Five minutes with Vassilios Demetriades

What do you wish to achieve with the launch of C.O.M.E.?
The C.O.M.E platform, which stands for Cyprus Open Maritime Exchange, is one of the latest initiatives from the Deputy Ministry of Shipping to enable continuous consultation on current maritime affairs and emerging issues in line with our new strategy. The online communication platform encourages all stakeholders involved in the maritime transport supply chain, as well as civil society, to share thoughts and ideas with Cyprus. The C.O.M.E platform is an opportunity for ongoing consultation with individuals from the global shipping industry and wider supply chain, NGOs and civil society, enabling productive discussion, informed decision-making and genuine progress. In the longer term, the information collected will be regularly reviewed and incorporated into actions and policies which will mean reviewing the feedback, identifying emerging trends and challenges and proactively responding by offering solutions. We are operating in an era of significant change and I hope this platform will help us remain at the forefront of driving positive progress.

How does C.O.M.E. work?
The platform is available online and is accessible in English and Greek for all maritime stakeholders as well as broader society. The only information required is a name, e-mail address and the feedback itself. Any supporting documentation can also be submitted. We hope that its simplicity will encourage all contributions – everyone is welcome to share their ideas and views. We want to ensure that our processes, policies and approach are effective for all maritime stakeholders, from seafarers to CEOs, and deliver commercially, operationally and practically.

How will you filter and evaluate the information provided by those expressing their views on particular issues?
The new platform has five focus areas for feedback: green transformation, digitalization, safety and security, coastal navigation, and seafarer welfare, training and education. There is also an additional section, which allows contributors to explore other issues beyond these five core areas. All feedback will be regularly reviewed and the information monitored for trends. This will help us understand how to prioritize the feedback and act accordingly. The feedback itself will be processed according to the topic, to ensure it is monitored in the right way. It might include, for example, a follow-up conversation with a group of ship owners, an internal review of a current procedure, or a roundtable within the Shipping Deputy Ministry. It is about being adaptable and making considered changes to enable constant improvement.

What is your response to those who say that a platform such as C.O.M.E. is long overdue, given the importance of openness and collaboration on shipping-related issues?
Cyprus has always prided itself on being a collaborative and proactive nation. In line with our new strategy, Cyprus will continue to launch and build upon key initiatives to get even closer to the industry – fostering an environment for honest discussions and, ultimately, advancement for the entire sector. Cyprus has always been open to feedback and suggestions for progress, but we hope that, through the creation of this specific platform, we can be even more effective in tackling immediate, medium- and long-term challenges. As ambassadors for the industry, we want to listen, to understand, and then deliver for shipping.

C.O.M.E. is only part of your SEA Change 2030 strategy. What can we expect next?
The Deputy Ministry is currently working on the implementation of many new initiatives. One example is the digitalization of the Ministry, so as to maximize operational efficiency. We want to ensure that we offer an effective and flexible maritime administration, with a customer-oriented approach and personal contact with customers, attaching great importance to the quality and speed of our services, which are available on a 24/7 basis. Our aim is to make the best use of digital technologies, promoting a paperless environment for most of our services, increasing efficiency and reliability. There will be many more initiatives announced in due course, regarding the green transformation of shipping and support for seafarers. The C.O.M.E platform is just the beginning – watch this space