Protagonists of 2019

Contships is the major container feeder player in Greece and worldwide
With a young, efficient and well maintained fleet of 40 vessels and an average age of around 10 years Contships is well positioned to take advantage of the upturn in the container market.
Dr. George D. Pateras Deputy Chairman Contships Management Inc. and chairman of the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping describes the objectives and growth strategy of the company and comments on the latest shipping developments
such as upcoming environmental regulations and trade tariffs wars.
- Describe the greatest milestones of your company.
- We have had many milestones over the years as is so common in Greek shipping families. However for Contships our major milestones was our decision to becom e a major player in the “Container Feeder” sector. I believe this has been a turning point for us, from the traditional bulk carrier player with Pacific & Atlantic to switch into a niche service provider market.
- Do you expect that the market will improve after 2020? Are you well positioned to take advantage of the market potential?
- The shipping market in general is greatly influenced by trade and trade embargoes. Currently we are facing some negative external influences due to the tariff wars between China and the United States. Once an agreement has been reached the container market should improve, and yes we are well-positioned to take advantage of this upturn; with a young, efficient and well maintained fleet of 40 vessels and an average age of around 10 years which happens to be the average age of the Greek controlled fleet.
- How do you cope with the new environmental regulations of BWTC and sulphur 2020 cap?
Describe the efforts of your company to meet the increasing industry standards.
- Contships is a very proactive company and we take new environmental regulations very seriously, five of our vessels are already fitted with Water Ballast Management systems despite the fact that they are not required as yet, but we need time to learn how to cope with this regulation and the best way is to train is “hands-on”. As for the 2020 Sulfur cap, we have been very proactive, and our entire fleet is well prepared by manually cleaned storage tanks, our crews have been educated and trained to satisfy the new regulation, and we are in constant contact with our Charterers in order to ensure a smooth transition on 1 January 2020. We decided to clean our tanks to protect our engines and not use chemicals as
we feel this would be detrimental to the environment.
- Do you have access to alternative financing sources such as leasing facilities, export credits, capital market equity, PEs etc?
- We are a traditional Greek family owned shipping company, we predominantly use traditional ship finance with international shipping banks.
- Have you diversified your fleet in more than one sectors of shi pping? What is the objective of this policy?
- Contships is a Container Feeder Management company with a flee t of 40 vessels in the 1100 TEU range; this is the market in which we have become a major player. However we may diversify into
slightly larger feeder vessels to satisfy the requirements of our Charterers.
- What is the approach of your company in the recruitment and training of your crew and personnel?
- We are very selective when it comes to the people we employ as they can make or break a company. We select well trained educated crew from first class Crewing agents, we never cut costs when it comes to ship or shore personnel.
- Do you cooperate and team up with various shipping bodies (Interanko, Intercargo, Bimco etc) to promote the common interests of the shipping industry in general?
- Of course we use all the information that we can from all International Organizations such as Interanko and Bimco, ICS, IMO, UGS, etc. the usefulness of informati on is profound and we fully support them. We are very proud that Greeks are often leaders and of these International Organizations.
- Have you invested in social responsibility activities to promote the image of shipping in the public opinion?
- Our major concern is the global image of Contships as a relia ble service provider of Container Feeder ships. As chairman of HCS I take time to run both the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping and Contships fleet with the assistance of our amazing team of professionals.

Aegean Shipping Management marks its “Green Fleet” approach aiming at sustainability and excellence
Aegean Shipping Management S.A (ASM) was established in 1995. Mr. George Melissanidis took over the company in 2002. His vision for ASM is to add value to its customers, employees, stakeholders and Society as a whole, positively affecting growth, sustainability and prosperity. Mr. Melissanidis gradually proceeded, in the right timing, in the disposal of the older vessels. The fleet renewal was a necessity and at that time the “Green Fleet Approach” adopted in line with the Company’s Mission which clearly states that the Company is committed to follow responsible safety, environmental friendly practices and procedures to ensure the sustainability of its business by delivering technical & commercial solutions, safely & efficiently on time and within budget.
