Continuing extracts from this week’s newly published Mediterranean Hubs magazine printed by Splash and distributed at Posidonia, today’s instalment focuses on what Athens ought to do to cement its place as a leading global maritime hub.
In terms of how the local authorities are actually involved and what are they doing to bolster the city’s maritime credentials, Marina Tzoutzouraki, CFO and co-founder of eShipfinance.com, asserts the current government has been supporting the revival of Hellenic Shipyards as well as the Skaramangas repair area, while the municipality and maritime cluster are funding and creating the right ecosystem for tech start-ups in the sector.
Antonios Venieris, president of the International Maritime Union in Greece (IMU), observes a more entrepreneur-friendly environment in the last few years, with both local as well as national authorities focusing more on the digitalisation of various services and functions that are used daily from companies, shortening the “infamous” Greek bureaucracy.
“Even on the infrastructure side, the connectivity of the port of Piraeus to the Athens Metro subway system by the end of 2022, the complete revamp of the fibre internet network in the vicinity of Piraeus together with the Piraeus Tower commercial and residential project, show a tendency of change and much-needed upgrade,” he says.
StealthGas supremo Harry Vafias reckons the local authorities have understood the importance of shipping to the Greek economy and are making efforts to attract even more shipping-related companies.
Tax incentives are a very important magnet for companies as is a more competitive Greek flag
“Tax incentives are a very important magnet for companies as is a more competitive Greek flag,” he claims but suggests that more could be done on the promotion and evolution of Greek-based arbitration to match and compete with what London offers.
Nicholas Georgiou, CEO of Lomar Shipping, finds that like Singapore in Asia, Athens has maximised the benefits of geography, natural coastline, climate and more, supplanting those ecological advantages with the infrastructure and skills needed to support a complete cluster of maritime industry sectors.
While there is always more to be done, he believes Athens has the ability, the skill-set and the need to continue to evolve and compete on a global stage. For him, this is not only true of commercial shipping but also of the ferry, cruise, shipyard/MRO, marina facilities and other maritime interests as together they underpin the entire maritime sector while also supporting the tourism and hospitality segments that are vital to the GDP of Athens and of Greece as a whole.
In addition to a local boost, the entry of China’s Cosco in Piraeus port during the most difficult moments for the Greek economy has produced some impressive results, boosting its financial performance, deepening the country’s role in global sea transportation, and, perhaps most importantly, uplifting Greek trade. According to Cosco, the group has offered more than 3,000 direct jobs to the local community and more than 10,000 jobs in related services.
IMU’s Venieris reckons Piraeus should seize the opportunity to become a place that can grab the attention of international shipping and to offer perks and added value that will be a decisive factor for expanding or establishing daily operations in the port city now that the traditional maritime services hub of London is out of the European Union.
The recent establishment of Maritime Hellas, a joint effort of the Union of Greek Shipowners together with the Marine Chamber of Greece and the Piraeus Commercial and Industry Chamber, is a step forward in this direction.
“This joint effort is acting as a maritime cluster paving the way for its transformation to a truly international cluster that will be able to offer high-quality services of lawyers, brokers, advisors, agencies, highly skilled office personnel and shipyard facilities in the nearby Elefsis and Skaramangas area, research and development centres in the universities and maritime institutes,” Venieris explains.
He notes that while a lot still needs to be done, there is a clear will from the Greek state and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy to assist and promote such efforts.
Across the Mediterranean maritime hubs are developing, offering a full range of services and establishing themselves at shipping’s top table. Splash identified the five leading maritime capitals in the region – Athens, Genoa Limassol, Marseille and Monaco – and assigned correspondents to report on their individual strengths for a special glossy magazine. Splash readers can access the full magazine online by clicking here.