|Tuesday, 21 January 2020|
CyprusMail: News Articles in English, 00-01-09
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
 EU may force tightening of rules on oil tankersBy Jean Christou
THE EUROPEAN Union will publish by the middle of the year a report on potential improvements to maritime safety and force candidate countries Cyprus and Malta to cut the number of substandard ships operating under their flags.
The move comes after the Maltese-flagged tanker Erika broke in two on December 12, releasing a fuel oil slick off the coast of France.
According to reports from Brussels the incident might force regulations governing oil tankers to be tightened.
But during the Maritime Cyprus conference in Limassol last October tankers owners hit back at criticism, saying that studies show only 35 per cent of all sea pollution is caused by shipping. Seven per cent of this is attributed to tanker operations, three per cent to tanker accidents, and 15 per cent to other shipping services. Three quarters of marine oil pollution comes from industrial waste and other land-based sources, they said.
The EU Commission is currently financing a worldwide database to cover safety standards of all vessels operating around the world. Some 50 per cent of all global tonnage is registered under open registries or flags of convenience.
It has also pledged to use accession talks with Cyprus and Malta to win guarantees they would tighten standards for ships operating under their flags.
Both countries operate flags of convenience, a policy which has made Cyprus the sixth largest fleet in the world but also left the island open to heavy criticism when things go wrong.
Cyprus has around 2,700 ships on its registry. Shipping brings in some £120-140 million a year and employs 4,000 people, more than half of whom are Cypriots.
In tonnage terms, the island moved from fifth to sixth place in 1999 after a series of measures were taken to improve the flag's image. This drop is seen as a positive development in terms of a reduction in substandard vessels, but deficiencies and detentions under the Cyprus flag remain high.
"These countries have a number of substandard boats under such flags and we are looking at measures needed for Cyprus to clean up its act. It's already looked at specific measures on that. We do have a lever to try and ensure their flag is a safe flag," Georgette Lalis, the EU Commission's maritime policy official in Brussels, told Reuters news agency.
But Captain Andreas Constantinou, a senior official at the Merchant Shipping Department, brushed aside the latest criticism of the Cyprus flag yesterday, saying that when things go wrong someone has to get blamed.
"The point is not how many substandard ships we have removed but how many are left," he told The Sunday Mail. "Statistics show there has been a considerable decrease of the flag's tonnage. This is a direct result of measures taken so far."
These measures include the deletion of several substandard ships, appointing more inspectors, slapping heavy fines on the owners of deficient vessels, and the introduction -- as of January 1 -- of a reduction in the age of ships that can be registered under the Cyprus flag from 17 years to 15.
"The EU Commission is fully aware of our efforts and initiatives," Constantinou said. "They know very well what we are doing and they appreciate it very much."
 Jockeys remanded after a day of violence at the racesBy Martin Hellicar
TWO JOCKEYS were yesterday remanded in connection with a paint attack on a fellow-rider's car, one of a number of incidents at the Nicosia racetrack on Thursday.
In the most serious of these incidents, a racehorse owner demanding the cancellation of Thursday's races held a kitchen knife to the throat of track boss Panayiotis Kazamias.
The incident took place in the middle of a crowd of race track officials and spectators and was captured by television cameras. Knifeman Costas Parpas, known as Pombas, was eventually overpowered by bystanders and later arrested by police.
The other incidents being investigated by police involve the explosion of a hand grenade outside the racetrack entrance, bomb threats, damage to race starting equipment and the vandalising of a racetrack kiosk belonging to a former horse trainer.
The incidents have been linked to in-fighting between jockeys, trainers and officials at the Ayios Dhometios track. Justice Minister Nicos Koshis this week commented that criminal activities always go hand-in-hand with gambling.
In the wake of Thursday's incidents, police were out in force at the track on Friday to ensure that procedures for registering horses and riders for today's meet went smoothly.
Yesterday morning, jockeys Andreas Koutsoumbis, 26, and Haris Papacharalambous, 24, were brought before Nicosia District court in connection with the paint attack on a car belonging to fellow-jockey Yiannis Evlambiou.
Police told the court that Koutsoumbis had confessed to pouring paint on Evlambiou's car and had named Papacharalambous as the man who supplied him with the paint. Papacharalambous, the court heard, denies any involvement.
The court remanded Koutsoumbis, from Paleometocho outside Nicosia, for two days and Papacharalambous, from Nicosia, for four.
On Friday, Pombas was charged in connection with the knife attack on Kazamias.
The racehorse owner, who was released after being charged, faces up to two years in prison if convicted of carrying a knife with intent to cause harm. Pombas was also charged with making a hoax bomb threat call to the racetrack on the same day as the knife attack.
According to police, Pombas has said he threatened racetrack chief Kazamias because his horse had been "unfairly" excluded from Thursday's race.
Pombas, from Palechori in the Troodos mountains, made the news headlines in a more positive way in 1989 after he found a three-year-old boy who had been missing for four days in the mountains.
Despite Thursday's incidents, racetrack officials were yesterday confident today's meet would go ahead smoothly.
