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Shipping specialist Constant & Constant has opened an office in Piraeus, Greece, a move attributed in part to the decline of entrepreneurial shipping activity in the UK
It follows Constants' loss of its Paris and Le Havre offices to Ince & Co last December. The firm has had contacts with the Greek community since 1911, when the firm was founded, and the move to Piraeus came after the European Commission allowed foreign firms to operate under their own title in Greece. Constants senior partner Richard Wilson said that the firm's work in Piraeus will be divided equally between tax work for private clients and wet and dry shipping. "There's a focus on banking finance, but we hope to build up a capacity for shipping litigation," he commented. Ship finance specialist Michael Brewster has been appointed as Constants' lead partner in the new office, with property and secured lending partner Denis Dowling as his deputy. Constants has also hired Stephenson Harwood assistant Michael Dunkerly, who prior to becoming a lawyer ran his own yachting business. Wilson said part of the reason for setting up a Greek office was to service the increasing number of entrepreneurs there, and to service clients that have moved from the UK back to Greece. He said: "The main drive is because Greece is where the real [shipping] entrepreneurs are operating. There's a decline here [in entrepreneurs] and one hopes the Government doesn't accelerate that by taking short-sighted steps." This is a reference to Government plans to impose a tax regime on Greek shipowners. Wilson added: "This threat is more perceived rather than real, but it makes the Greeks in the UK feel unwelcome, which inspires them to take their business elsewhere." Some Greek shipowners have left the UK because of these tax threats, while other smaller Greek operators have also returned to their homeland because of the increased regulation in northern Europe, particularly in relation to pollution.