ECONOMY

Ports project begins, but Cassiope hits snag

The state privatization fund (TAIPED) is set to begin on Friday the process for the utilization of marinas and tourist ports around the country. However, the Cassiope project on Corfu ran into an unexpected obstacle on Thursday.

The plan for the ports and marinas, named “Nereids” after the mythical sea nymphs, includes the operation of 46 locations, some of which will be operated in clusters.

The first invitation for expressions of interest concerns a marina and three ports that will be utilized in the form of a cluster: They are Alimos marina on the Attica coast and the small ports of Hydra, Poros and Nea Epidavros in the Saronic Gulf.

Five more tender processes will follow within the first half of the year. These concern the tourist ports of Pylos in the Peloponnese, Chios and Aretsou near Thessaloniki, as well as part of the main port of Lavrio in Attica that will be transformed into a megayacht marina, and the Argostoli marina on Cephalonia that will turn into a luxury docking area.

Tourism Ministry and TAIPED officials avoided saying anything about the expected revenues from the projects during a press conference yesterday in Athens, choosing instead to place emphasis on the development benefits from the Nereids plan.

“We have made our calculations,” TAIPED chief executive Yiannis Emiris said, while Minister Olga Kefaloyianni focused on the ministry’s regulatory and monitoring role. She also referred to a forthcoming bill that will relieve maritime tourism of various administrative and tax burdens.

The obstacle that emerged on Thursday for TAIPED was a verdict by a section of the country’s highest administrative court, the Council of State (CoS), which ruled that the agreement for the concession of the Cassiope plot on Corfu creates a risk to national security as it provides for the transfer of a navy radar 70 meters away from its current position. The decision ruled that the country’s national security overrides the public interest served by privatization projects, although it goes against the position expressed by the Defense Ministry on the issue.

Therefore the CoS is attempting to delay – if not block – the sole foreign direct investment, amounting to about 100 million euros, agreed in the sell-off program. The deal has been agreed with a foreign investment firm, but no contracts have been signed yet.

The property, which covers some 500,000 square meters, includes the location of a Hellenic Navy radar that monitors the straits between Corfu and Albania. The ministry had agreed to move the radar to a point within the plot that would not hinder the area’s development, but the CoS has ruled otherwise.