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Cyprus Deputy Shipping Minister stresses quality and sophistication in growing maritime cluster

Quality over quantity is the message from Cyprus Shipping Deputy Minister to the President, Natasa Pilides, when it comes to growing the country’s vibrant maritime cluster.

Pilides took up the role in March when the Shipping Deputy Ministry was carved out of the Ministry of Transport to provide more focus on shipping and maritime, which is considered a key area of Cyprus’ economy. With a constitutional limit on the number of Ministries Cyprus can have Shipping became the first Deputy Ministry.  

In an interview with Seatrade Maritime News, Pilides explains: “This is the first deputy ministry in existence in Cyprus, there’s going to be one for tourism in January (next year). So we have a double responsibility, the first one is to become more efficient and more effective, and the second is to set the right systems, methodology and model whereby future Deputy Ministries can learn from us.”

Over the last six months a lot of work has been done in restructuring what was previously The Department of Merchant Shipping with a model that covers coastal services, the Registry, integrated maritime policy and the competitiveness.

Read more: Cyprus launches standalone Deputy Shipping Ministry

It is noticeable that when speaking about the Deputy Ministry’s role Pilides talks about its clients in the shipping industry underscoring its remit to the commercial industry, but she also stresses its commitment to quality and enforcement of regulation, and playing an international role in shaping those regulations.

“We are the regulator, very clearly so, and also responsible for the tax system and competitiveness. It’s important to understand the needs of the client, because it’s important to protect shipping globally as a sustainable sector. It’s the backbone of international trade.”

In growing the maritime cluster an emphasis is put on quality and there is a clear pride in this. “Quality is something we focus on very much, more so than quantity. We want to have a quality registry, we want our clients to be happy and we also want to complete the Cyprus shipping cluster,” she explains.

The country has around 200 companies under its Tonnage Tax scheme employing some 5,000 onshore marine specialists. Pilides cites the Tonnage Tax as unique in Europe as it allows not just shipowners, but also charterers and managers to enter the system.

The sophistication of the cluster covering not just shipowners and managers but all the related services is something that is seen as important with the presence of financiers, insurers and brokers. With the uncertainties in the UK over Brexit Cyprus has attracted both the London P&I Club and the UK Defense Club.

Read more: London P&I Club sets up in Cyprus as Brexit insurance

“Because of Brexit we’ve had quite a few concerned clients about their UK-flagged vessels not being part of the EU, there are a lot of question marks arising. We are trying to provide solutions as and where necessary,” she says.

The Deputy Minister sees Cyprus as providing both a relatively low cost place to do business and vibrant maritime cluster with a strong talent pool. “I think it’s important to our clients that there are other shipping companies based in Cyprus, it is tried tested, there is a human talent pool. It is very solid.”

Cyprus is putting a major emphasis on education and training in the maritime sector to attract young people to join the industry both on and offshore. “Blue growth is very essential to the economy, we have three maritime academies in Cyprus, which are accredited by the Ministry, and we offer grants and scholarships to young people, so we’re really keen to promote careers at sea.” Meanwhile the island’s five private and three public universities offer programmes related to the onshore aspects of a career in shipping.

“The beauty of shipping is that whether you’re good at sciences or arts there is something that everyone can do in shipping and is very rewarding. We find we have a very passionate bunch of people in shipping,” Pilides states.

Cyprus now ranks as the 11th largest merchant fleet worldwide and the third largest in the European Union. It flags over 1,000 oceangoing vessels of a total gross tonnage exceeding 23.9m dwt. More than 3,500 vessels are currently managed from Cyprus with a total net tonnage of around 50m dwt.

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