The one bright spot in the racetrack's week has been jockeys calling off their strike. The riders had been demanding, among other things, that an ambulance follow them round the course during races. A compromise was eventually struck to allow jockeys to return to work, with ambulance drivers agreeing to remain on standby at the starting line during races.
 Greens plan tall storey nuke protestLOCAL GREENS plan to stage an anti-nuclear protest with a seasonal flavour atop one of old Nicosia's tallest buildings today.
The Green party is to restate its opposition to plans to build a nuclear power plant at Akkuyu, on Turkeys southern coast, by cutting a traditional vassilopitta New Year cake.
The environmentalists will also unfurl a 60-foot long banner appealing to all people of the region to work for a safe, peaceful and nuclear-free future. The banner will carry the anti-nuclear message in Turkish as well.
The greens said the protest would be staged on top of a tall building in old Nicosia so that their banner would be plainly visible from the occupied half of the capital. They would not say which building they would use.
"The choice of the location is no coincidence. We want to have visual contact with the northern Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus and send our message to the Turkish Cypriots as well," party spokesman George Perdikis told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA).
Ankara announced last week that a decision on a tender for the Akkuyu plant -- Turkey's first nuclear power station -- would be delayed until next month.
Turkey's plans to go nuclear have been dogged by repeated delays and fraught with protests from environmentalists, local residents and some politicians.
Concern over plans for an Akkuyu plant centre on the fact that the proposed site lies within an earthquake zone.
 Iranian with false passport says hes a political refugeeAN IRANIAN allegedly caught trying to leave the island using a fake Danish passport said yesterday he was a political refugee.
Houman Samady, who was arrested at Larnaca Airport as he tried to board a flight to London at 3am, pleaded with the Larnaca District Court not to send him back to Iran.
"Don't send me back to Teheran because my life is in danger. I want you to hand me over to a UN representative for refugees or let me stay in Cyprus, where I feel safe," he told judge Nicos Yiapanas.
The 26-year-old claimed he belonged to a London-based organisation opposed to the Teheran government and faced persecution in his homeland.
Case investigator Menelaos Antoniou, of Larnaca CID, told the court that Samady was suspected of using a fake passport both when he arrived in Cyprus from Sweden on Wednesday and on trying to depart yesterday. An airport immigration officer had noticed that the Danish passport Samady presented him had different numbers on the cover and inside pages, Antoniou said.
The Iranian was arrested and later admitted to police that the passport was a fake, the court heard. Samady told police the forged passport had been given to him by his cousin in Sweden, Antoniou said. He planned to use the passport to get into Britain and claim political asylum, the officer told the court.
The court remanded Samady in police custody for six days.
 Broad welcome for Central Bank decision on investment restrictionsBy Jean Christou
SECTORS affected by Friday's Central Bank decision to lift restrictions on investment by EU residents yesterday welcomed the move, calling it a positive step towards the liberalisation of the Cyprus economy.
Andreas Pittas, chairman of the Employers and Industrialists Federation (Oev), said the decision would allow a more liberal climate in all sectors.
"We believe that it's not only a good move, but a necessary one," he told The Sunday Mail.
On Friday the Central Bank announced that EU residents investing in Cypriot companies could own up to 100 per cent, whereas in the past they could only own 49 per cent of a company in the vast majority of sectors with the Cypriot partner retaining 51 per cent.
The Central Bank has also lifted restrictions on how much an EU resident is allowed to invest in the capital of a Cypriot company listed on the Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE), also allowing for up to 100 per cent participation except in the island's banks where a 50 per cent restriction will be enforced.
CSE chairman Dinos Papadopoulos said yesterday he did not expect any major impact on the market for the moment since foreigners were already allowed to buy Cypriot shares under the 49 per cent rule. "The possibility is there now for people to acquire major holdings in Cyprus Stock Exchange companies and that is a good thing, but we don't expect any significant change," Papadopoulos said.
He added that until now most of the interest in CSE companies has come from Greece and from Cypriots living in the UK. "I don't think there will be a significant inflow from other sources," he said.
Pittas believes that once the doors are opened a lot can happen. "Generally it will allow a more liberal climate for all sectors, and its something we have been advocating," he said.
The move could help manufacturing, particularly the shoes and textiles sector which has been in a slump in recent years while tourism and the services sector has blossomed.
Pittas said it would not be fair to generalise and say the entire manufacturing sector was not doing well. "There are some good companies," he said. but admitted that benefits could be accrued if, for example, an Italian shoe company with export contacts in foreign markets decided to invest in, or take over, an ailing Cypriot firm.
He also could not exclude that foreign businesses could bring in alternative management techniques which might boost production locally -- "but not always".
The decision is also good news for EU businessmen who have been dealing with Cyprus for many years, both on an offshore and onshore basis.
One British entrepreneur told The Sunday Mail the decision means that he can now run an on-shore company his way without having to answer to a Cypriot partner who holds 51 per cent.
"It's a big milestone that we can now have a controlling interest, and this makes me far more interested in doing business here," he said.
He added that the offshore sector, which enjoys an attractive taxation package, is unlikely to see any major changes because of the Central Bank decision, but it might encourage some firms to expand some of their activities on-shore. "And this is good news," he added.
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