[Marxism] Greek ship magnates stay afloat as economy sinks (and pay no tax)
mkaradjis at gmail.com
Tue Jun 12 02:08:08 MDT 2012
(you'd never have guessed, of course)
Greek ship magnates stay afloat as economy sinks
AFP - Greece's economy may be on its knees, but as evidenced in Athens
at the world's biggest maritime trade fair this week, the global titans
that are its shipping magnates are still standing tall -- for now.
"Shipping is an international industry," said Theodore Vokos, organiser
of the biennial Posidonia fair, an event in its fifth decade this year
bringing together a record 1,870 exhibitors from 87 countries, many from
"Therefore the good thing for Greek shipping is that it is not affected
by the Greek crisis," he said.
Greece is in its fifth year of recession, unemployment is 20 percent,
its debts are so high and its credibility among investors so low that it
has had to be bailed out twice. It may leave the eurozone after
elections later this month. But the country's shipping industry is still
second to none, with Greek firms controlling 16.2 percent of the world's
"deadweight tonnage" shipping capacity, followed by Japan with 15.8
percent, a United Nations report for 2011 showed.
Owners from Germany, Japan and China possess more actual ships, but in
terms of nationally flagged and nationally owned tonnage, Greece's
3,200-strong fleet continues to be "by far" the world's largest, the UN
For Greece, the industry accounts for around six percent of the
country's economic output. Between 2000 and 2010, it contributed 140
billion euros ($175 billion) to the economy, representing half the
national debt of 2009.
However, the families that own the industry, the modern-day equivalents
of legends like Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos, are hardly
flavour of the month in the current crisis.
While ordinary Greeks have had to swallow hefty cuts to their pensions
and salaries, shipowners have been accused of failing to pull their
weight and lacking solidarity in a time of national crisis.
"The Greek state must support and respect the significant potential of
the sector which has established Greece at the summit of the global
maritime industry," Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos said as he
But he added: "I also call upon the Greek shipowners to support our
country in these difficult times. You have done so in the past, but
today, more than ever before, Greece needs new investments, new job
opportunities and more liquidity." Alexis Tsipras, the firebrand head of
Greece's leftist Syriza party, which polls indicate could come first in
elections on June 17, has vowed to close the constitutional loophole
that largely exempts shipping firms from tax.
Shipowners, though, are standing firm.
"If the shipowners leave Greece, then approximately 200,000 people will
lose their jobs because if shipowners move to Singapore, they will not
relocate (workers from) their ship management offices with them," warned
George Karageorgiou, chief executive of Globus Maritime Ltd, in Ship
Management International magazine.
"Shipping is not part of the problem. We are part of the solution," said
John Lyras, chairman of the Posidonia coordinating committee and
ex-chairman of the Union of Greek Shipowners.
The industry in any case faces choppy waters ahead, with the global
economy still wobbly -- partly because of Greece -- too many ships
chasing too little cargo, high oil prices and banks coy about providing
On May 31, Moody's said its outlook for the global shipping industry
over the next 12-18 months remained negative. In 2011, the Greek
shipping industry saw profits fall 8.6 percent
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