Looser terms for oil tankers at ports would worsen fuel smuggling issue

A return to looser regulations for oil supply tankers anchored at Greek ports threatens to worsen the country’s fuel smuggling problem, depriving the Greek State of substantial tax revenues.

A legislative revision currently being worked on by government officials would, if implemented, reintroduce lax terms not requiring tax-related inspections of tankers loaded with fuel and stationed at ports – without corresponding orders – as storage facilities.

Such an arrangement had been permitted in the past as a tax relief measure for the fuel sector but was swiftly terminated by a finance and economy ministry decision in 2002, imposed to tackle illicit fuel trade.

In comments to energypress, sector officials have questioned the incentives behind the government’s latest move.

The loose observation by state authorities of an inflow-outflow monitoring system for the fuel sector, introduced in 2014 as a measure to counter fuel smuggling, combined with the possible return to lax terms for oil supply tankers at ports, is expected to intensify the country’s fuel smuggling problem.

An elevated special consumption tax (EFK) imposed on fuel, in Greece in addition to a VAT rate of 24 percent, has driven many sector players to illicit trade.

Besides depriving the Greek State of tax revenues, the easier terms being considered for oil supply tankers at ports would increase the threat of oil-spill accidents and environmental damage. Just over a year ago, an oil tanker sunk in the Saronic Gulf, just off Athens, spilling a significant amount of oil into the sea for one of the country’s worst environmental disasters.