SPECIAL REPORT-Greek shipowners talk up their role to protect tax breaks
* If Greece measured shipping like others, industry would be smaller
* Reuters analysis shows direct contribution could be about 1% of GDP
* Shipping minister says current measurement method not effective
* Taxation review next year may include shipping
* Important to keep industry competitive, minister says
By Tom Bergin
PIRAEUS, Greece, Nov 25 (Reuters) - On the day he took office as Greece's shipping minister in June 2012, Kostis Moussouroulis received a visit from a 90-year-old shipowner. He still remembers the older man's words: "Don't forget, the best minister of shipping and maritime affairs is the minister who is doing nothing for the shipping industry. He is the one who is leaving us alone."
That's the way Greek shipowners like it. The magnates who run one of the biggest merchant marine fleets in the world have long argued that if Greece tried to tax them, they would leave - and that their departure would devastate the economy. In recent years, as international institutions repeatedly bailed out Greece, the lenders have also pushed Athens to beef up its tax take. Shipowners have resisted any effort to ditch the tax breaks they enjoy, and no government has dared touch them.
"Shipping is a pillar of the Greek economy," says the Union of Greek Shipowners, the ocean-going industry's main association. Continuación...