In an exclusive interview, Natasa Pilides, deputy minister of shipping, relays her thoughts on the role to Tanker Shipping & Trade
In an industry continually challenged by new and increasingly rigorous regulation, flag states must evolve with the times and ensure shipowners and operators have easy access to the support and resources they require to protect, and even enhance, their business interests.
After 40 years of progress, Cyprus is currently undergoing such a transition. In a clear message of political support for the country’s shipping sector, the creation of the deputy minister of shipping role was unanimously approved by parliament in July 2017 and was established as of 1 March 2018.
On the role of the deputy minister for shipping
“This is the first time that shipping has a cabinet position of its own in the Cypriot Government and taking this important step will afford us the dedicated and focused resource to drive multiple initiatives that will increase the functionality, effectiveness, and flexibility of our public shipping administration,” said deputy minister Natasa Pilides.
Expanding on the theme, sheexplained that the cabinet position will have a direct and immediate effect in the further development and expansion of both the Cypriot flag and the maritime cluster. “We believe that there is significant potential to increase the contribution of the shipping sector to the Cyprus economy beyond its current annual 7% of gross domestic product (GDP),” she said. The maritime cluster in Cyprus can, “rely on the support of a dedicated deputy minister who is wholly devoted to shipping-related issues.”
Adding value to the flag
For flag states to effectively support shipowners and operators and enable them to protect their business interests, they must have an in-depth knowledge of the industry, while keeping a keen eye on emerging developments. The provision of proactive support, advice and consultancy is nothing new, and leading flags such as Cyprus have been doing this for many years.
According to Ms Pilides, the services the ministry can lend support to extend far beyond registration and certification. She said it was a core value of the Cyprus flag that the ministry will proactively share intelligence with shipowners and operators, offering the best advice to directly support the protection of their business interests.
Whilst the promotion of the Cyprus flag is a high priority, deputy minister Pilides made the point that the ministry is also maintaining a keen focus on ensuring that the quality and range of shipping services is upheld and raising awareness of the complete services that are available in Cyprus.
There is an advanced maritime cluster in Limassol, with more than 200 companies covering the full spectrum of maritime activities and the ministry is keen to maintain the pool of highly qualified and trained people who are available to offer support.
A key element in the development of Cyprus’ shipping strategy is the simplified Tonnage Tax System (TTS). Approved by the European Commission(EC), the simplified TTS extends the favourable benefits applicable to owners of Cyprus-flagged vessels and ship managers to owners of foreign flagged vessels and charterers. Cyprus has negotiated more than 60 double tax avoidance treaties and is the only open registry in Europe to have a TTS approved by the EC, providing assurance of a stable fiscal environment for the long term.
According to the deputy minister, Cyprus now ranks as the 11th largest merchant fleet worldwide and the third largest fleet in the EUn. Currently, Cyprus flags more than 80 tankers with a total gross tonnage of 2.7M gt, which represents 11.36% of the Cyprus fleet. It flags over 1,000 oceangoing vessels with a total gross tonnage exceeding 23.9M gt. More than 3,500 vessels are currently managed from Cyprus, with a total net tonnage of around 50M gt.
With the above aims in mind, deputy minister Pilides has a clear strategic plan. “The ultimate goal of the deputy minister is to strengthen [the] shipping [sector] and [drive] its consolidation as an advanced, global shipping service centre. Backed up by a dedicated resource, we are confident that we will achieve significant growth for Cyprus in the near future,” she told Tanker Shipping & Trade.