ECONOMY

Ferry operators to file suit over age limits on vessels

The Union of Coastal Shipowners (EEA) plans to lodge a legal challenge in the next few days with the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, and the respective organs of the European Union, asking for the abolition of the 35-year age limit for passenger-carrying vessels in Greece, and the harmonization of Greek legislation with the EU’s on issues concerning the composition of crews of such vessels, fare policy and annual rest period. According to sources, EEA’s management is to consult with its legal advisers on Friday in order to prepare the cases. Regarding the upper age limit for vessels – which the Merchant Marine Ministry has proposed to reduce to 30 years – operators are optimistic for a positive outcome for two main reasons; first, because the 35-year limit is not applied in any other EU member state and, secondly, because the recently appointed minister, Giorgos Anomeritis, has said that the same regulations must apply in Greece as in the rest of the EU. This is interpreted as a willingness on the part of the ministry to re-examine the issue. Seamen appear to be in agreement with the abolition, fearing that a reduction of the age limit will mean the withdrawal of many ships currently being operated and the loss of jobs at a time when many companies face financial difficulties. EEA is also asking for the liberation of fares, as in all other EU partners, from ministry controls. They complain that the ministry is pursuing social policy with our own money. In an effort to strike the golden mean with the ministry, a number of operators in the past proposed that fares be freed for newly built ferries and still regulated for the older vessels. As regards crew composition, companies are saying they should not be obliged to hire a specific number but should have to meet skeleton staff requirements at any time and additionally employ other crew, mainly in services. It is possible, but as yet unconfirmed, that new Gazprom chief executive A.B. Miller will arrive with Putin. If so, this will augur well for an agreement. The Russian side will also express an interest in participating in municipal gas networks and acquiring a stake in state-controlled Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), which has the monopoly of distribution to the municipal networks.