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13 June, 2024
 
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Hadjimanoli: ''We hope to expand into the Asian market''

Shipping Deputy Minister Marina Hadjimanoli Discusses Strategies to Fortify Resilience and Expand Presence in Global Markets

Andreas Karamitas

Marina Hadjimanoli stepped into her role as Shipping Deputy Minister amidst a period of upheaval, with the shipping sector grappling with various challenges including geopolitical conflicts and safeguarding supply chains against potential terrorist threats targeting merchant vessels. In an exclusive interview with "K", she emphasizes her commitment to serving the citizens and fortifying the resilience of the shipping industry. Hadjimanoli highlights the endeavors of Cypriot shipping to expand its presence in Asian and Middle Eastern markets, underscores the incentives aimed at attracting more shipping companies to Cyprus, and underscores the industry's unwavering resilience in the face of adversity.

Q: How has the Cypriot shipping industry responded to the challenges posed by global upheavals such as wars and terrorist attacks?

A: The challenges confronting the shipping sector are multifaceted and unpredictable, encompassing the realms of green and digital transformation, geopolitical tensions like those in Ukraine and the Middle East, cybersecurity, and the scarcity of skilled personnel. In addressing these global challenges, collective approaches and international solutions are imperative. To this end, we are collaborating with all stakeholders with the aim of devising sustainable and pragmatic solutions. While Cypriot shipping has not been immune to these developments, its resilience remains intact. Prioritizing the reinforcement of the Cypriot registry has been our focal point since the outset, recognizing the myriad benefits a robust fleet bestows upon Cypriot shipping, undoubtedly bolstering its resilience. It is paramount to underscore our ongoing communication and collaboration with the shipping industry, ensuring that industry insights, concerns, and expertise are integrated into our policies.

Incentives and Advantages

Q: You mentioned a significant increase in shipping companies in Cyprus over the past year. What factors do you attribute to this growth, and what implications does it hold for the Cypriot economy?

A: Cyprus stands out globally as a shipping hub boasting an internationally renowned registry distinguished by its prestige and quality. Coupled with a maritime cluster offering a comprehensive array of shipping and ancillary services encompassing ship management, fuel supply, technology, maritime agents, and more, Cyprus presents a compelling proposition. The advantages conferred by the Cypriot maritime cluster, alongside the highly successful and competitive tax regime for shipping, notably the tonnage tax system (TTS) endorsed by the European Commission since 2010, serve as a magnet for both domestic and foreign shipowners, charterers, and ship managers. Moreover, our Ministry provides an array of incentives aimed at attracting investments in shipping, including specialized human resources, stringent safety standards, operational efficiency, round-the-clock service, and the digitization of services to ensure expeditious and uninterrupted service delivery. Our foremost objective is to furnish quality services within an effective and adaptable framework, characterized by ongoing enhancement and simplification of procedures. The establishment of the One-Stop Shipping Service Centre, operational since November, represents a pivotal step towards streamlining interactions with government departments and services pertaining to shipping under the aegis of the Shipping Deputy Ministry. Notably, over the past 12 months, we have witnessed a 14% uptick in companies embracing the tonnage tax system, culminating in a total of 420 entities. This trajectory underscores the fruits of our labor and targeted initiatives in navigating the challenges posed by geopolitical shifts, the green transition, and digital evolution. We take pride in laying the groundwork for a prosperous future for Cypriot shipping.

Q: Your Ministry recently participated in the SeaJapan exhibition in Tokyo alongside industry stakeholders. How are you endeavoring to bolster Cyprus's footprint in the Japanese shipping market?

A: Japan commands significant stature in the global shipping arena, boasting a plethora of shipowning companies, chartering offices, modern shipyards, and cutting-edge technological advancements across the maritime spectrum. It represents a market replete with promise, and our objective is to fortify Cyprus's presence through concerted and targeted promotional initiatives spotlighting the merits of the Cypriot registry and its broader shipping advantages. Our engagement at the business forum in Japan and our active participation at the SEA JAPAN 2024 international shipping exhibition in Tokyo are integral components of our strategic blueprint to amplify the profile of the Shipping Deputy Ministry. These endeavors stem from my visit to Japan in January 2024, during which I engaged with shipowners, shipping company executives, chartering offices, trading houses, and shipyards. Effectively penetrating the Japanese market necessitates sustained efforts and ongoing dialogue with shipping entities and stakeholders to foster a conducive environment conducive to collaboration and mutual trust. To this end, we are executing a targeted action plan geared towards optimal representation and presence in Japan, eschewing the necessity of establishing a shipping office in Tokyo. Nonetheless, this endeavor falls within the broader ambit of staffing shipping offices abroad.

Q: Is there potential for attracting shipowners from the Arab world?

A: We meticulously evaluate all markets, continuously assessing prospects and formulating tailored strategies accordingly. While our initiatives have commenced with Japan, we are also exploring opportunities in other markets such as China, with the overarching aim of penetrating new frontiers. The Middle East market is undoubtedly of interest, given its substantial shipowning community. Each market possesses its unique characteristics and nuances, necessitating methodical and patient approaches in promoting and advancing the Cypriot registry. In this context, we are diligently creating conducive conditions to facilitate the most effective and efficient engagement with companies primarily involved in liquefied gas transportation.

Maritime Connection

Q: This year marks the third year of operation for the maritime passenger connection between Cyprus and Greece. Will the contractually stipulated renewal for another three years take place? If state subsidy is discontinued, will the route become sustainable?

