Deputy Minister of Shipping Vassilis Demetriades (left) with Cyprus Shipping Chamber Director General Thomas Kazakos and government spokesman Marios Pelekanos

Cyprus merchant fleet triples in a decade

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The Cyprus Flag has nearly tripled within a decade, with the maritime administration introducing a new strategy to make the shipping sector more competitive, said President Nicos Anastasiades.

Presenting the “SEA Change 2030” strategy, Anastasiades said the shipping industry has been making leaps since the dedicated Deputy Ministry of Shipping was introduced three years ago.

He said the maritime administration had been constantly upgraded to meet the challenges of international competition.

The Cyprus-flag merchant fleet is now ranked eleventh in the world and the third biggest in the EU.

“For the first time since EU accession (in 2004), our gross tonnage has exceeded 25 mln, and Cyprus is the biggest ship management hub in Europe, with a constant increase in the relocation of shipping companies here.”

Anastasiades said the number of companies enrolled in the tonnage tax system tripled in a decade – from 97 in 2012 to 173 in 2017, when the junior ministry was established, and the European Commission reaffirmed the privileged tax system.

Now, that number has risen to 275.

Regarding the maritime labour force, some 9,000 are employed in onshore jobs, while the seafarers for Cyprus-flag companies number 55,000, with a growing trend in maritime and shipping-related jobs.

Maritime cadets and students enrolled in dedicated shipping academies in Cyprus and Greece have more than doubled from 128 in 2012 to 269 in the current academic year, with the government providing €300,000 in scholarships.

GDP contribution 7%

The shipping sector’s contribution to national economic output remained steady at 7% of GDP throughout the pandemic.

Anastasiades said the government contributed to 25,000 repatriations and crew change through Cyprus ports and a vaccination programme for 40,000 seafarers on board Cyprus-flagged or Cyprus-managed vessels.

Describing the 35 targeted actions as part of the “SEA Change 2030” strategy Deputy Shipping Minister Vassilis Demetriades said the three S-E-A pillars focus on sustainability, extrovert approach and adaptability.

The new agenda for Cyprus shipping aims to enhance the competitiveness of the Registry and the maritime hub.

And meeting the increasing demands of modern-day shipping, future challenges that depend on economic and geopolitical developments, boosting relations with other maritime nations and international regulatory authorities.

Demetriades said this would be achieved by introducing the online platform “Cyprus Open Maritime Exchange” (COME), enhancing safety and security onboard Cyprus-flag ships, establishing a legal framework for the Shipping Limited Liability Companies, and restructuring the network of the Republic’s Maritime Representatives.

The deputy ministry is changing to operate around the clock, digitise services, and introduce the e-Maritime Library and the e-Helpdesk, further training and education on cybersecurity.

It will have access to funds to finance research and innovation in shipping.

Constant training of seafarers will also be achieved through vocational and electronic training, digital literacy and online courses while encouraging a maritime-friendly culture and ‘blue professions’.

Demetriades said the new action plan would also enhance connectivity with other countries and introduce a safer, greener and sustainable coastline.