Full speed ahead for ferry prices

Ferry routes from Piraeus were deregulated by the government yesterday, less than 24 hours after ferry operators said they would free up ticket prices on their own because they were unhappy with the pace of change in their industry. The decision, which was signed yesterday by the Aegean, merchant marine, and economy and finance ministers, did not fully satisfy the coastal shipowners’ demands as it maintains some restrictions. The measure had been announced by the government before Easter but the decision by the Coastal Shipowners’ Union (EEA) on Wednesday to call a strike for May 16 seems to have made implementation of the decision more pressing. Ferry operators told Kathimerini that they would still go ahead with their strike. Under the new rules, the state still maintains control over ticket prices to less profitable destinations, such as remote islands. Restrictions are also placed on the prices that ferry companies can charge during the winter. «Deregulation does not mean anarchy,» the Merchant Marine Ministry said in a statement. «We will confront any offenses with the utmost strictness.» Routes from the ports of Lavrion, Rafina, Kymi and Elefsina have already been liberalized, along the same lines as yesterday’s decision. The operators seem determined to forge ahead with an overhaul of ticket prices. Some firms were advertising discounts of up to 30 percent on their prices yesterday. Members of the EEA told Kathimerini they want the government to implement European Union legislation, which would lead to complete liberalization of their market. They argue this is the only way their businesses can be financially sound.