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Greek seaplane services drown in red tape

- by Andy Cornish

Plans to launch a Greek Island seaplane service in 2016 appears to be drowning in red tape and it's not the first time that a scheme to link the islands with seaplane service has failed to get off the ground.

Despite laws being passed in 2013 to help speed up development of seaplane waterways, the Greek government failed to grant a single licence in 2015.

The Ionian island of Corfu is the only one to currently hold a license to operate seaplane flight but, as yet, its planes have nowhere to land.

The Greek Ministry of Transport says applications for waterway licences are in the pipeline for Agia Marina, Alonissos, Amfilochia, Grammatiko, Lavrio, Patmos, Patra, Paxos, Rethymnon, Skopelos, Skyros, Thessaloniki, Tinos Volos and Zante.

But no one has any idea when they are likely to be granted, and no one is holding his breath.

According to Ministry officials, the latest delays are due to the "current legal framework" not being in place.

Another major hold-up is the failure to grant environmental licenses to any of the ongoing projects.

It's a bit of a sorry mess. Seaplane services to many Greek islands were touted to get in the air by 2015.

The chief operator, Hellenic Seaplanes, was to start the first flights more than a year ago and had plans to operate from 112 waterways by this year.

The company recently said that it hopes to launch its first hydroplane flights this summer to link the Sporades islands with Volos and Thessaloniki, but I wouldn't book a ticket just yet.

Talks about launching a Greek seaplane network began in 2000 with speedier access to island boosting local economies.

Sixteen years later and a seaplane is yet to fly on an inter-island network thanks mainly say some to a lack of organisation and a proper legal framework.

By common agreement seaplane service would bring a welcome boost to tourism on many of the more remote Greek islands.

Bureaucratic red tape was to blame for the collapse of a similar scheme in 2008. A Canadian company accused the Greek government of excessive bureaucratic red tape.