Leading shipowners and maritime service providers focused on the future of shipping, clean fuels, new technologies and the well-being of seafarers at the biannual Maritime Cyprus conference.
Some 900 delegates and speakers addressed crucial matters after the Covid pandemic and the fallout from the war in Ukraine.
Kitack Lim, the outgoing Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation, set the tone for the three-day conference by emphasising the importance of digitalisation, innovation, and ongoing support of seafarers within the context of the decarbonisation of shipping.
Speakers and panels discussed the future of shipping towards 2050, sustainability, the future of EU shipping, safety, ship finance, technology, the cruise industry, energy transition, industry transformation and shipbuilding.
In his opening address at the conference, with the theme “Shipping in Action: An Agenda for Change,” President Nikos Christodoulides said the shipping sector requires fast reaction and effective response to crises and challenges, innovative planning, adaptability, and a proactive mindset.
He referred to Cyprus’ response to the current crisis in Ukraine and that maritime transport should be given due attention and a prominent position within the EU.
The President also referred to the contribution of Cyprus to the transition of shipping to a low or even zero-carbon industry, the process of digitalising the Shipping Deputy Ministry’s internal processes, the creation of a one-stop-shipping centre, and the implementation of the law for shipping limited liability companies.
He said Cyprus promotes maritime professions and gender equality in shipping.
Lim acknowledged the progress the shipping industry has made, saying rules and regulations must be amended and implemented globally by the maritime community.
EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean referred to the many opportunities for shipping, stressing the importance of flexibility in driving the development of green fuels and the adoption of energy efficiency technologies.
“Throughout this process, we must look beyond Europe’s shores to enact changes globally,” she said.
During the first panel discussion on “Shipping Policy Dialogue,” Shipping Minister Marina Hadjimanolis asked Arsenio Dominguez, Secretary-General Elect of the IMO, about the organisation’s vision, outcomes of MEPC 80 and adoption of the IMO’s Strategy on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships, ship recycling, shipping’s image, and gender equality.
Arsenio Dominguez stressed how crucial it was to increase the presence of women in the industry by encouraging female participation in maritime studies and continuing to campaign for gender equality at the IMO level and beyond.
“This includes actively working to increase the number of women in senior positions at the IMO.”
One of the key discussions was hosted by the Cyprus Shipping Chamber on “Sustainable Shipping towards 2050: a Mission (Im)Possible?”.
The panellists, moderated by CSC President Themis Papadopoulos, discussed energy and technological transition without alternative compatible fuels and technologies, with a regulatory milestone for complete decarbonisation by 2050.
According to the speakers, this presents a challenge for shipowners and constitutes a complex global shipping issue, emphasising the need for a clearer policy direction.
Emanuele Grimaldi, Chair of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), suggested that one way to accelerate the development of affordable low and zero-carbon fuels and technologies is to develop a “fund and reward” mechanism to incentivise shipowners who quickly transition to green technologies and fuels.
He said it will contribute billions of dollars annually to produce alternative fuels and establish fuel supply infrastructure in developing countries.
Philippos Philis, President of the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), argued the European Commission should address fuel suppliers by introducing specific targets for the availability of low and zero-carbon maritime fuels, thus enhancing the “FuelEU Maritime” initiative rather than making it the exclusive responsibility of shipowners to achieve climate goals.
Nikolaus H. Schües, President of the Baltic & International Maritime Council (BIMCO), expressed optimism about the industry’s ability to meet challenges and focus on opportunities during this transitional period.
Dr Gaby Bornheim, President of the Verband Deutscher Reeder (VDR), emphasised the need for a regulatory framework extending beyond the European Union and compatible with an international and multifaceted industry such as Shipping.
During the Q&A at the end of the session, an audience member asked about the possibility of utilising nuclear energy to power ships.
Nuclear not realistic
“Very bluntly,” said Dr Bornheim, “there should be no prohibited thoughts.
“It’s one idea, but it may not be realistic that the industry will go in this direction.” She said while shipping must consider the technology, realistically, it will not become a reality.
“The Shipowners’ perspective on the future of EU shipping,” discussion moderated by George Mouskas, Vice President of the Cyprus Union of Shipowners, centred around the EU ETS and other regional regulations and how these policies affect members of the European fleet.
George Procopiou criticised the EU ETS scheme, saying: “Europe is shooting itself in the foot”, claiming the industry would be better off focusing on energy efficiency measures rather than hindering growth through restrictive policies.
An audience member questioned the shipowner’s response to COVID-19 and the pandemic’s impact on the livelihoods of seafarers.
Panelists acknowledged that, collectively, the industry’s response was not good enough, and the level to which these key workers were let down has still not yet been recognised.
On the sidelines of the conference at the Parklane Resort & Spa in Limassol, the “Cyprus Maritime Personality Award” was presented to George Procopiou, Chair of Dynacom Tankers Management, in recognition of his substantial contribution to the shipping industry, which spans over 50 years, having purchased his first ship in 1971.
“Allow me to express my sincere appreciation for your valuable support to the Cyprus Ship Registry.
“You have been a supporter of the Cyprus flag for many years, which is much greatly appreciated,” said President Christodoulides.
During the ceremony on the eve of the conference, Prokopiou was presented with the award, symbolising a boat resembling a golden-green leaf sailing on the sea, representing Cyprus.
As has become tradition, a special session was held for Young Executives who shared their visions and concerns for the industry’s future.
The panel on “Exploring Future Trends and Emerging Markets for a Dynamic and Resilient Shipping Industry” discussed major factors currently impacting shipping, such as populism, reshoring, the energy transition and decarbonisation, evolving demographics and population centres, and higher interest rates and inflation that impact shipping finance.
“Investing across the cycles is challenging as it’s volatile,” said Erik Helberg, CEO of Clarksons Securities.
“But we’re optimistic due to the supply side.
“At the right time, there are phenomenal returns to be made.”
Nicole Mylona, CEO of Transmed Shipping, said: “There is capital available for projects with good companies that have proven track records, healthy balance sheets, and good, solid cash flow.”
“We will likely see further consolidation,” Helberg said.
“If you can find a differentiator, then there is still room for smaller companies, but it is more challenging than it used to be.”
The panel discussion on “The future seas: advancing maritime technology for enhanced safety,” moderated by Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, Joint CEO of Tototheo Maritime, focused on how digitalisation is ushering the adoption of highly sophisticated technological advancements, designed to assist seafarers and how – because of these technologies – potential impacts on jobs within the industry have become apparent.
The panel debated the direction of change, reflecting on the path shipping has taken as an industry, the invaluable lessons learned, and the crucial questions and opportunities ahead.
Theodosiou noted how the term ‘disruption’ has been replaced by ‘transition’ since the advent of the pandemic, marking a shift in focus to an internal drive for change rather than external disruptive forces.