The shipping ministry on Thursday launched an invitation for bids for a sea connection between Cyprus and Greece with improved terms for potential bidders in a bid to re-establish a link that was terminated over 20 years ago.

Following the failure to attract any bids with the first competition that closed on January 29 this year, the government has raised the subsidy by €500,000 to €5.5m and cut the number of return trips to 22 instead of 31.

The new competition also includes a provision that the three-year contract can be extended for three more years.

Also, in the new competition, the period for the trips is reduced to between April or May until September or October, instead of 31 trips on a weekly or biweekly basis throughout the year.

The terms also allow bidders to use smaller vessels, if necessary, since minimum capacity is limited to 100 passengers with cabins for 60. In the previous competition, the minimum number of passengers was set at 200 with cabins for 140.

The deadline for submission is January 28.

The main stumbling block in the previous tender related to the fact that the contract offered by Cyprus concerned a year-round service; carriers preferred a seasonal service, so as to be able to use their ships on other routes during the winter.

The deputy shipping minister then held talks in Brussels, managing to get the nod from the EU for a seasonal service. That result rekindled hope that a new competition would be successful.

The maritime connection between Cyprus and Greece has been inactive since 2000.