Ferries firms rapped for delays

As ferry delays left passengers stranded at ports for up to seven hours over the weekend, a Merchant Marine Ministry source told Kathimerini yesterday that shipping companies have done a poor job in telling passengers about changes in departure times. «In the event that there is a diversion of ferry routes from the scheduled time, the company is obliged to take the necessary measures and inform passengers,» the source told Kathimerini. The issue of delays to ferry schedules resurfaced over the weekend when a number of ships were up to seven hours late in leaving for destinations such as the Cyclades due to engine problems. Passengers claimed no one told them about the delays. Government officials played down the problems, describing them as minor. «We cannot let these isolated incidents overshadow the vast majority of ferry connections that went very smoothly,» said alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros. The source said companies have not been responsible about informing passengers on their ferries about delays, leaving port officials to do it instead. «All these years, the port authority and the ministry would undertake this task, without reason. It is our duty to approve routes, monitor whether they are being maintained by the companies and intervene whenever necessary by notifying the operator… and if necessary impose a fine,» the source added. Consumer groups have called on the Merchant Marine Ministry to impose fines on operators who do not inform passengers of delays by arguing that they are not respecting passengers.