FRENCH SHIPOWNERS HIT GOVERNMENT SPENDING PLANS

FRENCH SHIPOWNERS HIT GOVERNMENT SPENDING PLANS

French shipowners reacted angrily this week to government spending plans for 1996 that they said fall far short of campaign promises to breathe new life into the country's dwindling maritime sector.

The Central Committee of French Shipowners (CCAF) said details of the 1996 budget unveiled last week show a net decrease in spending on the merchant marine compared to last year.The shipowners are also unhappy about a decision by the government to cut out tax breaks for investment by individuals in shipbuilding. They also are calling for new measures to make the French flag more competitive.

The French fleet has been in decline for decades, now ranking sixth in Europe. Between 1980 and 1990, its global market share fell from 3 percent to just 1 percent. The fleet also is getting older. The average age of French- registered vessels is around 14 years.

The French shipowners are especially bitter about the 1996 budget with accompanying tax reforms.