The shipping sector showed “tremendous resilience” in supporting the Cypriot economy amid the coronavirus pandemic; President Nicos Anastasiades told the annual meeting of shipowners and shipmanagers on Thursday.
He praised the maritime community in his address to the virtual annual general meeting of the Cyprus Shipping Chamber.
“Our country’s maritime sector managed to maintain its competitiveness and has preserved shipping as one of the main pillars of our economy.”
Anastasiades said that shipping continues to contribute approximately 7% to Cyprus’ GDP, “significantly enhancing our efforts for the observed recovery and growth of the economy.”
He commended the shipping industry “for its leading role in efforts to overcome this unprecedented crisis by keeping supply chains open and maritime trade moving, ensuring the timely availability of essential goods and necessary medical equipment and supplies.”
Recalling the “commendable steps” undertaken by the Deputy Ministry for Shipping since 2018 to improve the shipping infrastructure in Cyprus, Anastasiades said re-approval of the upgraded Cyprus Tonnage Tax System by the European Commission for another 10 years ensures a climate of stability and confidence in the maritime industry.
Other measures included “green tax incentives”, revising the pricing policy and simplifying registration procedures for the Cyprus Registry, the digital transformation of the Deputy Ministry, Blue Growth, the successful inclusion of the Cyprus Flag in the US Coast Guard’s “Qualship 21” list of safety standards, and the re-election of Cyprus as a member of the International Maritime Organisation’s Council.
“We are proud that (the Cyprus shipping sector) maintained its position as the third-largest shipping fleet in Europe and the 11th largest in the world while representing the largest third-party ship-management centre in Europe,” Anastasiades said.
He said the Deputy Ministry is “formulating a long-term strategy for Cyprus shipping, to adjust our sails towards a sustainable, more extroverted and adaptable Cyprus shipping cluster.”
Outgoing CSC President Philippos Philis thanked Anastasiades “for his commitment to continue placing priority on shipping and offering the necessary political support that our industry needs to overcome the challenges ahead.”
He said that 2020 was a particularly challenging year due to COVID-19.
“The first half of 2020 was marked by national lockdowns, restrictive measures, and travel restrictions. These impacted the global business activities and caused severe operational and supply chain issues.
“In the second half of the year, countries continued their fight against the further spread of the pandemic, while industries developed new ways to safeguard their operations and handle the consequences caused by ongoing restrictions.
“The Chamber closely monitored the developments on the outbreak at the local and global scale, acting proactively.”
Philis said the Shipping Ministry provided “tangible and commendable assistance” to help CSC members who had staff stranded abroad and needed to be repatriated to Cyprus and kept members promptly and properly advised on all measures.”
“The shipping industry globally managed very early to adapt its operations to ensure first, the safety of its people, and the uninterrupted flow of essential goods around the world.
“This, of course, would not have been possible without the hard work, dedication, and sacrifices of our ‘Unseen Heroes at Sea’, our seafarers.
“During this very difficult period, they displayed outstanding courage, stayed away from their loved ones beyond the expected periods and performed admirably under the pressure of the health crisis.
“Seafarers, therefore, managed to serve and provide the world with essential goods and keep the global trade and world economy moving.
“However, since the beginning of the pandemic, they are facing a humanitarian crisis with severe difficulties surrounding, at first, their repatriation, to embark or disembark ships, and to be safely vaccinated together with all front-line workers.
“We welcome the recent decision by the Cyprus government to include the entire Cyprus shipping sector in the limited list of essential services.
“This, combined with the number of vaccines made available by the government mainly to our travelling superintendents, demonstrates the importance of our industry, which effectively freed our members from the still applicable staff office restrictions.”
The Shipping Ministry’s response to the worldwide crew change crisis was very encouraging as well, Philis said, adding that the Chamber welcomed the recent proposal of the Shipping Minister for a global approach to delivering COVID-19 vaccinations to seafarers.
He said the Shipping Ministry should accelerate its efforts to digitalise and automate its operations and services offered to companies so that Cyprus shipping becomes more competitive and implements the long-awaited ‘One Stop Shipping Shop’ model.
On emissions, the CSC President said: “We fully support the global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to achieve the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, and as an industry, we have already pledged to do our equal share.
“This, though, should be achieved in a way that is technologically safe and sound and economically viable; otherwise, it will have a very negative impact on shipping.”
He said unilateral regulations, such as the imminent inclusion of shipping in the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and the FuelEU Maritime proposal under consideration, which could be another trading scheme on top of the EU ETS “are initiatives that need careful consideration.”
“Regulators should consider the impact assessment before being imposed on the European shipowners and the international shipowners servicing Europe, as these schemes will have grave and damaging consequences on the competitiveness and viability of small and medium shipping companies, which form the backbone of European shipping.”