COVID19: Business as usual for Cyprus shipping

3 mins read

The Cyprus Shipping Chamber, representing the corporate side of the maritime sector, said it has implemented a work-from-home policy for its staff since last week, to prevent a wider spread of COVID-19.

The CSC added that member-companies, too, have been contributing to this effort, applying “working from home” where possible and complying with the government’s measures, both onshore and onboard.

The Chamber said its priority is the safety of the people while doing whatever is necessary to support the industry’s crucial role for a better common future.

“During these critical times, we stand by the side of Cyprus, we stay positive and safe. We keep navigating Cyprus worldwide”.

Last week, the Deputy Ministry of Shipping said it “will continue to provide services to clients as normal during these challenging times. Special arrangements have been made for the safe and smooth operation during the COVID-19 outbreak.”

The announcement said that the junior ministry and official registrar of the Cyprus flag will suspend all personal contacts, meetings and submissions.

Applications will only be accepted online or at a drop-off point outside the ministry office.

These include the Register of Cyprus Ships, the Small Vessels Registry, the Civil Liabilities Certification (CLC, Bunkers, Wreck Removal and Athens PLR), safety and security, seafarers’ and maritime labour issues, coastal navigation and inspections, maritime surveillance and anti-pollution, port state control and accidents and tonnage tax system.

The DMS said payments will only be accepted to its bank account via Swift or credit card through the bank clearinghouse www.JCCsmart.com .

The International Chamber of Shipping recently said “in this time of global crisis, it is more important than ever to keep supply chains open and maritime trade and transport moving.

In particular, this means keeping the world’s ports open for calls by visiting commercial ships and facilitating crew changes and the movement of ships’ crews with as few obstacles as possible.”

Shipping keeps world moving

The ICS added it is important for the world’s governments to fully understand that around 90% of global trade is transported by commercial shipping, which moves food, energy and raw materials, as well as manufactured goods and components.

This includes vital medical supplies and many products sold in supermarkets, items that are necessary (due to complex supply chains) for the preservation of many jobs in manufacturing – without which modern society simply cannot function.

ICS General Secretary Guy Platten took to social media to highlight the importance of shipping in time of crisis, saying that, “at this very difficult time I want to thank all #seafarers for the amazing work they are doing ensuring that vital supplies, such as medical equipment, food and fuel reach their destination. The world needs you now more than ever as we fight #COVID19.”

Maritime industry observers said developments could also be seen as a blessing in disguise for the Cyprus shipping cluster that will have to fast-track reforms and speed up the introduction of advanced communications services.

Deputy Shipping Minister Natasa Pilides recently said that although maritime service will be affected by the coronavirus outbreak, it will continue to implement reforms, both in the restructuring of the junior ministry, as well as the attractive tonnage tax system to ensure the Cyprus flag’s viability in the future.

She said that maintaining the competitiveness of the Cyprus flag is of primary importance, especially after the approval by the European Commission of the Cyprus tonnage tax system for 10 more years, up to 2030.

“We are looking to add more types of vessels and to expand the description of the activities of shipping entities, as well as providing discounts for eco-friendly vessels.”

Pilides said that parliament is expected to review the new tax regime, with one proposal including a discount of up to 30% for the registration of hybrid or even electric-driven vessels under the Cyprus flag.

Pilides said that structural improvements include an increase of inspections on Cyprus-flag vessels, which were up 14% in 2019 with an all-clear for all inspections.

“This will maintain the Cyprus registry on the Paris and Tokyo MoU ‘white lists’ and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) is considering using Cyprus as a ‘test case’ for best practices in inspections.”

She said the average age of the Cyprus fleet had been seven years, but this may have increased somewhat after the registration of cruise ships under the Cyprus flag, which rose from 40 in 2018 to 90 last year.

Fully-fledged shipping companies based in Cyprus have increased to 220, with the number of ship-management operators rising to 50, placing Cyprus at the top of this category.

Internally, the DMS is also rapidly embracing the use of new technology, including the digitisation of many services and offering them online to allow for ship owners and operators to save time, while also not wasting the inspectors’ time for paperwork that could be better utilised for comprehensive checks of vessels, equipment and crews.

Some new services will be introduced over the next few months that will enhance data entry, cut red tape and reduce human error.