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More cruise ships in Greek Islands

More cruise ships in the Greek Islands.

Port authorities in the Greek Islands predict a rise in cruise ship visits in 2011 of up to 15% following the lifting of restrictions. Under new laws passed recently, international cruise companies can now embark and disembark passengers at Greek ports provide they sign a formal three-year contract.

Up to now only Greek owned vessels could operate cruises in the Greek islands. The move could lead to an economic bonanza for cruise companies.

Markos Foros, president of the Association of Greek Passenger Shipping Companies, estimates the cumulative potential value of lifting the restrictions at as much as €1bn a year.

Conditions are that cruise ships must have a minimum capacity of 49 passengers and offer round-trip cruises that start and end at the same port and with a minimum duration of 48 hours. Ships must also remain a minimum of eight hours in port to take on and discharge passengers.

Greece is already a major global cruise destination, with as many as 1.8m passengers per year visiting the mainland and taking cruises in the Greek Islands. Greece now is expected to get a 10 to 15% increase in cruises.

The port of Thessaloniki saw 36 cruise ships anchored in 2010 and expects increase in traffic of around 20% this year. Heraklion, Crete, forecasts a 10% rise on the 220 visiting cruise ships last year.

Rhodes, which in 2010 tied up 539 ships and Mykonos, which last year hosted 700 cruise ships both expect to see a rise of 10% this year.

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