Coastal shipping in need of a boost

Coastal Shipowners’ Union sources are calling for the extension of the measures proposed by the Merchant Marine Ministry for cruise ships, such as greater subsidies in social security contributions toward the Seamen’s Pension Fund (NAT). They suggest that the ministry ought to examine coastal shipping’s problems with greater care, as the sector is going through a tough period due to the high price of fuel and because of the many other services offered aboard coastal ships. «We believe that the positive measures promoted for cruising could also apply to coastal shipping, helping in this way in the economic recovery of companies and therefore the quicker modernization of the existing fleet,» industry sources told Kathimerini. «In our opinion, coastal shipping is outside the ministry’s agenda, and should there be no dynamic intervention by the government to repair the injustice, we are afraid we will run into worse problems, such as a lack of ships to sufficiently handle the transport needs of the islands.» The same sources also noted that the ministry should immediately make efforts to harmonize the national institutional framework with EU regulations so as to allow free competition and create investment opportunities in coastal shipping in order to bring in the much-needed new vessels. Meanwhile, the meeting planned yesterday between Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and opposition parties was canceled as the other parties expressed reservations. This development was seen as negative by coastal shipping circles, who commented to Kathimerini that «it is a tragic error that, in the name of petty party politics, interparty initiatives regarding the future of internal maritime transport are not proceeding.»