The first cracks in relations between the government and shipowners became apparent yesterday in a joint statement by the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) and the Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee, the organization of London-based Greek shipowners. Members of the two bodies’ executive committees met yesterday to discuss issues of common concern, such as the continued lack of effort by the government to entice shipowners to adopt the Greek flag instead of flags of convenience. «If the state truly recognizes shipping as a dynamic factor in the country’s economy, then maintaining such a crucial issue – crucial not only for shipping but for the country itself – in abeyance is truly astounding,» the joint statement said. The statement, quite sharp in many places, emphasizes the following: «The lack of competitiveness remains a serious problem for ships in the Greek register, which has been dragging on without a solution, despite periodic government announcements that it will be tackled. Even though a considerable number of new units have been added to Greece’s Shipping Register, thanks to the comprehensive renewal of fleets and the shipowners’ own concern, the register remains small compared to the actual tonnage under Greek ownership. What is more worrying, the (number and capacity) of ships in the register keeps shrinking.» (The government has, in recent months, stopped publishing monthly figures on new register entries and withdrawals.) «No one can claim that conditions for the maintenance of our national register have been assured. This is even more true about conditions that would favor the repatriation of the huge tonnage under Greek ownership,» the statement adds. The shipowners criticize Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis, of whom, in any case, they do not hold a very high opinion. «We, the shipowners, are still waiting and remain optimistic. After all, competitiveness is the key to growth, as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said during the opening of the 70th Thessaloniki International Fair,» the statement says. The shipowners also appeared concerned over EU decisions increasing seamen’s liability for accidents.