“Predictions show that over the next two years cruises to the Mediterranean will be the world’s first choice, outshining the half century dominance of cruises to the Caribbean.” This was just one of the conclusions of the report in regards to the lifting of cabotage restrictions in the Greek cruise industry.
Following Prime Minister Yiorgos Papandreou’s instructions, consultations were held last month among all agencies involved on the lifting of cabotage restrictions for non-European Union flagged ships. Piraeus Port Authority President and CEO Yiorgos Anomeritis chaired the consultations.
After hearing the views of tourism and maritime professionals and Greek seamen, Mr. Anomeritis submitted a report to the government that contained terms and conditions to allow non-E.U. flag cruise ships to embark/disembark in Greece. “The proposals aim to bolster tourism in Greece and to protect Greek seamen,” he said.
According to the report, 83 percent of the world cruise industry is “owned” by five major foreign companies whose entire fleet is registered under non-E.U. flags. In 2009, only 6.5 percent of E.U.-flag cruise passengers embarked/disembarked in Greece, while Italy received 40 percent of cruise passengers from ships of all flags.
In regards to Greek seamen labor rights, the reports suggested the establishment of a Merchant Shipping Employment Agency that would be aimed to train and educate Greek seamen and intervene to find work for them on non-E.U. flag ships that cruise in Greek waters.
The reports added that foreign cruise companies that are to homeport in Greece would be urged to hire Greek crew members if they are qualified.
On its part, the Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation (PNO) rejected the conclusions of the report and referred to them as “unrealistic.”
PNO said that if non-E.U. flag cruise ships berth at Greek ports, unfair competition at the expense of the employment of Greek seamen and Greek-flag cruise ships would occur.
The federation said that Greek seamen would reply with labor mobilizations.