ATHENS – Bowing to the interests of Greece’s powerful shipping oligarchs, whose vessels rule the seas, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government won’t go along with European Union sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that would bar ships moving Russian oil.
That, along with opposition from Hungary, effectively prevented any attempt for tougher penalties against Russia, which continues to benefit as well from selling oil and gas to the EU, which Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky called “blood money.”
The EU had to drop a proposed ban on EU-owned vessels transporting Russian oil to third countries, according to documents seen by Bloomberg and people familiar with the matter, pointing primarily to Greece.
A prohibition on insurance is still being devised though and could put a crimp in the Russian products being moved by Greek shippers don’t want their vessels hindered..
Greece, which is heavily dependent on its essentially tax-free shipping industry that is the world’s largest, waas among the member states that pushed the provision on exporting to third countries to be dropped from more sanctions.
The ban on providing insurance would span the vast majority of the global fleet of oil tankers seeking to transport Russian barrels but Mitsotakis – like all other premiers before him – has to bow to the shipping oligarchs interests.
The EU had planned to prohibit the transportation, including through ship-to-ship transfers, to third countries of crude oil and petroleum products that originate in Russia, or have been exported from Russia but that was dropped.
The EU’s executive arm is also proposing to ban European companies from providing services, including insurance, that are needed to transport Russian oil anywhere in the world though, the news site said.
Under the current proposals, the ban will fully exempt goods that don’t originate in Russia even if they transit through the country. The EU’s proposal seeks to ban crude oil imports into the bloc over the next six months and refined fuels by early January.
European companies would be barred from providing “technical assistance, brokering services, financing or financial assistance or any other services related to those prohibitions.”
That came as Melina Travlos, President of the Union of Greek Shipowners, said that the sector is operating as “a beacon of stability in a volatile global environment,” said Greece’s state-run Athens-Macedonia New Agency AMNA.
In a statement ahead of the Posidonia international shipping exhibition set for Athens from June 6-10 – resuming after being locked out during the three-year COVID-19 pandemic, Travlos said the Greek-owned fleet maintains its leading role in the shipping industry.
“Today it represents 21 percent of the world’s tonnage and 59 percent of the EU fleet … it controls … 32 percent of the world fleet in tankers, 25 percent of bulk carriers and 22 percent of LNG carriers.”
She added that, “Greek shipping, which is an integral part of European shipping, provides a strategic advantage to the EU in its effort to ensure the adequacy and independence of its supply with essential goods and energy,” defending its role in the Greek economy. She is the union’s first female chief.
During the four-year period since Posidonia 2018, the shipping industry continued uninterruptedly to serve 90% of world trade, she added.
“In the volatile global environment, shipping has acted as a beacon of stability, responding to the unprecedented conditions we have been facing due to the international health crisis the last two years, as well as due to the geopolitical crisis of recent months in Europe.”
Posidonia 2022 will also be “an excellent opportunity for promoting the environmental footprint of global shipping, as well as the environmental performance of the Greek-owned fleet,” she said.