As the company’s CEO Mr. Nikolaos Hondos explains, the company’s  “Green Fleet Approach” is based in an integrated management system which incorporates safety, security, environmental protection, quality, health, energy and business continuity. The restructuring began back in 2012 where the management system was rebuilded and new procedures, processes and measurable performance indicators introduced. An extensive training was provided to all personnel, shipboard and shore based. Concurrently in 2012 the “Green Fleet” was introduced. The company ordered four (4) new-built eco MR tankers which were delivered in 2014 from DAESAN South Korea. Soon after two (2) Eco Aframax tankers ordered from Cosco Shipping Industry (Zoushan) China. The first vessel delivered at the end of 2018 and the second in January 2019. Now the average age of our tanker fleet is 3,4 years, one of the youngest in the tanker industry.
A scrubber retrofit on Aframax tanker M/T “Green Attitude” was carried out recently in Cosco (Zhoushan) shipyard. The scrubber unit was tested in line with KANGRIM (Maker) and Lloyds Register testing procedures.
Mr. N. Hondos marks that, based on the official test results at various system loads and exhaust gas volume, the fitted scrubber fulfills IMO regulation 14 of MARPOL Annex V for Sulphur Oxides (Sox) and Particulate Matter (PM).
The official test results were reviewed and approved by both, Lloyds Register and the vessel’s Flag Administration, Liberia. Bureau Veritas was also involved in the project providing designing and engineering services.
The next scrubber will be fitted on the 2nd Aframax tanker “Green Aura” and will be completed before the end of 2019. ASM has invested $ 2,5 million for each vessel. ASM currently employs around 250 people, out of which over 200 are seafarers, who follow an efficient crew and office personnel management and training system. Mr. N. Hondos highlights on human resources of the Company, ashore and onboard, which is considered a paramount key element for the Company’s expansion.
“Our people are highly qualified, skilled and after an extended training have gained the experience and the know-how to support our strategy and achieve our objectives to the benefit of all stakeholders”. At the same time, we are daily demonstrating our respect for the environment, by monitoring continuously our performance and by taking further measures to improve our environmental footprint. The use of KPIs is an indispensable tool in this process.
Our Ship Performance Management System has been enhanced to assist with the implementation of the CO2 data collection regulations and to strengthen reporting accuracy. ASM is certified for compliance with the following standards: ISO 9001 & 14001 (Quality & Environment), ISO 50001 (Energy Efficiency) & OHSAS 18001 (Occupational Health & Safety). ASM was the first maritime company in Greece being certified against ISO 22301 (Business Continuity).
ASM participates in the voluntary program “Maritime Partners in Safety” which has been initiated by Shell, one of the oil majors in shipping,. The program aims to zero incidents in the tanker industry. In 2017 Mr. George Melissanidis diversified his shipping activities by entering in the dry cargo sector with an order of six (6) new 81.600dwt Kamsarmax vessels. A new company, the “Aegean Eco Carriers” (AEC), was established for the management of the bulk carriers which will operate under the “Green Fleet” principals. The first vessel delivered at the end of August 2019, the following two will be delivered within January 2020 and the remaining three before June 2020. Mr. N. Hondos outlines that with this expansion we are diversifying our strategy and setting a firm foot in the dry bulk sector which seems to offer some potential opportunities. All vessels, either tankers or dry cargo, fly the same “Green Fleet” banner which reflects both companies, “ASM & AEC”, significant effort and investment to comply with the common vision and mission for sustainable growth with respect to the environment. In this context all vessels have Class ECO notation from Lloyds Register
and Bureau Veritas. The Eco footprint of “ASM & AEC” includes between others the following:  Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM), All vessels are provided with IHM Class. This ensures that at the time of decommissioning the vessels will be recycled in the most effective way in certified recycling facilities. SEEMP, The company has developed a Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan which includes detailed procedures to ensure that vessels are operated efficient with the minimum environmental footprint. EEOI, The Energy Efficiency Operational Indicator (EEOI) is a monitoring tool for managing ship and fleet efficiency performance over time. The EEOI enables the Company to measure the transport efficiency of a ship in operation and to gauge the effect of any changes in operation, e.g. improved voyage planning and more frequent propeller cleaning etc. AER Average Efficiency Ratio is a carbon intensity metric using the parameters of fuel consumption, distance travelled, and design deadweight tonnage (“DWT”). Through the AER, the Company measures grams of CO2 per tonnemile (gCO2 /dwt-nm). Lighting, Vessels are equipped with new technology lighting systems.
