NICOSIA – A ferry boat passenger link from Cyprus to Greece that was hoped to begin again in May 2021, after being shut down in 2000, is on its way to becoming a reality after the Cyprus Shipping Deputy Ministry requested bids.
The Cypriot government said it would provide a subsidy up to five million euros ($6.09) for the money-bleeding service that costs more than taking a one hour 40 minute flight between the country’s capitals – and takes 20 hours to cross the sea.
The initial contract will be for three years, said the site Ship Technology, in a report on the link that closed because it was financially unsustainable, no indication whether it would be again.
Following approval by the Directorate-General for Competition of the European Commission in June, the tender was launched by the Shipping Deputy Ministry of Cyprus, the report added.
Cyprus Shipping Deputy Minister Vassilios Demetriades said: “Cyprus as an island State, should not be dependent solely on air transport in its connection with Continental Europe."
“The Maritime Passenger Link is expected to provide alternative connectivity. Reinstating this ferry link between Cyprus and Greece will be hugely advantageous to the region as a whole, which is why a public subsidy has been granted,” he said.
Bidders must provide a total of 31 return sailings each year while operating between a port of Cyprus, either Limassol or Larnaca, and the port of Piraeus in Greece.
One return sailing a week should be offered between May and September, while one return sailing every two weeks from October to April, and one return sailing a month between November and March.
In September, Demetriades stated that the May 2021 goal was within reach, reported TheMayor.EU, and that there could be stops along the way, including on Rhodes.
The ferry would likely begin in Limassol and go to the major port of Piraeus and the trip cost 50-80 euros ($60.94-$97.50) although budget airlines offer prices as low as 35.63 euros ($43.43) which the ferry can't match.
The EU is helping fund the project which may appeal to the adventurous or those who prefer taking a leisurely water voyage during a time when flying has become so confined over COVID-19 health protocols, if the pandemic goes into next year.
Nicos Tornariteis and Annita Demetriou, Members of Parliament from Cyprus' Democratic Rally (DISY) party, made their case before the Cyprus-Greece Business Association, saying the ferry is needed, not just air links.
But there was less interest from businesses involved in shipping and tourism who doubt it can work and members of the Cyprus-Greece Business Association said there's no hope without EU monies because of the estimated operating loss.
Without EU funding, a ticket for a round trip to Greece on a passenger ferry may could cost as much as 800 euros ($975.02), nearly 20 times the cost of the cheapest air ticket available.
The estimate is based on a 100 people per trip with the petrol needed for the journey there and back costing €150,000 ($172,760) in fuel, said Salamis Shipping CEO, Kikis Vassiliou, who said a ferry able to make the trip through the Mediterranean at speeds which would make it worthwhile for travelers to go by sea, would cost as much as 40 million euros ($48.75 million).
“When a ticket to Athens costs as little as 50 euros, travelers will not opt to travel by sea and spend 20 hours at a cost which will be considerably higher,” said Salamis Shipping CEO, Kikis Vassiliou,Vassiliou then.