Cyprus shipping confidently steps into the new year, with authorities ready to reap the benefits after two years of a punishing pandemic.
In an interview with the Financial Mirror, Deputy Minister of Shipping Vassilis Demetriades said stakeholders are confident 2022 will be the year for Cyprus maritime.
“Every crisis, no matter how unprecedented, presents opportunities.
“The pandemic has highlighted in a deafening way the vital role of shipping in the global economy and the crucial contribution of the sector in maintaining the functionality of the supply chain,” said Demetriades.
“The shipping sector is going through periods of great crisis, but also recovery.
“2021 has been a particularly dynamic year for the maritime markets with international maritime trade having already returned to pre-pandemic levels.”
He said Cyprus Shipping proved to be resilient in the crisis as revenues from the sector fluctuated at the same levels as in 2019.
Ships under the Cypriot flag and shipping companies registered recorded a small increase.
Revenue from the ship management sector increased slightly in the first six months of 2021, reflecting the recovery in global shipping after the disruption caused by the COVID pandemic.
According to the Ship Management Survey for January – June 2021 by the Central Bank of Cyprus, revenue from ship management amounted to €447 mln or 4.1% of Cyprus GDP (in turnover terms) compared with €430 mln in July – December 2020.
The minister argued that better days are to come with international maritime trade expected to reach 12 billion tonnes in 2021, with estimates for an increase of 3.2% in 2022.
“During the hard years of the pandemic, when the industry was taking a hit globally, we did not sit back, leaving everything to fate.
“On the contrary, we did our homework, sat down and prepared our strategy for the next decade.”
Recently the Deputy Ministry presented its strategic plan, dubbed “SEAchange2030”, laying out the ministry’s goals for the decade.
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 globally and the third biggest in the EU.
“The strategic vision sets an interactive model of operation of the junior ministry based on Sustainability, Extroversion and Adaptability.”
It includes 35 targeted action points, making Cypriot shipping more resilient to crises, more preventive and effective in challenges, more competitive, contributing more strongly and actively to a positive agenda in international and European shipping.
The deputy ministry will enhance its presence overseas to offer services and protection to ships flying the Cypriot flag docking at main ports abroad and promote Cypriot shipping.
“With the implementation of the National Strategy, I firmly believe that Cyprus will have all the prospects to attract more shipping companies but also register better quality and modern ships.
“Thus, creating the conditions for shipping to have an even more significant contribution to the national economy”.
Demetriades said Brexit further boosted Cyprus’ position on the maritime map.
British companies operating in the shipping sector with a physical presence or headquarters within the EU have turned their investment gaze to Cyprus.
Some companies have already set up branches in Cyprus, while others evaluate their options.
“The action plan will further encourage research and innovation, assist in the digitization of the services offered by creating a one-stop service shop for shipping companies, and further develop our national marine ecosystem and coastal shipping services.
“And 2022 will also mark the launch of a campaign for maritime professions among school students.”
In collaboration with the Research and Innovation Foundation, the ministry has created RISE (Research Innovation Shipping Environment).
It is a financial tool for research and innovation by encouraging the development of mature innovative initiatives by shipping companies based in Cyprus.
The green transformation of the shipping industry is a priority set at a global level.
“Cyprus, with its wealth of expertise in the field of shipping, actively participates in the processes for the formation of a regulatory framework that ensures the sector will contribute proportionately and substantially to climate change in a way that will not significantly affect its competitiveness and sustainability.
“We are in a transitional period in which we must encourage the shipping industry to change, to incorporate innovative approaches and adopt best practices.”
The ministry has recently introduced green tax incentives for shipowners whose ships significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions through technical or operational means.
Cyprus is also doing its bit in promoting international security for the industry, pushing for international agreements to prevent piracy in international waters.
“While some countries refused to allow armed guards onboard ships, we were one of the first countries to allow armed guards on Cyprus-flagged ships to protect both crew and cargo.”
Cyprus has noted an improvement in cooperation with affected countries to clamp down on piracy, with results evident in reduced major piracy incidents.
Demetriades said Cyprus responded immediately to the humanitarian crisis faced by shipping with COVID-19 restrictions and problems in changing crews, repatriation and vaccination of seafarers.
“In the last 20 months, more than 55,000 seafarers have been facilitated by Cyprus, while in terms of seafarers’ vaccinations, Cyprus’ proposals for a global vaccination program was adopted with a Resolution by the International Labor Organization.
“The island has launched a vaccination scheme to cover 40,000 sailors, earning the praise of the global shipping community.”