The New Democracy party is beginning to rebuild the Greek state’s relationship with its independently minded shipping industry
New Democracy came to power in Greece in July 2019 with a majority government. The party’s vice president Adonis Georgiadis was appointed minister of investment and development. Shipping is part of his portfolio and it has become clear that he is a passionate supporter of the industry. Speaking at the 11th Annual Capital Link Greek Shipping Forum, his message was one of courage and optimism in the Greek economy and the recognition that its revival is now taking place.
He noted the foreign interest being shown in 10-year government bonds, highlighting the level of faith foreign investors have in the Greek economy. The latest Greek government budget calls for a 2.8% increase in GDP growth. This would be the largest level of growth in the Eurozone, and a level the even the Greek minister of investment and development noted was ambitious.
He also noted however the contribution being made to the recovery of the Greek shipping sector, saying: “The core of our economy is shipping.” He added that while “a lot of shipowners are not exactly believers in the Greek shipyard sector” – referring to numerous attempts by Greek governments to create a shipyard structure competitive with Far East yards, either through nationalisation or privatisation – the success of the Neorion shipyard on the Greek island of Syros, following investment by US-based Onex, proved their potential.
He also hinted in his speech at progress in the Elefsis Shipyards, some 10 km from Piraeus. “I have been to Washington with the Elefsis shipyard to talk directly with the Americans,” he said. The project aims to repeat the so-called ‘Syros’ model and provide a Greek alternative to the Far East ship repair yards. On Syros, the Neorion shipyard’s debt was restructured from EUR71M (US$78M) to EUR67M (US$74M) and new investment from Onex created a new company, Onex Syros Shipyards, now owned by Greek American Panos Xenokostas. “We (the Greek government) are trying our hardest to give you (Greek shipowners) the opportunity to repair your ships in Greece, at a price and quality competitive with the rest of the world,” said Mr Georgiadis.
The speech was something of a revelation, given the decades of conflict between Greek governments and local shipowners. Greek shipowners had previously been accused of all but creating the 2008 financial crisis, by taking money out of Greece and/or not paying taxes. A decade later and the Greek government is praising the shipowning community for their independent stance: “We will support you in Europe, IMO and everywhere,” said Mr Georgiadis, “We are here to help you. Let’s come together to build a new Greece.”