A passenger ship is on course for Pireaus, Greece, after the route was launched from Limassol for the first time in over two decades.
Sunday’s relaunch of the ferry link between Cyprus and Greece comes 21 years after it was abandoned.
Deputy Minister of Shipping, Vassilios Demetriades, expressed his satisfaction with the services available to passengers on board the Daleela.
It departed the Limassol Port at around noon Sunday, for Piraeus, with 173 passengers, including Demetriades, Deputy Minister for Tourism Savvas Perdios, and the Mayor of Limassol, Nicos Nicolaides, among others.
The last voyage took place on October 8, 2001, with the Salamis Star ship, the ferry link between the two countries.
Demetriades said the link would boost maritime tourism and create the conditions for further growth.
At the launch, President Nicos Anastasiades said: “At last, the umbilical cord that connected Cyprus and Greece through shipping is re-established more efficiently, with more modern ships, but most importantly, the opportunity is finally given to many citizens who wanted it so much.”
He said the government was aware the move would not be profitable, which is why there should be state assistance, hence the efforts made at the EU level to get the go-ahead.
“In addition to remaining Europe’s third-largest merchant fleet, we are 11th in the world, but most importantly, we are the first country in ship management.”
President Anastasiades also said that shipping companies that are part of the Tonnage Tax System have almost tripled in the last decade, as from 97 registered in 2012, today they amount to 275.
“We are talking about important sectors of the economy that employ 11,000 on land and 55,000 at sea.”
Up to 2001, there were regular departures of ferries from Limassol to Rhodes and Piraeus but were discontinued as people had the alternative of a 90-minute air trip, as flights to Athens became more frequent and inexpensive.
However, several thousand people with air phobia or who just wanted a leisurely trip to Greece and the possibility of taking a car demanded the resumption of a ferry connection between Cyprus and Greece.
After obtaining special permission from the European Union, the government offered a €5.5 mln subsidy a year to secure interest by ship owners to operate a regular ferry link between Limassol and Piraeus.
The route will be operated by a Cypriot-registered cruiser, the Daleela, which can carry up to 270 passengers and 100 cars. The voyage lasts about 30 hours.
Daleela will make a total of 22 voyages this year until mid-September.
The agents of the ship said almost all trips had already been booked.
Some 6,500 have reserved a cabin or seat on the cruiser, and berths for 1,500 vehicles.
A return ticket in a VIP cabin costs €160 – about the same as an economy airfare – a return second class cabin €80 and a return berth for a car up to five metres €203.
All one-way tickets will cost half of the full trip.