Cyprus: An “open registry” and a leading maritime center
The system of “open registries” has been growing rapidly, ever since it was introduced after the Second World War. The fleet of “open registries” will keep on increasing for as long as the application of the device constitutes a significant cost-minimizing factor to the maritime industry.
Cyprus Flag has for long been a popular open registry and Cyprus itself has over the years become one of the largest and widely known shipping centers in the world. The efforts of the Cyprus shipping community and the newly established Shipping Deputy Ministry (former Department of Merchant Shipping) have been concentrating on the upgrading of the island’s administration and services, in an attempt to transform the country to a respectable international maritime centre. The country is emerging as a centre of maritime excellence, not only because of its unique geographical position at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, but also because of its attractive shipping operations and facilities which rank among the top 10 shipping centres in the world, with more than 200 shipping-related companies establishing offices on the island.
In view of the continuous growth of the Cyprus merchant fleet, the island’s maritime policy has always been to develop an integrated shipping infrastructure through the granting of appropriate incentives. Apart from the more obvious geographical reason, there are also the fiscal advantages available to those who choose to register on the island by executing a series of double tax treaties which number over 40 in total and by executing a significant number of bilateral agreements with
other countries aimed at promoting relations and development of mutual economic interests. Those fiscal and economic advantages of registration under the Cypriot flag are strengthened by the country’s effective administration, the legal,
banking, accounting and secretarial services which are of the highest international standards. Excellent telecommunications and an educated, multi lingual work force also give strength to the reputation the island holds.
The Cyprus Registry hosts the 11th largest fleet in the world and the 3rd largest in Europe, having around 1,800 ocean-going vessels with an aggregate gross tonnage of more than 24 million tons. Cyprus Registry is also one of the only two open registries within the European Union, allowing non-Cypriot citizens to register their ships under the Cyprus flag, provided that they fulfill the specific conditions of ownership that the Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships, Sales and Mortgages) Laws of 1963, require.
In an attempt to eliminate substandard vessels that will undermine the reputation of the Cyprus flag, the island’s legal maritime framework has been updated in line with modern European standards and it nowadays secures high safety and environmental standards. Particular importance is given to the aspect of maritime security and all ships under the Cyprus flag as well as port facilities in Cyprus are duly certified as complying with the requirements of the International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) code. In the area of pollution control and prevention, Cyprus harmonised its legislation with the legislation prevailing in the EU.
Additionally, a strict registration procedure is now followed and extensive surveys of ships applying for registration under the Cyprus flag are undertaken. More independent inspections of ships are taking place at the different ports around the world, aiming to eliminate the operation of sub-standard ships through a unified system of port state control.
Cyprus is bound in bilateral agreements of cooperation in merchant shipping with more than 20 countries through which Cyprus-flagged ships receive better and favoured treatment in ports of other countries. These agreements provide specific terms of employment and resolution of labour disputes, which are beneficial to both the ship-owners and the sea-farers. Undeniably, Cyprus’ membership in all reputable international maritime and other organisations (such as the IMO (International Maritime Organisation), the ILO (International Labour Organisation) and the European Council and Commission) gives the Cyprus flag an impeccable reputation as a “flag of progress and quality” for anyone who wishes to compete in international trade. Cyprus is rapidly growing into one of the world’s major shipping centres, with an established, respectable industry on its own soil.