By Stefanos Evripidou
SHIPPING was one of the main pillars of the economy’s new development model, President Nicos Anastasiades said yesterday in an address to German Shipowners in Hamburg.
Speaking at the event, organised by the Cyprus Shipping Chamber (CSC), Anastasiades noted that from a total of 50 members of the CSC, 21 German ship-management, ship-owning and chartering companies were based in Cyprus.
The president acknowledged the contribution of German shipping companies’ technical know-how in making Cyprus a globally competitive shipping centre, and in upgrading Cyprus’ shipping taxation system.
“As Cypriots, we readily admit that German shipping entrepreneurs who set up offices in our country and some of whom are here today, facilitated the enhancement of the shipping technical know-how in Cyprus, which in turn, contributed substantially to the development of Cyprus as a fully-fledged, competitive and modern maritime centre, competing on a global scale,” he said.
According to the Department of Merchant Shipping, 45 German-based companies currently own or operate 167 vessels under the Cyprus flag with a 1,945,588, gross tonnage, which represents 9.0 per cent of the Cyprus fleet in terms of gross tonnage.
Anastasiades described the EU-approved Cyprus tonnage tax system as “constituting perhaps the most important recent success for Cyprus shipping”, ensuring the viability of the Cyprus shipping register and shipping industry in the years ahead.
The president highlighted Cyprus’ path to full recovery after last year’s adverse financial developments, noting that the few remaining banking restrictions imposed last year will be lifted within the next few months.
The shipping industry in Cyprus “played an important and invaluable part” in Cyprus being on the path to full recovery within such a short period of time, he said.
“Cyprus flag users remain loyal and actively support the efforts to reinforce Cyprus shipping in order to continue its significant contribution to the Cyprus economy, which forms an impressive 7.0 per cent of Cyprus GDP,” said the president.
The government remains determined to introduce those mechanisms necessary to protect the sector, including creating the position of deputy minister dealing exclusively with shipping, he said.
The discovery of energy reserves in our region “widen also the horizons of our shipping industry”, he said, offering an opportunity for the development of a whole new sector within the shipping industry to meet the needs of these new offshore activities.
“Cyprus can develop into an important energy centre in the eastern Mediterranean. New and vibrant shipping and energy projects can be launched… In this respect, we would again welcome involvement and technical expertise from German shipping and energy entrepreneurs either on their own, or through joint ventures with Cyprus based companies.”
The president’s address at the Hamburg shipping event rounded off a “very satisfactory” four-day official visit to Germany, said government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides yesterday.
During the trip, Anastasiades met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the President of the Hamburg Senate, the Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz and addressed the think tank, the German Council on Foreign Relations.
Cyprus is currently in negotiations with Germany to arrange access to loans for small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) currently choking from the lack of liquidity in the market.
The Deutsche Bank is also investigating the possibility of helping finance a costly liquefaction plant near Limassol, while German lenders are reportedly looking into buying Bank of Cyprus’ bad loans.
Speaking from Germany, Christodoulides said the results of the official visit- the first by a Cypriot president in 24 years- were “very satisfactory”.
He highlighted the many issues of common interest that came up.
“Germany recognises and attributes special significance to the geostrategic role that the Republic of Cyprus can play. The recent discovery of hydrocarbons in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus and the efforts for their exploitation can and should work for the benefit of the energy security of Europe, establishing Cyprus as a new European energy centre,” he said.
The spokesman welcomed Germany’s support concerning the Cyprus problem, stressing the importance of Merkel’s public statement on the need for a Cyprus solution to be compatible with EU laws, and on the added value of substantive confidence-building measures.
On the economy, consultations on economic and technical assistance to support SMEs and tackle youth unemployment are at an “advanced stage”, while both countries expressed common concerns on the Ukraine crisis regarding how it must be addressed, said Christodoulides.
“The two countries, I would say, have identical views and approaches with regard to the ways and the means to deal with the situation as it has developed.”