During the annual general meeting of the Greek Association of Passenger Shipping Companies (SEEN), President Michalis Sakellis (pictured) who is also CEO of Blue Star Ferries. highlighted the issues being faced.
” 2021 was a particularly difficult year for the whole world with two serious problems that concerned us and have to be addressed, the pandemic and energy.
“Regarding the pandemic, our country has been particularly affected, due to the reduction of tourism with negative results in our transport project, which in addition to tourism was also affected by travel bans and the measures that were implemented,“ he said.
For 2022, the prospects are positive and the bookings, including hotels, significantly increased, so we expect a good year for tourism close to the levels of 2019 for the summer months, while it is certain that there will be an improvement in the annual transport services.
“Our ships must be serviced 12 months a year, while even when the ships are stationary, the costs remain high at 40-45% of the total,” he said.
“The energy crisis plaguing the world is affecting passenger shipping more than any other sector of the economy. We estimate that to cover the cost of fuel currently spent, about 40% of the net fares we received in 2021, meant that our companies were burdened with €130 mill, due to the 45% increase in fuel costs.
“The situation is manageable but it is not an easy case and above all it cannot but have consequences. The Government must weigh the situation seriously and think about the effects that the energy crisis may have on our islands, their inhabitants and their tourism, which accounts for 70% of tourism in Greece.
“An issue that is of particular concern to us and will be the main issue for the coming years, is the environment and the measures that are being discussed and have already been decided to reduce our pollutants and energy footprint and which will be implemented gradually from 2023, peaking in 2030 when CO2 emissions must be reduced by 55%, compared to 1990, or 2050 to zero emissions,” he said.
He revealed that two studies were ongoing, which are being undertaken on behalf of SEEN.
The first study was assigned to IOBE and concerns the effects of the measures discussed in the ‘Fit for 55’. The purpose of the study, which will include policy proposals, is to inform the Greek Government and the EU of the situation with passenger traffic in Greece.
The second study was assigned to the Polytechnic and concerns the electrification of ships. This study takes in technical issues and also to the institutional framework that will apply.
“Another big issue that will concern us in the coming years is the renewal of our ferry fleet, which was being discussed since 2018 but we have not reached final solutions.
“In 2035, out of the 107 ships that are currently operating on our ferry services, 52 will be older than 40 years, of which 20 will be older than 50.
“In the international market, the availability of ships suitable for our shipping and young, is rare, while there are no ships available that meet the environmental requirements. It should also be emphasised that the construction of new ships is time consuming and the amount of investment is extremely high in relation to the expected overall transport needs, which is characterised by high seasonality.
“We believe that the multi-year public service contracts that have been negotiated can help in the construction of a very small number of ships, which of course does not solve the problem.
“What needs to be finalised is the subsidising of the ecological costs of the new constructions and also their financing on favourable terms in accordance with the provisions of the Recovery and Sustainability Fund plan.
“With all the challenges and problems mentioned above, we must be concerned, not only we but also the Government, which at some point must understand that the service of our islands is not a matter for the coasters but is a serious national issue, which finally everyone we need to take seriously,” he said.
Regarding the working agreement for the seafarers, negotiations with the new PNO union started on 31st August last year, but resulted in their suspension and the announcement of strikes. Talks resumed on 17th November to reach an agreement on 13th December with zero increases for 2020 and 2021 and 3% increases for 2022.
Regarding cruise ships, here the results were also not satisfactory. Compared to 2019, ship arrivals were reduced by 50% but with a relatively small number of passengers. It is certain that the cruise ship recovery will be delayed, compared to the rest of tourism, Sakellis said.