Because of domestic cabotage -when sea transport is open only to Greek companies- Greece “lost the cruise business”, said Gerasimos Strintzis when his new Blue Star 1 ferry was launched last month. Pericles Panagopoulos of Superfast Ferries reminded that in free international waters (Greece- Italy) Greek ferry companies, which Greek crews, succeeded in controlling 98% of all traffic in Adriatic.
Cabotage has destroyed what could have been a rich Greek cruise industry in the Aegean. And while blame could be placed on government and unions for allowing such a state of affairs for so many years, the weight of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Royal Olympic Cruises’ (ex Epitotiki) Andreas Potamianos. As the longest- running president if the Greek Passengership Owners Association, Mr. Potamianos has continually repeated such statements as “Greece cannot turn over vital interests to foreigners” (Express financial daily, March 29, 1989).
Now, we have entered a new millennium without cabotage for cruises in the Aegean. This new era has left Royal Olympic Cruises in the hands of Louis Lines. This Cypriot company is turning as second- and third- hand cruise shipowner into a cruise line with new, modern vessels, Cabotage is over and the hand- me- out methods of yesterday are gone. But Mr. Potamianos remains president of the passengership association and spokesman for the industry.
The following excerpt is from the June 2000 edition of the “Argo” shipping magazine, which pertains to and article in the same concerning the problems encountered with the foreign- flag cruise vessel Marco Polo that tried to board passengers in Greece:
“The bad side is that Mr. Potamianos never had the strength to tell truth clearly as he should have due to his position…..If Mr. Potamianos decided to delete his ships from the Greek ship registry tomorrow he would actually end “cruise shipping “ activity under the Greek flag. Even if the unions complained for their rights, they would achieve work position on paper but no ships for the seamen to occupy positions. However, Mr. Potamianos doesn’t like to tell things the way they are, in public. He systematically lets the others ‘take the snake out of the bag’ because obviously that suits his interests best. Although as a businessman he has every right to do what he thinks best, as a president of a shipowners’ association, although he represents only himself (in the cruise sector), he is not allowed to act the same way.
“Unfortunately, his policies up until now prove that he did not act in general best interest of the shipowners who operate in the difficult field on the worldwide cruising, as any sensible and perceptive president would do, but cared only for his close personal business interests…”
“The Greek Shipping Owners Association, which represents the ship owners in the international field, is always in the difficult position of trying to explain why Greek shipping cares for sea freedom, while on the other hand it pursues the protectionism policy that suits the Greek Passengership Owners Association’s president.”