Coastal shipowners demand additional liberalization

Coastal shipping companies are pressing for a further modernization of the institutional framework for the industry and full harmonization with European rules. They also want to start talks with the ministries of Economy and Merchant Marine on issues such as the abolition of third-party levies, the reduction of state intervention and the end of certain labor regulations that they deem obsolete. Coastal shippers maintain that third-party levies increase fare prices by up to 25 percent and distort competition. Were this demand to be satisfied, they say, they would even proceed to fare reductions, as they have previously promised. They also want the state to stop intervening and regulating, instead assuming a purely coordinating role. Their argument is that services would have been much improved if European Regulation 3577/92 had been implemented and steps toward liberalization taken at the right time. «The non-harmonization of Greek with European legislation and the delays in decision-making have slowed down developments in coastal shipping; we believe it is high time we created the conditions that will allow us not only to maintain the good services provided but also to improve them,» said members of the Coastal Shipowners Association (EEA). Employee association representatives responded to questions about possible changes to labor relations, saying that they will not accept modifications based on the desires of companies under any circumstances. Shipowners recognize that some progress toward liberalization has been made and this is why islands are now better served by new and modern ships. They add that the existing fleet is the most modern in Europe and offers a reliable service with a wide range of itineraries. Listings Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis is holding a meeting today with the President of the Athens Stock Exchange, Spyros Kapralos, and the President of the Association of Mediterranean Cargo Ship Owners, Nikos Varvates, regarding the growth of shipping companies through listing on the Greek bourse.