Mercury Global Reports interviews: Mr. Ioannis Plakiotakis, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy of Greece

MGR: Greece as the undisputed leading maritime nation of the European Union, which represents 58% of the European tonnage capacity, is expected to have an important role in the shipping industry’s most pressing issue, decarbonization. What is Greece doing regarding decarbonization?

Mr. Plakiotakis: Greece fully shares the goals of the European Union (EU) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on the decarbonization of shipping. This goal is shared by the industry itself. 

In full cooperation with our maritime community, we are exploring the best ways for the most radical transformation ever happened in shipping for a century, i.e. the gradual transition to non-fossil fuel-based shipping (and economy in general). The development and commercial deployment of low and zero-emission fuels and technologies, as well as the promotion of the necessary infrastructure at a global scale, remain key for the decarbonization of the sector. 

Of course, this is a big challenge, because at this stage there are no viable alternative fuels, especially for the ocean-going fleet. For this reason, we believe that acceleration of research, development and deployment (R&D&D) of alternative fuels and propulsion systems is absolutely necessary, so that by 2030, such technologies become widely available, paving the way for the large-scale investments required for the decarbonization of shipping in 2050, in alignment with the EU and IMO commitments. 

Greece, together with major shipping countries and the international shipping community, has been at the forefront of a far-reaching proposal to operationalize this big global R&D project for alternative fuels and technologies, through the International Maritime Organization. Our proposal will be further evaluated at the next IMO Marine Environment Committee and we trust it will gain wide support from IMO States.

Greece is one of the most reliable and franc supporters of the IMO. Shipping needs global rules, which we believe that only the IMO has the authority and knowledge to deliver, for the benefit of world shipping and the environment together. At the same time, to achieve the ambitious environmental objectives, it is crucial that measures leading us to the desired goal need to be practical, realistic and enforceable, paying due regard to the specific characteristics of each shipping segment and particularly the tramp/bulk shipping which is predominant in Greek fleet. Regional or national rules do not pay good service to international shipping, rendering regulatory compliance with a patchwork of measures a nightmare.  We are very pleased that in June 2021, the IMO already complemented its existing regulatory weaponry with new technical and operational measures that will enable shipping to reach its mid-term objective of significantly more energy-efficient (40 to 70%) shipping in 2030. 

MGR: The US and Greece have had a long and close maritime relationship, especially since post-WW2. How would you describe the current maritime affairs of the two allies?

Mr. Plakiotakis: Greece and the United States enjoy excellent relations due to the long-standing historical, political and cultural ties between the two nations, which can be traced back to the beginning of the 19th century (as early as 1830s), immediately after the Greek War of Independence. Our common western heritage, our shared values and trust to liberty, democracy and the rule of Law and Justice, are nothing more than the strongest possible foundation for even brighter prospects in our political and institutional relations. The maritime domain, an important part of our economy and everyday life, couldn’t be an exception. 

Greece might be a fairly small country in terms of population, accounting for only 0.16% of the world’s population, but when it comes to commercial shipping, Greece is undoubtedly a global leader with a maritime tradition of millennia. And the United States had a big role in this. It was America that provided for free the original nucleus for the rebuilding of the Greek fleet which had been destroyed during WW2. 

Today Greek shipowners own 21% of global tonnage. They have been heavily investing in more efficient and sustainable ships, which has given them a comparative advantage and enhanced their leadership position. Concurrently, the quality of the Greek flag is globally recognized, including the very demanding in commercial terms and strict in technical standards US market. What is more, Greece is an essential and strategic partner of the US economy since approximately 22% of the Greek fleet’s activity serves the U.S. 

Throughout the years, Greece and the USA have had an important role in the international maritime arena in order to promote free and safe navigation, safety of life at sea, maritime surveillance and protection of the marine environment. At the same time, Greece, located at the external borders of the European Union, plays a key role in maintaining stability and security in the Eastern Mediterranean area, working together with our close ally, the USA. 

 For this reason, the ready to be finalized bilateral MoU between Hellenic Coast Guard and US Coast Guard will institutionalize and signify a new era, opening an ocean of opportunities in multiple areas of maritime partnership. The MoU will enable our Coastguard Agencies to pursue common priorities, promote common goals in both shipping and operational services and eventually common maritime vision and values.

The strategic maritime relationship between the US and Greece is and will remain solid, productive and mutually beneficial for our economies and societies.

MGR: What is your message to our readers Washington DC, and the US in general, regarding Greece and its maritime future?

Mr. Plakiotakis: Our readers in Washington DC, and the US, in general, can keep in mind that Greece’s past, present and future, are always connected with the sea and shipping. We have always considered sea and shipping as a source of growth and, above all, a connecting factor between countries, civilizations and people. Our government and our maritime community are committed to the rule of law at sea, to quality, efficiency and sustainability of shipping and all maritime activities, because the sea is our common heritage and at the same time, our inheritance to future generations. Those commitments and principled approach herald a bright future for our maritime country and our shipping industry. 

https://www.ynanp.gr/en/

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