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Hellenic Chamber of Shipping warn of shipping exodus over tax

Hellenic Chamber of Shipping warn of shipping exodus over tax
The Hellenic Chamber of Shipping has launched a stinging attack on the Greek government over its tax plans, warning of an exodus shipowners.

While Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, and European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, sought to strike an upbeat note at the official ceremony, January 8, for Greece’s assumption of the European Union’s rotating six-month presidency, the country’s flagship industry was in disarray.

With Samaras and Barroso emphasising the country’s progress in overhauling its problematic economy and playing down the fragility of the Greek government as some 70 European officials gathered in Athens to attend the smooth handover of the EU baton, however, a storm was brewing within the country’s shipping community.

Indeed, Greek shipping's official advisory body to the government says the industry has completely lost trust in PM Samaras' government and warns an exodus of shipping companies from Greece is looming.

Hellenic Chamber of Shipping president, George Gratsos issued the warning as shipping circles express deep concern over the arbitrary introduction of a mandatory double tonnage tax for the next three years, already reported by Seatrade Global.

Gratsos said an article tacked-on to legislation covering tax on real estate which passed into law during parliament's final session before breaking for the Christmas holiday, had shattered the carefully cultivated climate between the industry and the conservative-led coalition government.

Gratsos noted the taxation legislation was passed in spite of an agreement signed by the leadership of the Union of Greek Shipowners and the government on the tax issue, which was widely seen as achieving its initial goals

He said that over the past 40 years Greek legislation has succeeded in "wiping out cruising, the country's shipbuilding industry, made the operation of the ferry sector unprofitable and driven the yachting industry from Greece". He then said most recently the government's actions "shattered the trust of our oceangoing shipping" a longtime pillar of the Greek economy, bringing over EUR140bn into the economy over the past decade as well as providing 200,000 to 300,000 jobs.

"There is no trust in Greece because there are always surprises in the country's business environment," said Gratsos. "Governments have never understood the meaning of competition," he said. "It takes many years to build trust between different parties, but just one surprise to undo it," said Gratsos.

Shipping and Aegean minister, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, who was present for Gratsos' comments, has already expressed his dismay to Finance Minister, Yiannis Stounaris, who introduced the legislation “without consultation”. Indeed, Varvitsiotis has warned his finance counterpart of the possible consequences of the legislation, and has suggested it be recalled as owners are known to be checking out other locations, especially in the Far East.