ECONOMY

Shipowners will wait and see

Greek shipowners are adopting a wait-and-see attitude over the results of recent discussions with the government regarding measures for boosting the competitiveness of the Greek flag. The recent approval by a Parliamentary committee of a law on marine enterprises, which contains a provision for a 40-percent reduction in taxes on Greek-flagged vessels, is considered encouraging, as it brings taxation levels closer to that of other European Union partners, such as the UK, Germany and the Netherlands – although still leaving them comparatively higher. Shipowners, however, consider that boosting competitiveness will require a slew of interdependent measures apart from taxation cuts, such as those concerning the composition of crews and seamen’s training, many of which cannot be looked at in isolation. «This reduction is clearly a positive step,» shipping sources told Kathimerini. «Nevertheless, we think that greater boldness and resolve are required, because taxation is still high. But competitiveness is a complex issue and we will examine it as such. For this reason, we will wait for the final results, remaining cautiously optimistic.» This is a position which Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis appears to share. At a press briefing earlier this week, he said the competitiveness of the merchant marine industry depends on an entire package of measures and that the announcement of a tax reduction in no way means that this will sideline equally serious issues on which dialogue is still in process. He has also said that he intends to introduce further measures in February, settling outstanding matters. Anomeritis is due to meet in London today with the board of the Greek Maritime Cooperation Committee, which seems to be favorably disposed toward his record in the ministry since his appointment in October. «He has shown extraordinary speed and seriousness in adopting new decisions and measures,» said a Committee source, adding that far from being formal, the talks will deal with the substance of issues of concern to both employers and seamen, in an effort to promote conditions for a repatriation of Greek-owned vessels registered abroad to the flag. «Conditions are more mature for this than at any other time,» said the same source. Greek-owned shipping, including vessels sailing under foreign flags, accounts for 16 percent of world capacity and about 50 percent of EU capacity. Yesterday, Anomeritis met with British counterpart David Jamieson and the secretary general of the International Maritime Organization, Bill O’Neil. The minister said OTE has prepared for intensifying competition by upgrading its lines to digital status. In 2000, the company had digitalized 93.4 percent of all its lines. Rates are currently being modified in line with international practice. The latest tariff rebalancing, which comes into effect this Sunday, shaved 11 to 23 percent off local and long-distance calls but jacked up fixed charges. Leased lines also became cheaper by up to 42 percent.