Cyprus, a Mediterranean island slightly more than half the size of Connecticut that lies only 150 miles from the coast of Lebanon, has emerged as an international shipping center with one of the largest merchant shipping fleets in the world.
More than 40 years since the government passed a slew of initiatives meant to tap into the country's key geographical position between East and West and develop its maritime industry, Cyprus now has more than 1,800 merchant ships flying under its flag and has become a leading ship management center.
The maritime sector is based in Limassol, the country's main commercial hub located along the southern coast of this nation known as the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love.
With more than 5,000 people employed in its ranks, the shipping industry is a vital part of the country's services sector and contributed 4 percent, or 572 million Cyprus pounds, to the country's gross domestic product in 2006, says Capt. Andreas A. Constantinou, a senior surveyor of Cyprus ships in the Department of Merchant Shipping, part of the Ministry of Communications and Works. That's up from 548 million Cyprus pounds in 2005 and 200 million Cyprus pounds in 2000.
A former British colony that gained its independence in 1960, Cyprus this month is celebrating its third anniversary as a member of the European Union. The Cyprus merchant fleet now makes up about 16 percent of all merchant vessels flying under EU flags.
Most countries have fleets of merchant ships, a class of seagoing vessels run by civilian companies. But it's expensive, and many fleets sail under so-called "flags of convenience," the flags of nations that have specialized in providing the necessary manpower and services at favorable rates.
One reason behind the Cypriot maritime industry's greater prosperity is its efforts to strengthen safety and administrative controls and improve the quality of ships flying under its flag, Constantinou says. So while the gross tonnage of ships flying under the Cypriot flag has declined in the past six years, the government has saved money on safety chores.
In addition to meeting international standards, the government is also intent on meeting all of the European safety standards and practices that accompany its recent entry into the EU.
May 1, 2007
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