Shipping council sets course

Greece’s shipping sector is a matter of national concern whose importance to the national economy requires a broad contribution of ideas for the establishment of a sturdier, safer and improved sector, Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Paschalidis noted yesterday at the opening meeting of the newly formed National Shipping Policy Council (SENP). Highlighting the sector’s importance for the national economy, the minister said that its business activity would contribute some 9 billion euros to the local economy this year. Offsetting the minister’s triumphant tone on the sector’s performance, representatives of the main opposition New Democracy party, as well as shipowner and employee groups, criticized Paschalidis for the handling of his shipping sector portfolio. Paschalidis presented a series of proposals that, he said, were aimed at confronting the shipping sector’s challenges as a whole, including issues such as port conditions and security. He recommended the establishment of several thematic teams, each focused on specialized areas, to deal with formulating a national policy for the shipping sector. Areas to be covered by these divisions, the minister proposed, could include competitiveness, training, employment, security-fund rights, ministry modernization and international relations. Nikos Efthymiou, president of the Greek Union of Shipowners (EEE), urged the county’s political leadership to take needed initiatives, warning that, otherwise, «there will be a problem with Greek shipping.»