Saver Fins: The Green Fleet incorporates the innovative Samsung  Vibration and Energy Reduction F in (SAVER) for increased efficiency. The SAVER Fin also increases speed and power performance by up to 5%.
Samsung Asymmetric Rudder Bulb SARB The MRs are equipped with SARB rudder design which increases propeller efficiency and reduces kinetic energy loss. This is estimated to 1,5-2% power savings. This is translated to a reduction in fuel consumption of 392 – 522 Kg per day or 1220 to 1625 kg of CO2 per day. Paperless Office, six years ASM decided to go paperless and become the first paperless shipping company in Piraeus.

Samos Steamship expands its tanker orderbook in Japan
Demonstrating its firm commitment on vessels built by Japanese  yards, Samos Steamship has expanded its orderbook in the tanker sector during 2019. In May Samos commissioned JMU, one of the top Japanese shipyards, to build two 159.000dwt crude carriers for delivery in 2021.  According to shipbuilding sources the cost of the order was about $63m for each Suezmax tanker. The tankers will be scrubber ready but not fitted with scrubbers.
More recently, Samos Steamship placed an order for a  112.000dwt Aframax/LR-II tanker at Sumitomo Heavy Industries, which is to be completed in the second quarter of 2021. Samos is very sensitive with the environmental protection and especially regarding the marine environment. To that effect, Samos newbuildings are not equipped with scrubbers. The  management decided to opt for the use of compliant fuel instead believing that currently this is a better solution for the protection of the environment than the solution offered by the use of scrubbers. On the dry segment, Samos purchased a JMU built 182,205dwt Capesize of 2011 fitted with BWTS. Samos has also proceeded to the renewal of its fleet by selling one older MR tanker and one Aframax tanker. The MR vessel is the Onomichi built 50.100dwt «Mariposa» (2010) and the Aframax is the Sumitomo built 105.300dwt «Nectar» (2005) both sold during summer 2019. Samos currently operates a fleet of 22 vessels equally separated to tankers and bulkers plus the three newbuilding tankers. The tanker fleet consists of 1 VLCC, 1 Suezmax, 5 Aframaxes (including 2 LR2s), 2 LR1s, 2 MRs with an average age of 7 years.
The bulk carriers fleet consists of 1 VLOC, 2 Capesize/Newcastlemax, 1 Capesize, 4 Kamsarmaxes, 2 Supramaxes, 1 Supramax/boxhold with an average age of 7.5 years. Samos Steamship is led by Antonis and Yiannis Inglessis. The Inglessis family holds its origins from the Aegean island of Samos. Its involvement with shipping goes back nearly 150  years.

Central Shipping strives for excellence in all spectrum of its operations
Operating a fleet with an average age of 2.7 years and following the highest standards and requirements of quality and safety, Central Shipping has managed to build one of the youngest and highest specification fleets of tankers in the world.
