|Friday, 1 March 2024
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-01-12
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
 Ship surveyors threaten action over expensesBy Jean Christou CYPRIOT ship surveyors who carry out inspections on the island's fleet abroad have threatened a work to rule in protest over alleged government stinginess on their expenses.
According to shipping newspaper Lloyds List, industrial action by surveyors is thought to be without precedent, at least in recent years.
The paper said that any walkout would hit the ability of Cyprus, the world's fifth largest ship registry, to carry out its inspection obligations.
Around 26 surveyors have told the Merchant Shipping Department (MSD) that, as of February 1, they will no longer inspect Cyprus-flagged ships abroad, though inspections at Cypriot ports will continue.
The union representing the surveyors said its members were merely complying with their employment contracts.
"The continuous policy of the government not to provide them with extra benefits for rendering services beyond their agreed scheme of service has resulted in the above decision," an announcement said.
The government is currently using the surveyors to audit and verify the quality of the work carried out on its behalf by classification societies.
The union said the government had recently tried to include these duties in contracts to be renewed, without any extra benefits for the surveyors.
The MSD said the issue would be sorted out and that the demands were being discussed. It said services would not be affected because the MSD also had non-exclusive surveyors in many ports in other countries.
Sources in the department told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that the surveyors were being unfairly and pettily treated with regard to expenses when abroad.
"The surveyors in the department are highly qualified, dedicated and discharge their responsibilities in a professional way," the source said.
"Sometimes the missions they are sent on are risky and dangerous."
The source said that in one example, a surveyor had been refused a dinner allowance because officials determined he had eaten on the plane.
"He said he didn't eat on the plane and they asked for a letter from the pilot to prove it. This is embarrassing," the source said.
"If you are sent on a job to Indonesia, where often you don't get receipts, do they really believe the surveyors stayed with friends and relatives there and not pay."
The sources said that following a few cases where hotel costs had worked out cheaper than the allowance, the accounts department had gone as far as proposing an official reduction in the allowance.
And they added that the demands made on surveyors include being sent to the site of a ship at any time -- "Christmas, midnight".
"The government is paid high rates of overtime by the ship owners. But for the surveyors its zero zero zero," the source said. "The work they are entrusted with is serious work and they are only asking for their rights and demands."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Stricken Cyprus ship stranded with 29,500 tonnes of gasoline on boardBy Jean Christou A DAMAGED Cypriot-flagged ship carrying 29,500 tonnes of unleaded gasoline is floating in the western Mediterranean, refused a port of refuge and unable to make it back to Cyprus.
The stricken Cypriot-flagged tanker Castor was refused entry to Spanish waters on Wednesday, Lloyds List reported.
The 1997-built Castor has been seeking shelter since New Year's Eve after the crew reported a deck crack. Fears are high the gasoline it is carrying might ignite.
Although a salvage company is currently finalising preparations for a gas operation to remove any risk of explosion, Spain said no refuge would be given to the ship within its waters.
"To allow the ship to come close to our coasts would put civilians at risk, " Spain's shipping authority said.
Suggestions that the ship be towed back to Cyprus were ruled out by the Merchant Shipping Department (MSD) yesterday.
"The ship can't travel that far," a spokesman told the Cyprus Mail. "It's an injured giant in the sea."
The plight of the Castor has opened a debate in shipping circles on ports of refuge. Spain said its main obligation was to save lives and prevent pollution within its waters. Bringing the ship into Spanish waters was too much to ask, it said. "If the ship has to be lost it has to be lost."
Algeria and Gibralter have also refused shelter to the ship.
Lloyds said that if no coastal state in the region allowed the ship into its territorial waters, the cargo salvage operation might have to be carried out in open seas.
Both the Castor's owners and managers are members of CYMEPA, the island's marine environmental protection association.
The MSD spokesman said Cyprus was happy with the European Commission and International Maritime Organisation's view that countries should provide a safe haven for such ships, and he slammed Spanish claims that the Castor was sub-standard. "The record of the ship is excellent and there is no need for the Spanish to target the company or the vessel," he said.
The spokesman also said that inspectors would soon be leaving the island to investigate how a fire broke out in the Cypriot-flagged Arethusa off the Danish coast on Wednesday. Seventeen crew members were evacuated but no casualties were reported. The fire appeared to have started in the engine room of the Cypriot-owned vessel before spreading to staff quarters.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Denktash resists renewed US push on talksBy a Staff Reporter TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday resisted renewed efforts by the United States to draw him back to the negotiating table.
