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Piraeus cruise ships

Piraeus cruise ships

FERRIES and cruise ships were stranded at Greek ports yester day as seamen staged a 24-hour strike against a government decision to lift restrictions on vessels docking with foreign crews, port officials said.

Bookings to Greece are already down this year following a wave of strikes and sometimes violent protests against government pay cuts and tax hikes imposed as a condition for receiving a 110 billion euro (R990bn) EU/IMF emergency loan.

Dozens of passenger ships were stranded at Greece’s largest port of Piraeus while traffic was halted between Athens and Greek islands

“Ships didn’t leave Piraeus this morning, there is no traffic between ports, nothing is moving,” said a coast guard official who declined to be named.

The Greek government said in April it would allow non-EU- flagged cruise ships with non- Greek crew to moor at its ports and travel between Greek islands so as to boost the number of ships arriving in Greece and help the vital tourism industry.

But unions say the move will lead to job cuts.

Tourism is the top contributor to Greece’s economy, accounting for about 18 percent of GDP.

Shipping is usually the second or third biggest earner, with five percent of GDP.

Greece’s Socialist government has so far stood fast in the face of the public pressure and stuck to the austerity measures.

Greece can expect a period of calm now as many leave Athens for the stiflingly hot summer, but anger may grow again in September as the population returns, especially if earnings from the crucial tourist season have dropped dramatically.

Only three out of five cruise ships expected at Piraeus arrived yesterday morning. Passengers disembarked normally, but dozens of protesting seamen and members of a communist labour group, Pame, blocked the gates of the port preventing other tourists from boarding the cruise ships.

But in a rare sign of opposition to the industrial action, dozens of shop owners, tourist guides and other tourism workers chanted “hands off tourism” and handed roses to the passengers. — Reuters


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