Mergers Turn 20 Ferry Lines Into Three, But Some Routes Monopolized
“Sales commission for travel agents has been reduced; there are fewer discounts available; special group rates have been abolished; and prices have risen more than 20% on some routes.”
The mass number of mergers within Greece’s coastal shipping sector during the past months has created three major lines from the some 20 that were active just over a year ago. While this was inevitable due to open competition in 2004, the new status quo has created problems as the industry has oligopolistic tendencies, according to international organizations.
“The virtual disappearance of healthy competition between passenger lines causes difficulties for travel agents,” says the local Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies.
The association points to the situation at island destinations and says island routes are now subject to the whims of oligarchs and their interests. It says Minoan now controls 80% of the island market and that this has resulted in monopoly tactics.
Since Minoan took over the lines that sail the Argosaronic, Cycladic and northern Sporadic routes, says the association, sales commission for travel agents has been reduced; there are fewer discounts available; special group rates have been abolished; and prices have risen more than 20%.
As well, the association believes that the monopolistic tendencies created on these routes will lead to agencies being forced to use a single electronic booking system under the Internet provider Forthnet, which is controlled by Minoan Lines.
The lack of competition on routes, says the association, also will effect island economies because the transport of all produce and good will be determined by the policies on a single company. “It is highly possible,” says the association, “that some services will be abolished or reduced in efforts to economize.”
Meanwhile, although recent elections placed the previous political party back into power, a number of new ministers have been replaced, including the merchant marine minister. And while previous minister made few changes in permits to ply coastal routes, the new minister may be forced to reconsider the way permits are awarded.
Recently, the European Commission’s shipping directorate indicated concern on the Greek shipping industry’s abilities to adapt to the market conditions that will take effect after cabotage is abolished in 2004.
However, merchant marine officials here say they will create mechanisms that would promote competition in the market and will review the method used to issue permits of intent and the state intervention in fare prices.
(84 vessels, seven in order)
Minoan Flying Dolphins (52% owned by Minoan), created from following:
- Ceres Hydrofoils
- Minoan Highspeed Ferries
- Agoudimos GA Ferries (48% ownership)
- Agapitos Lines
- Agapitos Express Ferries
- Agoudimos Lines
- Goutos G
- Nomikos Lines
- Ventouris Ferries
- Lindos Lines
- Arkadia Lines
- Superfast Ferries (four vessels and eight on order)
- Strintzis Lines, 42% ownership (six vessels and six on order)
(11 vessels and three on order)
- Rethymniaki Lines
- Lassithiotiki Lines
- Dane Sea Lines, 43% ownership (two ships and two on order)
- Nel, Lesvos Maritime Company, 17% ownership (seven ships and two on order)