EIGHTEEN individuals, including
shipowners, are facing charges as a wide-ranging investigation gets
underway in Greece's two major ports, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, linked
to cartel operations in the ports.
Authorities have suspended six pilots
and the harbour master of Thessaloniki as well as the chief pilot in
Piraeus, according to the Shipping and Island Policy Ministry, which
made the announcement after media reports of the investigation.
Greek state-run Athens News Agency (ANA) reported that four tug company
owners are allegedly involved. None of the accused has been identified
and there was no official statement form the Greek police. Greek
authorities have sent pilots from Piraeus to ensure smooth operations in
Thessaloniki after local pilots were detained for questioning, reports
the Seatrade Maritime News of Colchester.
The Thessaloniki Port Authority (ThPA) is controlled by a CMA-CGM-led consortium, which spent US$254 million
on securing a 67 per cent stake in the previously state-run authority.
The consortium is planning further investments, including a container
terminal to take 12,000 TEU ships, up from the present 4,500 TEU
According to reports in Thessaloniki, the alleged ring members were
forcing shipping companies to pay money under the table to expedite
ships' approach. They also allegedly colluded to make ships
unnecessarily employ tugboats to enter the port.
The probe, according to reports, began after complaints by a
Thessaloniki tug company, which competitors forced out of business.
Pilots acting with tug owners and port officers are said to have been
fixing prices and abusing safety rules to maximise employment time.
Meanwhile, pilots in the Cosco-controlled Piraeus port are said to have had their laptops and other records investigated. The
chief pilot of Piraeus has been suspended over a charge that he violated
article 169 of Greece's criminal code, which carries a six-month jail
term for disobedience to officials seeking legal assistance, said the
Shipping Ministry said.