Privately owned Neorion Shipyard, part of the Tavoularis group, said yesterday it has started work on one of the two cruise ships ordered by Cypriot luxurious yacht chartering company Liveras Yachts. Neorion, based on Syros, said propellers were installed onto the vessel during a ceremony held last Friday. Liveras placed the order with the shipyard last December, with the costs of both vessels estimated at 32 billion drachmas. The agreement includes an option for the construction of two more crafts. The first vessel is scheduled to be delivered in June 2003 and the second at the end of 2003. Nikos Tavoularis, head of the Tavoularis group which owns Neorion and Elefsis shipyards, said the company has come a long way since its privatization in 1994. He said that compared with similar facilities based in the Attica basin, Neorion has operated and continues to operate under less than favorable conditions, without the benefit of state projects. Tavoularis said Neorion has risen to be the biggest and strongest shipyard in the country, generating profits and employing a workforce of 2,000. Neorion posted a pretax profit of 2.9 billion drachmas last year while Elefsis recorded 3.5 billion drachmas in pretax profits. Provisional nine-month figures showed Neorion enjoying profits of 1.75 billion drachmas against 4.1 billion drachmas for Elefsis. Referring to the group’s failed bid for rival Hellenic Shipyards, Tavoularis insisted that they had submitted the better offer. The fierce bidding war between Tavoularis and German shipyard HDW-Ferrostaal for control of state-owned Hellenic ended last month when the Hellenic Industrial Development Bank and the workers’ cooperative opted for the German offer.