The company’s outstanding course in shipping from the first successful Shipping IPO in 2004, the disposal of the 70% of the company’s fleet of double hull Tankers at very high prices in the end of 2007 before the Lehmann Brothers collapse and the ordering a very high specification new builds, ECO, Product Chemical and Suezmax reflects its dedication to innovative projects and quality services. In a recent interview at ELNA VI the founder & director of Centr al Shipping
Group Mr. Evangelos Pistiolis described the greatest milestones of your company. 1st Major Milestone of our company was on 23rd of July 2004, when I took the company public in the US, NASDAQ Stock Exchange. It was
the first successful Shipping IPO at the time. This move gave to our company access to the capital markets and the capacity to grow faster. 2nd Major Milestone was at the end of 2007 early 2008, well before the world Economic Crisis and the collapse of ships’ values, when I decided to proceed with the disposal of the 70% of the company’s fleet of double hull Tankers, at very high prices that prevailed until July 2008, some weeks before Leeman Brothers collapse and of the world economy. 3rd Major Milestone was from 2012 onwards, when started ordering  our existing very high specification new builds, ECO, Product Chemical and Suezmax Tankers at Hyundai, South Korea. At the same time we proceeded with a long term employment strategy for these vessels  with Major Oil Companies and Major Oil Traders. He also referred to the age profile, trading capabilities, chartering policy pf the company’s fleet. We have one of the youngest and highest specification fleets of tankers  in the world. On delivery of our last new building in Q1 2021, the average age of our fleet will be 2.7 years. We have implemented a chartering policy, working with all the Oil Majors and largest Oil Traders under long term contracts. All our vessels are Time Chartered 3 to 5 years with Stena Bulk, BP Shipping, SHELL,  Clearlake, Norden, Cargill and Trafigura. The trading capabilities of our tankers are unlimited, as they serve all
major players in the tanker industry and their demanding terminals. Our performance is continuously monitored by the oil majors while carrying their Oil products, Chemicals, or Crude Oil and we constantly meet the highest standards and requirements in performance and safety of operations. Regarding the new regulatory developments of BWTC and sulphur 2020 cap Mr. Pistiolis remarked that “We are fully compliant with the BWTC with our entire fleet, as even our oldest vessel delivered May 2014 had such systems installed on delivery from the shipyard. For the Sulphur 2020 cap, on completion of our present new building program, our fleet will be 52% Scrubber fitted from the shipbuilding yard. For the rest of our fleet, we are closely working with our charterers, providing our vessels already with compliant fuel, in order to ensure that all our vessels will meet this obligations well before the 1st January 2020 deadline date.
Finally Mr. Pistiolis explained the approach of Central regarding the training and welfare of your crew and personnel. – Our personnel is our top priority, both onboard and ashore. We consider that the human element is the most important factor towards safe operations onboard our vessels. We constantly strive for the enhancement of health and the well-being of our personnel. We are fully committed to the concept of “continuous improvement” as we serve the most demanding niche of the tanker industry, which is very demanding industry anyway. Continuous training of all our personnel onboard and ashore, is the only way forward for our company. To this effect we have in place long term training contracts with major Classification Societies like GNV-GL, ABS, as well as major training organizations like Seagull, in order to ensure that all our people are fully aware of, not only the industry requirements, but also the latest industry “Risk Management” and “Stress Management” tools, as well as “Soft Skills” enhancement methods.
Alberta Shipmanagement enters the shipping market targeting at quality ships acquisitions
Focusing on the operation of modern and efficient vessels as well as on quality and safe management practices, Alberta Shipmanagement was set up in 2019 by Nicholas Inglessis after the split of his interests from the traditional family
company Samos Steamship. Nicholas Inglessis is also assisted in this new venture by his daughters Alexia and Ismini, who are very active and committed in the shipping market. Alberta Shipmanagement currently manages a mixed fleet of four tankers and three bulkers. More particularly the fleet consists of the 114.700dwt “Ambelos” (built 2017), the 105.400dwt “Ambrosia” (built 2006), the 47.300dwt “Papillon” (built 2007) and the 47.300dwt “Petalouda” (built 2008), the
37.300dwt handysize sisterships “Sunrise”, “Sunset” and “Sunshine”, all built in 2009. Alberta Shipmanagement maintains a preference for tonnage built in Japan. Following this policy the company recently acquired the 33.600dwt tanker
“Argent Cosmos” built in 2009 under its new name “Liberty” built at the Kitanihon Shipbuilding. It must be also noted that Nicholas Inglessis is chairman of the UK P&I Club. The Inglessis family holds its origins from the Aegean island of Samos. Its involvement with shipping goes back nearly 150 years.
