ECONOMY

Hellas Flying Dolphins to invest 92 mln euros against the current

Apparently undaunted by continuously rising oil prices and its strong impact on costs, ferry operator Hellas Flying Dolphins (HFD) this week announced a new, 92-million-euro investment program. The plan foresees that 30 percent of the funds required will come from the company’s coffers and the rest from bank borrowing. Sixteen of its boats (11 high-speed «Flying Dolphins» and five conventional ships) will be withdrawn by HFD as part of a renewal drive. The company will add three new vessels, two catamaran-type and a state-of-the-art «Highspeed» to its fleet in the next few months. The «Highspeed 5» will start on the Piraeus-Hania route on June 15, 2005, covering the distance in just 4.5 hours. «We are bringing Crete much closer to Piraeus and believe we contribute in the development of the region this way,» said the company’s CEO, Gerasimos Strintzis. He added that coastal shipping must continue modernizing itself, but the government also has «to do its duty properly,» that is to pay the costs of social provisions (discounts, unpopular routes etc). Strintzis further remarked that he cannot easily comprehend how the Merchant Marine Ministry can accept that high-speed boats may operate for only 7.5 months per year and yet the crews have to be paid for 10 months. When the 16 vessels are withdrawn, HFD will be left with 32 conventional and high-speed boats. It plans to add two more high-speed vessels in 2006 with a capacity of up to 2,100 passengers, reaching speeds of 26 sea miles per hour. HFD has also booked a RoRo-type boat that will soon be operative, ferrying cars and trucks. Strintzis also criticized Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis for inertia and indecision which is responsible for serious problems. «The current stagnation favors the growth of conditions of protectionism,» he said, recalling that the prime minister had promised the abolition of the 3 percent surcharge on fares and the harmonization of coastal shipping legislation with EU provisions. «We do not want any favors, just relief from extra burdens,» said Strintzis, remarking that to any sane businessperson the Greek coastal shipping industry «causes allergy due to its interventionism.»