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No Greek Island seaplanes in 2015

- by Dabs Banner

Hopes have faded for plans to get seaplanes flying tourist services between Greek Islands during the 2015 summer holiday season.

Lack of a proper waterway network has left seaplane company Hellenic Seaplanes with plenty of aircraft but nowhere for them to land.

Despite plans to open up to 100 seaplane routes across Greece and the Greek Islands this year, the company now admits that Corfu island has the only port with a registered waterway.

Hellenic Seaplanes announced the setback in a meeting in Athens with Athens with Alternate Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Communications for Greece, Christos Spirtzis.

Hellenic president Nikolas Charalambous said: "If all goes well, from 2016 Greeks can fly almost everywhere in the country via seaplanes."

Although around 40 islands have applied for a waterway license to begin operating seaplane services none is likely to be operational until the end of the year.

Seaplanes can only take off and land at licensed waterways and only the port at Corfu Town has managed to get a license so far. Planes can take off from there, but they have nowhere to go.

It's already taken several years to get this project off the ground and the waterway license granted to Corfu Town harbour looked set to pave the way for up to100 seaplane routes between the Greek islands.

The seaplane services are not only meant to improve transport facilities for islanders but were also expected to open up many islands to more tourism.

Smaller islands without regular ferry services were expected to benefit most with regular flights bringing in many more holiday visitors over the summer season.

The Greek government has bent over backwards to speed up licensing procedures and hoped to get dozens of flights taking off this summer to cash in on the current boom in Greek Islands holidays.

The minister said the development of a waterways network is a project of national importance. "Seaplanes can give islands a boost, create new jobs and make it easier to connect the mainland with destinations that face difficulties in transportation," he added.

Tests on takeoff and landing at special waterways built got underway as long ago as July last year with the government suggesting that seaplane services would be aimed directly at tourists.

But Greek island ports were slow to respond to the scheme, despite cash incentives to get started with building waterway networks to allow the seaplanes to operate.

Applications for waterways were submitted at several ports and harbours in the Greek islands and on the Greek mainland including ports at Heraklion and Rethymnon on Crete, the mainland ports of Volos, Patras and Lavrio, and on the islands of Corfu, Skyros and Zante.

The is not the first time that attempt to establish a seaplane network to link the Greek Islands has run into problems. A similar project was launched more than 10 years ago and a pilot program begun in the Ionian Sea.

Bur seaplane companies pulled out in 2008 blaming the Greek government for excessive bureaucratic red tape and the rejection of a plea to fly seaplanes to the mainland port of Piraeus, at Athens