By Peter Stevenson
The government is planning a new strategy which will upgrade the island’s maritime sector, Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos said after a meeting yesterday at the department of merchant shipping (DMS) in Limassol.
Mitsopoulos said that 2013 was a difficult year for merchant shipping which the department handled successfully, managing to make significant inroads on an international level.
“We will meet again to discuss the goals and objectives in forming a new national strategy for merchant shipping which will raise the Cyprus flag even higher,” he said. Mitsopoulos added that any strategy will need to help local authorities respond to the new needs that will arise following the discovery of natural gas in Cyprus’ offshore exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The aim of the new strategy, the Minister said, would be to computerise the merchant shipping register, improve staffing, restructure the department internally and to enhance the network of overseas representative offices.
“We want to upgrade our presence at international forums and to project merchant shipping abroad, to approach companies that are already operating successfully in Cyprus and try to attract companies from the Greek market,” he said.
The Minister added that the DMS has an important role to play in coordinating the various aspects and companies it deals with and the Communications Ministry is confident that if all of the plans are implemented, then the department will see better days.
“If the department gets a permanent director and if there is sufficient internal administrative restructuring then it could really improve,” he said, adding that “the political powers need to comprehend, to understand that Cyprus’ merchant shipping is a major contributor to the Cyprus economy”.
Mitsopoulos also said he will host a meeting on Monday in Nicosia with his counterparts from Greece and Malta, Miltiades Varvitsiotis and Joseph Hon Mizzi. He said that the three countries have the largest merchant fleets in the EU and are countries which Cyprus wants to cooperate with to promote common interests and goals.
“Greece has the largest merchant fleet in the world and now that it has the Presidency of the EU it is a good opportunity to cooperate on a common strategy and to jointly promote the interests that unite us,” he said.
Mitsopoulos said they will also discuss issues related to energy efficiency of existing ships and ways of improving communications on maritime affairs between the three countries.