The deputy ministry of shipping will shell out €4.2 million of its 2021 budget on the proposed Cyprus-Greece ferry service, minister Vasilis Demetriou told MPs at the House finance committee on Monday.
Discussing finances for 2021 amid the ongoing pandemic and its impact on the global economy, Demetriou said his ministry’s budget for next year was €14.5m, the same as it was for 2020, other than the inclusion of the €4.2m for the ferry service.
The open competition for the operation of the service to Piraeus would be announced in the next 10 days, Demetriou said.
The service aims to be up and running by next May or June. It will provide for 31 return trips to the Greek port on a weekly basis in summer, every fortnight in the autumn and once a month in winter.
“Interested bidders can choose either the port of Larnaca or Limassol, with the possibility of including a stopover, and the fares will be quite attractive,” Demetriou said. He does not think the pandemic will affect plans and hoped the contract could be awarded in April.
Speaking about the sector, Demetriou said the contribution of shipping to GDP now stands at 7 per cent. The Cypriot-flagged registry is the 11th biggest in the world and the third biggest in the EU.
In 2020, there were 1,722 ships on the island’s registry compared with 1,728 in 2019. The small decrease was down to ships being decommissioned but new registrations are expected.
Demetriou also pointed out that the number of Cypriots training for the maritime industry had increased to 269 in 2020 from 237 the previous year.
Part of next year’s budget, around € 700,000, is also expected to go to the Maritime Cyprus Conference in 2021, which takes place every two years to showcase the island’s shipping industry.
“The approval of the tonnage tax system for another ten years by the European Commission creates conditions of stability for the Cypriot shipping,” the minister said.
The goal was to improve the sector with a plan of tax incentives for ‘green’ ships as Cyprus wanted to be a “co-shaper” of the green transformation.
Demetrious said the fallout from the pandemic would become more visible in the coming months.
“However, as a sector and a driver of trade, shipping has been less affected than others,” he said.