The seaplanes still stuck in bureaucracy

Visible is the risk that Greece will remain without hydroplanes for yet another tourist season due to delays in the process of waterway licensing, despite the strong investment interest that this market has attracted.

The progress made in the licensing process has been virtually nil in the last few months, with the hopes of creating an operational waterway network in the summer of 2019, which will make the sailplane project economically viable.

It is indicative that since last December the licensing process has been stagnant as no new waterway has been licensed. Therefore, the only licensed watercourses in Greece are those in Corfu, Paxos and Patras.

Even so, however, they can not work as the launch of routes without a network of waterways is commercially unprofitable. The delays in the implementation of the project, which will stimulate tourism and remove several island regions from isolation, have an impact on the economy as they have frozen investments of more than 300 million euros.

Necessary conditions for operating a waterway – apart from the relevant permit – are the procurement of safety equipment and the definition of the operator.

Only the corridors of Corfu and Paxos have been supplied with security equipment worth 180,000 euros, which consists of a passenger check-in hut, docking platform, magnetic gate and X-RAY machine for audits. Operator of these two waterways is the North Aegean Water Company Ltd, which is 51% owned by Hellenic Waterways, one of the two private companies in the sector, and the Port Authority of Corfu.

The competition is underway by the Patras Port Authority for the operation of the Patras waterway, which also has a license to set up.

The three licensed waterways could be integrated into a functional network with a commercial perspective in Western Greece, along with those in Kefalonia, Zakynthos, Lefkada, Meganisi and Ithaca. However, the licensing of the last five waterways, which the Region of the Ionian Islands has undertaken, is stuck in bureaucracy.

The Region of the Ionian Islands has not yet signed program contracts with the local port authorities for the supply of security equipment, while the tender for the appointment of an operator is pending. Following these actions, the law provides for an inspection by the Waterways Commission and the Ministry of Shipping to obtain an operating license.

The delay for the licensing of the five watercourses in the Ionian is important, as Greek Waterways has completed the implementation of technical files for months. 

The tender launched by the Southern Aegean Region for the licensing of 11 waterways in the Dodecanese and nine in the Cyclades is also slowly developing.

Temporary contractors have been declared the two private companies operating in Greece, Greek Waterways and Hellenic Sea Planes. The contract to start the licensing process is expected to be signed in May. With the delay in the implementation of the competition, the hopes for running waterways in the Cyclades and the Dodecanese have almost disappeared within this year’s tourist season.

Progress is almost negligible in the licensing of 10 watercourses in the North Aegean, as the Region of North Aegean has not even signed the necessary program conventions with local port funds.

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