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Greek seaplanes set for takeoff

- by Jeremy Guest

Greek seaplane flights set for takeoff.

Seaplanes look set to take off again in Greek waters after years of bureaucratic delay and Greek red tape. Holiday visitors will be able to take the first Greek island flights by seaplane from the port at Corfu across the Ionian Sea from September, if things go to plan. The move follows a bill approved by the Greek parliament to simplify the licensing and operation of seaplane services in Greek waters.

Early reports suggest the company Greek Waterways will fly seaplane charter routes from Corfu to Othonous, Erikousa and Paxos, with special round-island flights for Corfu holiday visitors who want to see Corfu from the air.

The relaxation in regulations follows years of delay and red tape that stopped previous commercial seaplane flight plans in their tracks.

Canadian-backed consortium AirSea Lines abandoned plans to run seaplane services in the Ionian islands in 2004 after the company ran aground on a sea of Greek red tape.

Five years of fighting overwhelming bureaucracy finally forced the company to ditch plans for an €80 million investment in seaplanes routes between islands of Greece.

Red tape regulations not only forced the mandatory use of Greek pilots on all flights but also put a severe limits on passenger numbers and flight times.

Now new laws have been introduced in the wake of the Greek bailout that are designed to boost investment and to rid Greece of bureaucratic obstacles and to boost private enterprise initiatives in Greece through fast-track licensing.

Latest regulations include a specific framework for operating seaplane terminals in Greece and for granting licenses without a time limit.

Potential seaplane operators have been waiting nearly 10 years for rules to be relaxed to allow private investment plans to be worthwhile.

The government now expects a flood of seaplane routes to open up as private investors take advantage of the relaxation in rules.

The move could pave the way for tourism on many smaller, less visited, Greek islands that have no airport and where access by boat is difficult.

Hopes are high that seaplane services may yet take off from more remote Greek islands such as Tilos, Nisyros, Alonissos, Serifos, Symi, Astypalea, Anafi and Lipsi.