Corinth blockade provokes brouhaha

A three-day blockade of two Italian-owned cargo ships at Corinth’s cargo port by Greek seamen nearly escalated into a diplomatic episode yesterday when representatives of Adriatic Lines refused to attend negotiations proposed by the Greek government to break the deadlock, as the shipping firm’s request that the Italian ambassador to Greece attend the talks was denied. A written statement sent to the general secretary of the Economy and Merchant Marine Ministry, Giorgos Vlachos, late yesterday afternoon by Adriatic Lines turned down his invitation for talks at 8 p.m. The reason for the refusal, according to sources, was Vlachos’s inability to fulfill the firm’s demand for the presence of the ambassador, Gianpaolo Scarante, at the negotiations. According to diplomatic protocol, officials of the Greek Foreign Ministry would also need to attend a meeting involving the Italian ambassador. Speaking to Skai TV yesterday evening, the president of Adriatic Lines, Marco Alberti, said his firm’s vessels were being held hostage and that he and his managers would not negotiate «with a gun to our heads.» Alberti added that the Greek judiciary knew that his firm was in the right and accused Greek authorities of failing to enforce the law. Earlier in the day a prosecutor in Corinth had informed Supreme Court prosecutor Ioannis Tentes that the Port Authority is unable intervene to impose the law and allow the two vessels to leave the port. The Ropax I and the Ropax II, both laden with cars, have been stuck at Corinth’s cargo port since Monday when members of the Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation (PNO) set up a blockade, demanding that the vessels employ Greek workers.