“The future of the shipping industry in Cyprus is in good hands”
Cyprus can be considered today as a power in International Shipping. It owes this to the people and organisations in the shipping sector; the Ministry of Transport, the Department of Merchant Shipping, the Cyprus Shipping Chamber, the Cyprus Shipowners Union and all of the related companies and professionals active in our country all these years.
The Shipping Industry of our country is a uniquely globalised industry with a significant role in the Cyprus Economy contributing 7% in the country’s GDP. It is a strong growth driver that managed to sustain prospects for further development through the recent crisis.
Of notable attention is the fact that the Shipping Industry is probably the only industry which supports the Cyprus economy without any state investment. On the contrary, it constitutes an attraction pillar for foreign investment.
The Cyprus Registry ranks high globally. Though our achievements can be considered i mpressive, we must compare ourselves with the best and aim higher. We must examine the reasons of stagnation, as we have been stuck in the tenth place, and the Cyprus Registry has witnessed a decrease in registered vessels.
The presence of a strong local ship register does not seem to be a strict factor of competitiveness, but it helps to create synergies and opportunities. It is a fact that our ship register suffers from the commercial and political consequences of the Turkish embargo.
Cyprus stands at a crossroad today. Beyond the constant crossroads of our geographic location at the doorway of the Suez Canal, Cyprus stands at the crossroad of moving ahead with a stable outlook of growth and prosperity. And at such crossroads, a modern European state must enable the growth of the drivers of their economy.
Shipping has proven without a doubt to be such a growth driver. Our duty is to ensure the sustainable and prosperous development of the sector and continued positive contribution to the economy.
The industry has suffered from the Turkish embargo: from competitive registries of other nations; from the crisis in the industry; from the lack of sufficient promotion. And the lack of flexibility on behalf of the Merchant Shipping Department because of the current civil service procedures. Procedures that do not allow the capable people in the department to be flexible.
In fact, in comparison with the world’s top shipping centers, like Singapore, Rotterdam, Piraeus and London, Cyprus ranks last, suffering from low scores in a number of key areas.
In areas such as government support by incentives and infrastructure, supply of local workforce, range and diversity of services and importance of the local port as a transshipment hub, to name a few, Cyprus rates poorly in comparison.
Cyprus enjoys a stable economic, regulatory and legal system, low local costs, and a strategic geographical location. We must strengthen our advantages to offset our weaknesses and enhance our competitive position.
The viable solution of the Cyprus problem is the ultimate solution to the effects of the Turkish embargo. Parallel to the ongoing negotiations talks, we must continue our efforts to inform the international community and our partners in the EU. Cyprus’ veto to the European course of Turkey stands until Turkey meets its obligations, including the Ankara Protocol.
This vital sector of our economy requires strategic actions to grow even more. To achieve this we must maintain and improve the current tonnage tax regime to make the Cyprus Registry even more competitive and potentially make it part of an incentives picture.
It is i mperative that we continue to i mprove and effectively promote our tax system abroad. At the same time, we must strengthen the industry in cooperation with the private sector. We must make our presence abroad stronger, offer better services locally, and examine special incentives schemes. We should even re-address current charges, to more effectively promote Cyprus as a shipping location and retain the loyal industry backbone.
The largest shipping centers of the world demonstrate coordination and cooperation in their shipping clusters. Top shipping centres have strong stakeholder involvement and an emphasis on innovation and maritime education. People talk about the jobs of the future, but we forget the jobs of the present. While we are faced with high unemployment rates, the Cyprus shipping industry has a hard time finding local skilled workforce. The skills mismatch in our workforce is true for the shipping sector as well.
It is of vital importance to further enhance the shipping sector in Cyprus. We must continue the necessary reforms across the board, reforming and upgrading the Merchant