SHIPPING

Cyprus-Greece ferry link close to fruition

Cyprus-Greece ferry link close to fruition

Cyprus’ Shipping Deputy Ministry said a successful bidder for a state-subsidized ferry link to Greece has been asked to submit a proposal, with reports saying a summer connection could be launched this year.

Deputy Minister Vassilis Demetriades said a Cyprus-Greece ferry connection could be launched as early as the last week of June, stating a combination of factors have made the latest public tender “more attractive” to investors.

Nicosia has been trying for years to revive a ferry connection between the island’s southern coast and mainland Greece, but prospective investors argued financial risks and year-round service terms in previous public tenders made it impossible to move ahead without more insurance from the state.

Last year Nicosia went back to the drawing board after no bidders came forward. Previously shipping transport companies had shown interest but remained unconvinced over the state’s plan to give up to 5 million euros in national funds annually on a 36-month contract for a ferry that would carry at least 200 passengers at low prices.

Demetriades told Cypriot state radio on Tuesday a top bidder has been selected after more attractive terms were offered but refused to identify the company until a finalized proposal and signatures are completed later this month.

The minister said previous failed attempts were due to investors not wanting to commit ships to Cyprus year-round, adding that a seasonality term introduced now meant ships would sail from May to September.

Demetriades also said an increase in state subsidies to €5.5 million was another factor, as the bidder would be in a “better position to cover fuel costs.”

A previous ferry connection was terminated in 2000. Experts and some officials had previously expressed concern over the ferry link, suggesting it might not be commercially viable. But Demetriades remains hopeful and said more details would be announced soon, including prices and itinerary. According to the minister, terms in the public tender called for maximum fares set at €50 one-way and €80 return. “We actually expect these fares to be much lower than the top price,” Demetriades said.

The ferry is expected to link Limassol with Piraeus, although the bidder still has time to choose to go with Larnaca instead.