After 4 years of recession, the traffic volume of Greek Domestic Lines is expected to increase by 3,5% or about by 400.000 passengers in 2014. The increase comes mainly from the foreign tourists and concerns the islands close to the mainland, like Cyclades.
There is no doubt that this increase is important, nevertheless we must point out that it accounts only for the 4% of the traffic lost during 2009-2013, which totals 11.800.000 passengers.
During 2014, passenger vessels employed in the Greek Domestic Lines are expected to carry 13.000.000 passengers 1.700.000 cars and 620.000 trucks or 8.000.000 tons of cargo. About 57% of the passengers, or in figures 7.500.000, are tourists, out of whom 3.500.000 are foreigners and 4.000.000 are Greeks.
Taking all these into consideration we conclude that passenger shipping is an important factor for Greek tourism and the most important factor for the economic growth of the islands and for the improvement of the standard of living of the people that live there permanently.
However, the ongoing financial crisis has hit hard the passenger shipping companies. The sector needs support from the State in order to be able to deal effectively with the many challenges it is faced with. It is crucial the role of the government in alleviating many of the unnecessary operational and regulatory burdens. It is with regret that we note once more that despite our warnings, the official state has still not taken the necessary steps to address above issues and to safeguard the smooth services to our islands. Important decisions such as VAT reduction on the price of fares and bunkers price control are still not made.
Despite the problems, we have to point out that the Greek passenger shipping companies have offered excellent services during 2014, taking into consideration that 80% of the passengers between Piraeus Port and Aegean Islands traveled with ultramodern vessels of an average age not exceeding 12 years.
The total number of trips realized in the Domestic Lines, including Saronicos Islands, reached 30.000 out of which only 10 sailings faced technical problems which resulted to delays.
Forecasts for 2015 about our tourism are optimistic and we must take all necessary steps in order to maintain the high standard of the services offered to our passengers. For this reason the cost of the trip must be reduced by lowering the heavy taxes imposed on fares, public service obligations imposed on the vessels must be abolished or subsidized and finally we must make all possible efforts to rationalize today’s (over)capacity to the actual demand.