Cyprus Mail

Port workers fear Larnaca profits skimmed by bidder

By Evie Andreou

“WE do not wish to see the Cyprus Ports Authority to have the same fate as Cyprus Airways (CY),” the union of the authority’s employees said and threatened to strike should the government concede its Larnaca port rent rights to Zenon consortium.

Zenon, consisting of the Paraskevaides Group, Iacovou Bros, Petrolina and Vouros, had signed an agreement with the government in 2012 for the development of the Larnaca port and marina worth a reported €700m, but due to the economic meltdown local banks pulled out.

Under the deal, which was on a public private partnership (PPP) basis, the consortium was supposed to secure funding for the project within six months from its signing, while the first and second phase projects would be completed within the next three years.

Since late 2012, when the contract was concluded, the government has granted Zenon seven extensions, the last one expiring yesterday.

Despite reassurances of the head of the Ports Authority, Alecos Michaelides, that Zenon will not benefit from the rent the authority receives from companies that lease establishments of the port, the employees were not convinced after it became known that a few days after the last extension was granted, the consortium asked for the contracts the authority had signed with third parties.

“We believe that the consortium wants to use these contracts in order to convince banks that it will have income from the rent paid from the lease of establishments, that amounts to €6m annually,” the general secretary of the union, Andreas Georgiou, told the Cyprus Mail.

He added that their fears are not baseless since due to a ‘mistake’ in the original contract, the consortium already receives general port rights on fuel from every ship that loads or unloads goods at Larnaca port according to volume, that should have been received by the Ports Authority.

“If the consortium receives another extension, we will then decide if we are going on strike, and if the contract is signed granting Zenon full rent rights, we will go on strike,” Georgiou said.

The union asked the House Transport committee on Tuesday to review the agreement between the government and Zenon on the revamp of the Larnaca port before it is signed, to see if the original terms have been altered.

“The employees of the Ports Authority see a healthy profitable organisation to lose or even give away one by one pieces which had the prospects for further profit (such as Vassiliko and spaces at Limassol port) and will not accept one more piece to be given away through the upcoming ports privatisation,” the letter said.

Sympathising with the fate of Cyprus Airways and fearing that they too could be next, the Electricity Authority’s unions issued an announcement in which they urge all employees of the utility to be alert and vigilant in order to ‘prevent similar crimes’.

The staff of CY, the announcement said, suffered tremendous sacrifices over the past decade to save the organisation and should not be held responsible for its closing down.

“CY was privately operated, which is considered by some a panacea, and consequently was not under the control of the Auditor-general or the House, so the Cypriot people should be troubled when they hear about privatisation of utilities,” the announcement said.

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