Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to address the “IMCL Forum 2007”, which is organised for the fourth time in Cyprus, following the great success of the previous Conferences. However this year’s conference is of particular importance since Inter Marine Container Lines Ltd. known as IMCL is celebrating its 10th anniversary; 10 years of stable growth and success. Over these years IMCL, as part of the Lemissoler Shipping Group, has established a solid reputation as a reliable, efficient and customer oriented company. I have no hesitation to say that companies like IMCL contribute to the development of Cyprus shipping and the enhancement of the reputation of Cyprus as one of the leading maritime centres in the world. In fact, if I may reverse this thought, IMCL is a great example of how Cyprus can be used as a base for successful international shipping activities.

It is not a coincidence that shipping is characterised as the “Life blood of the world trade”. The prosperity of millions of people – entire countries, in fact- depend on markets situated thousands of miles away, often on the other side of the world. Their ability to supply these markets depends primarily on ships and the sea. Ships provide the safest, quickest, cheapest, environmentally friendliest and most reliable way of moving bulk cargoes from continent to continent, while containerisation has given a new lease of life to the transport of general cargoes.

The Cyprus Government has adopted a line of successful measures aiming at the upgrading and the modernisation of Cypriot Shipping through a safety policy which focused on the effective control of the ships, reduction of marine casualties and the improvement of the quality of its fleet. This policy and the relevant measures proved to be successful and the exit of Cyprus from the Black List and its entry in the White List of the Paris MOU is a proof of that. This development, combined also with the entry of the Cyprus flag in the white list of the Tokyo MOU has improved even more the image of Cyprus as a serious and reliable shipping nation.

World trade has developed and thrived over the centuries as a result of the freedom of navigation. This principle prevails today and is respected by almost all countries with very few exemptions. The existing Turkish restrictive measures imposed on Cyprus shipping industry hinder free trade and violate this principle.

One of the persisting problems that the shipping industry faces today is piracy and maritime terrorism. The number of attacks is still on the high level and this causes serious concern. For the prevention of terrorist´ attacks, the shipping industry has taken a series of measures such as the Piracy Information Centre based in Kuala Lumpur which we actively support. The implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, known as ISPS Code is the international standard for establishing a system of security management to safeguard as far as possible, vessels and port facilities.

My Ministry attaches particular attention to maritime security. To that end the ISPS Code has been adopted and is effectively implemented. All ships under the Cyprus flag as well as all port facilities in Cyprus have been duly certified as complying with the requirements of this Code.

In addition Cyprus is in a process of establishing a Vessel Traffic Monitoring and Information System (VTMIS), which will have the capability to monitor, process and provide information on the maritime traffic which enters the Middle Eastern boundaries of the EU, with positive effects for the whole region. It is expected that this will lead to the reduction of accidents and of illegal immigrants´ traffic and the protection of the marine environment.

It is our firm belief that the focus on quality, the continuous improvement of the existing infrastructure together with the competitive fiscal regime and the other advantages that Cyprus offers to the shipping companies ensure the long term sustainability, development and growth of Cyprus in this important sector.

Concluding I would like to assure you that my Ministry and its Department of Merchant Shipping are exploring new incentives which aim at improving the competitiveness of the Cyprus flag and the attractiveness of Cyprus as a maritime centre.

I wish you all a very productive Conference and a pleasant stay in Cyprus.
I would also like to wish IMCL every success in its business endeavours.

[I declare the “IMCL Forum 2007” open.]