The controversy over the privatization of the Port of Limassol deepened on Monday when Cyprus' transport minister, Marios Demetriades, claimed that equipment at the facility had been vandalized before the handover to the port's new operator.
Speaking to Cyprus' parliament, Demetriades said that the new concessionaire, Eurogate, had informed him of acts of sabotage, potentially committed by the port's former porters. Eurogate's manager for Limassol, George Pouros – previously the Cyprus Port Authority's harbormaster – confirmed that only four out of 11 straddle lifts were running after the transition.
Demetriades reserved the right to pursue criminal charges, but Cyprus Port Authority official Panagiotis Agathocleous gave a more moderate explanation, suggesting that the damages could have been due to poor maintenance.
Demetriades' allegations drew immediate outrage from dockworkers and opposition politicians. The leader of Cyprus' DIKO party, Nicolas Papadopoulos, met Tuesday with Eurogate, union officials, the port authority and the local chamber of commerce; afterwards, he denounced Demetriades’ comments and called for the minister’s resignation. In response, the ministry of transport said in a statement that Papadopoulos' meetings were a "flagrant insult to state instutitions" and demonstrated "disrespect to the minister."
Limassol's privatization was highly controversial and faced significant opposition from the port's longshoremen and pilots' unions. The controversy has not abated after the handover to Eurogate: since the formal transfer of operations on January 29, the port has been plagued by severe delays, prompting complaints from local businesses about the delivery of their goods. Hauliers instituted an informal blockade of the facilities' gates in protest of long turn times, parking their trucks in the gate lanes and leaving on foot. In interviews with the Cyprus Mail, Eurogate officials said that broken container handling equipment and software glitches were responsible for the terminal's slow operations, and that they would bring in additional equipment and staff to assist.
Beyond the allegations of sabotage, Minister Demetriades has expressed frustration with Eurogate: he recently told Cyprus' CyBC that he "[expects] the company to assume its responsibility [for delays] or else we will have to see what we will do."