Given the heated debate concerning the future of the port of Kamares, and the petition to stop the current development plan from being implemented, I feel it is only fair that our non-Greek-speaking friends who are involved, in one way or another, should have access to as much information as possible, in order to gain a more fully-rounded, informed understanding of the project and its implications for all of us, residents and visitors alike. Putting my own personal bias aside, and on my own initiative, I have translated a response written by Giorgos Troullos, the former president of the Port Fund of Sifnos (the organisation responsible for the port development plans), which may answer some questions and, perhaps, clarify certain misconceptions that are, presumably, colouring our opinions.
The translation of the original response by Giorgos Troullos follows. For Greek, please scroll to the bottom.
Dear residents and friends of Sifnos,
In light of what has been going on recently with regards to our port, and given that the process has stagnated on all levels, I would like to call upon all of you to come together to bring this project to completion. From the bottom of my heart and with a sense of duty, I will try to express, as plainly as possible, certain truths about the project itself, and the devastating consequences of its failure.
As president of the Municipal Port Fund of Sifnos, during the last two terms of the municipal council, I made it my priority to see this project through. The first battle we fought was to secure the mildest possible intervention upon the environment, and it took us approximately five years to demonstrate that the new plan would deem the port capable of meeting both present and future demands.
Below is the original plan put forward by the Region of the South Aegean, which was rejected by the Port Planning & Development Committee (ESAL), in contrast to the current plan, which has been deemed compliant with environmental terms and approved by the ESAL, overcoming what is arguably the most difficult bureaucratic hurdle of the entire process.
Let’s take a look at the current situation at the port. We have a narrow entrance at The Old Captain, from where a seafront zone, about 10 metres wide, extends all the way to the old pier. This terrestrial area, which is managed by the Port Fund of Sifnos, is occupied by a four-metre-wide road, and the outdoor seating areas / pergolas of the seafront businesses, which take up the remaining 5-6 metres. The Port Fund of Sifnos is responsible for ensuring the compliance of all port infrastructures with the applicable terms for its smooth operation, the safety of pedestrians and vehicles, the availability of the maximum possible services for visiting vessels and ships, their passengers, their crews, and a number of other issues that arise from the relevant legislation.
The nine-member board of the Port Fund of Sifnos is tasked, each year, and upon application, with renting out the spaces directly opposite the beachfront businesses, with all the risks that this entails due to the non-legal nature of the permanent structures (pergolas), as well as the lack of safe access to the port. Up until the very last year of our service, we never hesitated to weigh our own legal protection and convenience against a huge Pandora’s Box that would burst open and destroy, in addition to the site and its character, numerous people who struggle, within the restraints of the tourist season, to cover their needs for the entire year.
Hand on my heart and with the help of Our Lady Chrysopigi, we made it through nine years managing to hold off what I would describe as a disaster; but now the time has come for me to ask for help to SAVE our port. Our first move, always with the unmitigated support of the port authorities, was to install a sign prohibiting the entry of vehicles to the port, and place an officer of the Port Police at a spot outside of our jurisdiction, as well as several more within the terrestrial area, to regulate traffic during peak months, at the time of arrival and departure of ships. This summer, however, proved conclusively that these measures are not enough, and they are not enough for the simple reason that needs are increasing, and the island has become a much-loved destination that attracts an ever-growing numbers of visitors. To give an example: when Dionysios Solomos and the Speedrunner arrive at the same time, the vehicles and trucks take up the entire length and width of the seafront zone, causing delays in the ships’ arrival and departure, and severely endangering pedestrians.
Some might say the solution is to change the schedules so no two ships arrive at the same time. But it doesn’t work that way, unfortunately. It is absurd to expect every ferry company to adapt their schedule according to the needs and idiosyncrasies of each port. Quite the opposite: it is the ports that ought to be suitably equipped to receive the ships at their scheduled time of arrival. Besides, we mustn’t forget that our port infrastructures were build in the late 1980s, when Sifnos received a maximum of 20,000 visitors, whereas now that number is in excess of 120,000.
