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            january 19, 2020

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Greek port officials face charges linked to cartel operations


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 vessels.
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.

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