Transforming Larnaca through the Port and Marina

Interview with Gideon Golber

Aiming at enhancing the commerciality of Larnaca’s port and marina, as well as forming a strong relationship with the city’s people, the Kition Ocean Holdings consortium will take over the management of the development project next April. The General Manager of Larnaca Port and Marina will be Gideon Golber – one of the most successful Port Directors in Israel – and here, he analyses the four phases of this bold development and explains how it will change Larnaca for the better.

By Artemis Constantinidou | Photo by Michael Kyprianou

What are your goals and vision regarding the development of Larnaca Port and Marina?

There are some striking similarities between the ports of Larnaca and Eilat, as both are located close to the city within the tourist area, they cover about the same area and serve the same types of cargo, with a very small number of containers being handled. Our goal is to create a port and a marina that coexist harmoniously with the area that surrounds them, as well as with the whole city. As a private company, we aim to increase the commerciality of the port and the marina, attracting a greater number of ships and boats, mega-yachts, cruise ships and navy ships.

We are committed to fully respecting the environment and specific procedures will be followed to this end. In other words, only machinery and equipment that does not harm the environment will be used, which means that it operates at reduced noise and dust levels and does not impose any burden on water sources; we believe in green energy, which is why we have designed a green port and marina, served by renewable energy sources. We aim at creating a strong relationship between the port and marina and the rest of the city, as they will be an important source of growth, offering thousands of jobs to local residents. The project is expected to radically change the image of Larnaca, transforming it into a modern European city, while at the same time preserving its traditional elements and character.

All of these have already been implemented at Eilat Port under my supervision. All the members of the Kition Ocean Ports team and I are well-versed in the procedures and implementation of the points I have mentioned and are already preparing to repeat them in Larnaca. I would like to reiterate that a harmonious relationship between the port, the marina and the residents of Larnaca is of the utmost importance. For this reason, we are planning several impressive events, which will bring the people of the city closer to us and to the project, so that they will love it and feel it as their own.

What will happen from now until April 1, 2022, when Kition Ocean Holdings takes over the entire management of the port?

The transition period is particularly important, as it gives us the opportunity to get to know how the port and marina operate today and to prepare our own plans and programmes, recruitment and operating procedures. In the intervening time, we will obtain all the necessary operating licenses, conclude agreements with third parties for the provision of services and organise the security and safety of the area and of the people who will work there. The success in the joint development of the port and the marina is based on the ideal combination of good infrastructure and equipment, with competent and flexible human resources. Our attention is already focused on these parameters and I am sure of the result.

Additionally, during this time, we will be in very close contact and cooperation with various ministries, deputy ministries, government services, the Cyprus Ports Authority, Larnaca Municipality and other related services, for the completion of this very important and much-anticipated project for Larnaca and for the whole of Cyprus.

We are planning specific events and presentations, so that the public can get to know the project and our company better, thus creating a closer relationship, but also giving them the opportunity to be informed, in advance, about everything that is going to change in Larnaca in the coming years.

Some people are afraid of change, and others fear privatization. How do you intend to win them over?

In my view, there are three groups, each with a different approach to privatization: The first is in favour of privatization and sees it as a good opportunity for urban development. The second group is against any kind of change, especially privatization, usually because its members fear the loss of their own privileges. Finally, the third group has an open mind and is neither for nor against privatization. We guarantee that we will work hard, professionally and transparently for the success of this project, which will have a positive effect on Larnaca and Cyprus as a whole. I would like to take this opportunity to invite the people of Larnaca and all those who are interested in the project to take notice of our official announcements and to avoid information coming from unreliable sources.

How is the development expected to progress and what does each stage involve?

The project is divided into four phases, which will be implemented over about twelve years. Implementation of the first phase is expected to begin around the end of 2022, once we have obtained the relevant permits from the competent authorities. It includes the total redevelopment and expansion of the marina (to service more than 600 yachts and mega-yachts) and the construction of a modern and imposing Yacht Club. Facilities will be created at the port that will serve the needs of cruise ship management, as well as a modern office building.

