* Cyprus pledges continued support; ‘Maritime’ Deputy Minister soon; But Turkey must lift embargo *
Amid the ongoing economic crisis, perhaps the most stabilising factor of the Cyprus economy is the maritime sector, ranking as the 11th largest flag and the third in the EU after Greece and Malta, with annual earnings from the shipping industry a steady 1 bln euros 6-7% of the island’s GDP.
The 150 ship-owning and shipmanagement companies and the 2,200 Cyprus registered vessels employ 55,000 staff on board and a further 4,500 people on shore, creating new employment opportunities for young graduates in newly established maritime specialities.
Addressing the biennial “Maritime Cyprus” Conference in Limassol this week, President Nicos Anastasiades pledged his government’s continued support to the shipping community, saying that as proof of this commitment, one of the three new Deputy Minister appointments to be announced within a few weeks will carry the ‘Maritime’ portfolio, giving the Department of Merchant Shipping a much-needed boost.
The three Undersecretaries are not members of the Cabinet, bur will report directly to their competent ministers, in this case the Minster of Communications and Works.
Anastasiades told the 600 delegates at the 13th conference that the Troika of international lenders (EU, ECB, IMF) urged the Cyprus government to remain actively involved in sustainable sectors of the economy, such as shipping and tourism, with immediate plans including promoting the “Maritime hub” for quality ships and companies.
Even the Commission’s DG for Transport, speaking through Fotis Karamitsos, a senior official, said that the EU’s Protocol for Transport will not open during accession talks with Turkey, as long as Ankara’s ban on Cyprus ships and aircraft remains in place, while President Anastasiades appealed to the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization, Koji Sekimizu, to use his influence to resolve the matter.
Monday’s discussions focused on “Remodelling Shipping”, where in his opening address President Anastasiades sadi that the discovery of hydrocarbons within Cyprus waters will undoubtedly further enhance the prospects of Cyprus shipping.
A discussion followed on the “Need for Adaptation” moderated by John C. Lyras, Vice-Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping. Panelists Thomas Rehder, President-Elect of the European Community Shipowners’ Association and Fotis Karamitsos, Deputy Director General of the DG for Mobility and Transport, expressed views on the need to adapt the regulatory framework and policies at an international level in order to meet the challenges arising from the continuously evolving shipping industry.
The discussion on "Financing Ships under the Current Economic Scene" attracted a lot of attention, moderated by George Mouskas, President of the Cyprus Union of Shipowners. Panelists Prof. Elias Karakitsos, Chairman of Global Economic Research LLC, Thanasis Martinos, Managing Director of Eastern Mediterranean Maritime Ltd. and Nick Roos, Head of Finance of Deutsche Bank talked about the difficulties that the industry faces today in obtaining ship finance due to the reluctance of lenders caused by the unprecedentedly difficult economic situation worldwide. The panelists said that in the near future shipping and the freight market will improve as it is anticipated that banks will have renewed appetite for shipping once more thereby making funding available for owners with a solid track record.
On the second day of the conference the focused was on “Environment and Shipping: A Turning Point”, where delegates addressed the main environmental problems faced by the maritime industry today. The debate was divided into two sessions, the first session focused on "A turning point for fleets" while the second session focused on "The future of propulsion fuels”.
The first session was moderated by Andreas Chrysostomou, Acting Director of the Department of Merchant Shipping and Chairman of the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the IMO, while panelists Katharina Stanzel, Managing Director of INTERTANKO, Peter Hinchliffe, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and Roberto Cazzulo, Chairman of the Council of the International Association of Classification Societies (lACS) attempted to address the basic question: whether we are at a turning point for shipping, in relation to both existing fleets and new “ecoship” design and shipbuilding?
In doing so, the panelists scrutinised the various measures already adopted by the IMO and the measures to be jointly adopted by the IMO and the European Union in order to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.
In the active debate that followed, participants expressed the view that we need to establish standards and control methods for the quality of fuels supplied to ships as the quality of fuel greatly affects the emission of greenhouse gas from ships.
Concluding, the majority of the panellists expressed the view that shipping is not at a turning point and that the changes currently taking place in the shipping industry constitute a natural evolution of the industry.
The second session on “The future of propulsion fuels” was moderated by Craig Eason, Technology Editor and Nordic Correspondent of Lloyd's List and panelists Geir Høibye, Special Adviser to the Business Sector's NOx Fund of Norway, Sveinung Oftedal, Specialist Director at the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment and William J. Sember, Vice President (Global Gas Development) of the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) debated and discussed the future use of alternative fuels, such as liquefied natural gas, biofuels methanol and other distillates. The expert panelists explored ways on how these alternative fuels can be used efficiently indicating that the shipping industry needs to invest in the infrastructure required for the facilitation of the use of alternative fuels.
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