OPINION

Needless upheaval over our ships

Seaworthiness is not about how old ships are – that is simply common sense. Some 20-year-old vessels can be worn out, while other 30-year-old ships are well-maintained. The decision by the previous Socialist government to reduce the age limit of operational vessels was made in the heat of the moment, in response to the popular outcry that followed the sinking of the Express Samina passenger ferry in September 2000, causing the loss of 82 lives. But PASOK’s decision was not only arbitrary, it was unprecedented. All nations operate their coastal shipping business on the basis of the Stockholm Agreement, which is extremely strict in monitoring essential safety measures, not just the ship’s age. Our country should focus on the same areas. Reliable international organizations, with no connections to shipping interests, should be entrusted with the task of monitoring the seaworthiness of our vessels. This is the only way to bypass Greek inflexibilities, which will ultimately result in the seaworthiness of most vessels being questioned and the Greek fleet being dramatically reduced. In Greece, many decisions are made under the pressure of circumstances. Unfortunately, such decisions merely create the impression of action being taken while actually creating more problems than they solve. This was the case with the reduction in the age limit for ships by the previous government and is also the case with the maneuvers of the current administration. In the middle of the summer, the Merchant Marine Ministry decided to do the obvious, but in secret, thus provoking the political opposition and trade unions to create an unnecessary upheaval in our coastal shipping sector which could have a dangerous impact on tourism. Now that tourists are beginning to return to Greece for their summer holidays, all those involved in the tourism sector should adopt a serious approach. Tourism revenues make a crucial contribution to our economy and no one has the authority to interfere with this. Moreover, our ships are a crucial tool for the growth of our tourism sector.