The second phase includes the expansion of the port and new docks, the construction of a large number of residential units, a hotel, shops, a restaurant, and an educational centre. The third phase includes the further expansion of the port, the construction of luxury villas at the marina, the construction of hotels, and the imposing 360 Tower within the marina. The fourth and final phase includes the construction of the remaining villas at the marina, as well as both residential and office facilities.

What are the expected benefits for Larnaca and the Cypriot economy in general?

The benefits for Larnaca and for the Cypriot economy will be enormous, as the project will bring in billions of euros to the State. In addition, it will create thousands of jobs and attract tourism and investment, with additional benefits for Larnaca but also for Cyprus as a whole. The project will radically transform the city and will contribute greatly to the general upgrading of its services and benefits. As I have already noted, apart from the port and the marina, the project includes, the construction of residential, commercial and educational units, public spaces and infrastructure and a brand-new road network will be created.

Has the pandemic and its negative impact on tourism affected the project?

COVID-19 has, unfortunately, affected the whole world but if we look at the impact on the operation of ports, we see that, together with the cost of transporting goods, the amount of activity has also risen sharply.

The tourism sector – passenger ships in particular – has been affected by COVID-19 but, fortunately, it has gradually started to reopen, in compliance with strict protocols and procedures. At this point, let me reiterate that we aim to attract cruise ships to Larnaca port, because they bring life to the city’s shops and restaurants. For this reason, all the procedures to be followed will be fully implemented in accordance with current health regulations and guidelines, in the same way that they were applied in the port of Eilat. Our offices are equipped with the necessary technology and all team members are fully trained to hold online meetings and conferences, a measure that, during lockdown periods, has contributed greatly to avoiding delays in the progress of our work.

Given that three marinas are already in operation in Cyprus and a fourth is under construction in Paralimni, is there enough room for such a large fifth marina?

The excellent geographical location of Cyprus means that there will always be a very high demand for berthing in its marinas. As someone who has worked in ports for years, I am of the opinion that the docks should wait for the ships and the ships should not wait for the docks. Therefore, it is better to have more docks than not enough. I believe strongly in healthy competition, so five marinas at the customer’s disposal means benefits for the customer.

Larnaca Marina is located in the tourist area of the city, with all the infrastructure and services in easy reach of everyone. This, in itself, will have a positive effect on its choice as a berthing point. We will create a state-of-the-art marina with five-star services, which will have the sole objective of serving our customers, thus giving us an edge over the competition.

Following the termination of the Cyprus Investment Programme, what’s your target clientele in terms of buyers of the residential part of the project?

We would like to make it clear that, from the beginning, this project was never based on the Cyprus Investment Programme, so its termination has not created any ‘cracks’ in its foundations. There is already significant interest in, and increased demand for, villas and apartments by prospective buyers of various nationalities and also by local residents, mainly due to the project’s location, its prospects and its attractive prices and specifications.

Gideon Golber

About Gideon Golber

Gideon Golber studied Electrical Engineering before beginning his career at the Port of Eilat at the age of 26 as Head of the port machinery. Fourteen years later, in 2002, he was appointed as General Manager of the port and one of his tasks, upon assuming this key position, was to deal with an annual deficit of 30 million NIS (€8 million), which he managed to turn into a profit of 7 million NIS (€2 million) in the space of 18 months. In 2005, he took over the management of two of Israel’s three largest ports – Haifa and Ashdod – and, in 2011, he was asked by Israel’s Ministry of Finance and Transport to participate in the process of privatizing Eilat port, which was successfully completed in 2013, and led him to become the Head of Port Management, a position he holds to this day. Over the last 3 years, Gideon Golber participated in the privatization consultations for the Larnaca port and marina and played a key role in drawing up the plans for their future operation, contributing substantially to the eventual signing of a privatization agreement. His many years of experience in port management, his entrepreneurship and his commitment to offering excellent service to the public, combined with his sensitivity to issues around environmental protection, safety and respect for the people who live and work in the city of Larnaca, are a clear guarantee of his future success General Manager of the Larnaca port.