On the occasion of the change of leadership of the Ministry of Shipping, Deputy Minister to the President Natasa Pilides held today at the Presidential Palace a press conference, in which the review of the Ministry of Shipping for the two and a half years since her appointment as First Deputy Minister was presented.
Natasa Pilides stated that the Action Plan implemented by the Ministry of Shipping focuses on the pillars of the National Strategy for the further development of Cypriot shipping. In particular, the efforts made to upgrade the services provided and the transition to the digital age, the promotion of Blue Growth, as well as security upgrades and environmental protection were highlighted.
During the press conference, Ms. Pilides referred to the success of the re-approvement of the Cyprus tax system by the EU for another 10 years. “This development ensures a climate of stability and confidence in the shipping industry”, she underlined.
The Deputy Minister also referred to the upgrade of the image of Cyprus as a shipping center, to the measures to improve the competitiveness of the Cypriot registry by revising the pricing policy and simplifying the ship registration procedures. Special mention was also made of measures to support shipping in the face of the pandemic crisis.
“The much-awaited sea connection between Cyprus and Greece also had a positive outcome”, Ms. Pilides pointed out. After months of consultations with the European Commission’s Competition Directorate-General which began back in July 2019, the Ministry of Shipping has secured EU approval to provide a maximum subsidy of 6 million euros a year to reinstate the Cyprus-Greece maritime connection.
According to the decision of the Competition Directorate-General dated July 3, 2020, the operation of a ferry connection between Cyprus and Greece is considered a General Financial Interest Service (GFIS) in accordance with current European Union rules, and can be financed by government funds.
“We are very happy for this positive development”, said the Deputy Minister of Shipping to the President, Ms. Natasa Pilides. “We have taken an important step towards the implementation of this project, as obtaining approval from the European Commission is crucial as well as a precondition for further action. However, there is still a long way to go, as the next step involves holding an open tender”, Ms. Pilides explained.
The terms of the tender documents have been set in accordance with EU rules to ensure that the subsidy covers only the costs required to manage the GFIS (ie only the cost of transporting passengers and not the cargo), to prevent unfair competition and to avoid overcompensation. “The Contract of Assignment that will be signed with the successful bidder will be for three years with the right of renewal for an additional three years”, said Ms. Pilides.
The Cyprus-Greece Maritime Connection will be operated by a passenger ferry, Ro-Pax, which will carry passengers and their accompanying vehicles as well as cargo, and will include the return flight from the port of Limassol or Larnaca to Piraeus, and possibly one intermediate station. The route, which runs once a week during the summer months (May-September) and once every two weeks during the winter months (October-April), is expected to enrich the available means of transportation and create a new market segment for consumers/travelers to/from Cyprus and Europe.
“The goal of the Ministry of Shipping”, Ms. Pilides noted, “is to strengthen Cyprus’ connectivity with continental Europe. Currently, the only means of transport available to and from Cyprus is by air”.
Concluding, the Deputy Minister thanked the European Commission’s Competition Directorate-General and the State Audit Office of the Republic of Cyprus for the relevant guidance they offered and their excellent cooperation. /ibna