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Cyprus shipping community cautious on Brexit impact

Some three weeks after the UK voted to leave the European Union, the Cyprus shipping community says it is too early to see the impact it may have of the island’s maritime sector.

“It is too early to reach any conclusions on the next steps as neither the EU nor the UK have concluded a final exit agreement and consequently the impact on England's highly developed maritime cluster is not known,” said Thomas Kazakos, director general of the Cyprus Shipping Chamber (CSC).

Cyprus is being more cautious this time round after the hype created at the turn of the year by the European Commission’s move to examine Greece’s shipping tax legislation. Then it was being said scores of Greek owners were looking at Cyprus as an alternative base to the Greek cluster.

Kazakos admits just a handful of Greek companies have moved to Cyprus, despite the reported interest.

The number "is in single digits" said Kazakos, but the companies are quality companies which have employed local staff and foreign specialised personnel.

"These firms have indeed began operations on a preliminary basis, they are quality companies and I can say they began joining the ranks of the CSC," said Kazakos. He noted that should the Greek tonnage tax system fail to win European Union approval there will be more interest from Greek firms.

He said a large number of Greek shipping companies, including companies owned by London-based Greek shipowners, are looking to other EU member-states to relocate their headquarters.

Kazarlos said: "What's important, is not a problem in one country, but for Cyprus to continue maintaining its attractiveness, competitiveness, transparency and its EU approved tonnage tax regime so that when opportunities do arise, [Cyprus] can be considered steady operating base."

He praised the efforts of Transport Minister, Marios Demetriades, who commissioned a review of the operation of the Department of Merchant Shipping (DMS), while the ministry will undergo reform in the context of the public administration reform.

Kazakos believes the review will assist the DMS, established in 1963, in better "responding to the requirements of shipping, a globalised industry that never sleeps".

He also welcomed the government's intention to appoint a deputy minister responsible for growth, saying such an appointment would strengthen efforts to further promote Cyprus' shipping industry as it will give added political backing as it strives to attain its three main goals: the drafting, supervision and implementation of a national maritime strategy, the representation of Cyprus in the various international shipping fora, and the promotion of the Cyprus maritime industry. "Furthermore this political appointment would lead to a clear structure in policy-making issues and problem solving that require political decisions," said Kazakos.

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