Cruising, chestnuts, birds and noise

Dear reader

This is the newsletter from last week that was held up by computer problems, now resolved.

Next weekend the newsletter will go out to you on Saturday night for your Sunday morning read.

Ed

__________

"News and views from the Algarve all relating to a week of stories posted daily on your algarvedailynews website..."

The Seven Seas Explorer cruise ship, launched in Monaco on July 13, is the pride of a fleet run by Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

What luck for the Algarve as the company decided the Seven Seas Explorer should pay a visit to Portimão and decant its well-heeled passengers ashore to enjoy the city and spend their money in local shops and restaurants.

The Captain decided otherwise and skipped the port citing concerns over safety despite tugs being on hand, with one specially sent down from Sines to cope with the cruise ship’s impressive bulk.

This perceived snub brought into focus the continuing situation for Portimão council which has deliberately been starved of funding by the Sines and Algarve Port Authority for the necessary river dredging and quayside work to enable these large cruise ships safely to dock.

Even the often wobbly former Minister for the Economy, Pires de Lima, said there was a clear economic case for the €10 million expansion needed. He also promised a suitably sized tug, an order that promptly was cancelled. This was in August 2013 and the three year funding that was promised should by now have been spent, yet the project has not started.

Even a government working group in January 2014 listed Portimão and Faro docks as one the country’s top 30 infrastructure priorities, one of just two projects listed in the entire Algarve.

"We will move forward step by step, solidly, because we are talking about a major investment," said José Pedro Soares back then, he heads the Sines and Algarve Ports Authority but did not know the maximum size of ship that can enter Portimão after dredging work is done, a fairly important fact to know early on, I should have thought.

Soares said in January 2014 the environmental impact studies prior to starting the work will take 8-10 months. The National Laboratory of Civil Engineering was awarded a contract to study ways to improve the maritime access to the port of Portimão. This was due to be presented in November 2014.

The result of all these expert reports and analyses has been zero, a master-class in the cheery art of being busy but achieving nothing.

The government, through its Ports Authority, does not want the Portimão investment to go ahead. The last thing the city of Lisbon wants is for the number of passengers spending time in the Algarve to grow from 20,000 to 250,000 passengers, as predicted once bigger ships can dock.

In Lisbon, each cruise ship passenger spends an average of €183 ashore and anything that could affect this healthy income is being lobbied against.

Meanwhile, Portimão council sits and waits for its longer quayside and deeper harbour, unable to complain much as it has just borrowed €130 million from the government. I would lease the port in a similar way that Portugal's airports have been leased, and get private investment to sort out the civil engineering work that could have been finished two years ago had there been a will rather than gusts of political hot air.

http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/9680-cruise-ship-skips-portimao-stop-over-due-to-safety-concerns

Another tourism project where a council has managed to achieve zero in four years is the Pego do Inferno countryside waterfall and natural pool which Tavira council announced last week would soon be cleared up and open again.

The bridge, railings and general area around this popular inland water feature were burned in the 2012 fires that swept through the eastern Algarve so an announcement four years later that the site will be reopened defies polite description. In fact, says the mayor, there is a problem over land ownership so things might not progress as planned, or not at all, it all depends…

This is a bridge, a waterfall and a pond for goodness sake, how difficult can it be? One reader pointed out that work carried out might well be a wasted effort as upstream the citrus growers are taking so much water that the chances of a plunging waterfall and refreshing pool in the summer months are negligible.

http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/9676-tavira-s-pego-do-inferno-attraction-to-be-redeveloped-maybe

One mayor who continues a run of successful local projects and initiatives in Rui André in Monchique whose latest plan is to convert an old wood yard and associated buildings into a centre for the council’s popular annual fairs – think chestnuts, ham and sausages at this point.

Stage two is to create a museum for all things relating to wood to ensure year-round visitors at the new venue. This project not only halts the decline of an old building but gives the town a focus for its rural fairs that are attracting more and more people each year.

http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/9668-monchique-to-convert-old-buildings-into-a-festival-venue-and-museum

To Portugal’s banks and the news that the European Commission has given the go-ahead for more taxpayers’ money to be pumped into the almost lifeless Caixa Geral de Depósitos. The bill for this latest act of government largesse is €4.6 billion.

This refinancing is likely to happen before the commission of inquiry has reported on how it all went so wrong at Caixa Geral, why so many loans were handed out to people unlikely to be in a position to repay them and why kickbacks were given to directors for agreeing loans.

‘Scandalous’ is an often used adjective when it comes to describing many of Portugal’s failed banks and the same old excuse has been trotted out yet again in the case of Caixa Geral’s rescue - ‘to stabilise the banking system.’ Suggestions for a new adjective are welcome...