US presidential emissary to Cyprus Alfred Moses said the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey had agreed to consider suggestions for ways to resume UN sponsored talks aimed at reuniting the island.
But Denktash stuck to his tough line by saying he would not attend talks in Geneva unless the basis of the negotiations was changed. However, the Turk Cypriot leader said he was willing to meet UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Moses was speaking at the end of a trip to Cyprus, Athens and Ankara, in an effort to restart the stalled talks process.
"I cannot tell you the Turkish side has accepted the proposals that we discussed," Moses told reporters in Ankara.
But he added: "The Turkish side have told us they will consider the points that we discussed.
"All of the leaders with whom we met were of one view that a comprehensive settlement is preferable to the continuation of the status quo -- a divided Cyprus, an unstable situation with ramifications for all countries in this region and the world beyond," Moses said after meeting Turkey's foreign minister.
A sixth round of UN-led proximity talks are due to start in Geneva later this month. But they hang in the balance since Denktash has said he would not attend.
Asked if he would go to Geneva at the end of this month when Annan is expected to visit, Denktash said: "Not for proximity talks". He said he would not go if President Glafcos Clerides was in Geneva at the same time as that would amount to proximity talks.
"But we won't decline an invitation from the (UN) Secretary General," he added.
Denktash has insisted that he will not continue the proximity talks unless he is granted equal status to the internationally recognised government of President Clerides.
"I cannot report to you now that the ideas we discussed were finally agreed on by the Turkish Cypriot side, but what I have are assurances from Mr Denktash that he will certainly consider our views," Moses said. Ankara gave similar assurances, he added.
Moses said Turkey's EU candidacy status added urgency to the need to resolve the Cyprus dispute.
"We would like to see a united Cyprus enter the EU. One of the reasons we're advocating seeking to facilitate a comprehensive settlement is to ensure that a united Cyprus enters the EU not a divided Cyprus," Moses said.
"And we hope that will be followed closely by the accession of Turkey to the European Union."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Hannay meets both sides in renewed diplomatic pushBy Jean Christou BRITAIN'S special envoy for Cyprus Sir David Hannay began his contacts on the island yesterday, meeting both President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Hannay made no statements after either meeting.
Speaking after the meeting between the President and the British envoy, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said Clerides had made it clear the Greek Cypriot side would not accept any change to the format of the UN- led peace process.
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash reiterated yesterday that he would not continue with the proximity talks due to resume in Geneva on January 26 unless his breakaway regime in the north was recognised.
Papapetrou said Hannay believed the UN process should continue as it was and that he would work in that direction.
"This was a very good and constructive meeting during which the President communicated the crystal clear message that the Greek Cypriot side will not accept any change of the UN process, nor will it accept any attempt to meet Rauf Denktash's unacceptable positions with anything in exchange," Papapetrou said.
He said Hannay had agreed the UN process should carry on as it stood and had said he would make every effort in this direction.
"We discussed his impressions from his contacts in Ankara but I cannot go further than that," Papapetrou added.
Hannay's visit follows that of US presidential emissary Alfred Moses earlier this week and precedes the arrival of the UN Secretary-General's Special Advisor for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto.
All hope in getting Denktash to changes his mind about Geneva now appears to rest with the charismatic UN envoy. Denktash said on Monday before meeting Moses that a sixth round of talks was not on the horizon, but indicated that he was awaiting De Soto's arrival.
"Mr de Soto certainly has the leading role in this process because this is a UN process, but my impression is that both the Americans and the British are playing a very substantive role in the effort to resume the talks," Papapetrou said.
He added there was no information at present to suggest a change in the schedule talks for the end of January.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Pourgourides threatens to resign over alliance with MichaelidesBy Martin Hellicar FORMER Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides has come back to haunt the man whose persistent corruption charges forced him out of office two years ago: DISY deputy Christos Pourgourides.
Much to Pourgourides' alarm, governing DISY appears to be seriously considering allying itself with Michaelides' fledgling ADIK party for the May parliamentary elections. Pourgourides, a popular Limassol deputy, yesterday threatened to resign if the proposed DISY-ADIK co-operation went ahead.
Two years ago, in his capacity as chairman of the House Watchdog Committee, Pourgourides led a months-long campaign to nail then Interior Minister Michaelides for alleged abuse of power. Michaelides, though vehemently denying the charges, was eventually forced to resign.
Pourgourides yesterday insisted his objections to a DISY-ADIK alliance had nothing to do with Michaelides and everything to do with an abhorrence of "political expediency".