“Avast,” we used to say on the board – a little more patience: the port development project is underway, things will get easier, the pergolas will be legalised, the spaces will be rented out without the fear of something going wrong. Honestly, we had come so far with the project that, if the Region and the Technical Works Authority hadn’t brought it to a standstill for an entire year, we’d even be looking at starting the works within 2019, or 2020 at the latest. That, of course, is another story, and one I will not go into at present; I prefer to keep to the facts.
Let’s assume, then, that the new board of the Port Fund, upon seeing that the project has run aground – as is the desire of all those who are striving, by any lawful and unlawful means, for its failure – and given that it [the board] also needs to act within the law and in accordance with the relevant provisions, decides by majority to not rent out the spaces opposite the businesses, but to use them, instead, to create the required road infrastructures. This would result in two 3.5 metre wide lanes of traffic, and a 4 metre wide pedestrian walkway; Antonis would no longer set his pottery out to dry by the Old Captain, the Italian [Da Claudio] and Panos [Kamaron] would have to keep within their yards, and a metre of width would be shaved off the square up until the No Entry sign.
That, dear friends, would place a band-aid on the problem, but it doesn’t provide a long-term solution. At this point, I’d like to put another thought to you: if it comes to the worst-case scenario that we all wish to avoid, the district attorney is likely to take immediate action, meaning, on the one hand, that the board would be accountable for its non-compliance with its obligations for the efficient operation and safety of the port and, on the other hand, that the right to rent out the seafront spaces would be automatically revoked, the pergolas would be taken down (which, I repeat, are illegal), and the entire terrestrial zone would be assigned to the use of vehicles and pedestrians.
Some might say: are you threatening us now? Believe me, I have lived with this for nine years, and I know how likely it is to happen. Someone else might say: why didn’t you legalise the pergolas in all that time? The answer is that, in planning a new port, all these procedures must run at the same time, once the final layout has been agreed upon and approved, or we’d constantly be moving the pergolas to different positions.
This brings us to an important question that we need to put to all those who love Sifnos, and who want it to stay pure and unspoiled, without infrastructures – just enough to accommodate us and our friends. Imagine Kamares without the seafront restaurants, imagine Kamares serving only the arrival and departure of travellers (visitors and permanent residents alike); worst of all, think of the seafront cafes and restaurants, having to seat all their customers indoors.
Would you like to talk about the financial ruin of those people? Around ten businesses, employing on average 5 members of staff each – so that’s 50 people plus their families. I do wonder whether Laura, Mark, Johan, Carlo, and all those who are signing petitions to stop the development of the port or appeal to the Council of State, will support these people financially. And, just FYI, the report resulting from the latest Port Facilities Safety Drill deems our port non-functional, unsafe, and dangerous to cruise ships, ships within the harbour, and their passengers, as well as anyone moving within the terrestrial zone of the port.
Now let’s take a look at how the proposed plan helps the port, to what extent it affects it, and whether, ultimately, it strips Kamares of its quaintness and its charm. From the point where the No Entry sign is installed and up until the end of the square, the road will be broadened by 1.5 metres, and a small part of the yard of the Old Captain bar (as granted by the Municipality and the Old Captain, respectively), to create two lanes of traffic into and out of the port.
From the Old Captain and progressively up to the point where the large jetty begins, there will be an extension of 10 metres. (It was our aim, and our proposal to the designer during the final planning stage, to gradually deepen the sea from the beach up to and around the old pier, so that we can once again enjoy the quaint Kamares of the 1970s, when the fishing boats would be docked right in front of the restaurants.) Let me clarify, at this point, that the shapes that appeared in the drawings and which some assumed were boulders, have absolutely no bearing on the final plan, which allows for several options regarding the aesthetic aspects of the project and the materials that will be used.
In addition, there is a rumour going around that there will be a cement road in front of the cafes and restaurants on the beach. This is a huge misconception; as we have explained repeatedly, in order for the plans to be approved, they needed to include a walkway for pedestrians entering and leaving the port, due to the narrowness of the road and the unfeasibility of constructing a pedestrian walkway between the Old Captain and the car park. The designer gave this feature the same colour as the other extensions to the port, but it has never been specified that this will be made of concrete, or any other material, for that matter. Again, the final plan will determine the material for its construction; our proposal was for a 3-metre-wide wooden walkway, leading to the back of the car park, by the disabled parking and toilet. I repeat: this is just a formality. There’s hardly going to be someone standing in front of the Old Captain and directing pedestrians along the beach. People will walk where they want to, at their own risk, but, in compliance with contemporary port planning, where pedestrians have priority, they will have the choice of a safe route.
