The future of Piraeus

Shipping and Piraeus may be inseparably intertwined but, despite the size of the Greek merchant navy, governments have failed to create the conditions that would have helped the country’s biggest port evolve into a regional shipping and financial center in the eastern Mediterranean, speakers told a conference yesterday. «We lag behind in legal framework and infrastructure,» the president of the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping (NEE), Giorgos Gratsos, noted at the event on «Investment Opportunities in Piraeus: The post-Olympic Period and the Future.» He argued that shipping buys services and for the benefits to be maximized for Greece, these must reach a certain quality standard which unfortunately is lacking. «We do not have a developed insurance market to cover shipping risks and civil liabilities, we do not have a shipping register of international stature, we have not modernized the existing legal framework for shipping, while NEE, which could undertake shipping arbitration, has only had three cases in its recent history,» Gratsos said. Pericles Panagopoulos, president of the Attica Group and the Association of Coastal Shipping Enterprises, argued that the government has the responsibility for building roads, ports, airports and reception centers for travelers. He also emphasized that the state must attend to the proper education and training of staff in the public and private sector through legislation. Giorgos Xiradakis, president of the Public Property Company and CEO of shipping consultants firm XRTC, said Piraeus is a shipowning center but will not be able to develop into a shipping center in the broader sense, such as London. «It is the center of Greek shipping but urgently needs infrastructure in order to deal with issues such as inadequate technological bases and traffic congestion,» he said. «The government has to prepare free areas of activity that will tap the potential of the port. We need watershed dates for Piraeus.» Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said the government has set the development of Piraeus as a strategic target, which will involve a stronger role for Greek insurers in covering maritime risks and the establishment of maritime arbitration and a court where specialized judges will hear shipping-related cases.