George Melissanidis: “Our vision and plans for Shipping”
The head of Aegean Shipping Management talks to Deal News about his investment program.
George Melisanidis ended the year in the best way for Greek shipping. Aegean Shipping Management, the company that he leads, about a week ago exercised its option for one more unit under the shipbuilding contract signed with COSCO shipyard. By exercising this option a third unit is added to the order of two Aframax tankers already placed, whereas a letter of intent for the building of a fourth unit was also signed.
Many milestones have been achieved. Twelve ships have already been ordered to Chinese shipyards in the last four years by George Melisanidis, having achieved the creation of a “Green” fleet with an average age of 2.9 years. Do his goals stop here? No, he answers to Deal News, describing his vision for Aegean Shipping and Greek shipping, but also his plans for the future.
Recently you announced the addition of four new built vessels to Aegean’s fleet, bringing the Company’s fleet up to 15 ships. What else does your investment program include?
By signing the two new building contracts, our company reaches the number of twelve new built vessels in total, in the last two years. It is worth mentioning that six of them were bulk carriers, marking our entry into the dry cargo market. Personally, I belong to these people who do not like to predict how the market can develop in the long run. If opportunities arise, we will seek to grow our fleet further.
It is important, as 100% of your fleet consists of new built vessels with the strictest standards for environmental protection: How necessary do you consider is the investment from the shipping industry in ecological technology? In the immediate future what is the trend that you see in this area?
I consider that the investment in “green” ships and ecological technology, in general, is an obligation for everybody. I believe that we are one of the pioneers in both sectors, with our shipbuilding program of Eco-type vessels and with our general philosophy on the sensitive issue of environmental protection. It is worth mentioning that several years ago we were the second Company in the world certified as paperless. We also follow all the recycling protocols throughout the whole life cycle of a vessel, from its construction to its dismantling. We follow the same protocols in our offices by recycling, using LED bolbs and not using paper as much as possible. It is worth mentioning that utilizing the means provided by technology, our office computers all together consume less power than a PC at home. Now, concerning the future and based on the goals set by the IMO, alternative energy sources should be found for ships propulsion. I personally don’t believe that the existing alternative sources are mature enough to be widely used and a more global approach to this issue is definitely needed.
How do charterers respond to the fact that the Aegean fleet is “green” and especially of young age?
Big charterers always set high standards for the transportation of their cargo. The Green Fleet of Aegean Shipping Management incorporates in its features innovation, high anti-pollution technology and reduced fuel consumption. Charterers improve their own environmental footprint, reduce their cost due to the lower consumption and certainly do not risk wasting time due potential damages that a modern vessel does not have compared to an older one.
Since the average age of the Aegean fleet will be 2.9 years, would you be open to second-hand purchases as well?
Aegean Shipping’s strategy is to order modern ships, of high standards and environmentally friendly. However, in shipping there is no black and white and if an opportunity for a quality second hand vessel arises, we are ready to consider it.
Would you see, in the future, the expansion of your shipping fleet to other markets?
The expansion of our shipping fleet in the dry cargo market has already taken place. Our company, Aegean Eco Carriers (AEC) built, took delivery and currently owns six (6) high-Tech KAMSARMAX type vessels with a carrying capacity of 82000 DWT each. The design of these vessels was made jointly by our team and the design department of COSCO. They form the K-MAX series and are all already time-chartered.
Please analyze the philosophy that governs the Company, as ship owners.
Two main features of me, as a person, and my attitude towards life is my concern about the protection of the environment and my love for technology. These two features definitely are also the backbone of my general philosophy with regard to the company.
With every opportunity, you proudly refer to the Aegean’s Shipping staff. What do you think makes your people stand out?
The reason I keep referring to these people, my people, is very simple. Without their love, support, professionalism and trust in me, none of the above would have been achieved. Most of them have been by my side since I started the Company, almost twenty (20) years ago, and my intention for the younger ones is for them to stay with the company much longer.
How do you see the future of Greek shipping?
Greek shipping serves the entire planet and is one of the main pillars of the Greek economy. At the dawn of the new decade, the primary challenge for the shipping industry is to meet the high environmental requirements set out by the international and the European political agendas. Greek shipping shows flexibility and adaptability to the changing economic conditions and trade flows. Within our national borders, the challenge, but also the vision, of the Greek shipping remains the immediate enhancement of the competitiveness of the Greek Shipping Register as well as the revival of the seamanship of our people. These are two interrelated matters that need a holistic approach and strategy and should be priorities of the national maritime policy. Greek shipping historically has grown especially during periods of recession and has all the potential to maintain intact its high performance, offering our country excellent economic, diplomatic and strategic advantages.
HIS MESSAGE TO YOUNG PEOPLE
” Seamanship is in our DNA, don’t let this change”
As a young person and a successful ship-owner, what message would you like to send to young people who want to pursue a naval career?
I understand we are approaching the end of this interview, so, to reply with a sense of humor, I must tell you that I do not like the term “ship-owner”. To those who do not know me and ask me what I do for a living, I respond “undertake removals”.
Now, to answer your question, I will tell you that Greek Shipping remains a protagonist in the liquid track competition and an important productive pillar of the National Economy. Greek seamanship enjoys worldwide recognition and trust and I consider it is our duty to pass this on unscathed to the future generations. Sea and seamanship are in the DNA of our people and that must not change. It should therefore be a priority for our State to encourage young people the selection of the maritime profession by young people.
My message to young people who want to pursue the maritime profession is that the size of the Greek shipping industry has the capacity to support thousands of jobs, increasing the employment rates and reducing the migration of scientists and professionals. The education and support of young people in their effort to study and acquire professional qualifications in the naval academies for their personal development will benefit our society.
NAVYS AND THE ESTIMATE FOR 2021
“How we responded to the pandemic”
2020 was a difficult year. How much was Aegean Shipping affected by the pandemic and how did it respond to the challenges posed by it?
Indeed, 2020 was a very difficult year for all of us due to the pandemic and, of course, also affected global shipping in its daily life. The biggest problem is with the crew changes, both for the seamen to go onboard and for them to return home. Our seamen, who are the heart of the company, are the ones who face the most serious problems. They are the ones who, due to the measures against Covid-19 imposed by so many countries, are forced to either stay on board away from their homes, or stay at home being unable to start their next employment.
We, as a company, for those who continue their service onboard offer unrestricted communication with their relatives, free of charge, means of entertainment and physical exercise during their free time, as well as moral and psychological support as much as possible. For those who remain unemployed on land being unable to travel and join our ships, we offer both material, in the form of various benefits, and moral support to them and their families. We have frequent teleconferences with all the ships of our fleet, maintaining a close contact with our seamen in these difficult times.
What is your assessment of the course of trade, but also of global shipping in 2021?
The pace of the global economic activity remained sluggish this year, with a downward trend in the industrial activity due to the growing trade and geopolitical tensions, especially between the USA and China, on one hand and due to the global Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns on the other hand.
The global recession combined with the fall in global demand in 2020, have severely affected the demand for shipping services. My personal view is that after the end of the pandemic there will be a very strong recovery in all sectors of the world economy and gradually this will return to normal levels.