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Port of Heraklion


The Port of  Heraklion (Greece) is the main and most modern gate of entrance for passengers and cargo to the island of Crete. It is one of the ten Greek ports with national importance and has an exceptionally strategic position, since it is located in the centre of the south-eastern Mediterranean Basin and interconnects three continents. The passenger port of Heraklion is the third one in passenger traffic within Greece and serves about 2 million passengers every year and more than 300.000 vehicles. The Port of Heraklion also hosts a cargo zone, which also  includes the  transportation of  fuels and cement.



 Socioeconomic impact assessment


Socioeconomic conditions refer to human beings and their characteristics, which are usually dynamic variables that differ widely within the same community and from one community to another. Generally, there is a number of broad sets of socioeconomic impacts that could be developed including economic impacts namely: demography, employment, health, and community resources including political, social, economic and cultural conditions.


Socioeconomic assessment is a way to learn about the social, cultural, economic and political conditions of stakeholders including individuals, groups, communities and organizations and identify those that may be affected by a development project or plan.


The assessment of socio-economic conditions of the study site involved collecting existing information from secondary sources. Information was examined in order to:


i) define volume and typology (e.g. cruising, boating, chartering) of marine traffic and their seasonal variation, potential pollution sources within and around the sites;


ii) conduct stakeholders analysis at the local and regional levels, to identify different stakeholders and the potentials and means of their involvement at various phases of the project.


 The City of Heraklion (CreteGreece)


The city of Heraklion 

Figura 1. The City of Heraklion.


Heraklion is located in the northern part of Crete Island, covering a total area of 2642 km2. Considerable proportions of this area (62.7%) are mountainous or semi-mountainous land.


Heraklion has a population size of 304,207. Generally, the age structure of a society’s population has significant implications for the current and future development of that society. It was found that the category of productive population in the working age (15-64 years old) represents about two thirds of the total population. While the categories of young population (less than 15 years old) and elder population (65 years old or more) represent 17% and 16%, respectively (Figure 2).

Such an age structure, with high proportion of productive population, suggests generally that Heraklion community has been experiencing decline in population growth. It also indicates the dominance of low age dependency burden.




Figure 2. Population age structure of Heraklion.



Moreover, such an age structure can be considered as one of the strengths in the community, which could be seen as a pool of labor force. Yet, this implies that the community is in an urgent need for investment projects that could provide more job opportunities.


Despite low levels of illiteracy rate prevailed in Heraklion accounting for 4%, such a level is slightly higher than national average of illiteracy rate in Greece, which is 3% (The Worls Bank, n.d.).


Concerning the unemployment rate, Heraklion has an unemployment rate of about 25%, which could be attributed to some extent to the impacts of global economic crises on economic activities such as tourism. Such a relatively high unemployment rate reflects high levels of vulnerability of the local community to further stresses. Such high vulnerability is emphasized by prevailing high levels of poverty accounting for about 20% of total population according to recent estimates.


Concerning access to basic services and infrastructure, all population of Heraklion has access to potable water, sanitary and electricity.


According to the economic structure of population, tourism activities play a crucial role in Heraklion economy, employing about 36% of the total labor force. This is followed by Financial and other services and agriculture with 30% and 18%, respectively, of the total labor force. Meanwhile, construction sector and industry employ together 16% of the total labor force (Figure 3).





Figure 3. Economic Structure of population.


The importance of tourism activities in Heraklion is reflected in the numerous tourism facilities: 1465 hotels, resorts and rent rooms hosting more than 83,000 beds.


The area has a number of historical sites of unique significance, for example:




Figure 4. Neoria Arsenals.


 Figure 5. Koules Venetian Fortress


Figure 6Knossos [1]




In addition, the area has some traditional industries such as:

  • traditional handmade Cretan boots (Stivania) (Figure 7.4a),
  • traditional handmade sweets & biscuits,
  • traditional handmade ceramics (Figure 7.4b).


Figure 7.4a


Figure 7.4b [2]



Such traditional industries can be used as touristic attractions; therefore, they should be preserved and sustained. They can also provide a good source of income generation to the island.


The mountainous areas have some communities. For instance, mountainous communities with a population size ranging from 10,000 – 15,000 live in the sides of "Psiloritis" Mountain. The socioeconomic structure of these communities and potential impacts on such structure need to be carefully considered when undertaking tourism development activities.


During the tourism season of 2012, extending from April to November, the total number of tourists who visited Heraklion was 4,376,155. While 4,274,340 tourists arrived at Heraklion through the airport, 101,815 tourists arrived at Heraklion through the Port. This means that port received only about 2.3% of the total tourists visiting Heraklion. It is worth mentioning that this low figure is not reflecting the actual number of tourists coming through the port, as the number of tourists using local vessels from main land Greece was not available.

It was noted that the majority of tourists who arrived at Heraklion via port during 2012 (89.31%) come from high income countries and 9.91% of these tourists come from upper middle income countries[3] (Figure 8). This means that only 1% of the tourists visiting Heraklion come from lower-middle income or low-income countries. This represents one of the strength points related to tourism activities in Heraklion[4], if tourism development strategy is based on the propensity of those groups to spend by providing high quality tourism facilities. Additionally, attempts should be made to identify what sort of incentives can be provided to these groups to extend their stay in Heraklion.



