The future is shipping
E DII TO RII A L
Two weeks ago, Transport Minister Marios Demetriades spoke about the need for the Cyprus flag and the island’s shipping sector to “evolve” and recover its past glory as a maritime leader. Since then, we have had two press conferences by President Anastasiades to defend his policies since taking office in the dreadful days of March 2013, while the economy officially exited the bailout programme last month, having in the meantime used up less than the Troika funds earmarked for a recovery.
With the 27th annual general meeting of the Cyprus Shipping Chamber taking place in Limassol this week, we are bound to hear yet more policy statements and comforting words of moral support from Demetriades, speaking on behalf of his boss. Yet again, he will say little on how he expects the shipping sector’s contribution to the economy to grow from the current 7% share of GDP to about 8.5%, albeit a significant contribution in real terms. But for this to happen, is the Ministry looking only down two paths, that of public sector reforms and a positive impact on shipping from a potential (and now distant) chance of a solution?
The maritime industry, that proved to be the most reliable constant during the past three grueling years of crash-and-burn and picking up the pieces for a partial recovery, deserves more respect from those in power, not just the ruling administration, but the entire political ‘elite’. The front rows of the CSC members’ meeting will see every candidate for the upcoming parliamentary elections parading and shaking hands, as if they know their bow from their aft, as long as they get ten seconds of fame on local TV.
Demetriades has suggested that the reform of the shipping industry’s key regulator, the Department of Merchant Shipping, as well as the Transport Ministry itself, is well underway, with changes gradually taking place. Promotion of the Cyprus flag is ongoing, while the number of inspectors in foreign ports is expected to rise.
At the same time, there is unofficial speak of attracting Greek ship owners and shipmanagers, most of whom are terrified by the hefty taxes imposed by the Syriza government, that is causing more harm than good to the Greek flag.
There has been no word, so far, on establishing a dedicated office for a Deputy Minister in charge of the shipping portfolio, while incentives are mild and not very attractive.
Demetriades should take advantage of his loyal and serious audience of the shipping community to make some major announcements, and serious ones at that. But whatever the declarations, the maritime community will continue to grow and prosper. It’s only that with a hand-in-glove approach with the state, this sector would thrive, carrying the rest of the economy on its wave.