This summer is turning out to be something of a stress test for Greek island ports, as well as passengers’ nerves, to say nothing of coastal shippers – big and small. The summer season is at its peak and ports such as those on Naxos and at Rafina (eastern Attica) are pushing capacity following years of insufficient investment in infrastructure.
The situation was aggravated by Tuesday’s inconclusive meeting between coastal shippers and the competent authority of the Shipping Ministry.
The problem is more acute this summer with the increase in tourism and the ever growing competition between ferry companies vying for the biggest possible market share. The result is major delays at ports when two or three big ships arrive to dock at almost the same time. The ports’ inability to simultaneously cater to more than one vessel forces ships to wait offshore for the other to dock first.
“Almost 90 percent of our ports are problematic and the necessary work would require plenty of time and money,” said Michalis Sakellis, head of the Association of Passenger Shipping Companies (SEEN).
“Once again we stress the need for measures. Our ports will become the main factor hampering the service of our islands in the future,” he added. “Insufficient port infrastructure is hampering growth and affecting the cost of services. Already the port of Rafina will be unable to cater to demand for ferry services scheduled for 2018, while similar problems are emerging this year too.”
Ports such as Athinios on Santorini, or those of Paros and Karpathos, and dozens more simply cannot cope.
The major delays at ports and the quality of services provided have cost coastal shipping companies: “Ferry enterprises have not managed to make the most of the increase in tourism arrivals from abroad. Their revenues mostly rely on cargo traffic [i.e. lorries] as well as domestic tourism, which has been in constant decline over the last decade,” Giorgos Xiradakis, head of XRTC Business Consultants, told Kathimerini.