Ferries pay the price for delays

In a bid to avoid a repeat of recent scenes involving thousands of dehydrated tourists being stranded at the country’s ports, authorities whacked ferry operators and travel agencies with fines of more than half a million euros yesterday for leaving their passengers in the dark about delays in ferry departure times. The Merchant Marine Ministry was reacting to a series of recent delays and cancellations on passenger ferry schedules, mostly in Piraeus, which left holidaymakers waiting up to 15 hours for their ship to sail. The imposed fines total 528,247 euros, while Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis also decided to triple future fines. In the last few days, there were no major problems reported at Piraeus but on Friday some 2,500 passengers had been stranded at the country’s largest port after two ferries reported engine problems. The ministry highlighted yesterday the extra demand for ferry services last month, during which just over one million people left from Piraeus, some 50,000 more than last year. Authorities estimate that demand will remain strong in August. The ministry also decided to increase the number of vehicle-transporting ferries after an accident earlier this week left a ferry stranded in Keratsini with 38 supply trucks on board. The extra ferries will help transport trucks carrying water, food and fruit to several islands. The navy has also lent some of its landing ships to help move supplies.