Greece to begin auctioning marinas: officials

Greece will begin this week auctioning off rights to operate dozens of marinas as it seeks to tap private investment to boost lucrative yacht tourism, officials said on Thursday.

The state agency in charge of privatisation (HRADF) said six international tenders would be issued by June for 46 marinas in its portfolio while the tourism ministry pledged to facilitate licencing procedures for investors.

"There is acute interest... from Greece and abroad," HRADF chief executive Yiannis Emiris told a news conference.

In addition to bringing in revenue as the country continues to mired in recession, the government hopes that development of marinas will boost growth in the key tourism sector.

"Marine tourism can bring a lot of wealth, it can create jobs and give Greece hope," added the agency's chairman Stelios Stavridis.

Though Greece is a major tourist destination, it has failed to adequately exploit its marina potential and has lost out to regional competition from Turkey, Croatia and Montenegro.

"Greece has over 15,000 kilometres of beaches and thousands of small and middle-sized islands but this is not enough," said Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni, adding: "A total of 153 marinas have been zoned but fewer than 25 operate respectably under international standards."

"In France, which has 270 marinas and berths 166,000 yachts of over six metres, there is a verified need for over 57,000 additional moorings," she said.

By comparison, Greece moors 9,000 yachts, Stavridis said.

In the upcoming tenders for marina leases that will run for around 40 years, investors will be asked for a down payment and additional sums based on operational revenue.

They will also have to undertake the necessary harbour works to improve services and safety conditions.

A first cluster of marinas in the Saronic Gulf near Athens including the islands of Hydra and Poros will be auctioned this week, Emiris said.

A second batch of five marinas including Lavrion near Athens, the popular Aegean tourist island of Chios and Argostili, the island capital of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea, will follow in the second quarter of the year, he said.

"Generally the process takes 6-8 months but we will try to do it faster," Emiris said.

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