News: Greek shipowners would consider relocating to London, says study

The Ernst & Young study also praised the UK’s maritime clusters and recommended that a promotional body like Maritime UK should be created in Greece.

More than half of Greek shipowners would consider relocating their shipmanagement offices out of Greece, according to a new Ernst & Young (EY) study, which cited London as a favoured destination. 

The study also praised the UK’s maritime clusters and promotional bodies, and recommended that a similar model be adopted in Greece.

Some 56% of the 776 Greek shipping executives surveyed said they would contemplate relocation, while 9.0% said they would not, according to the ‘Repositioning Greece as a Global Maritime Centre’ study, which was conducted by EY in collaboration with Greek academics Thanos Pallis and George Vaggelas. 

Greece’s tax framework (84%) and regulatory environment (64%) were the main reasons given by those considering relocation, followed by geographic location and access to funding.

Of those who would choose to move, 52% said they would opt to go to Singapore, while 48% said they would go for London. The capital has long been a traditional base for Greek ex-pats.

Respondents said tax framework and regulatory environment were among the key criteria they took into account when choosing a preferential maritime centre. Shore personnel, geographic location and access to professional services were also high on the list, followed by access to funding and infrastructure.

“The role of London is further strengthened by the predominance of English law in the industry and its strong marine insurance services. All three, however, are being challenged by Singapore and Shanghai, especially after the strengthening of the latter’s stock exchange,” the report states.

When asked to predict which would be the world’s leading maritime centres within the next ten years, three-quarters of respondents said Singapore. London looks set to maintain its standing as Europe’s leading maritime centre outside of Piraeus, respondents said.

London’s standing as a global maritime business centre is not impervious to threat, however. The report said implementation of the non-domicile initiative by the UK, as well as Brexit, might force several Greek-owned shipping companies to relocate from London to Piraeus. 

Fostering close coordination between private-sector initiatives to establish and promote a competitive Greek shipping cluster was one of the report’s top four recommendations.

Although shipping is concentrated in the Attica region around Athens and in Thessaloniki, there is little formal or informal cooperation among the business community, the report said. Neither is there a shipping organisation that lobbies formally for policy changes on behalf of the Greek shipping community or that promotes Greece’s offering to the world.

The report used both Maritime UK and Maritime London as examples of good cluster governance, and said Maritime UK’s mission to promote the UK as a world-class maritime centre could be a useful model on which to base a similar Greek association. The government of Cyprus has recently decided to promote initiatives that would allow the country’s shipping cluster to develop, the report noted.

“Despite the fact that the Greek cluster relies on a significant number of shipping companies, relevant policy measures are still found wanted,” the report said. “Meanwhile, competition from other clusters that target to attract the Greek shipping companies increases. A most recent example are the consistent efforts of Cyprus to upgrade its very own shipping cluster by adopting specific measures, tailored to specific needs and weaknesses.”

The report can be accessed in full here