There is now little chance of the government hitting the year-end 2.5% deficit target which in turn will affect international opinions on Portugal’s credibility. Expect more austerity.

http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/9660-eu-agrees-recapitalisation-for-ailing-caixa-geral-de-depositos

As for Novo Banco, now under the stewardship of the former trains and roads boss António Ramalho, the €4.9 billion sale price so desperately needed by the Bank of Portugal in order to repay the money borrowed for its ‘good bank/bad bank’ resolution in 2014 is a fantasy.

The Expresso newspaper last week made an informed guess that the highest bid for Novo Banco will be around €40 million which begs the question, what does it take for the Governor of the Bank of Portugal, Carlos Costa, to be sacked?

The fate of Novo Banco will be announced sometime in September – expect fireworks.

http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/9638-new-head-of-novo-banco-promises-to-avoid-making-evasive-promises

To the normally sleepy Alentejo town of Ponte do Sor where twin Iraqi boys on a pilot’s course ended up being involved in a violent assault which may yet be categorised as ‘attempted murder’.

Details remain unclear, Correio da Manhã suspects that embassy security staff also were involved in the attack, but the twin sons of the Iraqi Ambassador to Portugal did appear in an interview for a TV programme and said sorry, but that they were acting in self-defence.

Portugal’s government is not impressed, the prosecutor wants to prosecute and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs formally has asked for the twins’ diplomatic immunity to be lifted.

http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/9663-alentejo-beating-portugal-formally-calls-for-iraqi-diplomatic-immunity-to-be-lifted

Someone unable to say 'sorry' and mean it is António Horta Osório, the Portuguese Chief Executive of Lloyds Bank whose memo to staff last week failed to address his personal activities.

Exposed by The Sun newspaper as cheating on his wife with a Ms Wendy Piatt in a luxury hotel in Singapore, Horta Osório apologised to bank staff for the adverse publicity his extra-marital shenanigans have caused while assuring them that he was not fiddling his expenses.

"My personal life is obviously a private matter as it is for anyone else" read the bland apologia from the man who got one of the top jobs in UK banking based on the ‘family values’ he extolled.

The banker admits that damage has been done to the Group’s reputation - is this not reason enough for him to step down - perhaps he could come and run Caixa Geral?

http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/9655-love-rat-lloyds-chief-unable-to-say-sorry

To Albufeira and the November 1st 2015 flood that caused €20 million of damage to the downtown retail and bar area.

After much ministerial deliberation in Lisbon, €7.5 million in emergency funds was released and locals whose property and business had been harmed by the deluge could apply.

Applications were assessed by inevitable government committees and, rather bizarrely, the national tourist board. The result has been the release of just €1 million, so thanks for that.

Meanwhile, the former mayor of Albufeira and current president of the regional tourist board, Desidério Silva, has remained silent over his role in the flooding.

Silva spent millions of ratepayers’ cash in a flood defence scheme that served to increase the damage to the centre of town when the abnormal rainfall hit.

By ignoring the specific advice from the regional hydrographical board and continuing his engineering project without the necessary permissions, Silva should be held to account for his seminal role in the catastrophe yet he refuses to comment in the hope that nothing will happen to him.

http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/9650-only-1-million-in-albufeira-flood-grants-authorised-by-government

Out-of-season tourism, one of the tourist board’s stated objectives, has the benefit of Algarve businesses whose livelihoods depend on skilled marketing and promotion of niche markets such as walking, horse riding and bird watching.

With the Sagres Bird Watching Festival coming around again this October and specialist businesses attending the recent British Birdwatching Fair without financial help from the tourist board, this sector is poised to return some good figures if a little coordination and promotional skills are forthcoming.

This is fragmented area but the success, for example, of the local businesses running the Rota Vicentina walking trail and of Paradise in Portugal focusing on specialist bird watching holidays, is an indication that with a bit of official funding - leaving the marketing to those with a financial stake - these markets can boost off-season bookings and keep associated businesses open and people employed for 12 months of the year.

http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/9664-birdwatching-overseas-promotional-activity-starts-to-boost-numbers

A quiet holiday in the Algarve? Pick the wrong location and a good night’s sleep may elude you.

The beach disco venues licensed to operate in certain tourist hotspots faced sharp criticism last week as decibel readings have been recorded far above the legal limit.

Vilamoura and Praia da Rocha are two areas where many holidaymakers have complained bitterly - to official indifference.

People can expect a certain level of noise at these resorts but when the noise levels are illegally high night after night and the police do nothing, claiming they are ‘not empowered to,’ tourists simply will not return. The Algarve needs to keep its tourists coming back year after year so the noise levels should be monitored and license conditions enforced to ensure a bit of harmony as bad news travels fast.

http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/9658-beach-disco-noise-levels-are-ruining-holidays

The Algarve chimney, varied in design, often magnificent in size and always a pleasing sight, but are they protected?

Monchique Council is compiling a register so it knows what heritage it can lay claim to but others, if not specifically covered by council protection orders, can be removed, damaged or allowed to fall down. What should be done?

http://www.algarvedailynews.com/news/9644-algarve-chimneys-face-uncertain-future

 

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Until next week

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