By Evie Andreou
PORT workers protested against the continuous extensions the government is giving the Zenon consortium over the Larnaca port and marina project with a three-hour walkout yesterday morning.
The consortium, 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.
Under the deal, the consortium was supposed to secure funding for the project within six months from its signing but due to the economic meltdown local banks pulled out.
Since late 2012, when the contract was concluded, the government has granted Zenon eight extensions, the last one expiring on February 15.
The head of the ports employees union Demetris Patsalos said that the work stoppage was aimed to send a message to the government that the endless state of successive extensions given to Zenon for a project that should have started years ago, must end.
He welcomed statements by the Communications and Works minister Marios Demetriades, that this was the final extension the consortium had been granted, and that if they do not come up with the money the port will be returned to the Cyprus Ports Authority.
“If the joint development project of the port and the marina does not proceed, then the marina must be separated and the necessary funds must be secured for developments that will help the Larnaca port,” Patsalos said.
Antonis Neophytou, general secretary of the PEO port workers’ union, said that there is no more room for the implementation of the project by the consortium as was agreed with the government.
“We believe that the constant extensions mean nothing more than for a way to be found so that the port authority’s rights are given to private businesses through the back door,” Neophytou said.
The port workers had expressed their concern two weeks ago that Zenon might be granted the right to receive rent paid by companies that lease establishments at the port’s grounds. Due to an error in the original contract, they said, the consortium 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.
“Through the continuous extensions, the port has fallen into a hostage situation and as a result, a harbour with high potential cannot move forward and cannot develop as it should be,” said Andreas Antoniou, general secretary of DEOK’s port workers.
The general secretary of the porters’ union Stavros Hailis said that the interest by several companies to operate at the port, have been turned down because they have been told that the port is to be given to an investor and that results in a loss of income.