So let’s imagine, from the Old Captain and up to the old pier, a pedestrian walkway around 2-2.5 metres wide, then a 3.5 metre lane of traffic, a reservation of 1.5 metres (preserving the existing trees), another 3.5 metre lane of traffic, and then the area (6 metres) that will be rented out to the seaside businesses. And finally imagine, right along the sea, a pedestrian walkway (4-5 metres), nicely-lit, with benches and little boats moored all along; a pleasure for visitors and locals alike, to stroll along safely, and enjoy their coffee or their meal with a view of the sea, rather than a road full of cars and trucks. That’s my dream for Kamares: more beautiful, more organised, more picturesque and much safer than it is today.
Past the old pier, the two-lane road, the reservation, and the pedestrian walkway extend up to the main jetty, with the addition of a 2.5 metre strip to facilitate the landing of yachts, etc. The large jetty, in turn, will be extended progressively, from a point roughly halfway along the existing shelter, by about 25-30 metres westwards, in order to accommodate ships of a larger draft, and more than one at a time, if need be. Subsequently, the side of main jetty facing towards Agia Aikaterini will also be extended, in turn, by approximately 30 metres allowing – under normal weather conditions – for the safe docking of a third ship. Most importantly, however, this extension will create a temporary parking space to accommodate all vehicles awaiting embarkation, thus clearing the road for vehicles exiting the ships to drive out of the port unhindered, and providing safe passage for pedestrian passengers along the walkway.
Passengers due to embark will wait within the new shelter. (There is potential, here, with the support of the Municipal Port Fund, and in consultation with our excellent local architects, to create a true work of art, designed and equipped to meet all contemporary needs.)
At this stage, my friends, we should have already reached a conclusion and mutually agreed not only to proceed with the creation of the above infrastructures, but also to take it a step further and create a small marina as well. On this issue, I am fully in agreement with the view of Gina Stavraki Papapavlou, who took the trouble to draw up the designs for the Municipal Port Fund free of charge (see plan, below), because, as we all know, the available mooring spaces are taken up by our permanent friends in the summer, leaving little to no space for visiting boats. The marina will also provide protection for the boats during the winter months, which are placed at bigger risk by the south-eastern winds of that season than the south-western ones that prevail at other times. And let’s not forget the new boat slip that will be created as part of the development plan, allowing for the launch and recovery of larger boats.
Most importantly, the plan includes counter-regulatory works at Pera Panta, with a submerged breakwater, which will clearly marked but not be visible. This, according to the calculations of the designer, will help prevent erosion along the coast, and gradually restore it – in contrast to what happened in Plati Yialos.
Overall, what we are dealing with is a 10-metre extension along the seafront, and a 30-metre extension of the jetty. Is that quite as terrible as has been suggested? Does it take up any part of the beach? Is there that much concrete? Or could it be, perhaps, that Kamares will become even more beautiful? Isn’t it finally time to create an elegant, contemporary port for our island, just like all the other islands in the Western Cyclades have done?
Some might say: but is there no other solution? There have been suggestions aplenty: a tunnel boring machine, a road through the mountain, a road at Flambouro, a new port at Agia Marina… Yes: everything is possible, and everything could be done – in theory. But let’s not forget that we live in Greece; which organisation will fund projects amounting to several million euro? Because any other solution would be more costly than the current one. Who will give such an amount to our little Sifnos of 2,500 residents? And why would they when – according to PEPEN (the Union of Masters of the Greek Merchant Marine) – all of our ports, with very few exceptions, are deathtraps. If you ask me, sure, I would also prefer to have the port to Fanari and the road through the mountain. But, even assuming we managed to get the funding, which is more than unlikely, imagine what sort of process we’re talking about, to start everything from scratch: surveys, designs, approvals, consultations… We’re looking at a minimum of 7-10 years, at best. Especially given that the current plan we’re trying to implement, with the mildest possible intervention upon the environment, has been 30 years in the making.
