According to the recent XRTC study, the Hellenic Coastal Shipping will need a monthly financial support immediately – for as long as the crisis lasts – ranging from EUR 22 to 30 million, in order to face the unexpected consequences of Covid-19.

The pandemic caused a sharp decrease in demand (50% compared to 2019) and resulted in the decommission of the majority of Greek ferries. At the same time Greek ferry operators were forced to operate part of their fleet, in order to ensure social cohesion and connection with the islands of Greece. Their revenues are plummeting (up to 90%), while their operating costs remain high, due to the need for keeping active even the decommissioned ships as well as the companies’ staff.

The financial support mentioned above aims to support the operation of 30% to 35% (30-35 ships) of the active ferry fleet, which represent the “safety fleet” to serve the basic needs of the islands of Greece. This amount also includes ferries that have been decommissioned so that they will be kept active and provide the necessary services after the end of the crisis.

The study also points out that financial support should be combined with a series of measures that will support the gradual return of the sector, at least at sustainable levels. However, this is something that no one is able to predict at the moment because of the current uncertainty. In any case, the first estimates speak about 1 to 3 years.

This year’s tourist season is expected to be very short or even non-existent, which means that only 40% to 50% of the Hellenic Coastal Shipping fleet will be introduced. And this with reduced demand and under the condition of gradual lifting measures against pandemics.

The situation is even worse for the high-speed crafts, which are facing the danger of losing the summer season of 2020. In fact, the possibility of extending the measures beyond June implies that only the conventional ships that are currently serving the Greek islands will remain active. This is the worst-case scenario for the sector and will signal the beginning of its collapse.

In any case, direct financial support, combined with intensive efforts to minimize the economic damages that the Greek Ferry Companies will suffer, is a one-way street, as their operation ensures the country’s territorial continuity. Therefore, a possible collapse of the Hellenic Coastal Shipping is expected to cause problems of cohesion, especially at a time when Greece is facing serious geopolitical problems, such as with refugees and immigration.

Spyridon Roussos