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Thomas A. Kazakos: Director General, Cyprus Shipping Chamber

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‘The Cyprus Shipping Chamber’s (CSC) primary goals are to advance the interests of Cyprus Shipping and constantly enhance the standing of the Cyprus flag’

Thomas A. Kazakos is the Director General of the Cyprus Shipping Chamber. He is responsible for the overall supervision of the secretariat’s work and staff, as well as organises and follows up the work of the Board of Directors. Kazakos also acts as the Chamber’s main lobbyist with government ministries, members of parliament and political parties and as well represents the Chamber at local professional bodies (e.g., OEB, KEBE). He deals with European Union shipping policy issues and represents the Chamber at various committees of international and regional shipping organisations, such as the Board of Directors of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) in London and the European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA) in Brussels where, since 2015, he has also been appointed as Chairman of the ECSA State Aid Committee. Since November 2017, he has been appointed by the European Commission, to the Board of Directors of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) in Lisbon, representing European shipowners.

What are the key functions, or main responsibilities of the CSC?
“The Cyprus Shipping Chamber is the trade association of the shipping industry in Cyprus. Having witnessed considerable growth since its establishment in January 1989, with originally seventeen founding members, the Chamber today comprises major ship owning, ship management, and shipping-related companies based in Cyprus.

“The Cyprus Shipping Chamber’s primary goals are to advance the interests of Cyprus Shipping and constantly enhance the standing of the Cyprus flag. At the same time, the Chamber acts as a lobbying group for the promotion and safeguarding of the legitimate interests of its member-companies, at both national and international levels. Today, the Chamber ranks as one of the largest national shipping associations in the world and undoubtedly, ‘Navigates Cyprus Worldwide’.

“In addition to its business and lobbying activities, the Chamber has in its core values a strong and consistent corporate social responsibility, understanding that for an industry to flourish, supporting society is essential. Amongst other activities, the Chamber has been organising blood donations for more than 25 years, donating over three thousand blood units – a commendable social service that has been acknowledged by the Blood Coordinating Committee of the Limassol District. The annual charity ‘Beach Volley Tournament’, with the participation of its member-companies, has been donating its proceeds to the ‘One Dream – One Wish’ Charity Association for over 20 years.”

How does the CSC act as a lobbying group for the promotion and safeguarding of the legitimate interests of its professional Member-companies?
“The Cyprus Shipping Chamber has been promoting and safeguarding the interests of its member-companies, both locally and internationally with the same dedication and commitment for over thirty years.

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“Both at a national and international level, the Chamber, since its establishment, has become an influential body and “roving ambassador” when policy decisions concerning shipping matters are made by the Cyprus Government, or by other internationally recognised shipping bodies and organisations. Thus, the organisation plays a key role in national and international shipping affairs.

“At the same time, and in close cooperation with the Shipping Deputy Ministry, the Chamber contributes to the promotion and enhancement of the Cyprus flag as a highly reputable ship registry that fully undertakes its international responsibilities with respect to quality shipping, marine safety, and protection of the environment.”

How does the CSC operate as a roving ambassador of Cyprus Shipping abroad?
“The Chamber has become an influential body for international shipping affairs through its active participation, where it represents the Cyprus shipping industry at the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), currently holding president and vice chairman positions at both these very important shipping bodies.

“Through its membership at these associations, the CSC actively contributes to their lobbying activities by providing the positions and expertise of the Cyprus shipping industry on several crucial matters affecting global shipping on various regulatory bodies. At the same time, it passionately promotes Cyprus shipping worldwide, thus supporting the industry’s growth.”

Cyprus has successfully built a diversified and robust maritime industry, which offers a unique set of competitive advantages. Why should international shipping companies and investors consider Cyprus as a shipping hub?
“Cyprus combines a legal system closely modelled on its British ‘common law’ counterpart, an efficient civil service, good labour relations, outstandingly high levels of professionalism in the legal and accounting sectors, a modern banking system, state-of-the-art telecommunications, and air links to the main important destinations, all of which form solid foundations for entrepreneurs to set up their business.

“The renewed “tonnage tax” system offers additional financial incentives to shipping activities in Cyprus, in full compliance with the relevant EU shipping taxation framework. It contains most of the favourable features found in tonnage tax systems of other traditional EU maritime countries, providing Cyprus with a competitive advantage. It extends the favourable benefits applicable to owners of Cyprus flag vessels and ship managers, including owners of foreign flag vessels and charterers.

