21 Jan The maritime sector is part of the country’s DNA
Giannis Plakiotakis, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, dives into the future steps of Greece’s major growth driver
Could you elaborate on your priority to “form a taxation and legislation framework that is friendly to shipping firms, in order to attract new investments and foreign companies to Greece”?
Greece is the biggest maritime power in the world, with the Greek fleet amounting to 5,000 ships. In terms of our penetration in the maritime market, Greeks have been predominant. We have to form a framework that is friendly and provides incentives toward foreign investors. We have managed to retain our position, due to the fact that the maritime sector is operating worldwide. However, the industry is faced with tough competition in the world market; a market undergoing rapid changes as a consequence of increased protectionism, but also the need to comply with new environmental rules and adapt to the digital era.
Our priorities embrace all aspects of Greek shipping, starting from the development of a friendly and socially rewarding business environment for the full range of maritime activities. Enhancing safety levels and developing appropriate conditions to attract young people to the profession come as obvious choices for a country that sticks to the concept of quality in shipping. We are investing in the multiplying effects of shipping on the economy in order to increase the social dividend to our country’s economy. Among the priorities of the ministry is to support the facilitation of the privatization procedures at the 10 major regional ports of Greece. Piraeus has substantial capacity, providing access to a logistic center and a cargo train route leading to Europe. A number of port infrastructure investments are foreseen, such as the improvement of port facilities for the needs of passenger ferry services and the streamlining of ferry and port network services.
Greece has such a rich maritime history and continues to dominate the high seas. However, when it comes to ship registry, the Greek flag is only eighth in the world. What are your plans to tackle this issue and attract new ship registries to Greece?
We have to maintain a framework that is competitive with other registries and also provide more investment incentives. We need a less bureaucratic and more automated digital registry. There is plenty of room for us to increase registration with the Greek flag, which would automatically increase employment in the sector. In order to unleash our full potential, we have to do a lot to advance collaboration, enhance standards and proactively engage with policy- makers on the future regulatory landscape.
The existing legislative framework for the registration of ocean-going vessels to the Greek register enjoys higher ranking within the national legal order and guarantees the necessary stable legal environment for shipping investments. Maritime operations are subject to a stable taxation regime, which aims at preserving maritime know-how and enhancing employment opportunities for Greek seafarers and in shipping companies ashore. On another note, digitalization, optimization and the promotion of electronic procedures to further facilitate ship and company registration are among the prime priorities for the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy.
How do you plan to make the sector more attractive to young people in order to re- vitalize the industry?
The expertise and professionalism of Greek seafarers contribute to the competitiveness of Greek and Greek-owned shipping. The preservation and expansion of Greek expertise is also a main priority for Greece, as part of our commitment to Greece’s human capital. As a consequence, investing in the training of the human element in shipping, the Greek seafarer, is a necessary requirement so that shipping remains competitive on the global stage and constitutes the most important growth driver for Greece. The Greek Public Maritime Education and Training System ensures a high level of vocational training, focusing on qualitative and upgraded maritime education based on current and future demands, the EU and the most modern international standards. Our ministry is responsible for the development and implementation of educational, training and post-training programs for seafarers, the proper functioning of schools and the design and implementation of measures aimed at attracting young people to the maritime profession. Finally, the aim is to establish structures that promote specialization and further contribute to the development and dissemination of our rich maritime knowledge base.