By Spyros Papavassiliou
In its last plenary session before summer recess, the House of Representatives voted unanimously in favour of a bill to create a Deputy Ministry of Shipping, a move that has created anticipation for even better days in the Cyprus shipping community.
The Director General of the Cyprus Shipping Chamber, Thomas Kazakos, shared details regarding the new Deputy Ministry, which will be put in place starting with the next presidency in 2018, with the Cyprus Weekly.
Kazakos sums up the benefits of the new Deputy Ministry as follows: “It will offer a specialised, more industry-focused and thus, more productive and less bureaucratic structure”.
In essence, Kazakos explains, the Deputy Ministry will not be created from scratch, but instead, it will be an evolution of the Department of Merchant Shipping currently in place.
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“The Deputy Ministry of Shipping approved on Friday by the House of Representatives will be a transformation of the Department of Merchant Shipping into an independent, self-sustained organisation,” Kazakos says.
And although the Department of Merchant Shipping is currently a part of the Ministry of Transportation, the Deputy Ministry of Shipping will not be subsumed by any ministry.
Instead, the Deputy Ministry will be accountable directly to the President of the Republic and monitored by the Council of Ministers, affording more operational and administrative freedom.
The first responsibility of the Shipping Under-Secretary will be the drafting and upkeep of national shipping policy, says Kazakos.
“This is the basic ingredient for a country with a developed shipping industry, so that it is able to draft its short-, medium-, and long-term plan of action to help shipping in the country grow,” he adds.
Kazakos is quick to praise Transport Minister Marios Demetriades and his “hands-on, committed approach” to handling shipping matters during his tenure.
However, he explained, the Transport Ministry is simply given too wide a spectrum of responsibilities. Managing nine governmental departments and two semi-governmental organisations is an impossible task, says Kazakos, stretching the capacities of the Transport Ministry thin.
It is for this reason that the formation of the Deputy Ministry of Shipping will be beneficial, as it will reduce the workload for the Transport Ministry, while also giving the Deputy Ministry of Shipping the room to act autonomously.
Another benefit to the formation of the Deputy Ministry is that it will offer specialised and continuous representation of the Cyprus shipping industry in decision-making bodies both in Cyprus (House of Representatives) and abroad (EU bodies, international shipping organisations).
Similarly, the Deputy Ministry will be responsible for the promotion of Cyprus shipping abroad.
The House of Representatives in Cyprus will also receive an annual report from the Deputy Ministry which will cover its activities, effectiveness and costs through the year.
Kazakos is direct in saying that the Cyprus Shipping Chamber has sought for many years the upgrading of the Maritime Administration through a number of alternative suggestions, the last one being that of the formation of the Deputy Ministry of Shipping.
And he is clear in saying that this “unanimous” parliamentary decision is looked upon very favourably from the perspective of shipping companies already in Cyprus, as well as abroad, as it sends a very strong message of long-lasting political support towards Cyprus shipping.
In all, the shipping community is pleased.
“The Deputy Ministry and the Shipping Undersecretary’s main “value added” contribution will be to resolve everyday operational problems of shipping, both within the Deputy Ministry, and the Cyprus shipping industry,” he concludes.
A group effort
Among the factors that have pleased Kozakos is the unanimous approval of the Deputy Ministry: “I would like to communicate the “thanks” of the Cyprus Shipping Chamber to the government and the President of the Republic for prioritising the issue.
Thank you also to the Minister of the Interior, for actively promoting the creation of the Deputy Ministry. And thank you to all the political parties for unanimously voting for the bill.”
The decision to postpone the creation of the Deputy Ministry until after the next presidential elections was key in making this a decision that went above petty politics.