Shipping in Cyprus is a mixture of famous local name companies, global shipmanagers and government initiatives. For the last two years, Shipping Deputy Minister Natasa Pilides has focused on projecting the nation’s shipping story onto the global stage
In March 2018, Natasa Pilides was appointed as Cyprus’ first ever Deputy Minister with sole responsibility for shipping. A limit on the number on ministries is a quirk of the Cyprus constitution, and this necessitated the creation of three Deputy Ministries (Shipping, Tourism and Innovation). In reality then, Ms Pilides’ position has effectively the authority and responsibility of a full ministry and the Deputy Minister reports directly to the president of Cyprus.
With this authority, Ms Pilides and her team at the Shipping Deputy Ministry are bringing together the stakeholders within the shipping cluster into a more focused group, which is working together for the implementation of a National Shipping Strategy. This follows from her work at Invest Cyprus, a government-funded company with the aim of promoting and facilitating investment into Cyprus and reform initiatives.
“The last 12 months has been an intensive time for the Deputy Ministry,” says Ms Pilides. “We have streamlined the process of flagging vessels to Cyprus, obtained approval from the EU for the prolongation of our tonnage system for another 10 years, and we are progressing the digitalisation of our services. 2019 also saw a number of milestones, including our re-election to IMO, the scrapping of registration fees and mortgage fees for ocean-going vessels, the launch of a maritime career website for seafarers and students, plus the Maritime Cyprus conference 2019, which was the biggest and most successful to date.”
In a bold move, Ms Pilides scrapped registration fees for tankers and other vessel types to boost the number of vessels entering the Cyprus flag. The Deputy Ministry has also introduced a career information system to support its large and growing shipmanagement community – the Marine Career Information System (MARIS) which logs the details of Greek and Cypriot seafarers. Data is entered into an interactive web application for the use of seafarers and shipmanagement companies.
The project is in keeping with other initiatives such as the EU Horizon 2020 project to establish the Cyprus Marine and Maritime Institute (CMMI). The project, which runs in conjunction with the University of Southampton, UK, was announced in July 2019 when EUR15M (US$16.7M) was awarded to the project. The amount is being matched by the Cyprus government. The CMMI is an independent, international, scientific and business Centre of Excellence for Marine and Maritime activities, based in Larnaca. It carries out research, technological development, and innovation activities to provide practical solutions to the challenges that the marine and maritime industry, and society, faces.
The Shipping Deputy Ministry’s year culminated in the 16th Maritime Cyprus event, a biennial conference and exhibition organised by the Deputy Ministry and opened by the president of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Nicos Anastasiades. In his opening address, Mr Anastasiades specifically referred to the new initiatives of the Shipping Deputy Ministry, noting its positive results in improving the Cyprus shipping administration, which have led to an increase in revenues from shipmanagement companies, as well as an increase in the gross tonnage of the Cyprus Ship Register.