Ferry bosses mull thinning services

As islanders were again protesting yesterday for better ferry services, shipowners considered further thinning services after Easter in a bid to counteract rising operating costs, brought on by high oil prices. The Coastal Shipowners’ Union (EEA) met yesterday to discuss how best to tackle their burgeoning costs, which, they claim, have almost doubled since last year, despite some 50 million euros in state subsidies. They are considering scrapping the introduction of new ships from their summer timetable, sources said. However Merchant Marine Minister Michalis Kefaloyiannis pledged yesterday that all islands would have regular service to the mainland all year round. Another idea apparently put forward by EEA is for the average speed of ferries to be reduced, in a bid to use less fuel, and for high-speed, less fuel-efficient ferries to only run on Fridays and weekends rather than throughout the week. Shipowners also asked the government to scrap the ceiling that it imposes on economy-class fares, suggesting that a rise of almost 15 percent would help cover extra costs this year. Last month, the Merchant Marine Ministry said it would soon begin a pilot scheme to deregulate fares at the ports of Rafina, Lavrio, Elefsina and Kymi as an incentive to attract ferry companies, which could introduce a faster and more frequent service. Last November, islanders on most Aegean islands went on strike, asking for better ferry services and harbor facilities while protesters in Samos yesterday demanded a ferry line between their island and Thessaloniki.

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