Cyprus urged not to ditch Greece ferry link

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Cyprus maritime authorities are urged to redouble attempts to revive a passenger ferry to Greece after moves to subsidise the link failed to attract any interest from shipping companies.

The Shipping Ministry sought to revive the connection with a €5 mln annual subsidy approved by the EU’s Directorate-General for Competition.

However, the tender closed on Friday with the government’s in-box remaining empty, sinking hopes of reviving a Cyprus ferry link to Greece this summer after a 20-year absence.

But the junior ministry in charge of Cyprus shipping has not given up, just yet.

“We will begin contacts immediately to chart the way ahead,” Shipping Minister Vasilis Demetriades told the Cyprus News Agency.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated uncertainty concerning the commercial aspect of the connection created obstacles.

The reason for ferry operators not submitting tenders is 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.

Demetriades said he will consult with his ministry’s technocrats to assess the situation and decide on the way forward.

The meeting will determine whether the tender was negatively affected by the pandemic or by other reasons.

Meanwhile, the Greece-Cyprus Business Association, one of the stakeholders pushing for the revival of the ferry expressed disappointment with the outcome.

In an announcement on Monday, the association said that the impasse threatens to sink efforts to end Cyprus’ isolation and enhance trade and tourism relationships between the two countries.

It called on the Deputy Ministry of Shipping to renew efforts and find ways of attracting the interest of the industry.

“After so much effort has been put into the project, it is not conceivable that the ferry link will fail due to a lack of interest from private companies,” said the association.

It believes the Cyprus-Greece ferry link should be a top priority urging the Ministry of Shipping to take initiatives in every direction to achieve this strategic goal for Cyprus.

Salamis Tours operated the last passenger 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 Brussels deciding the ferry can be considered a general economic interest service under EU rules.

Under EU rules, the state subsidy was solely associated with the passenger aspect of the sea line.