A Cyprus-Greece passenger ferry link is one step closer to being reinstated after a 20-year absence, as Nicosia announced the tender will be launched in December for the route to operate next summer.
In comments to the Cyprus News Agency on Friday, Deputy Minister of Shipping, Vasilis Demetriades said that the open European tender is expected to be announced in the first week of December.
The development follows Nicosia receiving EU competition approval opening the way for a tender launch to operate the service with the government allowed to subsidise the venture by €6 mln annually.
Talks on state aid started in July 2019 and concluded successfully on July 3 by the EU’s DG Competition that the ferry can be considered a general economic interest service under EU rules, supported with state funds.
Demetriades said that his ministry will hold a press conference to present the terms of the tender and the route.
The link is expected to be reinstated sometime in the summer as the deputy ministry’s budget includes ferry expenditure costs of €4.2 mln, covering the summer months of 2021 until the end of that year.
Initial plans were for the ferry to launch last summer but it was delayed as Cyprus tried to convince the European Commission to declare the ferry a general economic interest service under EU rules that can be supported by state funds.
In earlier comments to the Financial Mirror, ruling DISY MP Annita Demetriou, who campaigned for the link to resume, 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.
“Furthermore, 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 Demetriou.
A ceiling has been set for the basic fare at; €50 one way and €80 for a return ticket. This does not include the cost of transporting a car.
Limassol port will most probably be from where the 30-hour ferry trip to Greece will begin while there are thoughts of adding an intermediate stop, such as Rhodes.
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.
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, and the 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 from October-April.