A protest which blocked off entry and departure of ships from Larnaca port on Monday morning caused a stern reaction from Kition Ocean Holdings, which warned it was considering taking legal measures.
The company has been awarded the redevelopment of Larnaca port and marina since 2020, which described Monday’s events “truly saddening and unacceptable.”
Should the protest continue, the company will incur thousands of euros in damages, as well as broader knock-on effects as the port is used to import animal feed, wheat and serves to offer maintenance for the vessels serving the oil and gas companies in the area, the company’s CEO Panos Alexandrou said.
“For our legal advisors, the measures they have taken are illegal and leave us with no other choice but to take legal measures against the boat owners that have shut down the entrance and exit of the Larnaca port.”
Members of the Pancyprian coastal vessels union began the protest at 7am, citing their disagreement over the closure of a dock due to upgrades to the port. They are also opposed to an increase in the fees.
Alexandrou said it was seven or eight boat owners.
In its announcement, the union said their goal is to incur loss of revenue for Kition Ocean Holdings. It added its members own commercial boats and should therefore not be lumped into the same fee category as the “toy” pleasure boats owned by the rich.
They accused the company of driving professionals away from the marina’s wooden dock, closing the dock without providing an alternative, aiming to evict the boat owners by deliberate exhaustion strategies, and making false promises.
“The aim is to make the [boat owners] go away by themselves which will never be accepted,” the union said in its statement. The union also claimed its members had been told to “look for work elsewhere” and had been threatened with revenge for claiming their legal rights.
“Our vessels are not recreational yachts, but professional vessels, and as such they cannot be put in the same category as the toys of the rich who use them for pleasure,” the union added noting that their members’ vessels have been sitting idly since December 1, 2022.
Nonetheless, Alexandrou said the decision to shut down Larnaca’s port entrance – which serves tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of companies headquartered in Cyprus was unacceptable.
“I don’t believe €120 per month is an amount that should concern recreational boat owners, that carry out daily sea excursions with tickets costing between €20-€40 per person.”
Alexandrou added the company was aware of the union’s concerns and for this reason, had assured them the increase will not come into effect for at least another three months and be discussed again before it begins. He said boat owners had also been allowed to have free space at the marina entrance for the kiosks, while the municipality had offered to give them a free space in Finikoudes to sell their tickets.
The boat owners had staged a demonstration over the dispute in March which sparked the involvement of Transport Minister Alexis Vafeades. He held a meeting with both boat owners and representatives of Kition Ocean Holdings in an attempt to smooth out the differences between the two parties.
Vafeades said there is an agreement between the state and the contractor to upgrade the marina.
“This is a given,” he said. “However, the contractor’s right to set its own pricing and policy is also a given.
“From the government’s standpoint, we want this investment to continue, it is very important for the country. At the same time, we want boat owners to be able to afford the docking fees.”
The development project at the marina and port area in Larnaca is expected to cost €1.2 billion, making it the biggest-ever investment in Cyprus.
Around 300 boats are docked at Larnaca marina, most of them belonging to Cypriots.