Greece urged to act on cruise line demands

Carnival Breeze docked in Athens as experts at Posidonia were debating Greece’s cruise sector prospects.

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Posidonia 2012: A bonanza awaits, but companies can easily be scared off by inappropriate policies, says European Cruise Council

GREECE has most of the ingredients in place to boost its participation in a cruise industry bonanza, but it has been warned by the European Cruise Council that it still has work to do to overcome drawbacks.

The sector is seen as one of the most readily-available growth sectors which could be tapped to help shore up the European Union member state’s fast-sinking economy.

EEC chairman Manfredi Lefebvre D’Ovidio told a Posidonia conference on the industry’s prospects that growth in cruising in Greece is being maintained, despite the difficult economic climate.

“Notwithstanding the current difficult and fluid political situation nationally, we believe that the potential of Greece as a cruise market can be realised,” said Mr D’Ovidio.

“However, it will require a period of stability and the tackling of outstanding practical issues currently hampering cruise operations.”

The ECC, which represents 30 European cruise operators, was “encouraged by and grateful for” recent legislation pulling down cabotage barriers for non-EU flagged ships homeporting in Greece.

Greece was “a key cruise destination”, with 4.7m passengers arriving at Greek ports, the third most in Europe after Italy and Spain, and it could grow much quicker.

However, he added that the realisation of such ambitions is “directly dependent on there being an operational environment in place which is stable, secure and efficient”.

Cruiselines had to be confident of Greek port arrangements for efficient movement of passengers while ashore and the safety of passengers, crew and vessels during embarkation and disembarkation had to be ensured.

There was also need for adoption in Greek ports of a practical berth allocation scheme and to ensure port fee increases are “reasonable and only introduced after consultation with industry with a sufficiently long lead-in time to enable companies to plan.

“We are scared of things which happen overnight and [cruise lines] run away from places which follow such policies,” said Mr D’Ovidio.

He said earlier, fumbled attempts by the Greek administration to insist on contracts with cruise lines – a move now dropped – was “a nonsense”.

He said that passenger expenditure in Greece is about €470m annually but there is “enormous potential” for growth.

Hellenic Chamber of Shipping president George Gratsos said that Greece’s previous reliance on cabotage barriers was “an example to avoid”.

He said: “Greeks were among the first to invest in cruising in the Mediterranean, now we have no Greek-flag ships because of unfriendly legislation.”

Mr Gratsos said that when home-porting of cruiseships in Greece is fully developed, the industry will create an estimated 11,500 jobs and more than $1bn in additional revenue for the Greek economy.

“Prosperity is around the corner if we can only understand how to generate it. But with unrealistic and uncompetitive conditions there will be no cruiseships and more yachts will leave.”

Mr Gratsos said that tax legislation passed in 2009 resulted in a flight of about 25% of mostly foreign yacht traffic from Greek marinas, destroying about 6,000 jobs.”

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