Days before three consortiums led by EuroGate and Dubai Ports assume control of the Limassol Port’s operations on Monday, the port remains paralysed with four of its six bridge cranes undergoing repairs, an official said.
“There have been technical problems affecting the bridge cranes and EuroGate asked for repair works ahead of them taking over,” Panagiotis Agathocleous, deputy director of the Limassol Port said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “This has upset the port’s operations”.
Some of the bridge cranes, which had to be replaced three years ago, will be dismantled and replaced by new ones, he said.
Agathocleous said that in addition, the port will suspend loading and unloading operations completely on Friday for stock-taking on Saturday, before the new operators take over on Sunday. “It is their intention, however, to resume operations on Monday,” he added. “On Monday, we will return to normality”.
The port official added that the lack of enthusiasm of a group of workers affected by the port’s commercialisation is also hampering its operations. “There are problems with companies offering porter services because their services will be terminated on January 28,” he said.
The commercialisation of the Limassol port was part of a privatisation programme included in Cyprus’s bailout agreement signed in March 2013, which aimed at generating €1.4bn in revenue from the sale of state-owned assets, such as the telecom Cyta or the power producer Electricity Authority of Cyprus.
A combination of political and union opposition and lack of resolve by the government finally allowed only the commercialisation of the Limassol port to go ahead, and the government signed agreements early last year with the winners of an international bidding competition, which included a consortium led by Germany’s EuroGate which got the responsibility for the container business, and two other consortiums led by Dubai Ports which assumed responsibility for the general cargo and the general cargo.
Stelios Stylianou, a private port management consultant, said that it may have not been a coincidence for the machinery to be in a non-operational state at this point.
“In my experience, I have never seen 80 per cent of the bridge cranes simultaneously out of order and the rest operating unsafely,” Stylianou said on the phone. “They may have not been well maintained but one can suspect that someone has contributed to this. Maybe some people did not take measures to prevent such things”.
Agathocleous ruled out any notion of negligence or intentional sabotage on the cranes.
EuroGate was not immediately available for comment.
Transport minister Marios Demetriades said in an interview to state radio CyBC on Tuesday that the government had contingency plans ready for the case that unpredicted problems emerged, including a possible delay in the transfer of the port’s operations to the private investors.
“The operators have ordered new bridge cranes which will take months to be delivered,” he added.