ECONOMY

Attracting interest for the refurbishment of ports

The improvement of Greek port infrastructures will accelerate the modernization of the coastal shipping fleet and raise the quality of the service supplied to passengers, as it will allow new, modern vessels to approach small ports that today are considered insufficient. Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said a general invitation for expressions of interest is planned for all ports that require improvement in order to eliminate all existing problems. General Secretary for Port Policy Giorgos Vlachos this week held a meeting with the representatives of 20 ports which have major problems as well as with the Merchant Marine Captains’ Association (PEPEN) in order to find ways of settling those issues during the summer period. «We have inherited problems from a port policy without vision and solutions, so we now need to do within three years everything that has not been done in 20,» Kefaloyiannis suggested. He added that the study made into extending the duration of public interest contracts from six to 12 years also takes into account the parameter of harbors. Within the following week, the ministry’s amendment to the contracts’ extension will be passed in Parliament, allowing for ships aged up to eight years to enter specific routes. These ships will cover the transport needs of small islands with fares subsidized by the state or with exclusive contracts for route service, assisting in the better transport of passengers and goods. Kefaloyiannis also stressed that within the next five years about 40 seaplanes will operate with hubs on the islands of Syros, Rhodes, Kalymnos and Crete, contributing to improved service to the smaller islands and their link with the bigger ones and the rest of Greece. Seven companies have already expressed their interest, said Kefaloyiannis. Liberalization Port services, and therefore ship fares, too, are fully liberalized in all ports that fulfill the two conditions: those served by a minimum of two companies and have a passenger total of at least 300,000. Among new ports where fares are still to be liberalized are Thasos, Samothrace and other smaller ports. «Fare liberalization has succeeded, despite the difficult conditions we face internationally, such as the great rise in the price of fuel,» Kefaloyiannis said. Answering a question from Kathimerini about the demand for the abolition of third-party levies included in fares and raising them by more than 20 percent, the merchant marine minister encouraged coastal shipowners to «forget about that,» because those levies «assist the supply of quality services to passengers.»