Ferry ticket prices are likely to increase by at least eight percent shortly due to a European Union directive that requires companies to switch to a more environmentally friendly fuel, according to press reports.
The EU directive requires ships to use a fuel type that contains less sulfur and helps protect the environment by emitting fewer fumes. The new fuel, however, is expected to increase operating costs by at least 20 percent and part of this will be passed on to passengers in fare increases.
Shipowners are likely to ask for an extension to apply the EU directive on the grounds that petrol companies do not yet have the facilities to provide them with the fuel.
Shipowners also insisted the government was applying double standards as it has not yet implemented another EU directive that requires engines – used on land – to run on a similar fuel.
Meanwhile, another recent piece of legislation, a Greek presidential decree this time, allows aging ships to stay in business on the condition that the maintenance of a vessel is sufficient to meet international maritime safety standards. Merchant Marine Ministry sources said that ships over the age of 30 would no longer have to be retired if they have received the right maintenance work.
Shipowners welcomed the news, which they said brings Greece in line with European Union directives as vessels can now be evaluated on fair criteria.
“We know that the age of a ship does not constitute a factor in its seaworthiness or safety,” said one shipowner. “What is important is the maintenance and correct application of international safety standards.”
The previous Socialist government had implemented the 30-year age limit five years ago in a bid to make local seas safer after the sinking of the Samina ferry in September 2000, which cost the lives of 82 people.
The tougher age limit would have resulted in the withdrawal of just over 52 percent of vessels operating in Greece by 2008 – a move that experts say would have created large problems for thousands of islanders and the country’s vital tourism industry.
Opposition parties criticized the government for pushing through the decision and not announcing the change or allowing for a parliamentary debate.