Bring thy ships home

The government aspires to attract more shipping companies to Piraeus and make the port the center of an even stronger Greek merchant navy, Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis said on Thursday. «Piraeus as we know it, with all its weaknesses, will be a distant memory after the adoption of a master plan, whose basic outline is expected to be announced in June and which will create an even more modern and functional international maritime center,» he told a press briefing in connection with reports that London’s sizable Greek shipping community is considering relocating as a result of the British government’s declared intention to increase taxation on shipping activities. Anomeritis said that Piraeus, which remains one of the world’s biggest shipping centers, hosts 1,114 shipping companies, of which 654 manage 3,749 vessels and 460 are in brokerage and related business. In 2001, these companies employed 11,090 people (9,751 Greeks and 1,339 foreigners). Of the 3,187 vessels for which full data was submitted by 1,087 firms, only 607 (19 percent) were Greek-flagged, representing 27.8 percent of capacity, while the rest were registered under 34 other flags. These 1,087 firms brought in $1.2 billion in foreign exchange last year. Anomeritis said Greece will soon complete measures aimed at making its shipping register more competitive. A law passed earlier this year provides for a 40-percent reduction in taxes on Greek-flagged vessels, but it apparently leaves them still higher than the UK’s. UNHCR records show that, as of January 2002, as many as 389,000 refugees were situated in Serbia and Montenegro, while the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) stood at 230,000. In the province of Kosovo the refugee agency has identified 20,000 refugees from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), with 10,000 registered as IDPs.