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Competing to be a new home for Greek shipowners

Competing to be a new home for Greek shipowners
At first it was Cyprus, then Singapore and London, now it is Dubai and Canada, which are openly courting Greek shipowners looking for alternatives to their home base as they face an increased tax burden in future.

While some Greek shipowners, have been contemplating shifting their bases following the country’s new bailout agreement and the new taxes that Athens has promised to introduce with it, concrete information on companies that have actually moved is hard to come by.

To the contrary, shipowners discussing the subject generally are adamant they want to remain in Greece and most are waiting for the picture to clear after the upcoming elections on 20 September. Still, they have scouted alternative locations and have a Plan B in readiness. This has encouraged international administrations to come to Greece and explain what they have to offer as maritime centres and services for the worlds' leading shipping community.

The usual “predator” suspects have now been joined by Canada’s west coast maritime hub of Vancouver and Dubai Maritime City Authority (DMCA) both of which have started actively chasing Greek shipowners.

Newly re-established Vancouver International Maritime Centre (VIMC) launched its international marketing effort at London’s International Shipping Week, September 9 and will be in Athens for a “second launch” September 14.

While the UK government has worked hard this past week to re-assure the shipping industry, the strong contingent of so-called “London Greeks” are unsettled due to the British government’s promised changes to non-domicile tax laws, and a number of longstanding international owners may seek another base by 2017.

Last week DMCA held a seminar in Athens, which, said Amer Ali, executive director of DMCA, "was a prime opportunity for us to showcase the strengths of Dubai’s maritime sector and inform participants about how the world’s shipping players can enjoy even more growth through our exceptional maritime expertise and resources".

Held in cooperation with Vardikos & Vardikos, a Greek international law firm based in Athens, and Al Tamimi & Co, the largest law firm in the Middle East, the seminar explained the potential opportunities for Greek maritime companies that may be planning to establish or expand their operations in the emirate. Indeed, the tone of the event indicated there was already some interest in working out of Dubai, though nothing concrete emerged.

Among topics covered were an overview of Dubai’s maritime strategy; the viability of Greek shipping companies doing business with Dubai; the nature of maritime claims in the UAE; and the best practices in setting up local business.

“Challenges experienced by the Greek economy are currently putting extreme pressure on the country’s shipowners to work innovatively to find alternative solutions and new investment opportunities for the advancement of their work to achieve diversity in their income resources,” said Nawfal Al Jourani, director of communications forDMCA.

“This is where the role of Dubai’s maritime sector comes in, with its abundant investment possibilities for ship owners and operators in Greece,” he said.

Meanwhile, VIMC reps are expected to tell its Greek audience of changes to Canada’s Income Tax Act which have redefined shipping activities to include a broad range of corporate activities, so foreign companies can manage their international shipping businesses from Canada, without their Canadian or foreign activities being subject to tax in Canada.

In light of this, Vancouver has become an attractive location for international shipping companies and Canada is ranked the best country in the G-20 to do business. VIMC promotes Vancouver as a location for international shipping companies, and assists interested companies in developing their operations as the gateway to the Asia Pacific.

Neighbouring Cyprus is generally seen as the most likely alternative for Greeks, but the level of courting owners exploring another base is undoubted gaining pace.