draft network contains 239 routes, divided into main and local, connecting 91 ports. It will be submitted to shippers, who will meet with the minister tomorrow and submit their own proposals in writing. Any changes will be submitted to the Coastal Shipping Council by November 26, which will advise on the final text. Passenger shippers must submit routing declarations, specifying which routes they will serve and the ships they will use. Each ship can serve more than one route; conversely, each route can be served by several ships belonging to the same shipper. There are minimum scheduling requirements for each route in order to ensure adequate transport between the designated ports. The Shipping Council is responsible for ensuring adequate service in all routes, especially the local ones, and for proposing solutions in case there are no takers for a particular local route. Despite the fact that passenger shipping is now all privately owned, its regulation by the State is very tight. Ostensibly, this is to ensure service to Greece’s more remote locations. However, shippers have been complaining about regulations requiring them, for example, to keep ships running for at least 10 months a year and preventing them from using smaller-capacity vessels to service a particular route in the off-peak season. Other issues yet to be resolved involve the obligation to have a complete replacement crew on board, in contrast to the practice followed in other European Union countries, where replacements are only necessary for certain categories of personnel. Passenger shipping will be liberalized by the end of next year, ahead of schedule: The European Union had given Greece until 2004 to open its domestic shipping routes to foreign operators. It is doubtful, however, that foreign operators will move en masse into the Greek market.