The government’s proposal to re-establish a long-defunct car and passenger ferry service to Greece from Cyprus by the summer of 2020 is being implemented step by step, but there is still a long way to go, Phileleftheros reports citing insiders.
The Deputy Ministryfor Shipping last week received the first feedback from the European Commission which has been asked to approve a state subsidy for the project. Nicosia has already sent back clarifications requested by Brussels, an insider said.
The government believes EU assistance will help cover the shortfall that will occur, at least initially, and there is a prevailing feeling that the Commission will give the green light. The proposed €5 million subsidy annually is for the first three years of the route’s reintroduction.
Upon approval of the Commission, a tender competition will be announced to find the most suitable business to assume the project.
This is estimated to take place around Easter time, and signatures between the state and the selected company are due by the summer. The exact time the ferry connection will be launched depends on the month the agreement will be signed.
At the same time, Deputy Minister Natasa Pilides is due to meet Greece’s Minister of Tourism Charis Theochari and Minister of Shipping Yiannis Plakiotaki on Thursday.
The talks will focus on the coordination of action to promote the project, as well as on serious logistics such as which port of Greece the ferry will dock. Piraeus is the most probable option, but it is not a closed deal.
Insiders keep reminding that despite the initial enthusiasm over the return of the ferry service concerns are mounting. Among them is whether companies which have voiced interest will actually turn words into deeds.
This is one reason the Deputy Ministry is keeping a low profile on this project until tender offers are submitted and the best investor is selected.
In addition, the unknown factor in the equation is whether there will be interest from travelers to take the ferry option. Will families be willing to spend 30 hours aboard a ship to reach their destination? Or will they take the passenger ferry once for the experience and never again? This outcome would render the project unprofitable.
There is also debate over the cost for ccompanying vehicles with the Ministry of Transport wanting to offer a lower – and more attractive – price.
But the problem here is that Cyprus cars are right-hand drive and those in Greece left-hand drive, so there is a feeling that ferry travelers will opt not to use their own vehicle while on vacation.
By Demetra Landou