The country’s struggling shipyards are seeking guaranteed state contracts, arguing that, if they are not forthcoming, thousands of jobs could be on the line. Three government heavyweights – Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis – met yesterday with the management of the Elefsis Shipyard. On Monday, they met with representatives of Hellenic Shipyards, Greece’s largest. Greek shipyards, like all similar enterprises in Western countries, are plunged into financial crisis, as orders have shifted to cheaper competitors, mainly in the Far East. The armaments programs, where contracts are mostly awarded directly, rather than through open international bids, are an important lifeline. The Skaramangas-based Hellenic Shipyards are bidding to build two frigates. They have a competitor, however, in the form of French shipyards, which have even told the government they would be willing to take over Hellenic Shipyards if the present owners, German-based HDW, pose too many conditions to the Greek state. When HDW took over Hellenic Shipyards a few years back, it had the benefit of a major contract for four submarines. This job done, the company is on the lookout for a new major contract. The Elefsis Shipyard also asked for more contracts. While the state may not provide the second-largest shipyard with as many contracts as Hellenic Shipyards, Elefsis gets more than its fair share. The government favors providing a boost to the domestic shipyard sector and is reportedly not about to contract navy business to any foreign competitor.