Ships get new lifeline

The Merchant Marine Ministry has allowed aging ships to stay in business on the condition that the maintenance of a vessel is sufficient, helping it to meet maritime safety standards, according to a presidential decree made public yesterday. Merchant Marine Ministry sources said that ships over the age of 30 will no longer have to be pulled out of the water if they have received the right maintenance work. Industry experts welcomed the news, which brings Greece in line with European Union directives, saying that it evaluates vessels on fairer criteria. «We know that the age of a ship does not constitute a factor in its seaworthiness or safety. What is important is the maintenance and correct application of international safety standards,» said an industry source. «Of course, the role of checks being implemented is also important. They (inspectors) will need to do their job impeccably, as will the state services that check companies and registries,» he added. The previous Socialist government had implemented the 30-year policy five years ago in a bid to make local seas safer after the sinking of the Samina ferry in September 2000, which cost the lives of 82 people. Greek vessel safety laws are considered some of the toughest in the world, implementing strict standards regarding double engines and sail bans. The tougher age limit, however, would have resulted in the withdrawal of just over 52 percent of vessels operating in Greece by 2008 – a move experts says would have created large problems for thousands of islanders and the country’s vital tourism industry. PASOK responded to the dropping of the age limit by accusing the conservative government of taking care of shipowners at the cost of passenger safety. «The Aegean is being surrendered to a bunch of rotting ships,» said PASOK MP Christos Protopappas. Opposition parties also criticized the government for pushing through the decision and not announcing the change or allowing for a parliamentary debate.

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