by Andreas Kokkinos
With the final trip of the Limassol-Piraeus ferry route looming, Kathimerini's Oriana Papantoniou speaks to the Deputy Minister of Shipping about whether or not the program was a success, the public's impression of the service and what could be improved in the long run. The Minister also suggested a possible ferry connection with neighboring Israel.
How many people went to Greece by boat?
Around 8,000 passengers and 2,000 cars made the Limassol-Piraeus trip this year with Mr. Vassilis Dimitriades saying he was satisfied - since the total number of passengers exceeded expectations - but he remained cautious, stressing that this number may not be indicative. "Many may have traveled out of curiosity to see what it's like, others because they needed to. This number is not indicative," he said, adding that the aim is to create the deputy ministry recurring.
"In order to make reliable estimates, we need to see if the ferry connection can be made viable without state subsidies," he stressed, referring to the state subsidy that supports the program while recalling that the contractual obligation of the company is to provide 22 round trips. Asked about the possibility of increasing this number, he said the aim is to have at least one trip per week and anything beyond that is left to the contractor company.
A ferry to Israel? - The ball is in the company's court
On the possibility of testing the route to other destinations, the Deputy Minister of State for Shipping "threw the ball" to the company, calling on the service to try the Israeli market as well. A trip of much shorter distance and a lesser amount of time - around 9 to 10 hours - cheaper - due to lesser fuel - and with an emphasis on religious tourism is expected to go between Piraeus and Israel with Cyprus as a possible stopover for logistical and geographical purposes.
Complaints, omissions and sustainability - subsidy is key
In conclusion and with regard to any complaints, problems and omissions observed it was said that out of a sample of around 8 thousand passengers, 20-30 complaints were received and is clearly a very small number, the Deputy Minister admitted, owing to an issue identified in the procedures followed at Limassol Port. "There is an inevitable comparison between the procedures followed at the Port of Piraeus and that of Limassol," he said but continued stressing that special emphasis will be placed on simplifying procedures in order to further improve the travel experience. He underlined that the route would only be viable if the state subsidy is extended over a six-year period while attracting other companies to make their ships available for this route as well.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]