Ionic achieves economies of scale by diversifying its fleet and operating quality tonnage
Operating a modern diversified fleet with an average age of under 6 years Ionic has been an industry leader in a very short time since the company’s establishment in 2013. Spyros Vlassopoulos, Managing Director, Ionic Shipping (Mgt) Inc., explains the vision of the company which is to be best-in-class and a recognized industry leader and describes the strategy of the company in complying with the environmental regulations and market challenges.

- Describe the greatest milestones of your company.
-Ionic Shipping (Mgt) Inc. has always been committed to service excellence with tanker-management standards applied to the management of both the “wet” and “dry” fleets throughout the organization. When the fleet’s first crude tanker
was delivered back in June 2016, the company grabbed the bull by the horns and undertook full technical management of the tanker ex-yard in Japan rather than outsource same. Definitely, a big challenge at the beginning! However, it was
thankfully managed successfully and the fleet’s vessels are now concluding time charters regularly with top tier oil majors, who display a strong willingness to renew the employment of Ionic’s vessels, undoubtedly due at least in part to the
high operational value Ionic Shipping (Mgt) Inc. provides.
- Do you expect that the market will improve after 2020? Are you well positioned to take advantage of the market potential?
-The price differential between HFO and ULSFO and other compliant fuels may generate savings for owners with scrubber-fitted vessels operating in the spot market, so long as the spread remains wide for a large part of 2020. This
factor in conjunction with logistical disruptions in the supply of HFO or ULSFO depending on region and/or bunker supplier seems likely also to contribute to reduced tonnage availability and will introduce new profit-making inefficiencies
into the market. Moreover, a likely increase in tonne miles both on Dry and Wet in certain trades will also contribute to reducing tonnage availability. As such, we hope for better rates in 2020. However, we must set all this against the expected global economic recession that will affect the flow of cargo and commodity demand. Fortunately, the average age of Ionic’s fleet is under 6 years old and as such, the company is well positioned to be prepared for all the new regulations that have and will come in force.
- Can you refer to the trading capabilities and chartering policy of your fleet?
- We are firm believers of the Greek saying “show me your friends so I can tell you who you are”. Our vessels trade worldwide, with head charterers that we are proud to say are our partners. As our motto states, “our vision is to be best-in-class and be a recognized industry leader by our customers”. We visit all four corners of the globe, always respectful of regional risks and restrictions, and engage in safety first in all trades we are involved with. Our chartering policy is and has always been that we only charter our vessels to reputable and high class charterers who value long and continuous relationships.
- How do you cope with the new environmental regulations of BWTC and sulphur 2020 cap? Describe the efforts of your company to meet the increasing industry standards.
- We have in place a strict plan for the bunker changeover on all our vessels for all bunker tanks to be free of HFO by mid December 2 019. Additionally, we have also been treating the bunker tanks with additives for years, and on some vessels since their delivery ex yard (also keeping mind the aforementioned youth of the fleet). Our experience here may well be highly relevant given the rumor of sludge issues with LSFO. Moreover, continued close collaboration with our head-charterers remains essential to ensure a smooth and timely transition to full compliance on January 1, 2020.
- Do you have access to alternative financing sources such as leasing facilities, export credits, capital market equity, PEs etc?
- Our policy as a company is that Ionic has a conservative approach to financing. This financial prudence and our “by the book” corporate structure and accounting and reporting practices and high quality tonnage means that we maintain an excellent dialogue with the shipping finance community, and our partners here continue to support us as much as we need.
- Have you diversified your fleet in more than one sectors of shipping? What is the objective of this policy?
-“Diversification is the art of thinking independently together”! By diversifying the fleet, we seek to capture value in different trades, softly correlated to each other, while simultaneously having a noticeable presence and consistent quality in each segment we occupy. The idea is to also capture beneficial economies of scale that generate further value.
- What is the approach of your company in the recruitment and training of your crew and personnel?
