ATHENS – Trying to balance appeasing Greece’s shipping tycoons who own the world’s largest fleet with getting them to do more to support their homeland, Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is trying to persuade them to give up flags of convenience from other countries to fly the Greek flag on their ships instead.
That would mean they would lose tax privileges and have to pay more to Greece which they have ferociously fought, even to the point of threatening to take their headquarters out of the country while claiming they are doing enough with voluntary payments.
The new Premier, elected in July 7 snap elections that ousted the Radical Left SYRIZA of Alexis Tsipras, who caved in early in his 4 ½ year term to the shipowners after vowing to “crush the oligarchy,” raised the idea of flying the Greek flag during his visit to the Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy.
“The challenge is to make the Greek flag more attractive for Greek shipowners,” Mitsotakis said, without indicating how that could happen unless it also means lower taxes for the tycoons who don’t want to pay more.
Greek shipowners own about 21 percent of the global merchant marine capacity among ships over 1,000 gross tons, and more than half the capacity of the European Union merchant fleet as of now.