“The draft law (on the lifting of cabotage) has terms that are jointly acceptable by all agencies that deal with the cruise issue so that Greece will become a sea cruise center for the entire Mediterranean,” Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli said after an interministerial meeting on the issue of cabotage.
In late May, consultations among agencies involved on the lifting of cabotage restrictions for non-European Union flagged ships were completed and a final report was delivered to the government to set up a draft law.
However, according to the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, Prime Minister Yiorgos Papandreou’s decision on the lifting of cabotage has been implemented with “legislative requirements of the 1970s.”
According to reports, before the interministerial meeting on cabotage, Ms. Katseli met with the Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation (PNO) and the draft law that foresees the lifting of cabotage restrictions was considerably watered down.
PNO had strongly opposed the legislation in its original form, which saw a full lifting of cabotage restrictions, in fear that it would lead to job losses for Greek workers.
According to the “revised draft law,” non-Greek flag vessels must employ an unspecified number of Greek seamen. The ships would also be obliged to pay a levy that would depend on the number of cruise passengers they are carrying. The proceeds of this levy would support a fund established to re-train seamen and find work for unemployed seafarers as well as pay unemployment benefits.
The revised draft law also obliges non-E.U. flag ships to use the same base port for the start and finish of their cruise route, visit at least three other Greek ports and remain docked in each one for at least six hours before completing the route.
“Tourism professionals and businessmen express grief every day in regards to the significant loss as they see cabotage remaining intact,” the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels said. According to the chamber, the draft law sets conditions and terms that no cruise company would accept.
The chamber commented on the condition according to which cruise ships would be obliged to sail in Greek territorial waters for at least 72 hours after docking at their base port. “These are anachronistic regulations,” the chamber said.
On its part, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) said that Greece would still be considered a “problematic cruise destination” given that the draft law for the lifting of cabotage contains a number of “discouraging terms.”
At a press conference last month Piraeus Port Authority President and CEO Yiorgos Anomeritis said the lifting of cabotage is definite but under conditions for non-E.U. flag cruise ships.
Mr. Anomeritis underlined that tourism professionals must understand that shipping has rules.
In a separate press conference, PNO said it agreed to the reformed draft law “on the condition that it secures employment for Greek seafarers on non-Greek flagged cruise ships.”
By the time we went to print the draft law had yet to be tabled in parliament.
Benefits Of Cabotage-Free Cruise
In an effort to underline the differences between a transit and a home-porting cruise, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) sent Greek media documented and detailed information on the benefits for a variety of business sectors if the cabotage law were lifted.
“Cruise ships that use Greek ports (mainly Piraeus Port) for short visits that range from four to six hours, produce an average cost of 65 euros per transit cruise passenger,” SETE said.
On the other hand, when Greek ports are used as a basis for home-porting (the same passengers embark and disembark at the same port) passengers remain at the destination two or three days (instead of four to six hours of transit) before or after the cruise.
In this case, the average cost per cruise homeporting passenger is some 574 euros.