Greek shipping and economy Ministers survive reshuffle

With the Eurozone holding a sceptre over Greek shipping, the two prime overlords of the shipping industry have held their portfolios in the first cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

In what turned out to be a relatively minor reshuffle Tsipras has kept Economy Minister George Stathakis and his alternate Shipping Minister, Thodoris Dritsas at the cabinet table, though two ministers and three deputy ministers were replaced.

Both Stathakis and Dritsas are part of the super Ministry overseeing the portfolio for economy, infrastructure, shipping and tourism all sectors set to play key roles as Athens struggles to meet the demands of its lenders prior to them handing over any addition funds to the EUR7bn promised as a bridging loan, a chunk of which was used to meet a European Central Bank repayment due on 20 July.

Stathakis, whose brother is a shipowner, is one of the most senior figures of the moderate wing in the leftist, ruling Syriza party. Dritsas, the junior minister directly in charge of shipping, is an MP for Piraeus, and is known to oppose the privatisation of the country’s leading port, Piraeus.

Dritsas rejected outright the selling-off of Piraeus when the government came to power at the end of January. His previous stance against the process, which is seen as vital for the government, has been more muted recently and Tsipras has said binding bid dates for the privatisation of the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki will be called no later than October.

Interest of China’s Cosco in the sell-off of Piraeus port is well known as is that of APM Terminals, but the latter seems to have upped its game, voicing a strong interest in buying both Piraeus and Thessaloniki.

“We’re interested in the Greek ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki and are pursuing them as part of our growth plans,” Francois-Xavier Delenclos, a Vice President at The Hague-based APM Terminals unit, has said.

Meanwhile, Greek shipping generally is anxiously awaiting upcoming cabinet meetings as the government prepares to soon table legislation increasing shipping companies’ tonnage and corporate tax and gradually dismantling the special tax status the sector has enjoyed for nearly 50 years.

The timetable for change is not clear, but the latest EU financial support package came on a pledge by the Prime minister, taxes and especially corporate and shipping taxes will be overhauled.

When Greece joined the European Union in 1980 shipping tax laws “were written in stone” and most observers believe significant alterations to the shipping companies’ tax regime will violate the constitution.



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