New strategic partner agreements, even with European cruise and ferry companies, are expected to see the light of day in the near future, according to high ranking executives of Greece’s major ferry lines. And Greek ferry companies may play a major role in implementing such deals.
Stelios Zampetakis, managing director of Anek Lines, told guests at the recent Economist seminar on Greek shipping that he expects to see Greek coastal shipping change from its present all-Greek character to a full-fledged European one. “There’s a strong possibility for more strategic alliances and a bigger concentration,” he said.
He added that “you don’t just predict the future, you make it happen.”
Coastal shippers may have to. Presently, many confront more serious financial problems because of outstanding loans that were used for a huge investment in new vessels. For most, a long-term loan of billions cost their companies about 10% of the loan in annual interest fees.
Strategic agreements with European lines would ease the interest payments pain, but would no doubt change the face of the local coastal shipping market.
Antonis Maniadakis, Minoan Lines’ maritime manager, said international cooperation will force major Greek lines to forsake secondary routes to the smaller Greek islands and instead concentrate on major island routes. Minoan, he said, was the first line to play the field with an international player when it signed a cooperation agreement with Italy’s Grimaldi group.
Apostolos Athinaios, managing director of Nel Lines, went even further and said that ferry lines would not only sign up with European ferry lines but also with European cruise lines.
“I believe that there is such a trend on a European level and that we’ll see such strategic alliances in the immediate future,” he said.