"The country's political life suffers from the fact that there are frequent attempts for alliances of convenience that are not based on common political positions," the DISY deputy stated. He said ADIK and DISY did not belong to the same political stable, a fact illustrated, he said, by ADIK's consistent criticism of the government's handling of the Cyprus problem. Michaelides' party is not in parliament and has not clearly aligned itself with the government or the opposition.
Pourgourides said he would "speak out" if the DISY-ADIK alliance was forged and added that abandoning the party was one of his options if things went ahead.
Right wing DISY has had stranger political bedfellows than ADIK in the past, having allied itself with centre-right DIKO for the 1993 presidential elections and with socialist EDEK for the 1998 elections. The party was also in power when Michaelides was re-appointed Minister in 1998. But Pourgourides pointed out that he had openly opposed all these alliances too, and Michaelides' appointment in particular.
Michaelides abandoned DIKO in the run-up to the 1998 elections when it became clear DIKO would not be continuing the alliance with DISY which got Glafcos Clerides elected in 1993. His defection from DIKO paved the way for him to be re-appointed to the Interior Ministry post he held between 1993 and 1998 under the DISY-DIKO administration.
Michaelides yesterday insisted DISY and ADIK had common political common ground to spare. The ex-Minister suggested Pourgourides' objections were based purely on personal animosity.
"I do not want to comment on the position of the deputy in question, it is up to the public to judge, and I think it already has judged, whether the attacks are personal," Michaelides said.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Government refuses to back down ahead of doctors' strikeBy Melina Demetriou DOCTORS at state hospitals are due to go on strike this morning with no sign last night of the government agreeing to meet their demands for better pay and conditions.
After a meeting yesterday with the president of the Pancyprian Medical Association, Antonis Vassiliou, Health Minister Frixos Savvides insisted patients and emergency cases would be treated at private clinics.
Savvides will co-ordinate the government's emergency plan with a group of officials at the ministry, giving information and guidance to patients and their families.
"We hope to minimise the chances of something bad happening," the minister said.
Vassiliou said that if any emergency could not be treated by the private sector, then state doctors would be called back at hospitals.
Only in-patients will be treated at state hospitals, with emergency departments closed and operations cancelled.
Savvides yesterday appealed to doctors' union PASIKY to call off the action and meet for talks instead, saying he recognised that a review of salaries was overdue.
But PASIKY delivered an ultimatum to the government, saying they would only call off the strike if the ministry submitted written or oral proposals to the doctors or gave some signs of willingness to satisfy their demands.
Savvides replied negotiations would not begin until the strike had been called off.
"We have been waiting for the last one and a half years for the government to start addressing our problems. I think we have been patient enough," PASIKY's vice-president Petros Petrides said.
"If the government is afraid of losing face, they can maybe submit proposals addressing our problems to a body or person to act as a mediator between them and us. And we would agree to keep that from the media for some time while calling off action in the meantime," he suggested.
But the Health Minister said he had to respect the government's decision taken last week that no union demands were to be addressed before Parliamentary elections due in late May.
"We cannot disobey the government just because state doctors want to have it their way," Savvides stressed.
State doctors have warned that more strikes could follow.
One of the main bones of contention is over doctors' starting salaries, which are similar to those paid to teachers, despite the fact that doctors have to do a minimum of five years of extra studying before they begin at the bottom end of the scale.
Doctors demand that their starting salary should be "significantly higher" than the current £950 a month. Savvides has confirmed the government is willing to increase salaries for doctors at the lower end of the scale, and admits the current £950 is "a little on the low side."
However, he has said the government would be reluctant to raise wages for those at the top, claiming they already earn a lot of money.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Bank stocks lead upward trendBy Jean Christou BANKING STOCKS took centre stage yesterday pushing the all- share index slightly higher to 240 points, a 1.18 per cent increase.
A last-minute rush for bank shares also sent the FTSE/CySE on a 1.62 per cent upward climb to end at 1,030. Volume was still on the low side at £9 million but still the highest so far this week.
Gainers outran losers with 89 companies ending on a positive note compared to 49, which took a step backwards, and 73, which remained unchanged.
"The shares remaining unchanged have been increasing which indicates that investors are staying put, waiting for the market conditions to improve," said one Nicosia broker.
