On 25 August the draft bill for the lifting of cabotage restrictions, drawn up by the Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Ministry, was signed into law. Non-European Union-flag cruise ships would now be permitted to homeport in Greece, under certain conditions.
The new law includes the signing of a three-year contract between non-E.U.-flag cruise ship companies and the Greek State for the execution of cruises that carry more than 49 passengers for a trip that lasts at least 48 hours. The stay at the Greek port, being the starting point, must be at least eight hours (the original condition obliged cruise ships to reside at Greek ports for a minimum of 12 hours).
Also, a special levy would be imposed on each passenger aboard the ship at the trip’s starting point. Proceeds of the levy would support an unemployment and health fund of seafarers.
The new law would also ensure the employment of Greek seamen under conditions compatible with the Greek law.
Furthermore, the new law refers to incentives for the recruitment of Greek sailors on the non-E.U.-flag cruise ships that are to homeport at Greek ports.
According to the government, the law would benefit the Greek economy and gradually enable the country to become a major force in marine tourism.
Main opposition party New Democracy voted against the draft bill and noted, “the conditions do not liberalize the cruise market” and described the law as “drawn up too fast and unclear.”
The three smaller parties in parliament also voted against the draft bill, but for different reasons.
Far right LAOS party claimed that the law had “ineffective regulations” while the Communist Party of Greece KKE and left-wing SYRIZA party said that the law would have negative affects on the employment of Greek sailors.
According to the Greek press, in March-April 2011 cruise companies will organize cruise itineraries starting from a Greek port for the 2011-2012 period as schedules for 2010-2011 have already been drawn up.