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05.05.2017 - 19: 00

Maritime nation without ships: Estonia wants to return to the merchant navy

In the EU, shipping companies performance up to 90 thousand euros per employee per year. One job on a ship generates up to three additional high-paying jobs on shore.

Estonia is the only sea EU country in which there is no proper merchant ship. This was reported in the Marine Estonia consulting council of the government of the country, noting that the last ship left the Estonian register of ships in 2014 year.

Today, under the flags of other countries goes about 60 courts local shipowners. Bring them back and attract new shipowners - the task set by the new Cabinet to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications for a period of 2017-2020 years.

The Estonian Shipping Company of the times of the USSR numbered 77 ships, and the Estonian large-tonnage merchant fleet was considered the most advanced in Eastern Europe and walked across all seas and oceans. By the time of privatization in the 1997 year, such ships remained slightly more than 40. Today it is already acknowledged that during the privatization of the Estonian Shipping Company fraudulent schemes were used, and the new "owners" not only bought the shares of the shipping company at low prices, but also made the enterprise unprofitable, bankrupting it completely and selling out the entire fleet. At the same time, new foreign buyers - Norwegian firms - also did not stand on ceremony: from the 2001 debt created in 80 for the redemption of 13,5% of shares in 1,9 million euros, the Estonian state was able to get only XNUMX million euros as a result.

However, it is not so much foreign scammers that are to blame for the disappearance of Estonia's merchant marine, as much the Estonian maritime legislation itself and the position of the relevant ministries acting on the principle of "dogs in the manger". So, Estonia is the only sea country in the world that does not provide tax and other benefits to shipowners. This is strikingly different from even the nearest neighbors. In Latvia and Lithuania, subsidies and benefits to shipowners are up to 20-30% of various payments. In Latvia, seafarers and their employers pay social and other taxes on the basis of a minimum salary, and in Sweden shipowners do not pay social tax at all. In Scandinavia, the income tax on shipowners was replaced by a tonnage tax on vessels. As a consequence, not only ships, but also recruitment centers for sailors left Estonia.

In addition, the current situation of the Estonian shipping register does not comply with the requirements of the present day, too controversial and difficult for local and foreign shipowners and the procedure of registration of vessels and recruitment of crews - and multistage long time.

High tax collections and crooks of legislation led to the fact that not only ships, but also Estonian sailors passed under the jurisdiction of other states. It's about 6000 marine specialists. And this despite the fact that Estonian sailors floating on ships under foreign flags lose social guarantees of their state, which leads to numerous tragedies and unpleasant situations. Seamen are forced to resort to the services of shipowners with a dubious reputation, where they risk their health and even their lives to make a living. Due to the fact that their courts belong to Liberia, Antigua and Barbuda and other third world countries, Estonians can not use the legislation of the European Union that strictly regulates labor relations and issues of employment and dismissal and protects their rights. All this creates a "legal vacuum" situation.

This fact is compounded by the fact that the Estonian seamen and maritime professionals can not rely on legal and other support to their own state, because it is still no mechanism for emergency care, or focal point for a permanent monitoring of the situation with the "foreign" by Estonian sailors.

In February 2017, the Estonian Cabinet of Ministers satisfied the offer of the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Kadri Simson about the beginning of the return of the merchant marine to the country. The ministry is tasked with developing an accurate plan of action and approving it before the autumn of the year 2017 so that it is possible to put legislative initiatives to vote to parliament in the autumn. Among the proposed measures: the change in the income tax rate, the minimization of the social tax, the introduction of a tonnage tax, the availability of legal and other advice for shipowners through greater accessibility of the electronic environment of the state administration, the establishment of a special transition commission for direct contact with stakeholders, and so on. It is proposed to create individual "attractive packages" of benefits and IT solutions for specific large shipowners. An important issue is the return to the country of international recruitment firms for sailors and seamen.

In addition, it was decided that Estonia owes more to advertise their achievements as a maritime country: a high level of local marine education, a large number of marine specialists, favorable business environment, a minimum of bureaucracy, development of IT-sector and more.

According to the forecasts of the specialists of the Maritime Advisory Council under the Ministry of Economy, if everything goes according to plan, the new legislative changes will come into force in 2018. However, much will depend on the shipowners themselves. Most of them will wait until others do it to look at the first results. Therefore, the council hopes that the "first swallows" will be Estonian vessels returning to their native harbor. Much will depend on the outcome of the parliamentary elections of the spring of 2019. If the coalition retains its current configuration, this will add confidence to the actions of the shipowners. It is predicted that, with a positive coincidence, 2020 merchant ships will fly under the Estonian flag in the 20 year.

According to the Estonian media, shipping, - one of the most profitable industries in the world. It is in fourth place after the financial services, insurance, and chemical industries. In the EU, shipping companies performance up to 90 thousand euros per employee per year. One job on a ship generates up to three additional high-paying jobs on shore. If the Estonian flag will go up to 400 courts, Estonia's GDP will grow by 1,8% per year, and the budget will additionally up to 0,5 billion euros

A source: A REGNUM

Tags: Estonia, Baltic States, Shipping, Ships, Economics, Research, EU