Greek government voices frustration with ‘irresponsible’ seafarers’ strike

Nigel Lowry | LLOYD’S LIST

GREECE’s ministry of Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping has called on the country’s seafaring unions to show greater responsibility after a 24-hour strike throughout the country idled a number of cruise vessels.

The ministry broke a tradition of remaining silent during brief strikes in the sector in order to avoid antagonising seafarer’s unions.

The strike came “at an exceptionally critical time for Greek tourism and our country’s economy”, said the ministry in a written statement.

“The government is working decisively to cover the needs of workers but such demonstrations do not help in the direction of a solution,” it said.

At such moments, “everyone takes on the share of responsibility that belongs to them”.

The strike, called by the Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation, was the second of two 24-hour stoppages that were called to protest government plans to lift cabotage restrictions on non-EU flagged cruise vessels performing round trips between Greek ports.

Debt-ridden Greece has moved to liberalise the sector after a torrent of studies showing that the country may be missing out on more than €1bn ($1.2bn) annually due to the ban.

The strike was condemned by the Association of Greek Passenger Shipping Companies as “mistaken” and “irresponsible”.

The association said Greece was the last EU member country to enforce such restrictions.

Seafarers’ unions should “at last understand that the benefit from attracting cruiseships to ports in our country does not fall only to the business community and local communities but also to the workers employed on the ships and in hundreds of businesses on land.”

A prime target of the past Greek seafarer campaigns, the Maltese flagged Pullmantur Cruises-operated Zenith, cancelled its scheduled call in Piraeus on Monday and called at Malta instead, necessitating the airlift of about 1,000 passengers due to join the ship in Greece.

Greek flagged cruiseships were also caught up in the action. Louis Hellenic Cruises’ Aegean Pearl and Aqua Marina were prevented from leaving the port in the morning.

The company reportedly managed to inform most of the passengers due to join the vessels in Piraeus.

An estimated 300 seafarers descended on the main passenger port to ensure vessels remained tied up at the berths. Although the cruise sector was the cause of the action, most of the vessels affected were island ferries.

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