-One of our biggest commitments and focus from day one has been in building Ionic’s own pool of seafarers, to have committed loyalty and expertise throughout the ranks. Ionic recently commenced hiring Greek senior officers on the fleet to underline our Group’s presence within this challenging but important country we live in. Moreover, a scholarship and cadet program was initiated in the Philippines for our fleets back in 2016, underlining our belief that this business is a marathon, not a sprint. Relocating our Greek Crew Manager with his family to Manila underlines the importance of our manning office in the Philippines. These have both been worthwhile milestones for our organization, whilst our Quarterly publication ‘IONIC HELM” aims to inspire and is written with the crew in mind as an important readership, sharing their narrative with our clients and cultivating the Ionic ethos in all our crews.
- Do you cooperate and team up with various shipping bodies (Interanko, Intercargo, Bimco etc) to promote the common interests of the shipping industry in general?
- Ionic is proud to participate in many shipping organizations such as UGS, Intertanko, Intercargo and the Marshall Islands Quality Council, where we consistently attend their respective gatherings. We aim to cultivate a healthy exchange of ideas with our peers b ased on our own experience of the challenges that our industry is an d will be facing.
- Have you invested in social responsibility activities to promote the image of shipping in the public opinion?
- Ionic’s vessels are of the highest quality, with fuel efficiency and compliance and adherence to new regulations coming into force being always a paramount goal. We also engage with our banking partners which are now focusing on
shipping’s environmental footprint, so we are “best in class” according also to their criteria. Additionally we are engaged in active research into the next generation of environmentally friendly engines and designs. Our aforementioned
publications also aim to capture our social conscience and sense of responsibility and how these are received by a wider audience beyond shipping.
W Marine Inc. has built up a homogeneous modern fleet optimizing the vessel’s commercial deployment
Operating a homogeneous fleet with dedicated charterers W Marine has achieved to offer efficient service and maintain high operational and safety standards. In the interview that follows, Nikolas Triantafyllakis, Managing Director of W MARINE INC since the company’s inception in 2004, describes the advantage of operating a homogeneous fleet and comments the latest developments of the shipping market such as IMO Sulphur Cap 2020 and alternative financing sources.
- Mr. Triantafyllakis describes his company’s greatest milestones.
- W MARINE enjoys a relatively short lifespan, having been founded by Yiannis Sarantitis in 2003. During this period, the Company has managed to become a fully integrated ship management entity, managing dry bulk carrier vessels trading world wide. Today it operates a homogeneous fleet of 12 dry bulk carrier vessels, ranging in size between Panamax to Post Panamax with a total dwt of 1,038,225 mt and an average age of 7,5 years. Ever since the delivery of its first N/B in January 2011, a total of over 300 voyages have been completed, and more than 23 million tonnes of cargo have been safely delivered.
The Company has been assigned the supervision and eventual commercial and technical management of two 81K Kamsarmax vessels, set for delivery in Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 respectively. The addition of these units will increase the managed fleet to 14 vessels, with a total capacity of 1,200,625 dwt and allow the Company to offer a more comprehensive service to its customers. From the very beginning, the Company’s policy has been to offer to its clients a safe, reliable, and cost efficient service and the trading records, as well as the high operational and safety standards attained so far are a testimony of what has been achieved.
- Do you expect that the market will improve after 2020? Are you well positioned to take advantage of the market potential?
- Market fundamentals are positive, when examined under a macro perspective; the world population is growing, demand for raw materials is expand ing, new trading routes are opening up and there is still appetite to trade.
Trouble is that we are facing a number of disruptions, whether in the form of trade wars, sanctions, climatic changes, and / or geopolitical events, that tend to put trade on hold, increase uncertainty and affect trading routes. On
top of these we are called to adopt and implement new rules and regulations that bear a high degree of cost and uncertainty; many of them questionable, not only as to their usefulness, but, in certain cases, as to their ‘raison d’etre’.
