Cabotage bill watered down

The revised version of a draft law that seeks to lift cabotage rules, in order to allow vessels not flying a European Union flag to moor at Greek ports, dictates that the ships in question employ an unspecified number of Greek seamen and that they pay a levy upon docking in Greece, the size of which will depend on the number of passengers aboard the cruise liner, sources have revealed. Economy, Competitiveness and Merchant Marine Minister Louka Katseli presented the revised bill late on Wednesday to members of the Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation (PNO) who had vehemently opposed the legislation in its original form, fearing that it would lead to job losses for Greek workers. Addressing a press conference yesterday, a spokesman for the PNO said that the seamen had agreed to the proposed reforms «on the condition that they secure employment for Greek seamen on non-EU-flagged cruise liners.» The spokesman noted that the draft bill would be subject to change following its submission in Parliament and therefore the repercussions of the legislation were currently «unclear.» The overall stance of the federation does not express the opinion of all the country’s seamen’s unions, at least two of which object to the lifting of cabotage restrictions irrespective of the terms attached. To emphasize its demands, the PNO has called a 24-hour strike for Monday which will result in the suspension of all ferry routes. On the same day, protesting seamen are planning to converge at the main port of Piraeus and prevent tourists from boarding the Zenith, a Malta-flagged, US-owned cruise liner. At the end of last month, the Zenith was forced to remain moored at Piraeus after protesting seamen barred 970 tourists from reboarding the vessel. The tourists spent the night at hotels in the capital.

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