The Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works of Cyprus is responsible for the development of the structure and the implementation of policies that provide continuous improvements in the land, air and maritime transport, simultaneously providing development of the country’s communication sector. Marios Demetriades, Minister of Transport, Communications and Works of Cyprus, discusses the recent developments that lead the country towards becoming the Regional Transport and Communications hub.
European Times: What are the Ministry’s main goals?
Marios Demetriades: The Ministry covers a wide range of activities including the road, shipping and aviation transport, the communications sector through the Department of Electronic Communications, the postal services, space and digital strategy and the works sector which covers the execution of public works.
In this context, the Ministry aims to ensure sustainable aviation and improved air connectivity with Europe and other third countries, establish modern and safe road network, and develop Cyprus into international shipping centre. The goals also include provision of modern and high-quality services and exploitation of the wealth and resources of the country through highly-transparent procedures.
European Times: What is the international position of the Cypriot maritime transport?
Marios Demetriades: The merchant shipping and the ports are strategic sectors in Cyprus. Considering merchant shipping, Cyprus is the largest ship management centre in Europe and one of the largest in the world offering services to almost 5% of the world’s fleet. In addition, Cyprus has the eleventh largest registry in the World and the third largest in Europe.
Cyprus foresees new developments with the evolution of the hydrocarbon industry, which will attract foreign companies interested in shipping services. In addition, the Cypriot ports are supporting the activities in the Zohr and Leviathan fields situated in the region.
European Times: What is the Ministry undertaking to promote shipping sector?
Marios Demetriades: The Ministry is very active in promoting the maritime sector internationally by organizing a number of specific trips and specialized events such as the Maritime Cyprus Conference, held every two years. We have promoted new methods of attracting investments in the sector, through the employment of business development agents and improvement of the international offices. The government is establishing a deputy ministry of shipping which along with the restructuring of the Maritime Administration, is expected to significantly upgrade the country’s maritime sector. The country has also provided horizontal tax incentives for domiciled and non-domiciled individuals registered in Cyprus, something which can also assist the development of the shipping sector.
European Times: What are some of the recent developments in the maritime/ports sector?
Marios Demetriades: I am sure that you are aware about the commercialization of the Limassol Port. As from end of January 2017 the port is run by three international groups which are expected to provide employment of local personnel, bring international contacts and develop the network, ensuring increase of the port efficiency and of the country’s revenues.
The Ministry is currently working on the privatization of the Larnaca Port and Marina, a project that involves construction of infrastructure of over €200 million. This is a multipurpose project, mainly focused on the leisure industry. Considering the previous transparent and efficient privatization process, the privatization of Larnaca Port attracted three international consortiums, including the China Communications Construction, one of the largest state-owned companies in China, DP World – a company which has already invested in Cyprus and an Israeli Consortium.
European Times: Cyprus notes a significant increase in the air transport. Please elaborate on the “open-sky strategy” the Ministry has adopted recently?
Marios Demetriades: Cyprus has registered an enormous increase in the airport traffic of 40% in the last four years, due to a number of measures implemented after 2013. One of the main ones has been the successful open-sky policy which has significantly improved connectivity with many countries outside the EU.
The second one has to do with incentives provided from both the government and the Airports operator as well as the Cyprus Tourism Organization. This has also contributed to the start of operations in Cyprus from six, three licensed companies Cyprus Airways, Cobalt and Tus Airways. Additionally, three others have established a local base utilizing their EU license Ryanair, Blue Air and Aegean. In total, there are over 40 airlines companies that operate in Cyprus, which provides increase of competition, price reductions and new routes for the local and international travellers.
European Times: What are the main activities to promote the Cypriot telecommunications sector?
Marios Demetriades: Cyprus is moving towards its vision to become a regional centre for services, which requires advanced telecommunications infrastructure, state-of-the-art technologies, 4G connectivity and fibre-optics. As a Ministry we have been promoting actively the above in cooperation with the private companies operating in Cyprus. For example, we have recently provided additional spectrum to the market that will help significantly improve services.
Another area that we have been promoting actively is that of space where we signed a recent agreement with the European Space Agency joining the stage just before becoming a full member.
European Times: Why should foreign investors target Cyprus?
Marios Demetriades: Cyprus is a country with advanced infrastructure and a lot of potential due to its geographical position. Placed among three continents, the country can easily develop into a regional hub, with a potential to serve the whole area of the Eastern Mediterranean.