Yesterday’s Inner Cabinet meeting was devoted to Greek merchant shipping and the need to further strengthen a sector that is considered one of the pillars of the Greek economy. It was even said – no doubt in exaggeration – that Greek merchant shipping, with over 3,500 Greek-owned ships, could absorb all of Greece’s unemployed. In a report he made to the Inner Cabinet, Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis placed emphasis on the training of officers and seamen. He said one of the top priorities of the ministry is to upgrade the certificates of first mates and chief engineers and make them equivalent to university diplomas. The ministry also wants to upgrade education for merchant marine careers by following standards established abroad and incorporating new technologies into training. There was an extended discussion about port security, which, due to the Olympic Games in August and the accommodation of thousands of visitors in cruise ships, has taken on added importance. Kefaloyiannis announced that, in addition to the expenditure contained within the overall 1-billion-euro security plan, some 3 million euros has been set aside for port security assessment studies to be made for Greece’s 57 state-controlled ports, as part of the implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. Kefaloyiannis also accused the previous government of failing to fund the application of the Code, which becomes mandatory on July 1. The ISPS Code, adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), enables the detection and deterrence of security threats within an international framework, establishes roles and responsibilities, enables collection and exchange of security information, provides a methodology for assessing security, and ensures that adequate security measures are in place. It requires ship and port facility staff to gather and assess information, maintain communication protocols, restrict access, prevent the introduction of unauthorized weapons and other dangerous devices or substances, provide the means to raise alarms, put in place vessel and port security plans, and ensure training and drills are conducted. Some of the Code’s provisions are mandatory, while others are simply recommendations. Kefaloyiannis added that the government blocked a European Commission proposal for inspections over port security. As a result, the inspections will be made by each EU member state on its ports.