ECONOMY

Cruise sector slump in 2014 won’t affect Piraeus investment

The forecast for a decline in the Eastern Mediterranean’s cruise sector next year will not stop the 120-million-euro investment in the port of Piraeus for the expansion of the cruise terminal to its south, the representatives of local cruise ship owners agreed with Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis during a meeting at the ministry on Tuesday.

Regional unrest has led international cruise operators to scale back their plans for the region in 2014 by up to 30 percent from this year. This will meant that the high numbers of arrivals recorded at Greek ports this year will be extremely difficult to be repeated next year. This will spell the end of a long period of growth in cruise arrivals for Greek ports, which in the decade to 2012 posted growth of 151 percent. This year an additional annual rise of 11 percent has been recorded.

The extension of the Piraeus terminal is, however, deemed necessary as the prospects for growth in the sector are still there even if 2014 proves to be a less dynamic season. Along with other necessary interventions to the infrastructure of a number of other Greek ports, this investment is vital for the country to attain the target of a significant increase in the number of cruise visitors.

The ministry has decided to include tourism activity in the tender for the privatization of the Piraeus Port Authority. Varvitsiotis called on the cruise sector companies to boost cooperation with the authorities involved toward attracting more cruise ships to Greek ports.

The sector’s representatives responded that the ministry needs to set up a separate directorate of tourism shipping that will be responsible for the sectors of cruise tourism and yachting.