From the moment you arrive, it’s obvious that Maritime Cyprus isn’t quite like all the other key maritime industry events.
And that’s not because the core ingredients aren’t similar. Heavy hitters congregating to discuss trends, regulations, and what the future holds; business meetings held in and around the conference itself; and networking long into the evening at various events, proving a test to one’s stamina. But amidst the seriousness of getting down to business, the Cyprus sun and unfailingly warm and generous nature of the Cypriot people ensures that Maritime Cyprus has its own certain something that’s difficult to pinpoint, but impossible to resist.
The Cypriot welcome pervades proceedings at all times. At the opening reception on Sunday evening, for example, representatives from the Cypriot government, the Cyprus Department for Merchant Shipping, The Cyprus Union of Shipowners and the Cyprus Shipping Chamber stood and received every single guest that attended the event with a smile and a handshake – no small feat when you consider that the attendance on Sunday evening totalled well over 1,500 people!
The reception was held in the beautiful gardens of the Amathus Beach Hotel, attended by the great and good of the local and global shipping community, as well the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, who gave the welcome address. Cyprus takes shipping very seriously, and well it might, as the maritime industry represents 7% of its GDP. The President was keen to highlight the commitment to collaboration between the public and private sector, which has always featured as an underpinning principle of the shipping industry in Cyprus, and reiterated that although as a country Cyprus may be small, its maritime sector holds a key position on the global stage.
Of the presentations and panel sessions that followed over the three-day conference, the Young Shipping Executives session “Challenging the Business Model” was a definite highlight. The audience couldn’t fail to be engaged by the energy and dynamism you’d hope to expect from young professionals, including Co-Founder & CEO, VesselBot, Constantine Komodromos and Vice President, YoungShip Cyprus, Sotiris Kambanellas. However, Tor Østervold, CEO, ECOsubsea must be given special plaudits for his talk, which included an impersonation of “a Norwegian organism going bananas” and likening a clean hull to swimming in “super white Speedos”! His delivery was perhaps more akin to a stand-up comedian than a shipping industry CEO, but with such an energetic and passionate presentation it’s hard to see how any of the attendees would have left the conference hall without remembering his story and the serious point he made about the potential to save 10% fuel and therefore 10% CO2. The session was adeptly moderated by Dyveke Meland, Member of YoungShip International & Chairman of the Board of YoungShip Bergen, who threw the discussion open to the floor quite literally by playing catch with a special cuboid microphone!
For different reasons, the “What does the future hold for shipowners?” panel was also a contributing factor to helping Maritime Cyprus stand out as a leading shipping event. It’s not every day that you’re listening to the views of three seasoned shipowners with decades of collective experience, freely sharing their views in front of approaching 900 people from across the global shipping industry. Panos Laskaridis, CEO, Lavinia Corporation / Laskaridis Shipping Co Ltd, George Procopiou, chairman, Dynacom Tankers Management Ltd, and Andreas Hadjiyiannis, founder of Cyprus Sea Lines and president, Cyprus Union of Shipowners were overall cautiously optimistic, saying that although they’re still miles away from making decent money, at least the catastrophic profit levels of last year are starting to see some improvement.
One panellist said that, as a shipowner, although he may go to bed disappointed, he always wakes up hopeful. And that, perhaps, sums it up quite nicely. The industry is facing unprecedented challenges, shipowners are struggling to survive, and this is obviously having a knock-on effect on suppliers. But the pervading sentiment, certainly of the conference but also more generally of the industry, remains firmly optimistic. And perhaps, with the warmth and openness in which they took to welcoming the global shipping industry to Cyprus, the Cypriots personify just that.