Ferries want to cut surcharges

Greek ferry operators reiterated yesterday that they believe the full deregulation of coastal shipping and implementation of EU Regulation 3577/1992 are the sole remedies to the long-standing problems of the country’s internal sea transport sector, and the key to unblocking the way to urgently needed investment in the sector. After a meeting of the Coastal Shipowners’ Association (EEA), industry sources said operators are not seeking fare increases but the deregulation of services, chiefly through a reduction of surcharges in favor of third parties, which, they claimed, could even reduce fares. EEA wants a meeting in the next few days with Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis who has adamantly resisted pressures for an adjustment of fares in line with the surge in oil prices in recent months. Operators claim that fuel costs so far this year have risen 45 percent for conventional vessels and nearly 60 percent for high-speed boats. Yesterday’s meeting also dealt with EEA’s appeal against Law 2932/2001, which provides for a reduction in the retirement age for ships from 35 to 30, posing the prospect of the withdrawal from service of nearly half the fleet of conventional vessels by 2008. «If the law does not change by a government intervention, in a few years we shall not be in any position to serve most of the Aegean Islands,» EEA sources told Kathimerini. Ministry sources expressed satisfaction with the results of talks between General Secretary Yiannis Tzoannos and visiting UK Transport Secretary Stephen Ladyman, who is president of the EU Transport Ministers Council in the second half of 2005. They said the British EU presidency exhibited a willingness to work toward improving the conditions for the image of shipping, and continued the Greek presidency’s efforts to attract more young people to the industry and promote know-how. It transpired from the meeting that the current presidency will promote a draft EU directive, supported by Greece, concerning the deregulated port services market and the application of a safe management code by coordinating authorities. The UK and Greece are hoping for an agreement with the European Parliament, which will open the way to the adoption of the code.

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