The Greek cabinet, meeting after a shipping disaster in which at least 79 people died, drew up a plan to withdraw some 105 aging vessels from the island ferry business by 2006.
It also agreed to open up the market to foreign operators in 2002, two years earlier than planned.
"The government has a steady target of improving commercial shipping policy - people's safety, services and the creation of a modern coastal shipping industry," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said
The Express Samina
ferry sank last week with more than 500 passengers aboard when it hit a well-charted islet just before reaching the Aegean island of Paros. Shipping officials have partly blamed the disaster on the near-monopolies that have developed in the Aegean, saying competition would improve the quality of ships and services.