By Iole Damaskinos and Nick Theodoulou
The blockade of Larnaca’s marina by disgruntled boat owners over a dispute of the site’s operations has been lifted, but the union warned it will reassess the situation within ten days.
The blockade caused alarm and prompted Transport Minister Alexis Vafeades to intervene, warning that Cyprus’ international reputation was at risk.
The commercial boat owners had blocked the entry and exit point to the marina from 7am Monday morning but this was finally lifted by 1pm Tuesday.
President of the commercial boat owners union, Marcos Alexandrou, explained that the protest was against the closure of a dock and rising berthing fees.
He argued that the livelihood of many is at risk, with a stark warning from the union later stating, “Kition Ocean Holdings killed the 40-year-old coastal shipping at the dock, some workers will be out of a job”.
The dispute between boat owners and the Larnaca marina’s management and the subsequent blockade threatened to delay and cripple much of the activity at the site.
An announcement by the union after the blockade was lifted stated that, “after the government’s, and specifically the transport minister’s, requests we decided to lift the blockade. We were given assurances that the problems will be addressed.”
They added that they had been called on to give Kition Ocean Holdings – the main party with whom the dispute emerged over – time to address the union’s grievances.
Speaking to the media earlier in the day, the minister attempted to tread a fine line, saying strike action was an undisputed right, but it was not acceptable for a private dispute to be paid for by the public.
Stating that there was plenty of room for negotiation, Vafeades called for both parties to discuss the matter as there was surely room for compromise.
Claims by the marina’s management company that dock works are underway at the marina were dismissed by the union.
Speaking on CyBC radio, Alexandrou said the union was not at all satisfied by an email sent by Kition Ocean Holdings on Monday night, purportedly putting in writing concessions made by the company towards the boat owners.
“Kition needs to stop making unsubstantiated claims and putting out misleading information,” Alexandrou said.
The union head disparaged the fact that the dock works, initially slated for completion within two months as of December, had not yet materialised.
“There is not one machine, not one tool, at the site, it is lies and misinformation,” he said, while accusing the company of ‘exhaustion tactics’ to evict the boat owners.
For his part, Kition Ocean Holdings CEO Panos Alexandrou rubbished the union’s accusations saying that improvement works had been agreed on and surveyors have visited the dock in preparation for imminent construction works.
Alexandrou implied that an olive branch had been extended to the boat owners in the form of rent-free space adjacent to the marina for advertising and ticket booths.
Moreover, the company had painted blue guidelines at its own expense, directing visitors towards embarkation points, and had proposed another area within the marina from which they could conduct their business.
“The seven or eight commercial boat owners are big clients and insinuations that the company wants to see them gone are patently untrue,” the CEO said.
The closure of the dock is set to drag on when another major phase of the improvement works, specifically the construction of breakwaters, will begin.