Striking seamen bar tourists from port

A group of nearly 1,000 tourists were obliged to spend the night in hotels in the capital yesterday after striking seamen blockading the port of Piraeus prevented them from boarding a Malta-flagged cruise liner that had been due to set sail late last night. The seamen, whose 24-hour nationwide strike kept ferries moored in ports across the country, were due to end their action at 6 a.m. today. They are planning another 24-hour strike for May 1, this Saturday. Seamen also participated in a 48-hour strike at the end of last week, organized by the Communist Party-affiliated labor union PAME, causing similar disruption. The seamen are protesting the government’s plans to lift cabotage rules in order to permit non-EU-flagged vessels to moor at Greek ports and open up the market to thousands of tourists at a time that additional revenues are desperately needed. The workers fear that opening up ports to foreign vessels would pose a threat to jobs and describe the action as «a full-frontal assault on their rights.» Yesterday’s strike caused the biggest problems at the country’s main port of Piraeus. More than 950 tourists remained trapped in their coaches for several hours after about 400 sailors and members of PAME blocked both entrances to the port. According to witnesses, several tourists got out of the coaches and blocked the road outside the port entrance in an apparent protest at the blockade. Meanwhile, a group of around 50 people, also believed to be tourists, approached protesting seamen and attempted to reason with them, to no avail. Late last night the coaches retreated, transferring the tourists to hotels in central Athens for the night.

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