With more than 1,000 delegates attending the Maritime Cyprus Conference in Limassol this week, Maritime CEO magazine is there assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the island’s shipping set-up.
There is a noticeable buzz about Cypriot shipping these days. The public and the private sectors are singing from the same hymn sheet. Incentives are proving popular, ship finance is growing and the marketing machine is in top gear. Few places in Europe have been more proactive in promoting their shipping hub credentials in the last 18 months. The results are beginning to pay off with a growing maritime cluster on the island.
“There are shipowners, shipmanagers, charterers, ancillary service providers, ship financiers, legal and accounting expertise and so on. If you combine that with the reputable, efficient and affordable Cyprus flag, this creates an environment that can compete with any maritime centre globally. There is expertise, knowledge and the skills available that any cluster needs in order to be able to thrive,” argues Themis Papadopoulos, CEO of Interorient Shipmanagement.
“Shipping is a very volatile industry, thus it is important for stakeholders to invest in a safe environment for their business to grow,” says Gina Panayiotou, global head of shipping and energy at local law firm, Michael Kyprianou & Co. “Cyprus shipping has proven time and time again that it’s competitive operational and taxation framework can be relied upon at time of changing regulations and uncertain global political risks, with a solid network of service providers that can firmly support companies through these changing times.”
Cyprus’s tonnage tax system is among the most competitive in the world and yet fully EU approved, points out Captain E H Adami, the head of Mastermind Shipmanagement. On top of that the republic has in excess of 60 double tax treaties.
Recent developments on the academia side are equally encouraging as Cyprus is becoming known as a location for maritime education. All positions onboard as well as all positions in shore-based maritime companies are lectured at the universities and colleges across the island.
Then there is the actual surroundings that have lured many here as described by Yvonne Tsanos, group director at marine services company Epsco Cyprus.
“It’s a multicultural environment that has successfully maintained and married modernisation growth and development with its beauty, traditions and history,” she says.
Concluding, Tsanos returns to one of the central pillars that has created the maritime success currently being enjoyed in Cyprus.
“One must also keep in mind a paramount factor; the public and private sectors talk and listen to each other to overcome any potential issues affecting the industry,” she says.
Indeed, for Maritime CEO, the last time an island republic so wholeheartedly embraced maritime and aspired to rise to the top, one would have to go back to Singapore at the turn of the century, and we all know how that played out.
The to-do list
The sign of a true maritime hub is one that does not sit still. Planning ahead and solving what shipping wants is the key to staying relevant in today’s competitive maritime scene.
Cyprus has lofty ambitions and has come a long way in a short amount of time, yet there is much it needs to do to plough ahead.
“The greatest challenge of the shipping industry in Cyprus remains the Turkish embargo, which, of course, is politically complicated but certainly any resolution in that area would be a huge boost to the shipping industry,” says Themis Papadopoulos, CEO of Interorient Shipmanagement.
Quite so, concurs Yvonne Tsanos, group director at marine services company, Epsco Cyprus.
“There’s huge support toward Cyprus and voices raised at international level, political and pragmatic for this embargo to be lifted have yet to yield a result. Obviously, the lifting of this ban would have a very positive effect and trade would subsequently increase,” she says.
Gina Panayiotou, global head of shipping and energy at local law firm, Michael Kyprianou & Co, says additional steps to strengthen the island’s attractiveness should include the provision of even greater incentives, as well as reformed and simplified, user-friendly legislation and digitalisation of procedures, all of which are already high on the list of the government’s agenda.
A good example of this is the recent announcement that Cyprus will host an independent, international, scientific and business center of excellence in marine and maritime activities, the Cyprus Marine and Maritime Institute (CMMI), driven by the needs of industry and society.
Like Panayiotou, Captain E H Adami, the head of Mastermind Shipmanagement, thinks Cyprus can drive home its advantages by investing more focused resources into research and development projects.
Much of these suggestions will be under the microscope this week as the republic gets its annual maritime week underway.
This article first appeared in Maritime CEO magazine. Splash readers can access the full magazine for free online by clicking here.