The president-designate of the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), Panos Lascaridis, this week reiterated that his sector group's priority is to maintain European shipping's competitive edge and to improve the EU operating framework for shipping, especially in the face of ambitious rivals in the Middle East and Far East.
Lascaridis, the founder and CEO of Lascaridis Shipping and Lavinia Corp. and current ECSA vice-president, told "N" that the organization believes it is imperative to keep European shipping at the top of the global standings, an issue that should be prominently featured on the EU's policy agenda for shipping clusters.
Moreover, in reply to recent high-profile comments by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who appeared critical of the contribution of Greek shipowners and Greek-controlled shipping companies to the country's national coffers, Lascaridis said the outspoken German minister had also criticized his own compatriot shipowners. He reiterated that relations between shipping executives and operators of the two EU member-states are very good, with common positions on all international issues.
The Greek shipping veteran said Schaeuble's negative statement stems, in part, from acrimony in Berlin due to the transfer of the shipping portfolio from the finance ministry to the transport ministry as a result of the inauguration of a tonnage tax system in Germany. "German shipowners have the same problem with Schaeuble," he said.
Two things, according to Lascaridis, stand out when discussing the Union's policy vis-a-vis shipping. The first, as he said, is that every EU Commissioner, depending on his or her portfolio, deals differently with the shipping sector as a whole, i.e. the Commissioner for transport may have a different agenda and perspective from the Commissioner whose portfolio includes environmental protection, or from the Commissioner dealing with tax policy.
The second difference is that most European politicians, when they refer to shipping, have in mind what Greek shipowners and executives call the shipping cluster.
"When we say shipping, we mean the vessel, the crew, the cargo, the shipbrokers etc; the other Europeans usually include the ports, in other words ports policy, shipyards and the affiliated activities," he clarified.