The three main banks were the most actively traded of the day taking the sub sector 2.09 per cent higher. Bank of Cyprus (BoC) added six cents to £3.27 on a volume of £1.3 million. Hellenic Bank came in second with a volume of almost one million pounds and over 600,000 shares changing hands. The share ended at £1.42 with no change while Laiki Bank jumped into third place, notching up seven cents to £3.05.
BoC stocks also benefited from reports that it would unveil new plans in expanding its operations in Greece. The bank has already announced that it had secured the necessary licence from Greece for the creation of branches promoting insurance activities,
"It was BoC and Laiki which pushed the index up after attracting investors in the last five minutes," the broker said.
"The second part of the session was quite strong, especially right before closing. There were a few investors that were determined to take positions before the end of the session. That is the only positive sign we have had during the last few sessions."
Elsewhere GlobalSoft continued its roller coaster ride jumping five cents yesterday to £4.70 pulling the technology sector up 0.14 per cent.
Reverse buyout candidate, Agros Development Company continued its bull run for the second day in a row, gaining nine cents to close at £2.26.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Early detection the key in child cancer careBy Melina Demetriou ONE in every 600 Cypriot children under the age of 17 develops cancer every year, Dr Loizos Loizou, the director of the Makarios Hospital's Oncology Centre for Children, told a news conference yesterday.
The stark figures came as Loizou announced that Cyprus would host an International Seminar on Children's Cancer and Leukaemia next week, attended by foreign doctors and academics.
Seventy per cent of child cancer cases are cured, Loizou told the Cyprus Mail, but the remaining three out of 10 children died.
The frequency of cases - about 335 a year -- has remained stable for the last decade, after increasing slightly in the 1980s.
"The numbers are a little bit high for Cyprus, but we do not know the reason why," he said.
"Early diagnosis can help to save a child's life," Loizou added, advising parents to have their children examined whenever they notice something unusual.
Most young cancer sufferers have leukaemia, (30 per cent), brain tumours (20 per cent) and lymphoma (15 per cent.)
But doctors still do not know what causes the disease in children.
"We can only pinpoint the cause of cancer in five out of 100 cases."
He said youngsters with cancer received excellent medical care, with the Makarios Oncology Centre also providing psychological support to both patients and their families.
Elpida, a centre in Nicosia for child sufferers and their families, also provides support.
Loizou said that the International Seminar taking place next week would educate Cypriot oncologists and improve the country's oncology services.
The conference will be held at the Nicosia Hilton from Monday to Friday. It is organised by the European School of Oncology and the International Company of Children's Oncology.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001
 Tsiakourmas condition worsening, says wifeBy Jean Christou A DISTRAUGHT Niki Tsiakourmas said yesterday her diabetic husband's condition had worsened and that the family feared for his health after a month in a Turkish Cypriot prison.
Returning from her visit to the north yesterday, a tearful Mrs Tsiakourmas said her 39-year-old husband Panicos, who was seized from his car inside the British bases on December 12 and is facing drugs charges, was not being cared for properly.
"He's getting worse," she said. "He asked us to take him sedatives so he could sleep. He hasn't been given any medicines since Monday."
Niki Tsiakourmas blamed the government for failing to do enough to have her husband released.
"This is an accusation against our government," she said. "Right now I'm accusing our government for not caring about my husband."
The couple's daughter Maria said her father was in "a desperate condition".
"He cries all night without sleeping," she said.
UNFICYP spokesman Charles Gaulkin told the Cyprus Mail yesterday they hoped to send a UN doctor to see Tsiakourmas in the next few days and that they were in the process of obtaining permission from the Turkish Cypriot side.
"Tsiakourmas has a severe diabetic condition and has to be closely monitored," Gaulkin said.
Earlier yesterday, friends and relatives of Tsiakourmas gathered at the Ledra Palace checkpoint and handed a letter to Britain's special Cyprus envoy Sir David Hannay, who crossed to the north for a meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
The letter set out the facts surrounding Tsiakourmas' abduction and illegal
detention, and urged Britain to take its responsibilities in securing his release.
Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday Britain did hold some responsibility in the case.
"Britain is responsible because it is a fact that in an area under their control a crime was committed, that is to say a kidnapping, and the government considers Britain and the British bases responsible until Tsiakourmas is freed," he said.
"Beyond this, the responsibility cannot only be limited to Britain. Turkey is also responsible because through its self-styled regime it essentially carried out this abduction."
He said the Cyprus government was using everything at its disposal on a political and legal basis to have Tsiakourmas freed.
Appeals have been made to the UN and the Council of Europe, and an early day motion has also been tabled in the British House of Commons.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001