Nicosia will reveal next week the preferred bidder to operate the Cyprus-Greece passenger ferry, 22 years after it was abandoned, with the line expected to start as early as June.
The Shipping Deputy Ministry (SDM) announced Monday that the tender review process among the three finalist bidders has been completed and the preferred bidder is expected to submit final contractual documents “within a few days”.
It said that all the relevant details, including the name of the vessel, the schedules and fares, will be announced next week, and the main port of call, either Limassol or Larnaca.
Three European entities had submitted expressions of interest in the improved tender in January, with officials at the junior ministry saying they were satisfied after last year’s previous tender failed to attract any interest.
In November, the ministry launched a fresh attempt for a three-year contract valued at €33 mln, with annual state aid of €5.5 mln, under a public service obligation (SGEI – Service of General Economic Interest).
To make the unwanted tender more attractive to operators, the government increased the subsidy for a ferry link with Greece by €500,000 to €5.5 mln, considering the increase in fuel prices.
The maritime link will serve Cyprus (departing from Limassol or Larnaca) and the port of Piraeus for the transportation of passengers and their vehicles.
The service will be performed by a Ro-Pax vessel/ferry, flying an EU/EEA flag, and complying with rules and regulations regarding safety, security, and environmental issues.
The three finalists were Scandro Holding Ltd. (€15,594,000), N.Y. Business Ties Ltd. (€14,100,000) and Kiara Naftiki Etairia (€16,500,000).
Stop in Israel or Egypt
The new tender also allows 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,” said Shipping Minister Vassilis Demetriades.
In December, Israeli officials welcomed the efforts to reinstate a maritime passenger link with Greece, expressing their interest in expanding the connection to include Israel.
Demetriades and Israeli Minister of Transport Merav Michaeli discussed the venture and 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 new tender provides for 22 round trips between April/May and September/October.
This is shorter than the original tender, which provided 31 round trips throughout the year.
Furthermore, it can be expanded for an additional three years depending on the average passenger load.
The ship should have a minimum passenger capacity of 100 and cabins that can accommodate 60 passengers, instead of 200 passengers and cabins for 140 as per the previous tender.
In the new tender, the destination in Greece is the Port of Piraeus instead of the smaller passenger terminal at Keratsini.
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, travellers from Cyprus are still hoping they can hop on a ferry this summer.
After complex talks with the EU, Nicosia earned approval to subsidise the link with state funds.