Government officials from Cyprus and Israel have discussed the introduction of a new ferry route which would link Greece to the Middle East.
According to Cypriot news websites, the Israeli Minister of Transport and his Cypriot counterpart have discussed a possible new ferry link between Cyprus and Israel.
The new ferry to Israel would be an extension of a planned route which would link the port of Piraeus in Greece with either Limassol or Larnaca in Cyprus.
Israeli Minister of Transport Merav Michaeli and the Cypriot Deputy Minister of Shipping of Vassilis Demetriades said they hope a new ferry connection can advance connections between the countries in the eastern Mediterranean.
Greece to Cyprus ferry
The last time a passenger ferry sailed between Greece and Cyprus was 21 years ago. Back then, Salamis Lines and Poseidon Lines operated a route between Piraeus and Limassol.
Last year, the Cypriot Government tried to revive the link between Greece and Cyprus by opening a public tender process and offering a 5 million euro subsidy to companies willing to operate the ferry link, although no-one placed a bid.
Recently, the Ministry of Shipping of Cyprus increased the subsidy to 5.5 million euro in the hope to attract a ferry company to operate the route.
With the approval of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition (DG Competition), the demand that the new route must be year-round was scrapped from the public tender.
The Cypriot Government hopes that more ferry companies will be interested in the route now that they can also operate it on a seasonal basis. According to Deputy Minister Demetriades, it “potentially creates better conditions for attracting interest by maritime transport companies”.
Mr Demetriadis said that the public tender will now also allow the ferry route to be extended to neighbouring countries such as Israel.
He said: “This means the route could be extended to include a port in Israel or a Greek island, making the package all the more attractive.”
The Israeli and Cypriot ministers hope that the new ferry route will foster trade and tourism ties between the three countries.
Mr Demetriadis and Ms Michaeli also recognised that such a ferry link would be a real help to people who are unable to travel by air due to fear of flying or medical reasons.
At this moment, Israel is virtually only accessible by air from Europe as there are no overland or maritime routes to the country.
The shortest land route to Europe, which leads through war-torn Syria, isn’t a viable option due to security reasons.
Even before the outbreak of the Syrian civil war this route was only possible for non-Israeli citizens given that Syria does not recognise the state of Israel.
However, even for European travellers this route had its share of problems as it was technically only possible overland to travel to Israel, but not all the way back.
Travelling back from Israel to Europe was impossible because Syria refuses entry to anyone with an Israeli entry stamp (or exit stamp from Jordan) in their passport.
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