NEWS

Catamarans to link islands

The government has decided to buy eight catamaran passenger vessels to serve smaller Aegean islands whose residents complain they are neglected by Greece’s large coastal ferry companies, Aegean Minister Nikos Sifounakis said yesterday. The vessels will cost between 140 and 150 million euros, which will come from the European Fund for Regional Development (40 percent), a European Investment Bank loan (30 percent) and the rest from the Greek State. The ships will be able to travel safely in winds of up to 8 on the Beaufort scale and reach speeds of up to 25 knots. This will not only enable them to sail even when the weather is bad, but will also reduce travel times between destinations, Sifounakis said. They will be of the so-called SWATH (small waterplane area, twin hull) and Semi-SWATH type. Sifounakis presented a report by Prof. Dimitris Yiannopoulos of the Greek Transportation Institute, saying that these ships can help end the isolation of small islands at least for the next 15 years. The ships will be operated by a new agency, run by a private concern or local authorities, Sifounakis said. It will take about two years for the purchase to be finalized and another two for them to be built. «We tried to solve a problem that the private sector was never able to solve,» Yiannopoulos said. «Over the last two years we studied all the factors that constitute the problem. [These include] the islands’ population density and the density of visitors through the year, both during the peak season and the difficulties of winter. We believe that the solution we proposed is viable.» Other countries have taken similar measures to serve their islands. For example, Britain has leased such vessels to private companies, while Denmark has given them to local authorities.