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First Steps Taken In Coastal Shipping Deregulation

Greek Merchant Marine Minister Christos Papoutsis last month took the first major step for the deregulation of the domestic passenger-shipping sector. With the issuance of new exploitation permits for island routes, the ministry breaks up the near-monopoly some larger ferry lines have held on domestic shipping routes. “No one has the privilege of exclusive operating rights,” he said.

The Merchant Marine Ministry Coastal Shipping Committee issued new permits for the Piraeus-Chania route to Attica Enterprises (Superfast Ferries). The company is expected to place a fast-ferry on the line within 18-24 months. Another 11 new permits were issued for Aegean and Ionian Sea routes. Several other decisions were postponed.

Meanwhile, the newly-created Coastal Transport Advisory Committee scheduled its first meeting on November 17 to examine applications by some 70 Greek shipping companies for permits to operate on specific routes. Mr. Papoutsis promised that all application approvals would be based on how well a company services the island and citizens. And to ensure that all goes well, the minister said a draft bill on deregulating the passenger shipping sector is on its way to parliament.

The new bill  shipping, in view of deregulation, would aim to ensure healthy competition and protect the public interest in the form of the country’s territorial continuity. Furthermore, it would upgrade regulations regarding seamen’s training, particularly in safety measures, the use of rescue equipment and emergency procedures.

The obligatory retirement age for ferries would be reduced from 35 to 30 years by 2006. As well, the Greek shipping market will be deregulated in 2002, at least one year earlier than the December 31, 2003, deadline imposed by the European Union. Also, action will be taken to ensure that any foreign firms that expand their activities to the Greek coastal waters employ local crews.

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