[Marxism] Greek ship magnates stay afloat as economy sinks (and pay no tax)

Michael Karadjis 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 
opened Posidonia.

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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