The transport ministry on Tuesday signed an agreement with airports operator Hermes authorising it to outsource part of the security services of the island’s two international airports to private contractors.
“The agreement … regards taking on aviation security services and aims to improve the quality and the operating times of the services rendered, and better serve the traveling public,” Hermes said in a news release.
“National security concerns, entrance and exit controls in the country, remain the responsibility of the state.”
The company said it was proceeding immediately with two tenders, the first concerning finding a contractor to take over security services and completion of related infrastructure at the airports, and the second, to take control of the compliance procedures of the relevant regulations stipulated by the company providing the aviation security services at the airports.
“As a result of the transfer of these services, the police will have significant savings in human resources as until now the force was obliged to staff, without exception, all security services operating in the two airports,” the statement said. “Supervision of the security services offered, will be exercised by Civil Aviation and the European Commission on the basis of European regulations.”
Transport Minister Marios Demetriades said in late July that “national security at the airports is a police matter and will remain so, there is no question or deviation from this principle.”
“Police presence will not only continue, but also the number of officers assigned to security will increase compared to today,” he added.
The overall aim, the minister said, is to free up police personnel who are currently assigned to duties not directly related to security.
This would allow more police officers than today to be assigned to core security duties.
According to reports earlier this year, the private company will take over security relating to access in controlled areas, passenger and luggage checks, personnel checks, cargo, post, supplies, vehicles and patrols in restricted areas.
Police will continue to be responsible for guarding aircraft and airport areas.
With the outsourcing, the government said it hoped to free some 110 police officers, saving the state some €650,000 per year.
Some of the extra officers would be posted at passport control, an area where delays have been experienced repeatedly.
It is not yet clear who would be footing the bill for the private security – passengers or taxpayers at large.
Hermes Airports Ltd assumed management and control of the Larnaca and Paphos airports in May 2006, under a 25-year BOT (build-operate-transfer) concession agreement with the Republic of Cyprus.