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COVID sinks Cyprus ferry link to Greece

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Hopes of reviving a Cyprus ferry link to Greece this summer after 20 years have sunk before setting sail after Friday’s deadline for tenders expired without any interest shown because of the pandemic.

On Friday, the Deputy Ministry of Shipping announced: “Despite the initial interest shown by potential bidders to secure the documents of the Open European Tender for the Cyprus-Greece Maritime Connection that would receive a state subsidy of up to €5 mln per year…no bids have been submitted”.

The tender closed at noon on Friday, with the government’s in-box remaining empty.

The ministry said the reason for ferry operators not submitting tenders could be attributed to the uncertainty and economically precarious conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken its toll on the shipping and travel sectors.

It said resuming the Cyprus-Greece passenger ferry link will be revisited once conditions allow for negotiations with the shipping industry.

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

After two decades of being cut off from the rest of Europe, it was hoped travellers from Cyprus would be able to hop on a ferry this summer and disembark in Piraeus, Greece to continue their journey on foot, by car or motorbike.

Nicosia last year got the green light to subsidise the link with state money after long talks with the EU.

Greece had also welcomed the new ferry service, but holiday travel has been decimated by the pandemic.

Talks on state aid concluded successfully in July with the EU’s Directorate-General for Competition deciding the ferry can be considered a general economic interest service under EU rules.

Earlier this week, Larnaca municipality along with local stakeholders, said they felt their town was ignored by authorities in the tender for the ferry connection between Greece and Cyprus, claiming favouritism toward Limassol port as the departure point.

The venture was to be subsidised, by national funds, €5 mln annually for the 36-month contract.

A total of 24 commercial operators obtained tender documents when the bidding was launched on 11 December 2020.