And then, who says there won’t be objections to that as well? It’s pretty much a certainty, in fact, as it seems to me that the objective is to do nothing, to please those who like things just as they are, and destroy all of us who have invested, in one way or another, in the island.
I even overheard some woman saying “my clients told me that if you change the port we won’t be coming back, because we like Sifnos the way it is”. I don’t know what your clients are saying, madam, but whenever I do transfers to and from the port, and we get caught up in the congestion and the chaos, my clients laugh; and they’re certainly not laughing because they are amused – they’re laughing at our incompetence.
What I have tried to do here is put down certain facts, in the hope of helping to clarify the situation for those who are uncertain of the necessity and implications of this crucial infrastructure for our island. It is now my hope that the Region gives us the go-ahead to move forward swiftly, and draw up the final plan, which will include all the suggestions made by the majority of the Municipal Council of Sifnos. And, going forward, we are more than willing to consult with all the relevant organisations, and even organise a public presentation for the citizens – and then we can all make an informed decision. But, for the sake of all of us, let’s not condemn this plan; we won’t have another opportunity to fix our port. And if we let this one pass us by, it will be too late, and we’ll be watching the ships going by in the distance, and crying at our own stupidity.
[The two images above and below show the original plan proposed by the Region, and the current one (as it evolved after a 5-year battle), and which includes Gina Stavraki Papapavlou’s design for the marina.]
Δεδομένης της συζήτησης και της αγωνίας, που ολοένα και εντείνεται, σχετικά με το λιμάνι της Σίφνου και το μέλλον των Καμαρών, και με αφορμή και την τρέχουσα προσπάθεια συλλογής υπογραφών (μέσω διαδικτυακής πλατφόρμας) για τη μη-εφαρμογή του προτεινόμενου σχεδίου, η οποία έχει προκαλέσει πολλές αντιδράσεις, θετικές και αρνητικές, θεωρώ πως είναι σωστό να έχουν όλοι οι ενδιαφερόμενοι (ανεξαρτήτως καταγωγής και γλώσσας) πρόσβαση σε όσο το δυνατόν περισσότερες πληροφορίες, έτσι ώστε να είναι σε καλύτερη θέση να σχηματίσουν μια πιο ολοκληρωμένη άποψη για το προτεινόμενο έργο και τη σημασία του για όλους μας, μόνιμους κατοίκους και επισκέπτες. Αφήνοντας στην άκρη την προσωπική μου οπτική, ανέλαβα με δική μου πρωτοβουλία να μεταφράσω στα αγγλικά το πρόσφατο κείμενο-ανταπόκριση του πρώην προέδρου του Δημοτικού Λιμενικού Ταμείου της Σίφνου, Γεώργιου Τρούλλου, το οποίο ενδεχομένως να απαντήσει κάποια ερωτήματα κι ακόμα και να καταρρίψει ορισμένες παρερμηνείες, προς όφελος των μη-ελληνόφωνων φίλων μας.
Κλείνοντας, ένα προσωπικό σχόλιο: θεωρητικά, όλοι μας αγαπάμε τη Σίφνο και θέλουμε ό,τι καλύτερο για εκείνη. Πρακτικά, αυτό μεταφράζεται, νομίζω, σε διάλογο και συνεργασία και διάθεση, με ψυχραιμία και ανοιχτό μυαλό, για την επίτευξη ενός κοινού στόχου: την ασφάλεια, προστασία και ευημερία του νησιού μας. Όχι, όπως αντιθέτως συμβαίνει, στη δημιουργία αντίπαλων στρατοπέδων και συνεχείς λογομαχίες που δεν βγάζουν πουθενά. Η Σίφνος δεν είναι μόνο το λιμάνι και τα χωριά και τα τοπία της, αλλά και οι άνθρωποι που την απαρτίζουν. Ας διαλέξουμε προσεκτικά ποιοι θέλουμε να είμαστε.
Για να διαβάσετε το πρωτότυπο κείμενο του Γ. Τρούλλου, πατήστε εδώ.