The launch of a ferry service from Cyprus to Greece in May is a realistic objective, with tickets expected to cost €50 one-way and €80 return, deputy shipping minister Vassilis Demetriades said on Tuesday.
He said that the link, most likely from Limassol to Piraeus, is in the final planning stages as the terms of the tender are being concluded and will be announced in October.
“The May timetable is realistic because we will give candidates two, to two and a half months to study the proposals and it will be within the bidding criteria that the goal is to catch the summer season ,” he said.
His comments, at the House committee on energy, trade and tourism may sound familiar.
The ferry link was suspended some 20 years ago prompting complaints about connectivity to the European mainland because of the dependence on air travel as well as higher travel costs. The government had even gone as far as asking the EU to subsidise some air travel, saying Cypriots are at a disadvantage.
Demetriades expressed optimism about the timetable and the viability of the plan going forward.
“If the interest that exists from the public is converted into use [of the ferry] then I feel that the service will be sustainable in itself,” he said.
Cyprus’ first deputy shipping minister Natasa Pilides, who now holds the energy ministry portfolio, had spearheaded efforts to restore the ferry link.
Initial plans were for the ferry to launch last summer but there has been some delay in part at Cyprus sought and obtained the green light from the European Commission to declare the ferry a general economic interest service under EU rules than can be supported by state funds. In early July, the Commission’s DG Competition authorised a maximum of €6m annually in state aid for the planned ferry.
Last year, Pilides said the ferry fare will be cheaper than the airfare and Limassol port as the most likely candidate from which the estimated 30-hour ferry trip to Greece will begin.
There are also considerations for an intermediate stop along the way, such as Rhodes.
The ferry link, seen by some as more of a quirky holiday option than a replacement for air travel, has faced repeated delays.
But many are eagerly awaiting new travel routes to open up.
There are hopes that if the Cyprus-Piraeus ferry is successful, others to other neighbouring countries could spring up. Israel, Egypt and Lebanon have all been seen as viable options.
In the past, Cyprus boasted much greater connectivity to its neighbours via ferries. But as low-cost air carriers began dominating the sky with cheap tickets, the longer travel times provided by ferries gradually fell out of favour.