“What really makes Cyprus’ shipping tax incentives even more appealing is the fact that any EU, and more importantly, non-EU ship operator may benefit from this very competitive shipping taxation system and be able to include the EU flag on their ships, due to Cyprus’ “EU-approved open registry” status.

“Finally, the upgraded Maritime Administration with the creation of the autonomous Shipping Deputy Ministry, offers efficient and qualitative services to shipowners and ship operators, establishing Cyprus as a top-class maritime centre globally, with regulated solid infrastructure and a sound business platform for shipping-related business in general.”

What are the specialised requirements and needs of shipping companies, especially today?
“As the Cyprus shipping industry continues to expand, whilst competing daily against other well-developed shipping nations, the Chamber, as the representative of the resident shipping industry, draws attention on several important operational challenges, which, when solved, are expected to radically enhance the sector’s competitiveness.

“Firstly, the creation of a specialised ‘one-stop-shipping-centre’ at the Shipping Deputy Ministry is urgently needed to deal with the special requirements and issues related to the shipping industry, as well as to act promptly and effectively in cooperation with other government departments to promptly process the services it will undertake.

“Secondly, the formation of a ‘Cyprus shipping company with limited liability,’ to improve the competitiveness of the Cyprus flag internationally, as well as to simplify the procedures and the operating regime of Cyprus shipping companies that are owners of Cyprus ships. This constitutes a new specialised form of legal entity, more flexible, which is closely connected to the smooth operation of the Cyprus Registry, its further development, and increase the attractiveness of using Cyprus ship owning companies.

“Thirdly, to cover the needs of our growing sector, it is also important to finalise the digitalisation and automation of all services at the Shipping Deputy Ministry. This project can be implemented and funded by the Recovery and Resilience Fund/Mechanism of the European Union, to create a purely digital environment, shaping the ‘one-stop-service’ support framework.”

Are there any challenges facing the shipping industry at the moment?
“Unfortunately, the smooth operation and further development of the Cyprus Registry is still hampered to an extent by the illegal Turkish ban against Cyprus flag ships and Cyprus-related vessels, despite the continuous and co-coordinated actions by both the Cyprus Government and the Chamber, mostly through the supportive umbrella of the European Union.

“It is well known that this embargo is not just a “Cyprus shipping” problem, but an “EU shipping” dilemma. Since Cyprus’ accession to the European Union in 2004, the issue has gained a new dimension, as it was then officially recognised that the Turkish restrictive measures affect the overall shipping interests of the enlarged European Union. The Turkish embargo distorts the application of the principle of free and fair competition in shipping trade with the EU, adversely affecting the merchant fleets of other EU member states.”

Why is digitalisation crucial for the sea transport industry?
“The shipping industry is already undergoing a digital transition process and strategies are in progress for its smooth and successful transformation. Besides the apparent advantages of increased cost-efficiency, competitiveness and operation efficiency, the use of new digital solutions and technologies will have great benefits to shipping’s green transition.

“Energy efficiency has become a major component in complying with existing and future environmental regulations, and companies are therefore looking to deploy technologies to improve their energy efficiency; digital twin to have a virtual reality representation of what is happening on board the vessel, artificial intelligence to predict the climate conditions on a particular voyage to reduce the wind resistance on the vessel and indicate the most optimised route, effective management of ships’ data flow and well managed big data connectivity, are a few of the digital solutions already in place, which contribute to energy efficiency on ships.”

What is the long-term vision of the CSC?
“Looking ahead to the future, the Chamber is ready to exploit innovative new ways, to maintain and enhance even further Cyprus’ leading edge as one of the largest, ‘all embracing’ shipping centres globally. The further development of the Cyprus shipping sector relies also on the further coordination, with aligned objectives and vision, of both the shipping industry and stakeholders aiming to strengthen the representation of Cyprus shipping in international and European organisations, promoting common interests for its benefit.

“With the continued support of the Cyprus Government and in particular our Shipping Deputy Ministry, the state at large, and all our business associates including our member-companies, we are confident that we will be able to continue ‘Navigating Cyprus Globally,’ in the years to come.”

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