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19-04-2024 10:12

Opening Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Shipping, Ms Marina Hadjimanolis, at the inaugural Commonwealth Ocean Ministers Meeting (COMM)

Your Excellency Commonwealth Secretary General,

Honourable Ministers and Heads of Delegations,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to express my warmest welcome and gratitude to all of you for attending this inaugural Commonwealth Ocean Ministers Meeting in Cyprus.

Cyprus expressed its willingness and readiness to organise and host a Commonwealth Ministerial Meeting for promoting a sustainable agenda for our seas and oceans, following the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that took place in Kigali, Rwanda in June 2022. The Heads of Governments recognised the need for the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean, seas and marine resources and agreed to work on a declaration consistent with SDG14 and the COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact. I would also recall that the inclusion of the specific reference in the Kigali Communique was an initiative of the Republic of Cyprus.

This is the very first Commonwealth ministerial meeting devoted to the ocean. Under the theme “Our resilient common ocean: from Cyprus to Samoa”, the COMM will establish a shared Commonwealth voice on ocean issues, through a sharing of experiences and progress to date in implementing international commitments and the Commonwealth Blue Charter. Its primary aim is to establish the principles, priorities and actions for the future Commonwealth Ocean Declaration and to agree upon a roadmap and timeframe, which will pave the way for adoption of the Declaration at Head of Governments Meeting in Samoa, in October this year.

The ocean is the home of the richest biodiversity on earth. It contributes to our food security and supports our survival and prosperity through fishing, aquaculture, transport, tourism and recreation.

Cyprus, being an island maritime state, acknowledges that our seas and ocean are valuable resources and an integral part of our economy, not to mention our identity. We firmly believe that it is of crucial importance to intensify our efforts for conserving the marine ecosystems and preserving marine life. It is time to commit and act to reverse the biodiversity loss and prevent ecosystems degradation from pollution, climate change and other human activities.

Cyprus recognises that the ocean challenges are too big and cannot be tackled alone by any single country. It was for this reason that Cyprus joined the Commonwealth Blue Charter and chose to champion the Sustainable Aquaculture Action Group.

Taking another decisive step forward, I am very excited to announce that after recent intensified efforts, we are ready to establish a Blue Charter Centre of Excellence in Cyprus. A relevant Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be signed right afterwards, between the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Shipping Deputy Ministry and the Cyprus Marine and Maritime Institute, which will host the Centre.

The aim of the Centre of Excellence is to strengthen governance for a sustainable blue economy and to support the coordination and undertaking of research that will facilitate towards a fair and sustainable approach to ocean protection and a carbon-neutral blue economy, in the framework of meeting the targets of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in relation to SDG 14 (life below water).

Allow me at this point to express my sincere gratitude to the Commonwealth Secretariat for their cooperation and invaluable assistance in achieving this milestone.

Cyprus is already implementing a national integrated Blue Growth strategy. The main objectives thereof have to do with the responsible management of our waters, as well as of the protection of the marine environment through the promotion of cross cutting tools, such as the Maritime Spatial Planning, integrated Maritime Surveillance and Knowledge of our seas. I am very glad to inform you that the first National Maritime Spatial Plan was approved by the Council of Ministers in December 2023.

The Plan supports and promotes sustainable development at sea, applying an ecosystem approach and taking into account economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects, as well as promoting the coexistence of related activities and uses.

Through the Maritime Spatial Plan, the Republic aims to contribute to the sustainable development of the Blue economy sectors, as well as the protection, preservation and improvement of the environment, including resilience to the effects of climate change.

As a leading maritime nation, Cyprus feels responsible to accelerate the transition of shipping to a low carbon and climate resilient industry.

We therefore strongly support the IMO Strategy on Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships, aiming at achieving zero emissions in shipping by or close to 2050. We are also extremely pleased that the IMO has designated the Mediterranean Sea as Sulphate Oxides Emission Control Area (SECA), as from 1st January 2025. Cyprus actively advocated in favour of this action.

Dear colleagues,

We are gathered today in the beautiful island of Cyprus to share our experiences and our progress towards national and international goals, but also to share our challenges and drawbacks.

We strongly believe that Commonwealth countries can work together to address the multiplicity of crises facing our shared ocean. We can collaborate to shape the future of ocean governance within the Commonwealth.

Seeing you all here today makes me very confident that this inaugural Commonwealth Ministerial Meeting will set the stage for an open and constructive dialogue that will pave the way for the adoption of a meaningful and ambitious Commonwealth Ocean Declaration in Samoa in October this year.

Thank you for your attention.