Ferry com­pa­nies lost more than half of the fleet they had in 2001

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY ILIAS BELLOS

After eight years of rough eco­nomic seas, Greece’s ma­jor coastal ship­ping com­pa­nies are sail­ing at half their size and un­der ma­jor fi­nan­cial pres­sure, but still man­ag­ing to carve out some prof­its. Even after their ex­ten­sive re­struc­tur­ing due to the do­mes­tic re­ces­sion and com­pe­ti­tion from air trans­port, how­ever, they are still at risk.

Be­sides ma­jor fluc­tu­a­tions in fuel prices, the chal­lenges re­main sig­nif­i­cant as the sec­tor re­quires siz­able in­vest­ments for the fleet to com­ply with the new reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ments the in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment im­poses.

In the last few years the four ma­jors – Mi­noan Lines, ANEK, Hel­lenic Se­aways and At­tica Group have only been us­ing 45 ves­sels, com­pared to 2001 when they had 125 ships. Even in com­par­i­son to 2009 the fleet has been cut in half. Cru­cially, this shrink­ing of the fleet has come with the up­grad­ing of the ex­ist­ing ves­sels.

De­mand for pas­sen­ger and ve­hi­cle ship­ping has dropped 46 per­cent since 2009, match­ing the con­trac­tion of the fleet. The com­bined turnover of the four com­pa­nies is just over 700 mil­lion eu­ros per year, but op­er­at­ing and net prof­its have re­cov­ered. Earn­ings be­fore in­ter­est, tax, de­pre­ci­a­tion and amor­ti­za­tion (EBITDA) added up to 152 mil­lion eu­ros last year for all four ma­jors, ac­cord­ing to the 16th an­nual study on coastal ship­ping in Greece by XRTC Busi­ness Con­sul­tants.

Ferry com­pa­nies re­main un­able to ben­e­fit from the con­stant growth in pas­sen­ger traf­fic, mainly due to strong com­pe­ti­tion from air trans­port, ac­cord­ing to XRTC, that notes that de­spite the re­struc­tur­ing the com­pa­nies con­tinue to bear high op­er­at­ing costs and are vul­ner­a­ble to ex­ter­nal risks.

Cap­i­tal con­trols and the gen­eral neg­a­tive eco­nomic cli­mate con- tinue to ham­per do­mes­tic tourists from us­ing coastal ship­ping. “The price of a ferry ticket re­mains high for the aver­age Greek com­pared to air trans­port for trav­el­ing to the is­lands,” the re­port ar­gues, while stress­ing the need for the re­design­ing of the coun­try’s coastal ship­ping prod­uct in gen­eral.

The Greek in­dus­try ac­counts for 17 per­cent of the Euro­pean coastal ship­ping, while the Greek pop­u­la­tion is only 2.2 per­cent of that of Europe. How­ever, trans­port in Greece has pe­cu­liar fea­tures that other Euro­pean coun­tries do not, so they can­not be con­sid­ered in the same light.

In the last few years the four ma­jors – Mi­noan, ANEK, Hel­lenic Se­aways and At­tica Group – have been us­ing only 45 ves­sels.

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