* Shipping Chamber wants upgrade of portfolio *
The long-awaited bill establishing up to six deputy ministers with their separate portfolios is expected to be put to the House some time next month, with sources suggesting this could be as early as the end of February.
The bill aims to create six posts, as pledged by President Anastasiades, that will take on part of the burden from the existing cabinet members, whose number is fixed at ten by a rigid constitution determined by the complexities of the Cyprus Republic.
But one of the first posts to be created will be the deputy minister for shipping, a demand of the maritime industry for more than two decades.
This move will upgrade Cyprus’ stature within the world shipping community, where it has been under-represented, despite the sector’s significant input to the economy.
The Cyprus Shipping Chamber, the umbrella organisation for the whole of the maritime sector that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, hopes the government will raise the image of shipping soon, either by appointing a deputy minister with an exclusively shipping portfolio or by upgrading the state department dealing with maritime affairs.
The Chamber’s Director General, Thomas Kazakos, said that the industry includes 155 major shipping companies that own or manage 2,300 vessels with an output of 50 mln gross tonnes, that ranks Cyprus as the third biggest maritime country in the European Union and tenth in the world, as well as second biggest in shipmanagement across the globe.
“We employ 4,500 people in all services and maintain about 55,000 seafarers on cargo and passenger ships around the world,” generating a steady 7% of GDP of the Cyprus economy.
“In tough economic times, such as the present, a solid income for the state, business and employees is very important,” Kazakos added.
Established on January 26, 1989, initially as the Cyprus Shipping Council and with only 17 members, the Chamber http://csc-cy.org/ is the government’s primary partner in dealing with marine labour issues, clean seas and security, tax challenges and the ongoing embargo on all Cyprus-flag vessels that are barred from entering Turkish ports.
Furthermore, Kazakos said the industry’s prospects are “at least positive,” as they are attached to the stabilisation and the imminent rise in global freight markets, as the world is emerging from the global financial crisis that started in 2008. The shipping industry will also benefit from the exploration and eventual production of oil and gas from offshore fields, with more and more energy-specific shipping companies operating or trading out of Cyprus.
“Shipping is the energy industry’s first cousin and when the industry delivers what the society anticipates, shipping will be directly linked with the transportation of gas,” he said.
Furthermore, Kazakos said that despite the Eurogroup’s decision to infcluct a bail-in by depositors to rescue the island’s banking sector, and the harsh austerity measures imposed by the Troika of international lenders for a Cyprus bailout, the shipping sector has remained firm and loyal to Cyprus, as many had been operating with other major international banks and maintained their liquidity.
Kazakos reiterated the Chamber’s call to the government to appoint a new Director of the Department of Merchant Shipping www.shipping.gov.cy , a position that has remained vacant for over a year, as well as to fulfil its present administration’s commitment create the post of Deputy Minister for Shipping, one of six such portfolios pending before parliament.
“The DMS cannot cooperate with shipowners and other associates globally without having a permanent management,” he said, adding that the upgrading of the maritime leadership would convey the political importance that would be appropriate to an industry that has an output of 7% GDP.
Kazakos said that the government will probably reveal its new maritime policy over the next few months, possibly even at the International Shipping Chamber’s annual conference that will be hosted in Cyprus for the first time in June, parallel to the summit of maritime ministers.
Get all the latest news and videos in your inbox. Register FREE