The Cyprus Maritime Cluster offers numerous competitive advantages, including:
- EU-approved ‘Open Registry’ with legally endorsed Tonnage Tax System (TTS)
- Competitive ship registration costs and fees
- No crew/officers nationality restrictions
- More than 25 Merchant Shipping Bilateral Agreements
- More than 60 Double Tax Treaties
- Full protection for financiers and mortgagees
- No estate duty on the inheritance of shares in ship owning companies
- Competitive investment funds legislation that offers alternative funding solutions
- Strong involvement in international shipping fora – International Maritime Organisation (IMO), International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the EU – on shipping and maritime affairs.
Cyprus Tonnage Tax System (TTS)
The Cyprus Tonnage Tax System (TTS), which has been approved by the European Commission as compatible with the Guidelines on State Aid to Maritime Transport, provides a stable fiscal environment for Cyprus Shipping in the long term.
The TTS applies to qualifying owners of Cyprus and foreign ships, charterers (bareboat, demise, time and voyage) and ship managers that are performing qualifying activities in relation to qualifying vessels. They are subject to an annual tonnage tax, which is calculated on the net tonnage of the qualifying ships they own, charter or manage at scaled rates.
Owners of Cyprus flag ships fall automatically under the tonnage tax regime, whereas owners of foreign flag ships, charterers and ship managers may opt to be taxed under the TTS under certain conditions. and instead imposes tonnage tax on the net tonnage of vessels
The regime provides full exemption from Cyprus corporation tax on actual profits arising out of qualifying activities, while the wages of officers and crew are also exempt from income tax. There is also no capital gains tax on the sale or transfer of a Cyprus-registered vessel or the shares of a vessel-owning company, and no stamp duty on ship mortgage deeds or other security documents.
By setting up a shipping company that is tax resident in Cyprus and having a Cyprus flag ship either owned, managed or chartered, then the whole set of shipping companies based in third countries (non-EU flag ships) can also enter the Cyprus tonnage tax regime.
The tonnage tax is payable on the registration of the ship and annually for subsequent years by 31 March of each year. The tonnage tax payable in relation to a Cyprus qualifying ship carrying out a qualifying shipping activity that is laid up or inoperative for a period of at least three consecutive months may be reduced by 75% under certain conditions.
- No tax on shipping profits made from qualifying shipping activities including profits from the sale of qualifying ships
- No tax on dividends paid out on profits made from qualifying shipping activities
- No tax on wages or benefits of seafarers on qualifying Cyprus flag ships
Cyprus Ship Registration
A ship may be registered in Cyprus if it fulfills one of the following criteria:
- More than 50% of the shares of the ship must be owned by Cypriot citizens or by citizens of Member States of the EU or of the European Economic Area (EEA). Those who are not permanent residents of Cyprus will have to appoint an authorised representative in Cyprus; or
- 100% of the shares of the ship must be owned by corporations that operate under the laws of Cyprus and have their registered office in Cyprus, or that operate under the laws of any other EU or EEA member state and have their registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the EEA or by corporations registered outside the EU or the EEA but controlled by Cypriot citizens or citizens of a member state.
In both of the latter cases, they must have either appointed an authorised representative in Cyprus or the management of the ship must be entrusted in full to a Cypriot or EU ship management company in Cyprus.
Yachts and other pleasure crafts may also be registered in Cyprus.
Merchant Shipping Agreements
Cyprus has concluded 27 Bilateral Agreements on Merchant Shipping that are designed to promote friendly relations between Cyprus and other states and through which Cyprus ships receive either national or most favoured nation treatment in the ports of other states.
These provide that the terms of employment of seafarers are those approved by the competent authorities and/or seafarers’ unions of the country of the seafarer. Any disputes regarding these are to be resolved exclusively by the competent courts or authorities of either Cyprus or of the country of the seafarer.
Some of the agreements provide that the port fees and charges that are levied on a ship of the one party calling at a port of the other party must be those levied on the ships of that party when calling at its port (national treatment).
Officers and ratings serving on board Cyprus ships are not required to hold certificates issued by the government of Cyprus provided they hold valid and recognised certificates for the post they hold on board.Applications for the Cyprus Seafarers Identification and Sea Service Record Book (SISRB) and Cyprus endorsement attesting the recognition (EAR) of non-Cyprus certificates of competency issued by recognised countries must be submitted electronically through the on-line Electronic Seafarer’s Application System (e-SAS).