Ferry Owners Confront Government with Demands
The Union of Coastal Shipowners late last month presented the government with a series of demands they feel must be confronted and solved in order for them to invest in new passenger ships.
The union said to begin with it objects to a series of market-regulating measures imposed by the Merchant Marine Ministry and has complained to the European Commission that these measures hinder fair competition.
The measures they object to include the following:
- The imposition of mandatory shipping routes that must be maintained year-round;
- A limit on the age of seaworthy ships, which is 35 years at present and will be reduced to 30 years by 2008;
- The ministry’s interference in deciding which shipper will trade on passenger routes;
- Mandatory scheduling of routes to far-off islands, most of which are unprofitable;
- The fee required with the submission of a declaration of scheduled routes;
- The requirement of letters of guarantee;
- Mandatory operation of a passenger ship for a minimum of 10 months per year, irrespective of demand;
- The ministry’s right to impose limits, or discounts, on economy-class fares;
- The imposition of discounts for certain groups, for reasons of welfare;
- The requirement to maintain a minimum number of employees, which the shipowners find excessive and far beyond safety requirements;
- The imposition of a 3 percent surcharge on fares;
- The ministry’s right to require extra scheduling for passenger routes, especially during peak periods;
- The double imposition of passenger insurance;
- Limitations of berths at ports;
- The scheduling of cargo ferries on routes where passenger ferries are also active;
- And the imposition of fees in favor of third parties on fares.
“We would like to believe that the ministry will do what is necessary to settle these pending matters so that passenger shipping can be upgraded, clients can be offered upgraded services and companies can become more active in the sector and improve their (financial) results,” said a spokesman of the passenger shipowners’ association.
He said that if these contentious matters are not settled, it will be very difficult for owners to invest in upgrading their fleets to face deregulation.