Israeli officials have welcomed Cyprus’ efforts to reinstate a maritime passenger link with Greece, expressing their interest in expanding the connection to include a port in Israel.
Cyprus Deputy Minister of Shipping Vassilis Demetriades and the Israeli Minister of Transport Merav Michaeli held an online meeting focussing on Nicosia’s efforts to re-establish the maritime connection with Greece.
Michaeli welcomed the initiative while sharing the government’s view that extending the Cyprus-Greece maritime connection with Israel would benefit both sides.
The two ministers agreed that expansion to Israel “would facilitate the free movement of people and enrich the available options for transportation between the three countries, which are currently limited to air transport”.
They acknowledged that a possible extension of the Cyprus-Greece sea connection to Israel would create a new market for tourism between them and Europe.
The two ministers also recognised that the ferry connection would serve the needs of those who cannot travel by air either because of health reasons or a fear of flying.
The deputy ministry further noted that the two ministers also stressed that introducing a sea connection between the three countries would also have environmental benefits, compared to air travel.
The possibility of adding a call to an Israeli port would increase Cyprus’ chances of finally reinstating the ferry link with Greece, 21 years after it was abandoned.
To do so, the shipping ministry launched a fresh attempt in November, following a failed tender in January for a three-year contract with annual state aid of €5 mln.
To make the unwanted tender more attractive to operators, the Deputy Ministry of Shipping increased the subsidy for a ferry link with Greece by €500,000 to €5.5 mln, taking into account the increase in fuel prices.
In earlier comments to the Financial Mirror, Demetriades said Cyprus would give everything they had at a final attempt to revive a ferry connection to Greece in 2022, despite indications of limited interest from operators.
Demetriades said there were no guarantees this new attempt would be successful, as industry stakeholders in Greece and Cyprus appear to be reluctant.
He said: “Persuading shipping operators is a tough nut to crack; we are also hoping to turn the heads of traditional shipping companies in the EU and Scandinavia”.
The new tender does allow the ferry link to stop at a neighbouring country, such as Egypt or Israel.
“This means the route could be extended to include a port in Israel or a Greek island, making the package all the more attractive.”