Interview with The Hon. Natasa Pilides

21st century business credentials make going green the way forward.


Even the notoriously polluting maritime industry that transports 90% of cargo across the world’s seas and oceans is tackling its carbon footprint. The International Maritime Organisation’s decision to implement a 0.5% Sulphur cap on marine fuel as from 2020 marks a defining moment since it demands a shift from burning cheap but highly toxic Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) to cleaner alternatives such as liquified natural gas (LNG) and marine gas oil (MGO).  Furthermore, the EU’s vision of Zero Emissions from transport by 2050 continues to pile on the pressure on shipbuilders, shipowners and energy providers worldwide to comply.


Speaking during and after the Malta Maritime Summit 2018 held last month, Nastasa Pilides, the Cypriot Deputy Minister of Shipping since March 01, 2018 states, “The lower global sulphur limit is anticipated to have a significant beneficial impact on the environment and on human health particularly that of people living in port cities and coastal communities.”


She also refers to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships as “another ongoing issue which is being considered by IMO and is moving forward in accordance with the IMO’s initial strategy.”


IMO 2020 rules have also given the green light to the installation of scrubbers (a costly and laborious process) to enable vessels ‘clean’ HFO on board.  While this seems a good idea for vessels that cannot be easily modified to use cleaner fuel, some stakeholders argue that this measure merely shifts pollution from the air to the sea and is consequently totally counter-productive.  Quizzed about the controversy, Pilides diplomatically replies that “According to the relevant regulation of the IMO, the use of exhaust gas cleaning systems or “scrubbers” is an acceptable method allowing ships to meet the SOx emission requirements. As an administration, our role is not to question the effectiveness of the methods deemed acceptable by the IMO for the reduction of pollution. Instead, we wish to ensure that the industry is provided with an achievable roadmap including different options so that it can implement the methods that work best and meet the objectives set in a way that is feasible and sustainable.”


Achieving tangible results within set time-frames (regarded as unrealistic) challenges the multi-faceted and complex nature of the maritime industry. For this reason, Pilides states that “Cyprus has submitted a paper to the IMO with specific suggestions on the short-term measures which could be implemented on a practical level in order to start moving towards the goals set by the IMO.”


The Cypriot minister further points out how marine plastic litter urgently needs to get under the IMO’s lens. “Cyprus is very much in favour of measures currently taken in this regard and is participating in several programmes, including Erasmus programmes in collaboration with schools from various EU countries, aiming to increase awareness especially among children and to encourage our community to take action in reducing pollution.”


Does Pilides look upon 100% decarbonization in shipping as an achievable target or an impossible dream? “I hope shipping will improve its environmental position in years to come. Some very important steps have been taken in this direction which, if successful, will be followed by further and more ambitious steps. Certainly, protection of the environment is not an impossible dream but a responsibility which we must all undertake. In April 2018, IMO adopted an Initial Strategy on Reduction of GHG emissions from ships that sets a high level of ambition for the future reduction of CO2 emissions. I am convinced that this will give all stakeholders the necessary impetus to develop technological and fuel solutions which will allow the sector to decarbonize and to achieve current and future objectives.”


Indeed, Pilides asserts that “It is our duty” to keep on striving to deliver “the mass transport of goods by sea” in the “cleanest and least polluting” way.