The history of shipping in Cyprus traces back hundreds of years. Its geographical position at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa as well as its proximity to the Suez canal has historically favoured merchant shipping as an important industry for this European island state. As of 2005 Cyprus holds the 9th largest (by DWT) merchant navy in the world and the 3rd largest in the European Union.
Merchant shipping has long been of great importance to the island, with its roots stretching well back into antiquity. Examples of shipwrecks discovered off the island’s coast (e.g. the Kyrenia ship) plus evidence of ancient ports (e.g. Amathus) give proof to the fact that Cyprus was a major seafaring player in antiquity and located along important trade routes.
Merchant shipping has been actively developed by successive governments since the independence of Cyprus from British rule in 1960 and has since experienced sustained growth. The first shipping hub was created in the port of Famagusta, but since the Turkish invasion of 1974 the port has been occupied and is currently declared illegal. Most business are now transferred to Limassol Port and to a lesser extent Larnaca Port. Cyprus has traditionally been a popular shipping centre and home to some of the leading names of the global shipping industry. Among the ship management companies established and operating, 87% are controlled by EU interests. These companies employ almost 40.000 seafarers out of whom 5.000 are EU nationals. According to the latest governmental estimates, the total fleet managed from Cyprus represents 20% of the world third–party ship management market (out of 10.000 ships in the world shipmanagement market under a wide approach).