Authorities in Israel have expressed interest in joining the proposed new Greece-Cyprus ferry route, saying that they would like a port in Israel to be added to the itinerary.
An online meeting between Cyprus Deputy Minister of Shipping Vassilis Demetriades and Israeli Minister of Transport Merav Michaeli centered on Cyprus’ ongoing efforts to re-establish the sea link with Greece. Michaeli stated that such a service could benefit all parties if a link to Israel were added.
The two ministers told reporters that they believe a proposed Greece-Cyprus-Israel ferry route “would facilitate the free movement of people and enrich the available options for transportation between the three countries, which are currently limited to air transport.”
Greece-Cyprus ferry route perfect for those who want to explore Mediterranean at slower pace
They agreed that the establishment of the maritime route would even create a new market for those travelers who prefer to explore the Mediterranean by sea since some people either cannot fly for health reasons or have fear of flying.
The Financial Mirror stated in a report that the deputy ministry of Cyprus also pointed out that there could be environmental advantages over air travel at a time when many are interested in reducing their carbon footprint.
Perhaps most importantly, the addition of the port in Israel may help re-establish the ferry link more than two decades after the original ferry route was discontinued.
The bidding process launched in January of 2021 for a three-year-long contract to ply the resulted in no bids, despite the carrot of having guaranteed annual state aid of €5 million to sweeten the deal; a new attempt was made in November.
Now, the Deputy Ministry of Shipping has made the carrot even larger by adding €500,000 in yearly aid to the pot, hoping that the added funds will make the route enticing at a time when fuel prices are still rising.
Demetriades had earlier told the Financial Mirror that Cyprus would be putting everything it had at its disposal on the table in this final attempt to restore the Greece-Cyprus ferry service to Greece next year despite the lagging interest in the route from operators.
He further explained that there would still be no guarantees this fresh attempt to reinstate the service would be successful, since there appears to be hesitation to take the move on the part of the industry.
Demetriades said “Persuading shipping operators is a tough nut to crack; we are also hoping to turn the heads of traditional shipping companies in the EU and Scandinavia.”
The new bidding process makes allowances for a new stop to be added in another country, such as Egypt or Israel. “This means the route could be extended to include a port in Israel or a Greek island, making the package all the more attractive,” he added.
A ferry trip takes roughly 16 hours between Cyprus and Greece, costing 50 euros ($57) one way and 80 euros ($91) for a round-trip ticket. This price is double the cost of the cheapest flight from Cyprus to Greece, which is 20 euros ($23) and takes only an hour and 40 minutes.
If the bidding process is a success, the ferry will be operating on a weekly basis in the months of April, May, September, and October, beginning in 2022.
Deputy Shipping Minister Vassilios Demetriades said at the time the bidding was reopened that “Reviving the ferry connection will help us to continue building our relationship with the rest of the Mediterranean and we welcome the opportunity to expand the ferry link to a third neighboring country beyond Greece too.”
Seasonal-only Cyprus route may finally bring the ferry line back
On the curious omission of the Summer season from the ferry’s proposed schedule, Demetriades explained that there was the potential for it to be added to the line’s itinerary:
“We also recognize that there will be higher demand during the summer season and, therefore, will consider a seasonal ferry connection to encourage a broader range of applicants for this tender,” he said.
The deadline for interested parties to make their bids is 12 PM on January 28, 2022.
The European Union had approved a new bidding process for a seasonal rather than year-round ferry in May 2021.
Demetriades told the press at the time that meetings held with officials from shipping companies revealed that having to establish a year-round ferry connection — instead of a seasonal one — was one of the main issues deterring companies from submitting bids.
The firm DG Competition approved the change in the bid, following consultation with Cyprus’ Deputy Ministry, according to Demetriades.
“The change in the connection’s nature to a seasonal one may provide us with more options, as it gives companies the option to utilise their ship for other lines during the winter period, while our fellow citizens will enjoy the service in the summer when there is demand,” Demetriades explained.