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 >  Greek travel  >  Seaplane hopes sink deeper

Seaplane hopes sink even deeper

- by Andy Cornish

Ambitious plans to launch seaplane services in the Greek Islands look ready to be sunk, for the 2016 holiday season at least.

Hellenic Seaplanes has been trying to get a seaplane network out of deep water since 2013 but has yet to get a flight in the air.

The latest setback is a Greek government plan for new laws to place private waterway projects under the control of the state.

The move looks likely to put a damper on private investment in the long-awaited project and could lead to companies and private investors pulling their cash out of existing schemes.

According to sources, a bill is expected to go before the Greek parliament which will seek to cancel all current private initiatives and to place projects into public-private partnerships.

Permits for waterway landing and take-off strips, currently licensed to private companies, would be put in the hands of ports authorities or local municipalities.

Hellenic Seaplanes, which had planned to open seaplane routes between scores of Greek islands this year are understandably furious at the development.

Company chairman, Nicolas Charalambous described the bill as "unacceptable" and warns it will deter new investment and sink current private waterway projects.

"We will take all action necessary and work hard to stop the negative course of action," said Mr Charalambous.

Hellenic Seaplanes already has plans in place to launch 15 seaplane services on Skyros, Alonissos, Skopelos, Tinos, Patmos, Thassos, Chios, Psara, Oinousses, Sitia, Amfilochia, Edipsos, Karystos, Halkida, and Kymi.

They had hoped to start operating its first hydroplane waterways in Greece this summer after nearly four years of planning and massive investment.

This is just the latest in a series of frustrating setbacks for the ambitious project which even the government has called a scheme of 'national importance'.

Since 2013 the company has spent thousands of euros in getting seaplane services in the air including cash for court hearings, environmental reports, fees and applications for licenses, even university courses to train potential waterway managers.

The seaplane network is expected to breathe new life into remote islands, open opportunities for tourism and strengthening ties between Greek island communities.

But there are currently more 50 waterway applications awaiting approval while government inertia leaves Greece's fledgeling waterway network now drowning in red tape.

The Greek government changed the law to help speed up the issuing of permits required for the construction of waterways, but officials failed to grant a single license in 2015.

Delays have been blamed on the failure to get a proper "legal framework" in place, problems with the granting of environmental licenses and the lethargy among island port authorities to issue permits for flying.

Talks about launching a Greek seaplane network began in 2000, but 16 years later not a single public flight has got off the water.

Bureaucratic red tape and government bungling were said to blame for the collapse of a similar scheme in 2008 when a Canadian company axed plans to operate seaplane services in the Greek islands.