By George Psyllides
LARNACA residents were up in arms yesterday over government plans to allow energy companies to set up operations at the town’s port and plan to stage a protest today.
The government has given permission to natural gas companies to move support operations to Larnaca temporarily but residents view this as something that could affect plans to develop the area into a marina and leisure centre.
Mayor Andreas Louroudjiatis said the government took the decisions without taking the residents’ concerns in mind.
“We have seen many times before these kind of installations turned into a more permanent activity,” he said.
Residents are worried that no impact study has been done on how this project would affect the environment, jobs or anything else.
The government assured residents that it was a temporary project until work started on the marina project.
Zenon, a consortium consisting of the Paraskevaides Group, Iacovou Bros, Petrolina and Vouros, signed an agreement with the government in 2012 for the development of the Larnaca port and marina worth a reported €700m.
Local banks set to bankroll the project pulled back following the financial crisis so the consortium sought financing elsewhere for the marina component of the project.
Under the MoU concluded with the government, Zenon was to commence construction work by late September.
The project was to begin with an initial enlargement of the marina to provide facilities to accommodate cruise passengers.
The master plan aimed to minimise the initial investment by keeping most of the existing facilities and to optimise the cruise operation by building an offshore jetty and a cruise terminal building. Under the build, operate a transfer (BOT) method, development of the port includes the extension, modernisation and operation for 35 years of the existing port with two major components – a cruise harbour with a new terminal and an offshore mooring jetty, and a commercial port for local business.
Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos reiterated that the effort to develop the area would continue after the investors were found.
“At the same time we will help companies for a temporary period,” he said.
Chrysis Prentzas, former chairman of the ports authority, said Larnaca could support the natural gas companies’ activities in a nearby area, still reaping the financial benefits, without abandoning the prospect of a passenger port.
He said there was a need to redefine the character of the port based on current and future needs.
Prentzas wondered why the mayor and the council insisted on going ahead with the port and marina plans when the current economic conditions did not favour finding the necessary funds for the project and food banks in Larnaca increased.