Studies fuel Greek - EU shipping tax row

The findings of two studies have added fuel to the fire which has been smouldering between the Greek government and the country’s   shipping community and the European Commission and German Finance minister Wolfgang Schauble.

Indeed, the studies appear to reveal the underlying causes of a growing rift between Europe's maritime powerhouses, Greece and Germany, on the Greek institutional framework for oceangoing shipping.

Leading industry consultants, shipbrokers Clarkson-Platou and audit, financial advisory firm, Deloitte have just released findings which appear to add weight to the Greek argument that the country’s booming shipping sector is not paying less taxes than its competitive counterparts. Indeed, it is paying more.

Union of Greek Shipowners president, Theodore Veniamis has accused Schauble of an ill informed attack on Greek Prime minister Alexis Tsipras and the tax regime covering the Greek shipping industry, while the European Commission continues to urge Greece to reform its institutional framework for shipping, a process which started some two years ago following pressure from rival interests in northern Europe.

Now Deloitte’s tax services department has issued a comparative study of the tax frameworks in Greece and Germany and elsewhere.

Deloitte found in a global survey that the competitiveness of European shipping is under pressure generally in relation to other international shipping centers due to the absence of a flexible tax and regulatory framework.

A comparison with the five fastest growing  international shipping hubs, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Shanghai and Vancouver, showed the shipping policy pursued in the EU lags in the main competitiveness indexes such as in tax and financial incentives, in the regulatory framework, the attractiveness of national registers and the legislative framework for shipping activities.

Further Deloitte recently issued a comparative study of the tax frameworks in Greece and Germany and in Greece with other shipping forces. It showed the Greek capacity tax on ships is far higher than in any other country in the EU and 10 times as high as Malta’s.

Deloitte has calculated the Greek shipowner has to pay an annual tax of EUR68,328 for a dry bulk carrier of 58,000 dwt, while an identical vessel owned by a German would see him pay German taxes of just EUR23,850.

Deloitte’s survey comes in the wake of a report by shipbrokers Clarkson-Platou which shows the rise of Greek shipping and the decline of German since the outset of the crisis in 2010.

Clarkson-Platou’s study shows the crisis-driven period in freight markets has had a significant impact on many German banks as Greek shipowners have expanded their combined fleet by 89.3m gt. At the same time, their German peers have reduced their own by 12% to 86.4m gt.

Posted 24 June 2017

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David Glass

Greece Correspondent, Seatrade Maritime

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