ECONOMY

Shipowners call for steps to strengthen Greek register

The reduced competitiveness of Greece’s merchant marine fleet – those ships under the Greek register, not all the Greek-owned ones – is the «Achilles’ heel» of Greek shipping, claimed the boards of the Union of Greek Shipowners and the London Committee on Maritime Cooperation, which represents the London-based Greek shipowners, in a joint meeting held in London. The representatives of Greek shipping said that years of counterincentives to growth had limited the number of Greek-registered ships, despite the fast growth of Greek-owned shipping. They also noted that the absence of investment incentives has led many shipowners to use flags of convenience and even those who have registered their ships in Greece to want to leave, a trend that has been limited only by especially favorable market conditions. Greek shipowners claimed that the time has come for the state to adopt measures approved by the European Union and Greece’s main European competitors, including abolition of crew nationality quotas. The shipowners expressed their optimism that the government will implement these measures. Shipowners were clearly pleased that, as they said, Greek-owned shipping has fared well against international competition. The Greek register is consistently among the so-called «white lists» of international inspectors and the Greek fleet is among the «quality fleets» according to the US Coast Guard’s inspection program. Shipowners also expressed their satisfaction over the fact that capital inflows into Greece from the sector grew 40 percent in 2004. «It is especially satisfying that, in recognition of the Greek shipping’s importance and enormous contribution to our country’s development, the new government has made defending shipping interests a policy priority,» says a joint statement by the two boards. The two boards underscored their concern over what they termed the hostility of the European Commission toward shipping. Shipowners said that a number of unilateral and unreasonable measures have been ratified by the EU which cause great harm to shipping. They referred to two examples: first, the decision by the EU to impose criminal liability on shipowners and crews for pollution that results from accidents, and second, the «unilateral and unenforceable measures» requiring ships to use three or four different kinds of fuel. «These negative policies not only harm European shipping but also undermine the role of the International Maritime Organization and the international status of its treaties and directives, while leaving crews and ships naked and defenseless, in the name of serving political and economic interests,» the joint statement says. The shipowners also blasted the proposal of the London-based International Association of Classification Societies to propose common structural rules for ships. The proposals are unacceptable and must be radically revised, they said.