The continued rise of oil prices leaves Greek passenger shipping firms, especially the domestic operators, facing very serious losses. The situation is compounded by the rise of the dollar, which increases their liabilities to banks and insurance firms as a great part of these liabilities is dollar-denominated.
This situation is reflected in the half-year results published recently. Compared with the same period in 1999, the profits of Minoan Lines declined by 1.3 billion drachmas, those of Anek by 2.9 billion, Dane’s by 2.6 billion and Nel’s by 947 million.
Attica Enterprises did not suffer this decline in profits, because domestic passenger shipping, through subsidiary Strintzis, plays only a small part in the enterprise’s operations. Most of its income is generated by the highly profitable Adriatic Sea routes.
As they face serious economic problems, the shipowners have written numerous times to Merchant Marine Minister Christos Papoutsis, demanding an immediate 10- percent rise in fares. As an alternative, they asked for summer schedules to continue before the usual October 1 date. Shippers believe that the most intractable problem is that of high fuel prices. The price of fuel has risen to 120,000 drachmas per ton and continues to rise while, during last season, it cost just 40,000 drachmas.
“This means a steep rise in the companies’ liabilities. Indeed, if one includes the rise in the price of spare parts and that of insurance costs, due to the rising dollar, it is easy to understand that the companies cannot make it,” a shipowner told a local morning newspaper. “Fares have not risen in two years. This was our contribution to the effort to keep inflation low and succeed in joining the eurozone. However, the situation has become tragic. The government better decide quickly on fare rises; otherwise, our firms will be unable to submit their winter schedules,” he added.
On the Adriatic Sea routes things are much better, because the companies can freely adjust their fares without needing the approval of the National Economy and Merchant Marine ministries. This allows the companies active in the area to respond more effectively to the problems that the high oil prices have created. Thus, Minoan Lines have raised the fees for transporting lorries, and it is considered certain that the other companies will follow.