ECONOMY

Piraeus port prospering

Piraeus, the eastern Mediterranean’s largest port, has in recent years been making small but effective steps toward enhancing its infrastructure to host the provision of maritime support services. Such activities may include insurance companies, law firms, shipbroker agents, investigators, maritime agents, etc. However, London’s primacy in the sector is hard to beat, since it has long been the world’s foremost and largest maritime services center, offering modern facilities, as well as tax incentives. The latter are too attractive for any maritime business not to take advantage of. In recent years, owing primarily to a series of Merchant Marine Ministry (YEN) regulations, the port of Piraeus has gradually grown into an international maritime center, but there are still a number of services undertaken by branches of firms and organizations based in London. Bold measures From 2002 onward, the Greek government has implemented a number of bold measures to enhance the competitiveness of the national ship register and has managed to attract dozens of newly built ships. In addition, maritime arbitration has become a reality, though still in its infancy. Efforts are being made to facilitate the listing of maritime companies on the Athens Exchange, while also trading their stocks on the US and London exchanges. Aimed at filling a major gap in the maritime sector, the Hellenic Shipbrokers Association took the initiative to set up the Shipbroker Experts Committee. A number of foreign banks are already operating successful branches in Piraeus, with the aim of grabbing a share in the financing of coastal and oceangoing shipping. These include Citibank, HP Morgan, Commerzbank, Deutsch Schiffsbank, KFW, LB Kiel, DVB, ABN Amro, Natixis and others. Natixis has recently seen its Piraeus activities grow significantly, through its agent, XRTC. The Greek cluster, maritime experts told Kathimerini,» has no illusions, it is aware that initially it will have to make do with simply claiming a small part of the London market.» Another thing the domestic shipping sector is aware of is that is should cooperate with London. «Cooperation is the key to breaking the monopoly and gaining a share of the specific market,» the same sources said. The maritime market is valued at hundreds of millions, and is the primary reason that deters British Chancellors of the Exchequer from making any changes to the tax advantages enjoyed by Greek shipowners based in London.