The European Commission has called for a radical change in the way shipping firms are taxed in Greece.
On Monday Brussels sent a series of proposals to Athens that Greece is expected to adopt so that the country’s law complies with European rules on equal taxation in maritime transport, or else face court action regarding illegal subsidies to shippers.
Sector officials told Kathimerini on Monday that these changes will change the existing system completely, without exempting oceangoing shipping companies that are currently taxed based on each ship’s tonnage.
The Commission says that companies which manage merchant vessels such as dry-bulk carriers and tankers can only retain their privileged status if they do not reduce the share of their fleet under European Union flags, in a bid to stop companies from resorting to registers of convenience.
That proposal would cause problems for Greek firms that manage ships registered outside the EU, such as in the Marshall Islands, Liberia etc, as out of the 4,238 Greek-owned oceangoing vessels, just 677 bear the Greek flag while another 633 are in the Maltese register and 244 fly the Cypriot flag. There are 858 ships in the Liberian register, 848 ships bearing the flag of the Marshall Islands and 435 ships fly the Panamanian flag. Brussels also cautioned that the Greek tonnage tax system is not appropriately targeted, allegedly favoring shipping company stakeholders.