Greek Shipowners Call for Support in View of ‘Tough Year’ Ahead
The coronavirus pandemic has cost Greek passenger shipping more than 25 million euros a month, which can only be covered if current Covid-19 contracts increase by 75 percent while incoming tourism forecasts for summer 2021 are estimated at 50 percent of 2019, said the Greek Shipowners Association For Passenger Ships (SEEN) during its annual general assembly.
“The ships that serve all our islands did not receive 55 million euros in aid in 2020, but 31 million euros after the deduction of VAT and taking into account that 25 percent concerned ferries,” said SEEN President Michalis Sakellis during a presentation of the association’s 2020 performance report.
He went on to add that the 2021-2030 period appears to be evolving into the “toughest year” for sea transport.
“2021 started with sector losses that exceed 130 million euros,” he said, adding that the delay in vaccination rollouts internationally is set to “adversely affect inbound tourism”.
“It is certain that the first half of 2021 will not be better than H1 2020 without ruling out the possibility of it being worse,” he said, adding that passenger traffic is currently down by 70 percent and fuel prices up by 65 percent.
In the meantime, SEEN member companies are now spending 15 million euros a month to cover fuel costs, compared to April 2020 when they spent 9 million euros to cover the same routes, said Sakellis.
He noted that government support has “not been continuous” and added that not counting other expenses, the cost of fuel for member companies for the January-February 2021 period is expected to amount to 30 million euros taking into account that Covid-19 contract aid was 6,800,000 euros.
“It is therefore certain that we have a bad year ahead of us with questionable results in terms of traffic and of course loss-making financial results with reduced liquidity and increased borrowing,” he said.
Exacerbating the situation, Greek shipowners will have to adapt their vessels to new environmental regulations as well as renew fleets.
The meeting concluded with SEEN demands for the year, which include
– compensation for losses incurred in 2020;
– boosting ships along the Adriatic route;
– adjusting Covid-19 contract leases based on actual costs;
– sector inclusion in all measures;
– sector eligibility for funding out of the Recovery Fund and NSRF tool;
– reduction of the VAT rate to 13 percent for public service contracts and for private cars;
– reduction of the VAT rate (on ferry tickets) for private cars to 13 percent;
– preparation of relevant sector studies;
– participation in studies for the renewal of shipping fleet;
– strengthening the presence of the cruise sector within SEEN;
– increasing leases of running lines;
– suspension of seafarers’ employment contracts;
– subsidies to cover employers’ social security contributions for sailors and employees;
– extending the reduction of port expenses by 20 percent for all of 2021; and channeling port fees into port works.
Sakellis concluded that SEEN will be organizing a conference this month marking 100 years since its establishment.