Greek shipowners are stepping up pressure on this country's Socialist government for additional measures to support the home-flag fleet.
In particular, they want legislation placing geographical and other restrictions on seafarer rights to strike and an overhaul of officer cadet training.Otherwise, the government has been warned, measures already taken to assist the international competitiveness of Greek-flag shipping will fail to halt the flight from the registry.
Stathis Gourdomihalis, president of the Union of Greek Shipowners, told the annual meeting of the union that relations between owners and the marine trade unions are at their worst point since World War II.
Blaming party politics in the trade union movement, he declared: "It is impossible that the unions should fail to see the very simple truth; that seamen's jobs are absolutely connected with the endurance of the ships." If the ships were forced to leave, he asked, "by whom and how will the seamen be promoted from unemployment or emigration?"
Labor relations were discussed at a subsequent meeting with Merchant Marine Minister Stathis Alexandris, and will be a principal item on the agenda at a conference in London March 20 between Greek shipowners based in Piraeus and those operating out of the London.
The Union of Greek Shipowners has also renewed its request for a meeting with Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou at which it will argue that measures adopted by the government last November, though helpful, will not by themselves bring Greek tonnage back to the registry.
The November measures reduced the minimum crew complements on Greek-flag ships to the levels in force generally in competing fleets, and permitted the engagement of a greater number of alien seamen at the wage rates in force in their own countries instead of the far higher Greek rates.
They coincided with two developments that took away much of their value:
* For the first time, it proved impossible to negotiate a collective wage agreement with the marine unions, with the result that the government decreed increases considerably higher than those offered by the owners.
* Also for the first time, Greek oceangoing ships were hit by a worldwide strike.
Since then, there has been confusion in Piraeus over whether the measures are proving effective.
Addressing the shipowners' annual meeting, Mr. Gourdomihalis said his association "regrets that such a decisive gesture by the state has at least for the present had a limited response, but the responsibility is not ours."
At his February press conference, however, he insisted that there had already been a response, even if it did not yet show up in fleet statistics. While ships were still leaving the registry, he said, this was because of the time lag in implementing decisions taken in advance of the November measures.
He forecast that coming statistics would show improvements from three sources: a slowdown in deflagging, the return of tonnage previously removed, and the inscription of new vessels.
However, he linked this in the longer term with solutions to pending problems concerning the near bankruptcy of the Greek Seamen's Pensions Fund, tax questions, trade union legislation and cadet training.
Owners, he said, insisted on geographical restrictions on the right to strike. They also wanted a strike decision to require a majority vote by all union members affected and not to be taken by a meeting of "those who happen to be in Greece or are permanently ashore." Also, "oceangoing seamen should make the decision for oceangoing ships."
The December strike was called by the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation, the coordinating body for all the marine unions, for Greek seamen of every category on ships in home waters and around the world.
The grievance over marine training centers on government reluctance to reform the 14 Greek cadet schools. Owners say that without restoration of ''normal discipline," modernization of curricula and improvement of equipment, the schools are in danger of turning out unemployable officers.