Symbolically or not, the biggest Greek maritime event, which is held every two years, for the first time will not take place at the port of Piraeus but ... at the convention Metropolitan Expo Centre near the International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos". The economic crisis, the lack of infrastructure improvements, the threat of protests from the port workers' union took Posidonia 2012 to the airport to which thousands of Greeks are symbolically and literally heading at present in an attempt to seek a better life.
Despite the relocation, the event will take place and will be its largest ever. The convention centre of 60 thousand square metres will host 1,870 shipping companies from 87 countries. The exhibition will open on Monday, 4 June and will continue to Friday, 8 June. An extensive programme of conferences, seminars, roundtables on all topics related to shipping - from new technologies, safety, financing and insurance to cruise tourism, sports sailing and yacht design – will take place in parallel.
"The exhibition is entirely a private initiative of the companies from this industry, which are mostly family firms. The state does not help us, the only sponsorship we receive is from Lloyd's Register for the Posidonia Cup regatta," said Yiannis Litros, chairman of the organizing committee. Greek shipping is divided into two types. Ocean shipping is still number one in the world; it is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Greek state and is managed by capable managers. Passenger shipping, however, has been affected by the economic crisis.
"Look, it is not by chance that 1,870 companies from 87 countries are coming to Athens at this difficult moment for the world economy. This means that Greek shipping has something to offer as a world leader, it has the know-how," said Theodoros Veniamis, president of the Union of Greek Shipowners. He promised to speak about the problems of the industry at a press conference on the last day of the exhibition, but his words made it clear that the shipping business is not satisfied with the attitude of the Greek state. The Greek State is being criticized by economists and financiers from around the world for exempting shipowners from all taxes.
"I would like to believe that we will have a government on 18 June, which will involve a Minister of the Merchant Marine," is the hope of Piraeus Mayor Vasilis Michaloliakos, who is also a former New Democracy deputy and minister. His party is the leading one in many polls and one of its election commitments is to recover the Ministry of Shipping closed by PASOK.
"Posidonia must return to Piraeus, this is a loss for Piraeus not for the shipping business," Michaloliakos does not hide his bitterness. Of course, the port of Piraeus will host the Posidonia Cup regatta, which will take place for the fifth time tomorrow, 1 June, with the exclusive sponsorship of Lloyd's Register. The global giant in certification, classification and advising of shipping companies has had a representation in Greece for several centuries now.