Ferry operators profess no fear of foreign competition

Coastal Shipowners’ Union (EEA) President Stelios Sarris said this week he was confident that the liberalization of fares will come soon and that Greek shipowners are ready to beat any competition that may come from abroad. In an interview with Skai Radio, he said deregulation will have to come quickly «as the EU has already given the Greek State two months’ notice before sending it to the European Court for breaching the European competition regulations,» he noted. «With the application of EU rules, state intervention will be lifted and coastal shipowners will be able to plan their routes, determine each vessel’s operation times and fares and make offers according to the competition,» explained Sarris, adding that «this will not only benefit shipping companies, but the citizens themselves who become passengers; they should not be scared by harmonization with EU rules, and focus only on a possible rise in fares.» Sarris further suggested that deregulation could bring in foreign companies which until today have been turned off by state interventionism that did not allow for business planning. «However, most Greek coastal shipping firms have ensured that they have new ships built in time, which is not possible nowadays. They have made sure their fleet is modernized so they are not afraid of any ‘onslaughts’ because they provide both quality and safety with the means they have at their disposal,» he stressed. Coastal shipping has waited many long summers and winters to be deregulated, Sarris said, adding that there was a dire need. «Coastal shipowners should be left to make their plans according to their own entrepreneurial spirit, good or bad, and either reap the rewards of their good planning or suffer the effects of their bad plans,» the EEA head asserted. Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis has recently pledged to liberalize fares for routes from Piraeus to a series of popular islands or those served by at least three companies, such as Crete, Myconos, Santorini and Rhodes. Sources suggest this may even happen in the next few days. Sarris finally conceded that the Greek State must continue to regulate unpopular routes which draw little business interest, particularly in wintertime, and continue to exercise its social policy.

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