Larnaca feels overlooked in Greece ferry link

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Larnaca feels ignored by authorities in the tender for the ferry connection between Greece and Cyprus, claiming favouritism toward Limassol port as the departure point.

The Deputy Ministry of Shipping, tasked with reinstating the ferry link after 21 years, denied it favours the Limassol over the soon to be upgraded Larnaca port.

However, Larnaca businesses, the municipality and the local tourism board feel otherwise, as in a joint statement they claimed that conditions included in the tender paint Limassol port as the most likely choice.

The Larnaca authorities said the main criterion for evaluating the competition is the distance between the two ports to Greece with a weight of 55%.

Larnaca stakeholders argue that other important parameters have not been considered such as the processing time of the whole operation.

They argue the distance between the two ports in Cyprus is insignificant compared to the entire trip, Limassol port is closer to Piraeus the destination port in Greece.

“There is no reference to port fees, which may determine not only the final outcome of the tender but also the future success and viability of the whole project.”

Stating their case, Larnaca stakeholders claim the decision has been more or less taken, citing statements of Shipping Minister Vasilis Demetriades.

He was quoted as saying in an interview, that Larnaca is disadvantaged in terms of distance, pointing out that he did not refer to other factors in which Larnaca has an advantage.

“There is no doubt that Larnaca port, with its recent outsourcing of large-scale and state-of-the-art development to a private investor, will be a focal point in the Eastern Mediterranean,” they said.

“At the same time, however, it has the unique comparative advantage of being located in the city centre and having an international airport at a very close distance and this is a feature that is preferred by ferry companies.”

In their announcement, they call on authorities to correct the “unequal” tender, which, as they claim, prevents potential bidders from choosing Larnaca port as the home of the ferry connection.

Replying to the Larnaca businesses and local authorities, the deputy ministry said the tender sets as a criterion the duration of the trip and not the distance.

Demetriades said he made it clear that the tender offers a choice of either Limassol or Larnaca port.

The tender ends on 29 January and was launched after the EU’s General Directorate for Competition gave the green light for state support for the implementation of the ferry route.

The EU’s DG Competition decided the ferry can be considered a general economic interest service under EU rules, supported with state funds.

The government is allowed to subsidise the venture by €5 mln annually.

The ferry link will be a weekly schedule, dropping to fortnightly in October and April and monthly during the winter months from November to March with a state subsidy of €5 mln a year, for three years.

The ferry must be an EU-flag vessel or if foreign-owned, must be EU-registered.

It should carry at least 200 passengers with a capacity of 140 more in cabins, if the trip is longer than 16 hours with fares capped at €50 single and €80 return, €75 single fare in cabins and €149 return, €75 and €150 return for passenger cars, and €50 with €100 return for motorcycles.

Salamis Tours operated the last ferry link to Greece from 1993 until 2000 when demand faded, 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.