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Shipping ministry not given up on ferry link to Greece

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Deputy Shipping Minister Vassilis Demetriades said on Tuesday the government had not given up on establishing a ferry link with Greece and was hoping the European Commission would allow better terms that would attract an investor after no bidders showed an interest in the original contract.

Demetriades told the Cyprus News Agency that in about a month’s time he was either going to announce a new tender or the project would be abandoned if there was no positive response from Brussels.

However, the minister said he was optimistic that the green light would be given for the changes and that, with the drafting of a new tender document with more favourable terms, there would be a corresponding interest from the private sector.

“I had made contacts with about 15 different carriers and the reasons why they did not show interest were recorded and evaluated,” he said, adding that, in addition to the pandemic, individual issues were identified, such as the fact that it was a regular line, which would tie up their ships all year round with no guarantee of equivalent traffic during off-season.

Demetriades had gone to Brussels three weeks ago in an effort to ensure better terms, including the creation of a seasonal six to seven months duration instead of an all-year-round line.

After securing this, Demetriades said Cyprus would enter a process of writing a new tender document, consulting again with the carriers, so that in any new re-announcement attempt “we can ensure that there will be interest”.

He pointed out that any re-announcement of the tender would only be attempted this year so that the ferry connection could start in 2022. The minister said with the pandemic situation and with the required health protocols, it would be very difficult for any ferry to be up and running this year.

“We want the whole process to be done properly, transparently and we are determined to work hard to find the formula that will attract companies, but at the same time will be embraced by the people,” he added.

“It is a difficult bet, but we are not giving up and I am optimistic that, in the new effort, we will create the conditions for it to succeed.”

The deadline for tenders for the ferry service was January this year but no bidder applied.

The maritime connection between Cyprus and Greece has been inactive since 2000. The deputy ministry sought to revive the connection with a €5 million subsidy approved by the EU’s DG Competition.

Under the terms, the connection was due to commence in the summer of 2021 even amid the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Under EU rules concerning general economic interest services, the state subsidy was solely associated with the passenger aspect of the ferry link.

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