Lawmakers on Wednesday grilled Cyprus Ports Authority (CPA) officials as to the situation at Limassol port after its commercial operations were privatised.
MPs posed a series of questions to the CPA, which it must answer in writing to legislators’ satisfaction before they give the nod to the entity’s 2017 budget now under review.
The CPA’s budget for this year provides for revenues of €34.49 million and expenditures of €61.54 million.
The €27 million deficit is attributable to development projects, president of the CPA’s board of directors Eleftherios Hadjizacharia told MPs.
In parliament, CPA officials were asked to assess whether the transfer of commercial operations at Limassol port to private operators has benefited state coffers and the economy in general.
Confusion and problems surfaced after private company Eurogate took over from the CPA the operation of commercial services at the container terminal.
Among others, it emerged that some of the gantry cranes – under the CPA’s care until recently – were not fully operational and needed repairs and maintenance.
Asked what would be done with some cranes which appear to be damaged, Hadjizacharias said “We shall see.”
Legislators were told that the voluntary exit plan for CPA employees prior to privatisation had cost some €10 million.
The ports authority asked the House finance committee to approve 20 new hires and 20 promotions, which parliament has put on hold.
Meanwhile fresh allegations surfaced on Wednesday with socialists Edek claiming the government has forced the CPA to raise handling fees at Larnaca port – still under full state control – so that it does not compete with the private operator at Limassol.
The allegations were made by Edek leader Marinos Sizopoulos, whose party is opposed to privatising state assets.
Speaking after a meeting with CPA officials, Sizopoulos described the privatisation of commercial services at Limassol harbour as “a testament to sloppy handling and conduct on the part of the government.”
Contrary to the government’s assertions, he added, the concession deal at Limassol would lead to a decline in state revenues, and it was doubtful whether the quality of services would improve.
But quizzed later by reporters, deputy harbourmaster at Limassol Panagiotis Agathocleous said he has personally received no information corroborating Sizopoulos’ claims that tariffs at Larnaca port went up.
On the contrary, he added, he had heard that instructions were handed down for fees at Larnaca to be reduced.
“Whatever we say now would be premature. Let us wait for the new rates [at Larnaca] to be announced, and we shall act accordingly,” Agathocleous said.