The President of the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS), Mr. Theodore Veniamis, told the Union’s annual meeting mid-week that the Greek-owned fleet has kept growing in numbers, despite the record lows of the dry bulk market – that will not be recovering soon – and the capital controls that were applied in Greece at the end of last June leading to a drastic fall of over 50% in the currency earnings from shipping activities (down to 2.27 billion euros for the July-October 2015 period).
Nevertheless, today, the Greek fleet stands at around 4,500 vessels, which amounts to about 19.63% of the global fleet and almost 50% of the EU fleet.
Mr. Veniamis heavily criticized a decision by the European Commission in favor of the amendment of what is sees as the “beneficial” tax framework of the Greek shipping community. The European Union has deemed as illegal the non-taxation of dividends which are distributed by shipping companies to their shareholders/owners, the non-taxation of surplus value related with holding shares in shipping companies, as well as the relief of those companies from having to pay for an inheritance tax.
The President of the UGS said that EU is being hypocritical, as the investment insecurity the shipping community experiences, could lead to relocation of shipping companies, not only from Greece, but from the EU altogethe, in search of more “hospitable” international maritime clusters.
He added that the framework which is deemed as illegal, is the same – more or less – with other maritime nations in the EU. If the Commission is set to investigate similar frameworks across the EU, as it has declared, “then I’m afraid that the European lawmakers haven’t learned from past mistakes, which led to the destruction of the shipbuilding industry of the EU”.
Shipping is a vital generator of income for Greece, accounting for about 7 percent of its gross domestic product and employing about 200,000 people.
Last month, the Commission urged Athens to better target its tonnage tax system, citing competition and EU state aid rules.
But Greek shipowners, who are increasingly worried the Commission’s suggestions could hurt a sector already battered by the global slump in demand for dry freight commodities and record low freight earnings, rejected the proposals.