Cyprus – education, digital, IMO and flag

May 07 2020


We spoke with Natasa Pilides, the Shipping Deputy Minister of the Republic of Cyprus, about how the Cyprus government is supporting maritime education and skill development, how it is developing digital tools, how it seeks to influence the IMO, and is developing its flag registry.

In terms of maritime education for seafarers, Cyprus has opened three maritime academies over the past few years, which are now training about 300 students on a variety of courses, says Natasa Pilides, Shipping Deputy Minister of the Republic of Cyprus.

 

Before that, the only possibility for maritime training for Cypriots was to go abroad, she says.

 

The academies are running under the supervision of the Cyprus Shipping Deputy Ministry, which monitors the schools and authorises the courses. The course content meets STCW standards and additional requirements from the Cyprus legislation.

 

[Note – there is no senior minister of shipping, Ms Pilides reports to the President of Cyprus. It is called a ‘Deputy Ministry’ due to a limit of 11 ministries Cyprus may have, under its constitution].

 

The places are available to students from any country and grants are available to all EU students, and there are many students from other EU countries in the maritime academies, although Cyprus offers some funded places for its own students.

 

The academies work closely together with shipping companies in Cyprus, to ensure the course content is relevant to current needs. Some companies offer their own scholarships and cadetship opportunities, which can turn into employment opportunities. So there is a good collaboration with the private sector, she says.

 

“We’re trying to ensure the employment rates and retention rates [for students] are high – and we’ve got some very good results,” she says.

 

Ms Pilides is keen that seafaring can lead to long term maritime careers.  “You can be a seafarer for as long as you want, then there’s always a job opportunity on shore. In Cyprus, there’s a lot of opportunity for experienced seafarers to work in different shipping companies.”

 

Shipping companies in Cyprus are usually “very conscious about creating not just long term relationships and investing in seafarers – but also providing opportunity in terms of training, soft skills, response to risk,” she said. There is a lot more consideration being given to such matters now compared to 20 years ago.

 

“A lot of effort goes into the retention and professional development of seafarers and office staff.”

 

Ms Pilides does not envisage that Cyprus ship managers would ever have a majority of their shipboard staff actually being Cypriot or trained in Cyprus, since Cyprus is still a very small country (the Philippines is 90 x larger by population). 

 

The objectives are more about having a pipeline where people from Cyprus can move through the roles, being seafarers, superintendents, up to senior management roles.  And of course Cyprus would always like to be a place which welcomes maritime workers from around the world.

 

The maritime education also extends to schoolchildren. There are outreach projects for schools, to show children what maritime careers look like, which might encourage them to take a course.

 

To reach even younger children, there is a program “Adopt a Ship”, developed in collaboration with Cyprus Shipping Chamber and CYMEPA. A class in elementary (primary) school “adopt” a ship by sending e-mails to the crew, asking questions and sending drawings of how they picture life on a ship. “That creates more awareness about life at sea,” she says.

 

There is a new Cyprus Marine and Maritime Institute (CMMI), which had Eur 15m funding under the EU Horizon 2020 project, and match funding from the Cyprus government. It is run in partnership with the University of Southampton, UK and the Maritime Institute of Ireland, among others. It is described as an “independent, international, scientific and business Centre of Excellence for Marine and Maritime activities.”

 

As part of its Integrated Maritime Plan, the Shipping Deputy Ministry is running an EU-funded research project on “Marine Spatial Planning”, exploring better ways to organise the use of the ocean space for activities such as fisheries, aquaculture, shipping, tourism, and renewable energy production.  

 

Digital

Cyprus is making big steps in the digital sector.

 

It has revamped its website, where a range of online services is available. There is an “e-seafarer management system ”, which also includes a platform where cadet seafarers  share information about themselves with potential employers. The website includes an online tax submission system, tax calculators, online certificate verification and some other services.

 

The Shipping Deputy Ministry is endorsing the work of a private company called “Prevention at Sea” which is developing an online system for conducting port state control activities. The Fleet Information SHaring (F.I.SH.) platform, is an online ship data repository designed to standardise, automate and reduce the time spent in the ship inspection process and to facilitate ship data collection for review by third parties.

“We’ve been making a lot of effort to modernise the way we work” she says.

 

IMO and EU

Ms Pilides would like to see IMO initiate the  further  development of IMO GISIS to include also sections to be used by shipping companies in a  format of a standard reporting scheme for communications between shipping companies and authorities, similar in philosophy with the European Union’s “European Maritime Single Window” for issues related with IMO functions .

 

The IMO could also further improve systems for accident investigation and statistics management, such as the systems EMSA has introduced on a European level, she says.

 

But while it has influence in IMO and EU as a nation state, Cyprus is also small enough to have close relationships and understanding with the maritime industry. “At a local level – there is that ease in collaboration,” she says.

 

Meanwhile in Brussels, the maritime industry has “a lot more exposure than a few years ago,” she says. It can benefit from a national authority which has a good understanding of the industry.

 

“There’s definitely a challenge in terms of what the world expects from the shipping industry,” she says.

 

“It is also an opportunity for us to create regulations which take into account the nature of shipping and the way it works, rather than a set of rules which have to be retrofitted to the industry,” she says.

 

Cyprus flag

Ms Pilides is keen to increase the number of vessels flagged in Cyprus. There has been steady growth over the past 5 years. The fleet is currently 11th largest in the world, and Ms Pilides would like to see it in the top ten.

 

To encourage ship registrations, Cyprus scrapped registration fees and mortgage fees for seagoing vessels. It is also updating the Tonnage Tax System and extending it for another 10 years, rationalising merchant shipping fees and taxes, and promoting the registry heavily, she says.

 



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