State to use own ship to reduce ferry delays

With the government looking for quick-fix solutions to cutting massive delays at the country’s ports, the Merchant Marine Ministry has decided to keep a ship of its own on standby that can be used to plug transport holes when passenger ferries get delayed due to technical problems, government sources said. Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis discussed the idea in a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday and the two appear to have approved the scheme, which involves leasing a ship that can be used when other ferries are pulled out of action at the last minute. Repeated delays this summer of passenger ferry departures, sometimes for up to 14 hours, have embarrassed the government in a country that is otherwise proud of its shipping industry. Last week, ferry operators were fined more than half a million euros for leaving their passengers in the dark over delays. Other approved measures include extending the contract of ships used on non-profit routes up to 12 years from one year currently, in order to improve the service offered. Additionally, the quality criteria of these ships will also be upped as a way of contracting newer vessels.