According to a press release issued Tuesday on the part of the Union, its President George Mouskas had a working lunch with Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials Hinesh Rajani and Lydia Strachman, briefing them over the problems caused by the on-going Turkish embargo on all Cyprus flag vessels. He further handed them a letter addressed to British Foreign Secretary William Hague in which he urges him and the British government to “do what they can to help Cyprus, by using their good relations with Turkey, to try and lift this embargo, which will be beneficial not just to Cyprus and Turkey, but to the European Union as a whole”. The letter outlines the Union’s position on the embargo that it is to say that it is “very harmful to the whole economy of the EU and especially to Cyprus”. Turkey, itself, it is noted “pays a high price by maintaining the embargo on nearly 2,000 ocean going vessels flying the Cyprus Flag and obviously the cost of transportation of goods to Turkey is higher if you exclude all these vessels”.
The Union highlights the difficulty to urging European ship owners to use the Cyprus flag as opposed to a non – European flag of convenience when, as he puts it, a large trading country, such as Turkey, imposes a unilateral ban upon the third largest European Union Flag. “Both sides agreed that a meeting between the Cyprus Union of Shipowners and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should take place every six months to monitor progress on this issue”, the press release says. Turkey, whose troops occupy Cyprus’ northern areas since they invaded in 1974, does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member. In April 1987 it imposed restrictions on Cypriot flagged vessels and in May 1997 Ankara issued new orders to extend the restrictions to include ships under a foreign flag which had any relation with the Republic of Cyprus
These restrictions disrupt shipping and air traffic, in addition to causing huge financial and other problems. Annual losses for Cyprus’ economy because of the restrictions amounted to 138,5 million euro in 2008, accounting for 1,3 % of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The shipping industry records annual losses amounting to 100 m. euro. It is noted that 16% of the EU registered ships cannot dock at Turkish ports.
The Cyprus shipping register represents nearly 12% of the European registry and one quarter of the world’s ship management is represented by Cyprus. Several official EU documents outline Turkey’s legal obligation to lift its embargo on Cypriot and EU shipping but so far Ankara has refused to meet its EU commitments. The Cyprus ship registry ranks tenth among international fleets and third in the EU. Cyprus is also a major ship management centre worldwide, with approximately 60 ship management companies operating on the island.
Source: Financial Mirror