A: The Cypriot government and the Shipping Deputy Ministry accord paramount importance to the maritime passenger connection between Cyprus and Greece, inaugurated two years ago. As a Service of General Economic Interest (SGEI), subsidized by the Republic of Cyprus, this maritime link serves the imperative of ferrying passengers and their vehicles, catering to the needs of Cypriots, Greeks, and European citizens opting for an alternative to air travel for various reasons.

The resounding success of the maritime passenger connection, evident from passenger figures over the initial two years, underscores its efficacy, surpassing all prognostications. It has engendered a novel segment in the tourist market, offering travelers the convenience of traversing between Cyprus and continental Europe with private cars and motorcycles, thereby revitalizing a mode of transportation dormant for two decades or more.

As per the contractual terms, the subsidized service spans three years, with provisions for extension of up to an additional three years contingent on specific criteria. The Shipping Deputy Ministry will convene internal deliberations in the ensuing weeks to chart the course regarding the extension of the extant contract. Ensuring the sustainability of the maritime passenger connection post-subsidy expiration warrants due consideration, given the route's distinct characteristics and the evolving landscape. I wish to reassure the public that the Cypriot government and the Shipping Deputy Ministry stand as staunch allies, committed to supporting endeavors aimed at preserving this choice for citizens.

Strengthening and Safeguarding Shipping

Q: What legacy do you aspire to leave as Shipping Deputy Minister?

A: I firmly believe that the prerogative of every political leader in a Ministry lies in safeguarding the interests of the Republic of Cyprus, serving its citizens, and effectuating initiatives that yield lasting benefits for posterity. In consonance with these principles, my tenure as Shipping Deputy Minister is geared toward cultivating an enabling framework and robust foundations conducive to the substantive fortification and preservation of Cypriot shipping.

This vision rests on three pillars: human resources, enhancing Cyprus's standing and influence on the global shipping landscape, and fostering collaboration with the shipping community. The indispensable contribution of human capital underscores our foremost priority of bolstering the Ministry with adept ship inspectors and maritime operators while harnessing the technical acumen and expertise of existing personnel. Affirming Cyprus's eminence as a maritime powerhouse, endowed with a resonant voice in decision-making forums, assumes paramount significance, facilitating the formulation of policies conducive to the sustainable growth of Cypriot shipping. Moreover, fostering symbiotic ties with the shipping industry assumes primacy in a sector characterized by intricacies and myriad stakeholders.

National Strategy and Development of Maritime Culture

Q: In October 2021, the former President unveiled the Long-Term National Strategy for Cypriot Shipping - "SEA Change 2030," delineating objectives encompassing sustainability, extroversion, and adaptability. What progress has been achieved thus far, and what initiatives remain on the horizon?

A: The longitudinal trajectory of the Cypriot shipping strategy entails a dynamic process characterized by the implementation, refinement, and augmentation of initiatives, attuned to contemporary exigencies and the imperative of continual enrichment and integration with novel actions and endeavors. Significant strides have been realized, including the establishment of a One-Stop Shipping Center and the inception of a Limited Liability Shipping Company (N.E.P.E.), with several digitization-related initiatives poised for imminent implementation upon project culmination. Noteworthy among ongoing initiatives is the consolidation of bilateral relations with other states, underscored by a series of bilateral engagements with both EU member states and third-party nations. We are earnestly engaged in fostering robust collaboration with the shipping industry, exemplified by the institutionalization of two advisory committees tasked with furnishing counsel and recommendations to the Shipping Deputy Minister. Concurrently, our outreach to the shipping community has been augmented through sustained dialogue and consultations with organized bodies and shipping entities. Furthermore, recent updates to green tax incentives by a decision of the Council of Ministers underscore our proactive stance in response to prevailing conditions.

Q: In recent years, concerted efforts have been undertaken by various stakeholders to nurture maritime and shipping culture among the youth. Could you clarify the ministry's endeavors in this domain?

A: Attracting the youth to the realm of shipping constitutes a pivotal imperative and obligation for the Shipping Deputy Ministry. To this end, concerted and coordinated endeavors have been marshaled to apprise the younger generation of the myriad career opportunities latent in the maritime sector, characterized by negligible unemployment rates among maritime school graduates. Notwithstanding the underrepresentation of maritime professions among the favored career choices of our youth, the acute demand for skilled labor in this sector underscores its significance. This year, our endeavors are poised for reinforcement through novel initiatives forged in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, aimed at nurturing maritime literacy and fostering awareness among youth. A seminal milestone was the inaugural "Knowing the World of Shipping" educational seminar, attended by 100 high school and technical school students from the Limassol and Paphos provinces, with plans for replication across other provinces. The seminar endeavors to elucidate the virtues and distinctive facets of the shipping sector, imparting to our youth a cogent understanding of the strategic advantages inherent in maritime professions, thereby empowering informed career choices. Furthermore, endeavors such as the Career Exhibition, slated to coincide with the "SEA 2024" festival and attended by all schools in Cyprus, serve as catalysts in invigorating interest and engagement with the maritime domain. However, achieving desired outcomes necessitates sustained and systematic endeavors from diverse stakeholders encompassing the state, parents, and educators, aimed at fostering a maritime ethos, revitalizing our maritime heritage, fostering an affinity with the maritime milieu, and, ultimately, bringing our youth into closer communion with the sea.

[This article was translated from its Greek original and edited for clarity] 

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Cyprus  |  Shipping  |  global  |  world

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