In this personal insight from inside a maritime cluster, city or region, Anna Vourgos, WISTA Cyprus president, offers her thoughts on what makes her home country tick.
I was asked to talk about my cluster. I say “MY” because being Cypriot the feeling of “possession” is inherent to our culture for anything that we are proud and passionate about. Cyprus is more than an island in the sun. It is the only big island in the Levant and as “overused” as this may sound we are in the crossroads of three continents and international trade. With a maritime history that goes as far back as the Bronze Age, from the Greeks, the Romans, the French, the Venetians and the British, our harbours and ports have been in use since antiquity and as islanders we have always been deeply connected with the sea.
Cyprus developing into one of the key shipping centres in the world is therefore no surprise. It was inevitable. Its well-developed shipping cluster combines a sovereign flag, with our merchant fleet ranking 11th globally and 3rd largest in the European Union, with a fully-fledged resident shipping industry. A large number of shipowning and ship-management companies (among them some of the largest shipmanagement companies in the world), conduct their international activities from Cyprus and in particular my home town Limassol, making it the largest third party ship-management centre in the EU and one of the largest globally.
All this is supported by a cluster of shipping related companies specialising in crewing, chartering, shipbroking, ship financing, marine engineering, surveying, forwarding, ship and port agency, ship chandling, marine insurance etc.
In numbers this translates to:
- more than 1000 ocean-going vessels which fly the Cyprus flag, totaling 23 million gross tons,
- more than 200 shipping and shipping related companies
- approximately 20% of the world’s fleet is managed from Cyprus,
- almost 10,000 persons are employed ashore in the various sectors
- more than 55,000 seafarers of various nationalities are employed onboard.
- 7% contribution to the economy in terms of gross domestic product (GDP)
In addition to the high quality of life, the business infrastructure, the common law jurisdiction, the transparent tax system, the high quality of supporting services, access to human talent etc, proximity and accessibility are in my view the two main characteristics that define our resident shipping industry and allow it to grow and thrive. The short distances and the concentration of the cluster in cosmopolitan Limassol, create an unavoidable proximity at all levels of daily life, business and personal, that enables business relationships and friendships to flourish into the unique blend. After all shipping is a people’s industry.
The closeness thus created encourages collective thinking and leads to joint, mostly voluntary efforts to develop and promote our industry, to share our pride of how far we have come and to pass on this pride and passion to our younger gene
rations, from junior schools to universities. There’s a uniqueness in the “voice” of the shipping industry in Cyprus when it comes together to share its passion, or volunteer its resources, financial and human for a common purpose, be it industry specific or a charitable cause.
I am proud to have been a part of this industry for almost 3 decades. And I believe I can speak for everyone who’s a member of this shipping community. Our professional life and development is entwined with the progress and development of the shipping industry. We are part of it and it is an integral part of us. We evolved because of it and it evolved because of us. That makes it extremely difficult if not impossible for us not be passionate, and to not be unashamedly biased when we talk about Cyprus and our cluster.
With the sea running in our veins and the warmth of the Mediterranean sun in our hearts, we are known for our “filoxenia” (hospitality). The word “filo-xenia” means friend (filos) to strangers/visitors (xenos). And this is what makes Cyprus a country of CHOICE. Because in in Cyprus, companies and individuals don’t just find a business friendly environment; they find a place that they can call HOME.