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Hellenic Chamber of Shipping chief confronts Greek shipping minister over domestic cruise fleet's demise

Hellenic Chamber of Shipping chief confronts Greek shipping minister over domestic cruise fleet's demise
As Greek ports face 48 hours of operating disruptions caused by a Seamen’s Union strike, a direct confrontation between Greece’s Shipping and Island Policy Minister Thodoris Dritsas and the president of the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, George Gratsos, erupted at the chamber’s annual traditional cutting of the New Year cake last week.

Centre of the exchange was competitiveness and the demise of the Greek cruise fleet.

Chamber president Gratsos told the gathering that 'in 1970s most cruise ships in the Mediterranean were Greek. Today there are none'.

He did say that fortunately the damaging cabotage law was repealed in 2010, 'with the overwhelming backing in parliament' and then again improved two years later in 2012.

However, he noted that while there are still no Greek cruise ships, the 'Greek cruise sector is creating thousands of new indirect jobs'.

The decline of the home cruise fleet also has had a major negative impact on the once flourishing ship repair sector which Gratsos noted, has been in descent.

The ferry sector, so vital to Greece’s welfare, is also in retreat, noted Gratsos, because of the 'competitiveness deficit tyrannizing the Greek economy.'

Saying he agreed with most of what Gratsos said, Dritsas argued the government can only support competitiveness in a stable and lasting relationship. He said he would not support a policy of strengthening competitiveness unless it is linked to social justice.

During the event, the Hellenic Chamber recognised the long career in the cruise sector of Andreas Potamianos, who as head of Epirotiki Lines played a big role in opening the Mediterranean to cruising in the 1970s and '80s.

Today, at the age of 81, Potamianos, honorary president of the Greek Shipowners Association for Passenger Ships, can still be found in his Akti Miaouli, Piraeus waterfront office championing cruising, especially for the growing market of middle class travelers.

No cruise ships are thought to be caught up in the lightening strike effecting the berthing and sailing of vessels calling at Piraeus, Thessaloniki and other Greek ports. The action has been called by the union in response to the Government’s planned changes to labour and insurance rights, pensions and retirement ages.