“We must free ourselves from the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.” – Aristotle Onassis
It is nearly a decade since the global crisis began, and despite the ongoing austerity and economic uncertainty in Greece, Greek shipping has demonstrated its ability to sail in high winds and weather the storm. With freight rates improving across the board and the new building order book becoming more balanced, along with anticipated scrapping, there is cautious optimism of a sustained recovery in the shipping sector going into 2018 and beyond.
As ever, Greeks are leading the way maintaining their pole position as the world’s leading maritime nation, controlling 20% of the world fleet and 50% of the EU fleet. Greek shipping is there on merit. If further evidence were needed of that justified prominence, beyond bare numbers, Greeks now chair four of the leading global shipping organisations. We are proud to say that this includes North’s own Members, namely Intercargo chairman John Platsidakis, and European Communities’ Shipowners’ Association president elect Panos Laskaridis. Both have long been leading promoters of Greek shipping and shipping in general. Indeed, I can recall John saying to me some years ago that with an established office in Piraeus, North was “part of the story” which I confess did get me thinking as to what role we had to play.
Supporting our Members in Good Times and Bad
First and foremost we are here to support our Greek Members through good times and bad. Fine words but from the Club perspective, what does that really mean? We see on a daily basis the hard work and commitment of our Greek Members to make their companies a success, often in challenging circumstances, and aim to do all that we can to facilitate that goal. What that means in practice is making sure that we provide expert and accurate advice and assistance as quickly and effectively as possible.
This is of course an imperative on the claims front, where commercial pressures often mean that time is of the essence, such that decisions need to be made on the best information available, albeit often with incomplete details and control. To that end we have a highly qualified and experienced team, with many years of legal and practical experience between us, including lawyers, a Master Mariner and a Naval Architect, along with experience of working inhouse for a number of prominent Greek ship owners. Together with our local presence we believe this gives us a real insight and feel for how our Greek Members work and what they expect from their Club.
Meeting the Challenges of Today and Tomorrow
Claims handling is only half the story. These days a considerable amount of our time is taken up dealing with general enquires and loss prevention issues. We are all aware that ever-increasing regulation, which shows no sign of letting up, places a growing burden on today’s shipowners. From environmental concerns due to greenhouse gas emissions and ballast water management through to sanctions, cyber risks, and a shortage of the right crew (especially if as anticipated the markets pick up) the challenges are coming thick and fast. There is no doubt that Greek shipping will respond and we are here to make sure that we contribute and play our part.
We also recognise the importance of education and training and offer in house seminars on a whole raft of subjects to our Members, along with our annual Yacht Club seminar. We continue to be involved with the Merchant Marine Academy on Hydra where this year’s annual seminar looked at some of the lessons to be learnt from the “Torrey Canyon” oil spill and the “Herald of Free Enterprise” ferry casualty, along with sponsoring an annual award for the best cadet. We have also recently become sponsors of Isalos.net, the education and training platform for young Greeks hoping to make a career within the shipping industry.
We are tremendously proud of our Greek Membership and grateful for the trust and support we are given. Greek shipping continues to lead the way and we will continue to do all that we can to play our part in that success.