 Figure 8. Tourists arriving at Heraklion via passengers vessels during 2012 by income.


Furthermore, tourists arriving at Heraklion through port by cruise represent only 20% of the total tourists arrived at Heraklion via port. This can be considered another point of strength in terms of tourism activities in Heraklion, as tourists coming by cruise ships particularly staying and spending less compared to tourists coming by passengers' vessels.


Concerning the origin of tourists visiting Heraklion in 2012 via port, it was found that United States of America comes in the first rank with a total number of tourists exceeding 4,000. This is followed by Greece, Australia, Turkey, France, Canada, Brazil and Spain with a tourist number ranging between 2,000 – 4,000 per each (Figure 9). These eight countries contributed with about 31,718 tourists, which accounted for about 40% of the total tourists visiting Heraklion during 2012. This again emphasizes that most of tourists come from high income countries.



 Figure 9. Tourists visiting Heraklion via Passengers vessels during 2012 by origin.





The socioeconomic analysis of Heraklion study site highlights a range of issues relevant to tourism activities, for instance:

  • increasing demand for power and water supply can be considered as a constraining factor for any future tourism development. This means that any future strategy for tourism development should have an integral part examining measures to overcome such obstacles;
  • existence of some historical sites of unique significance that should be preserved as assets for tourism activities. Careful considerations of the environmental impacts of increasing tourism on these sites are required;
  • existence of some communities of special concern in mountainous areas that should be carefully considered by any plan for tourism development in the area.


Meanwhile, there are some opportunities or positive aspects such as:

  • existence of some sort of autonomous initiatives to meet the increasing demand for electricity. Such initiations are represented in common use of solar systems in many touristic establishments;
  • potential use of solar energy to generate electricity at a large scale should be carefully examined at one of the potential options of meeting increasing demand for electricity;
  • the economy of Heraklion relies largely on tourism activities that necessitate proper planning of developing such a sector. Moreover, the development of tourism activities in Heraklion may provide more job opportunities and contribute largely to poverty alleviation and mitigate high levels of unemployment prevailed in Heraklion;
  • most of tourists are from high income or upper middle income countries, which means high level of propensity to spend.


According to such an assessment, DPSIR analysis of tourism development of the study site is as follows:

  • Driving forces
    • the need for tourism revenues,
    • tourism development and increasing number of tourists.
  • Pressure
    • increasing demand for marine transportation,
    • developing new tourism facilities and infrastructure (in port area and its surroundings),
    • the need for more power and water supplies.
  • States
    • quality of water and marine environment within the port area,
    • living standards in the port surrounding,
    • income levels and economic structure,
    • historical and archeological site of unique significance.
  • Impacts
    • deteriorating quality of marine environment,
    • pressure on existing services and infrastructures,
    • substandard living conditions,
    • providing more job opportunities,
    • reduced rate of unemployment and poverty,
    • damage of areas of unique significance.
  • Responses
    • allocate more investments on services and infrastructure provision,
    • promoting the private sector participation,
    • developing an EMS (Enviromental Management System) in the port area,
    • setting a tourism development strategy,
    • attract more tourists.



Stakeholders’ levels of involvement


Different stakeholders were identified, which can be classified into four groups, according to their powers and interests and thus their level of involvement (Figure 10).

It should be noted that among various stakeholders groups, the Port Authority of Heraklion, Coast Guard and region of Crete should be managed closely due to their high interest and power. Meanwhile, shipping companies and Geek Navy should be kept satisfied due to their maximum power and low interest. On the other hand, while fisheries association should be monitored due to their minimum power and interest, industrial and commercial Chamber of Crete, Tourist authority and Dockyard should be keep informed as they have relatively minimum power and high interest.




Figure 10. Levels of involvement of different stakeholders groups.


Public coastal properties and jurisdiction allocation in Greece



The research carried out by Law Department of Cagliari University focus on Greek system, where seashore, beaches and river-shore zones are owned by State; in this case government also shares and manages the whole coastal areas.
On the coastline and foreshore, no private ownership right can be acquired.

It is has been emphasized that ports generally belong to the Ministry of Finance, and that regulation of all seaport activity is under the responsibility of the General Secretariat of Seaport Policy, which is part of the Ministry of Merchant Marine. So, operational framework of Greek ports has been marked by the predominant role played by State authorities as regulators, and by the public sector responsibility for the direct management and provision of services.

With regard to distribution of powers with local authorities, it was emphasized that the role of local governments in the management of the ports is particularly limited. They haven't got a decisive role over the area, except those that have been given to them by the Ministry of Finance or the Greek National Tourism Organization.

The reaserch ended with some consideration on Heraklion’s port, in the Region of Crete, particulary on administrative juristiction about dredging and handling of sediments activities to be held in port areas.



[1] By Bernard Gagnon (own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL.


[3]According to the World Bank, the countries are subdivided into four main categories based on GDP per capita as follows: low-income countries having GDP/capita equals to $ 995 or lower, lower Middle-income countries with GDP/capita ranging between $996 and $3,945, upper Middle-income countries with GDP/capita ranging between $3,946 and $12,195, and high-Income countries with GDP/capita exceeding $ 12,195 (The Worls Bank, n.d.).

[4] This is not a sufficient indicator as it was noted during the field survey that there is a trend of transition in Heraklion to receive increasing number of tourists from East Europe Countries over the past years.







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