ECONOMY

Nicosia drops hint at ferry link this summer

Nicosia drops hint at ferry link this summer

The Shipping Deputy Ministry in the Republic of Cyprus says 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 shipping minister Vasilis Demetriades says a Cyprus-Greece ferry connection could be launched as early as last week of June, saying 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 all-year-round service terms in previous public tenders made it impossible to move ahead without more insurance from the state.

Last year the Cypriot government 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 in national funds annually on a 36-month contract for a ferry that would carry at least 200 passengers at low prices.

Demetriades, who spoke on state radio Tuesday morning, said a top bidder has been selected after more attractive terms were on offer but refused to identify the company until a finalized proposal and signatures were complete later this month.

The minister said previous failed attempts were due to investors not wanting to commit ships to Cyprus all-year-round, adding that a seasonality term introduced this time meant ships would sail only between May and September.

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

A previous ferry connection between Greece and Cyprus 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 remained 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 prices set at €50 one-way and €80 two-way.

“We actually expect these fares to be much lower than the top price,” Demetriades said.

Politicians across the political spectrum have been pushing for the ferry link, saying travel by sea to Greece was popular among Cypriots especially those who cannot or are afraid to fly.

The ferry is expected to link Limassol with Piraeus, although the successful bidder still has time to choose to go with Larnaca, as the contract would allow only one of the two Cypriot port towns. [Kathimerini Cyprus]