Posted by: cruise2 | 31 August, 2010

Greece Gives Up Cruising Monopoly From Its Ports

by Mark Tre

Greece is known by many as the birthplace of Mediterranean cruising, especially after its government financed the building of a number of new cruise ships in the 1950s to add to the many converted ships that were once operated by Greek owners. Yet names such as Chandris, Efthymiades, Epirotiki, Kavounides, Nomikos and Typaldos are all now gone from the scene.

The only exception is the survival of the famous Chandris "X" (the letter Chi) on the funnels of Celebrity Cruises, the line it founded and later sold to Royal Caribbean. Other recent lines such as Royal Olympic, formed by merger, and Festival Cruises, formed with Greek backing, are also gone – both went bankrupt in 2004.

To-day, the Piraeus-originating cruise business is a shadow of what it could have been, with Louis Hellenic Cruises and one other operator sharing the port with the many other callers from outside that sail from ports in Italy and Turkey. These outside ships have been prohibited until now from offering cruises from Greece. But all that is about to change. Although outside lines have been able to start or end a cruise in Greece that have not been able to operate round voyages from Greece.

Finally, the Greeks have come to their senses and realized that excluding outside lines from their market has only damaged their economy and their ports. Last week, the Greek parliament finally removed the main restriction that has governed cruising from Greece for the last several decades, which required that all cruise ships operating from Greece be of Greek registry.

International cruise companies will now be able to embark and disembark cruise passengers at Greek ports once they have signed a formal three-year contract with the government. Ships that make round-trip cruises to and from the same port, with a minimum duration of forty-eight hours and carrying at least forty-nine passengers, will be just required to remain in Greek ports for a minimum of eight hours on turnaround days.

Local sources say this latest move could create an economic boom worth a billion Euros a year. The trick will be to turn Greece into a major cruise origin point once more, with all the benefits that will bring to terminals, stevedores, luggage handlers, hotels, shore operators and airlines, just to mention a few.

At the same time, the Greek Government will assist in the training of more seamen and shipboard personnel in order to promote on board employment. Watch this space and we will being you more news as developments occur.

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