After 20 years without a direct ferry link between Greece and Cyprus, the two countries are set to be reconnected by sea in May 2021
The island’s shipping deputy minister, Vassilios Demetriades, has secured permission from the European Commission to provide state aid to revive a service scuppered by budget airlines. Ferry firms have been invited to tender for the route.
The ferry is expected to connect either Larnaca or Limassol in Cyprus with the main Greek port of Piraeus, a suburb of Athens. From Limassol, it would take around 16 hours. The voyage from Larnaca would be two hours longer, compared with 100 minutes for flight from Athens.
An annual subsidy of up to €6m (£5.6m) is expected to be paid by the Cypriot government, specifically for passengers rather than freight.
One-way fares are expected to be around €50 (£46) in deck class, or €80 (£74) including a berth in a cabin – though additional port fees could add €25 (£23) to these figures. Cars will be carried at around €75 (£69).
Typical one-way air fares, booked two weeks in advance, are around £30 on Wizz Air and £60 on Olympic.
Unlike the multiple daily flights on these airlines, the vessel will sail only once a week in summer and every two weeks through the winter.
The most direct course passes Rhodes Town and it is thought a stop could be made there – adding around two hours to the journey but increasing connection opportunities to the Dodecanese islands and Greece.
The European Commission’s competition authorities have concluded that the link will be a “general economic interest service” and can therefore receive state aid.
Through the 20th century, ferries provided the main links between the two countries. But the shipping companies could not compete against budget airlines and the last ferry sailed between Cyprus and Greece in 2000.
There is a long-established ferry link between Turkey and the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, an entity created in 1974 after Turkish forces invaded the island; it is not recognised internationally.
Nicky Gardner, co-editor of Hidden Europe, said: “This proposed new link from mainland Greece to Cyprus has been a long time in the making.
“I do just wonder if sorting out Cyprus' knotty internal politics might reap rewards in a fine network of ferry routes which promote wider connectivity throughout the eastern Mediterreanean.”
Some other ferries subsidised by national governments or the European Union have foundered in recent years – including the link from Rosyth in Scotland to Zeebrugge in Belgium, and across the Bay of Biscay from St-Nazaire in western France to Gijon in northern Spain.