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Things are looking up for Cyprus' maritime industries

Things are looking up for Cyprus' maritime industries
The atmosphere may not have been one of euphoria as over 700 delegates from around the world flew into Cyprus this past weekend to attend the 14th version of the biennial Maritime Cyprus shipping conference, but it was certainly one of great optimistism as the country’s President Nicos Anastasiades opened the three-day event in Limassol.

Indeed, this is not surprising as things are really looking up for the tiny Mediterranean nation these days.

The island is well down the road towards harnessing the financial crisis, which threatened its very existence not so long ago. Further, its already leading status as a ship management centre is set to be enhanced should Greek ship owners be forced to re-locate their base of operation after Greece’s 20 September national elections lead to Athens introducing major tax reforms as demanded by its international creditors.

And, just two days before the 13 September launch of Cyprus Maritime, European Council President Donald Tusk after meeting with Anastasiades, said he welcomed progress in the Cyprus talks on reunification of the island.

The 40-year division of the island has led to a Turkish embargo on all things Greek Cypriot, especially on ships flying the Cyprus flag and ships calling at Cypriot ports. The Ankara ban has had a particularly negative impact on the growth of the Cypriot flag, Europe’s third largest.

Tusk believed the coming months would be very important for the re-unification process, and pledged the EU would continue to support UN efforts for a solution, adding Cyprus should not lose this chance for a settlement between the Turkish Cypriot north and Greek Cypriot south.

“A historical moment is at hand. It should not be missed. Let me assure you I am ready to do whatever it takes not to miss this one… to the benefit of all of Cyprus, and of Europe,” he added.

Tusk also met separately with Tusk met with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who told Tusk he was very supportive of a solution. The recently elected less radical Turkish Cypriot leader agreed the opportunity must not be missed. “We need to work hard in order to achieve a solution,” said Akinci, whose statements about closer co-operation with the EU and the easing of the Turkish ban on Cypriot shipping have ruffled the feathers of Turkey’s leadership.

Ahead of Cyprus Maritime, Transport, Communications and Works Minister Marios Demetriades, said despite its already large contribution of about 7% to the island’s GDP, shipping can contribute more and play a leading role in the recovery of the economy.

Over the last years, the shipping sector witnessed a significant development and now constitutes one of the main pillars of the economy employing around 4,500 people onshore, the minister noted.

He pointed out that unlike other open registries, Cyprus is also a major base for international shipping operations and shipping related activities, while Cyprus-based ship management companies manage about 20% of the world’s third party managed fleet.

“Now, more than ever, Cyprus needs a flexible, modern and even more efficient maritime administration to deal with the rapid changes in shipping. We need to become more aggressive in the way we pursue business and upgrade our Maritime Administration. This is one of our main goals and we have already started working towards that direction,” said Demetriades.

He said: “It is expected the shipping industry will find its way out of the crisis and be able to stand on its own feet again, as has done in the past. The importance of shipping is highlighted by its ability to move the world trade in the most efficient way, with the least economic and environmental cost. Through the crisis, shipping has emerged stronger and promises better days for the world economy.”