ECONOMY

Piraeus port now in competition with London

London is in danger of losing its prime status as the largest services hub to the international maritime community, according to a new study published by the city port’s public relations advisers, Maritime London. In comparison, other port cities, such as Shanghai, Singapore and Piraeus, seem to be gaining ground at the expense of London, as they upgrade their facilities and the quality of their services, the report said. Maritime London refers to such factors as the high cost of living, the problematic transportation system of the city as well as uncertainties regarding the tax status of those using its maritime services, as responsible for its steadily sluggish performance. Shipping circles tell Kathimerini that the British government has yet to present its intentions concerning the tax status of foreign companies, creating a climate of uncertainty. According to the report, 14,000 people are employed in the maritime services sector in London, and the government needs to intervene to prevent an exodus of shipping companies to other hubs, either in the Far East or Piraeus. It is noted that New York lost the vast majority of the members of its foreign shipping community when US tax laws were unfavorably amended. Referring to the port of Piraeus, Maritime London notes that its infrastructure and communications networks have been greatly enhanced, that the cost of living in the area is comparatively low and that the local maritime services industry has become much more supportive. This means that Piraeus, considerably upgraded in the framework of preparations for the Olympics, can look forward to a further improvement once all infrastructure projects are completed, and to attracting more shipping operators now based in London or other traditional maritime hubs. Such a prospect enjoys the support of the Greek government. Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis has said he is promoting the preparation of a complete legal framework regarding maritime arbitration, the establishment of a maritime court, the enhancement of the role of Greek insurance companies in the maritime market, as well as the creation, with the cooperation of the local shipping community, of a reliable reinsurance agency (P&I Club). Shipping executives argue the ministry’s immediate plans should include tax breaks, which have to be considered together with all other measures under consideration to attract shipping offices to Piraeus.