EU gives green light to Cyprus-Greece ferry link

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After a 20-year absence, the Cyprus-Greece passenger ferry link will be reinstated after Nicosia received EU competition approval, the outgoing shipping minister said Monday.

This development opens the way for a tender to operate the service with the government allowed to subsidise the venture by  €6 mln annually.

Natasa Pilides made the comments to mark her two-half-years as Cyprus’ first Deputy Minister for Shipping.

She is leaving the post to become Energy Minister on July 7 with Vasilis Demetriades, a shipping expert serving at the EU, taking her place.

“We are especially happy with this positive development. It is a significant step towards the implementation of this project, since securing approval from the European Commission was crucial and is a precondition to the next actions,” she said delivering the news.

Talks on state aid started in July 2019 and concluded successfully with the announcement on July 3 by the EU’s DG Competition that the ferry can be considered a general economic interest service under EU rules and can be supported with state funds.

The outgoing Minister noted that although approval from the EU Commission is an important step, there is still a long way to go, including an open tender competition.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, ruling DISY MP Annita Demetriou, who campaigned for the link to be reinstated, said she was happy to see efforts pay off.

Demetriou has campaigned for the past two years with fellow DISY MP Nicos Tornaritis, presenting their case to parliament, business leaders and involving President Nicos Anastasiades.

She thanked the President for his involvement and Pilides who spearheaded the campaign to convince Brussels to endorse state aid for the project which is expected to make a loss.

Demetriou argued it was unacceptable that while Cyprus is surrounded by sea, the only means of travel is by air.

There is no ferry link with neighbours Greece and consequently with mainland Europe.

“In the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, the need for a sea link was highlighted further as flights are scarce and will continue to be so for some time to come,” said the MP.

“The difficult part of this journey is now behind us. The wheels have been set in motion and it is just a matter of time when the ferry link will be reinstated”.

The route will be operated by a passenger ship, under an EU / EEA flag, which will be included in the Paris MOU White List.

The vessel should have a minimum capacity of 200 passengers and cabins available for at least 140 people as the duration of the trip exceeds 16 hours.

As for the fare, it is €50 for one-way tickets and €80 return.

Tickets including a cabin will cost €80 for a one-way route and €120 return. Children up to the age of 24 months can travel for free while those aged 2 to 12 will pay a reduced fare.

Vehicle transport will cost €75 for the single route and €150 for a return while motorbike passengers will pay €50 for a single fare and €100 return.

The above prices do not include port taxes.

Salamis Tours operated the last ferry link to Greece from 1993 until 2000 when demand had faded out and trips stopped.

After airfares were liberalized in 2000, more airlines came to Cyprus and prices dropped dramatically.

The new ferry will operate twice weekly during May-September and once a week October-April.