The current dry bulk orderbook is at low levels and a number of older vessels are expected to retire from active service (as a result of the new rules coming into force), thus having a positive effect on supply; given the expected ascending trend of demand, the future is promising. Operating a homogeneous fleet with dedicated clients and a proven record of adaptability, gives us comfort that we will be able to take advantage of commercial opportunities, as and when these arise.
- Can you refer to the trading capabilities and chartering policy of your fleet?
- Vessels under management are primarily trading coal, iron ore, grains and, to a lesser extent, bauxite and fertilizers. Limited restrictions on cargoes, or trading routes are in place, as our task is to assist our clients in their trades; however, we abide by all international rules and decrees, whether these are implemented in the form of sanctions and/or geographical restrictions and we avoid trading in areas of high risk, as we do not wish to put the lives of our seafarers at risk.
Commercial employment is effected either through voyage trades, or, more common, through short to medium term T/Cs, in an effort to spread the commercial risk and have the opportunity to capitalise an ascending freight market.
Operational philosophy is to execute each voyage in an efficient, safe manner, delivering cargo promptly with the minimum disruption. – How do you cope with the new environmental regulations of BWTC and sulphur 2020 cap? Describe the efforts of your company to meet the increasing industry standards.
- As operators of vessels trading world wide, we take due care to adapt to all applicable rules and regulations, whether in force at a national level (ie at the ports of call), or internationally.
In so far as the BWT system is concerned, we examined the operational capabilities and user friendliness of the various makers, in combination with the technical characteristics and the operational constraints of the vessels under management, in order to choose an appropriate system. After a lot of research and consultation, we decided to install a system developed by ERMA FIRST, a manufacturer renown for its ingenuity and for the credibilty of its systems.
The introduction of the new IMO 2020 fuels is a more complex issue, as we are entering into unknown territory with the compatibility of the various blends being a major headache. Preparation for the introduction of the new fuels is a relatively straightforward exercise, but the unknown side effects of the various blends is a cause of major concern. It is unfair that the Owners are called upon to burn untested fuels in their vessels, without any support from the engine makers, nor from the Regulatory Authorities. One wonders why the LSMGO was not adopted as a solution; it is a readily available, tested fuel, with far less concentration in sulphur than the adopted blends….
- Do you have access to alternative financing sources such as leasing facilities, export credits, capital market equity, PEs etc?
- It is true that the traditional bank debt lending is slowly fading away, as a large number of financing Banks are either leaving the sector completely, or they are reducing their exposure drastically. Those that choose to remain are forced to put up a number of barriers and constraints, in order to satisfy their credit committees, that, on many occasions, end up as a disincentive to the borrower. Leasing schemes, especially from Asian financial institutions have grown in importance over the last few years and we are currently exploring such a scheme, for the financing of the two N/Bs that are on order. Furthermore, a decision was taken in 2018 to open up the equity base and introduce co-investors in various projects, in an effort to allow us to grow at a more comfortable pace. We teamed up with Naess, Risan & Partners in Norway, who introduced us to a number of experienced and well qualified investors. Having successfuly concluded three projects together and on the way to completing a fourth one, we can safely claim that we have benefited from this relationship, not only in allowing us to enlarge the fleet but, more importantly, in making us accountable and increasing our level of responsibility.
- Have you diversified your fleet in more than one sectors of shipping? What is the objective of this policy?
- Diversification to other vessel classes does indeed offer an opportunity to spread the risk, although, in essence, one is acquiring the same type of risk, but at a different phase of the shipping cycle. In our case, our intention from the very beginning was to build up a homogeneous fleet that we believe has many advantages, not only in serving our clients more efficiently, but also in opening up various opportunities in optimizing the vessels’ commercial deployment.
Should we reach a target of vessels that we will feel comfortable with, diversification is indeed an option to explore. However, we are ready to discuss entry into other sectors, as and when opportunities arise.
- What is the approach of your company in the recruitment and training of your crew and personnel?
