Greece would not exist today if it wasn’t for seamanship. Not only because Greek independence was largely achieved through sea power, but also because today, even in these hard times, Greece boasts a strong commercial fleet worldwide. What an insult to our own history then that traditional fishing boats are continuing to be destroyed today.
For centuries Greece had the largest fleet of well madewooden boats the “kaikia”.
For centuries, Greece could boast for its kaikia, one of the largest fleets of handmade wooden small vessels worldwide.
Now a large number of them are cut to pieces by bulldozers for “30 pieces of silver”, the compensation the European Community gives to fishermen in exchange for giving up their fishing licenses and having their boatsdestroyed.
Since 1999, the Traditional Boat Association of Greece is preoccupied with the urgent project of protecting these vessels. Each one of them, handmade by old shipwrights (a disappearing breed) is unique and irreplaceable.According to the Association, 12.500 boats have been destroyed during the last 20 years. A few days ago, it was announced that another 763 were to face imminent destruction. Another 522 applications for destruction have already been approved and are pending, due to as-yet unavailable financing.
A total of 45 million Euros go towards this destruction, despite the fact that these boats could simply change use and continue to operate as tourist vessels.
Many politicians have promised to stop this crime against our maritime tradition, and to use any available legal means to save the kaikia. Sadly, no one has stepped up to their promises, with the exception of GeorgeAnomeritis,. Vessels that took up to three years to be built and have sailed the waters for 80-90 years, keep being torn apart by the bulldozers. Some of them are so solid that extra machinery is called in to break them down entirely.
Several countries of the European Union – like the UK, France, Holland, and Portugal – have established special protection rules for their old naval vessels. They have built fine maritime museums and honor traditional craftsmanship. In Greece, the state tries to chase the last remaining local shipyards away from the marinas, by imposing fines on their owners, applying same tax levieson both old and new boats, and not having established schools where traditional maritime crafts can be keptalive.
The Association stresses that changing the use of these “condemned” boats from fishing to touristic vessels (through government auctions) will their fate change for the better.
But is anyone listening?
MARGARITA POURNARA kathimerini 6 feb 2018