March 1 this year marked a significant waypost for watchers of the maritime aspirations of the island nation of Cyprus. Shipping now has a position within the cabinet of the Cypriot government.
Natasa Pilides is the deputy minister of shipping, a new position within government. Previously maritime had been controlled via the Department of Merchant Shipping.
Under her watch, Pilides is determined to grow the maritime cluster on the Mediterranean island, and propel the country’s flag back into the top ten league.
Cyprus now ranks as the eleventh largest merchant fleet worldwide and the third largest fleet in the European Union.
Cyprus has been upping its game on the international maritime scene of late. Last year it held a shipping week that was deemed a great success. The island is determined to make shipping a key plank of the local economy. It already accounts for 7% of GDP.
“One of the major reasons why Cyprus has been successful as a maritime centre is the open communication between private and public sectors. We take into account what are the needs of the shipping sector,” Pilides tells Maritime CEO in an exclusive interview.
Pilides, previously in charge of the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency, is adamant that the country must continue to encourage the development of the full spectrum of maritime companies, not just owners and managers, but vital ancillary services too, such as finance and insurance.
In recent years all of Cyprus’s main banks have set up ship finance departments, and Pilides is confident they have a “real opportunity” to grow amid the dramatically altered European ship finance scene.
“We want to to continue to be a shipping cluster that offers the full range of services,” she says, adding: “We need to keep modernising what we offer, and to make it more accessible.”
As with other shipping centres, the key Pilides says, is working out how to stay relevant, to understand what the needs of the shipping sector are and to ensure the legislative framework remains up to date and modern.
While admitting she’s keen to see Cyprus back in the top 10 list of registries, she highlights other areas of maritime growth such as the number of energy companies drilling in the area and the privatisation of Limassol port by Dubai terminal operator DP World.
Cyprus has long held plans to draw Greek owners to its shores. With 45 days to go until the biennial Posidonia exhibition in Athens Pilides is excited to be going with a strong delegation and a message that the island’s shipping authorities are on hand to assist in whatever way they can.