By Angelos Anastasiou
NATURAL gas reserves the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the prospect of the island evolving into a regional energy centre with an LNG plant, would also prove beneficial for Cyprus shipping, President Nicos Anastasiades said yesterday.
Speaking at an event to mark 50 years of the Cyprus shipping registry, Anastasiades said: “The shipping industry will be closely linked with activities concerning the exploitation of natural gas and will be cooperating with the energy industry for the universal interest not only of the Cyprus economy but also of the entire neighbouring area.”
Anastasiades said that today, Cyprus was an international shipping power and a modern, high-quality, and comprehensive shipping network in every respect.
The reelection of Cyprus to the Council of the International Maritime Organisation in November by a large number of votes was yet another great success for Cyprus shipping, he added.
Transport Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos said earlier in the day that merchant shipping in Cyprus has traditionally been, and continues to be, a pillar for economic growth, currently employing over 4,000 people and contributing 5.0 per cent to GDP, the minister of communications and works.
In his address marking the 50th anniversary since the founding and operation of the Cyprus registry, Mitsopoulos highlighted the successes that the Cypriot maritime industry had achieved since its birth, and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to supporting and facilitating the industry’s continued growth through tax and other incentives, as well as continuous improvement in the quality of services provided.
The first merchant shipping laws in Cyprus were passed in 1963 with Famagusta designated as the port of registry. By 1974 the Cyprus merchant fleet had grown significantly.
However, the Turkish invasion of 1974 caused major disruptions, and the registry had to be reconstructed with Limassol designated as the new port of registry.
The beginning of the 1980s found Cyprus 32nd globally in fleet size. Today Cyprus ranks 10th globally and 3rd in the EU in fleet size, with 1,857 seagoing vessels and a total tonnage of 21 million.
Mitsopoulos did concede that his ministry had received several complaints from businessmen, regarding port fees and tariffs. In an effort to resolve the issue, the ministry was in contact with the
Cyprus Ports Authority (CPA) and looking to minimise the cost of trade. He also said the CPA had kept port fees for exports constant for the second year in a row.
Responding to the question as to why the Cyprus registry’s growth had slumped in terms of the number of new vessels attracted in recent years, Mitsopoulos cited three reasons: the need for harmonisation with the EU acquis entailed revising of existing legislation and enhancing regulation; increased international competition from ‘flags of convenience’.
A flag of convenience – a tag attributed to Cyprus shipping before EU accession in 2004 – is a state that offers any and every foreign shipowner the right to register its vessels under the country’s flag in order to attract as many as possible.
Thirdly, the minister said, the ongoing Turkish embargo on vessels carrying Cyprus’ flag also affected the industry. “Despite these drawbacks,” Mitsopoulos said, “Cyprus continues to offer a reliable registry and is one of the largest ship-management centres globally.”
According to Mitsopoulos, amongst the ministry’s urgent priorities are filling the position of director at the department of merchant shipping, and appointing a deputy-minister for maritime affairs, pending approval from parliament.