Russia's S7 Is Among Airlines Eyeing Cyprus, Minister Says

Pafos International Airport Paphos Cyprus

Paphos International Airport in Cyprus.

Photographer: UIG via Getty Images
  • Aviation sector expansion to boost visitor numbers this year
  • Country has received concession bids for main commercial port

The planned expansion of Cyprus’s aviation sector in 2016 will help fuel a rise in the number of visitors to the island, as airlines including Russia’s second-biggest carrier apply for local licenses, Transport and Communications Minister Marios Demetriades said.

Passenger traffic at Cyprus’s two international airports of Larnaca and Paphos rose 3.5 percent in 2015 to a record high of over 7.6 million people, despite the closure of Cyprus Airways in January last year and reduced flights from Russia, which together took out 1.5 million seats, according to operator Hermes Airports.

"I’m even more optimistic for traffic in 2016 and believe the increase will be more than in 2015," Demetriades said in an interview in Athens.

Cyprus is receiving applications to establish new locally based air carriers. "We’ve approved one, TUS Airways, that is scheduled to start operations during February. We have two applications pending, and we have interest from S7, or Siberia Airlines, to get a local license," he said.

"S7 Group is looking at the possibility of participating in a Cyprus airline," company spokeswoman Anna Bazhina said by e-mail on Wednesday.

Activity for Limassol, the island’s largest port and main commercial harbor, will also pick up, according to the minister. Management concession grants will enable the east Mediterranean nation to exploit its strategic location at the crossroads of three continents, Demetriades said. It has potential as the first European Union port for ships after they exit the recently extended Suez Canal in Egypt, he said.

"Cyprus is one of the few stable countries in the volatile region of the eastern Mediterranean," and the country is getting "lots of requests" from companies wishing to establish bases in Cyprus to serve the oil and gas industry in the region, he said.

Natural gas discoveries off the coast of Israel, some 180 kilometers distant, include a 10 trillion cubic feet field, Tamar, and the Leviathan, a field twice the size. Eni SpA discovered the biggest Mediterranean gas field offshore Egypt in August with an estimated 30 Tcf. Cyprus’s Aphrodite field, discovered in 2011, has around 4 Tcf.

Cyprus has received 14 bids to run a range of activities at Limassol Port for 25 years, including five bids to operate the harbor’s container terminal, the transport ministry said Jan. 21. Hong Kong-based Cosco and Dubai’s DP World are among the bidders, according to Cyprus media reports.

Cyprus also wants to start a concession-bid invitation process for Larnaca Port, targeted at the leisure industry, by the end of the first half of this year, Demetriades said. Real estate would be the main part of that project, which would include the port and a marina.

Cyprus isn’t trying to attract Greek shipowners to the island, he said, though "if they choose to move out of Greece or establish a second base, Cyprus is a natural destination."

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