- Seafarers are the cornerstone of our operations; they have contributed enormously towards the success of this Company and we are grateful to them. From the very beginning we opted to endorse seamanship values and to abide by them, as we believe that the human element is probably the most critical link in our operations. We have managed over the years to build up a wide network of seafarers, many of whom (more than 70%) are repeaters; this has contributed to the attainment of high safety standards and assisted to build up credibility with our clients. It is true that technology is changing very fast on board the vessels and that the Maritime Academies are having difficulty to cope with the new requirements; this is partly covered through enhanced training on board and continuous support from shore staff. Apart from Philippino nationals, who form the vast majority of our seafarers, we opted, a few years ago, to introduce Engineers and Electricians from Ethiopia; they have proven their capabilities – they enjoy a high academic standard (being graduates of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Universities) able to cope with new technology.
On the shore staff, we have opted to recruit a number of young graduates that we strive to integrate in our Company; it has proven to be a successful formula and we compliment their knowledge through physical attendances on board the vessels, through the participation in specialized courses and through the subsidy of further academic education. We believe in our people and in their capabilities.
- Have you invested in social responsibility activities to promote the image of shipping in the public opinion?
- We believe that we have to be responsible towards society, as we derive our livelihood from trading around the globe. One of our key policies is to ensure a safe working environment for all our employees and for our seafarers, as well as to protect and respect the sea; this is achieved through the adoption and implementation of strict policies and procedures. On a wider note, we undertake a number of philanthropic activities in the field of culture and education, either directly, or through the Union of Greek Shipowners (Synenossis), which has shown great sensitivity and responsibility towards society. We were among the first Shipping Companies to sign up and endorse the voluntary contribution payments towards the Hellenic state, in our effort to assist the country at times of severe economic harshness. In athletics, we decided to sponsor two young and promising Greek athletes, Voula Papachristou (triple jump) and Andreas Vazaios (swimmer), as they are preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Teamwork and corporate structure are the key elements of Pioneer’s growth strategy
Taking advantage of the company’s highly skilled personnel and the innovative corporate structure, Pioneer Marine has managed to build up a modern homogenous fleet of 25 vessels within a very short period of time and establish close relationships with reputable 3rd parties and bankers. The Chief Operating Officer of the partly Oslo listed company Mr . Dimitris Papoulis explains exclusively in ELNAVI the commercial and management objectives and describes Pioneer’s approach in the new environmental regulations and future challenges of shipping.
- Describe the greatest milestones of your company.
- Good afternoon, I would like to briefly introduce our company. Pioneer Marine was incorporated in 2013 and in 2014 it was listed in the Norwegian OTC. The majority of Pioneer Marine shareholders are US based. Currently, we own a fleet of 18 drybulk geared vessels which is consisted of 17 handies and 1 supramax. We also provide commercial management services to 3rd party companies for another 7 handies, therefore we manage a total fleet of 25 vessels. I have been with the Company since its inception back in 2013 and have been leading the chartering department ever since. Pioneer Marine is a relatively young company but during its lifetime has experienced various challenges and changes. The Company was initially based in Singapore supported by a small team based in Athens. Our first challenge as a Company was to build a structure to support the operation of a fleet consisting of 14 vessels within a very short period, less than six months. This is was a time-consuming process,  however we managed to deliver the required results with dedication and personal effort from each and every one included in the Pioneer team.
Following the first couple of years, it became necessary for our Owners to consolidate the operations of Pioneer within one office. The Greek office was ideal to lead the Company into the next phase. Therefore in 2017 I was appointed SVP General Manager and with close cooperation with the new management team we concentrated on how to enhance and further evolve Pioneer by focusing on the Greek office, promoting Greek professionals with deep knowledge of the shipping industry and establishing relationships with reputable professional third parties and bankers based in Europe.
We managed to refinance all our maturing loans with far more lucrative terms and increased our fleet with additional modern tonnage. The above actions combined with the recovering markets proved to be the required recipe and the fourth quarter of 2017 became our first profitable year since inception. Since then the Company has been doing better every passing quarter with profitable results and well noted achievements. One of our biggest successes was the
installation of the BWTS en-route, attributable to the innovative and well-structured in-house technical department of Pioneer.
- Do you expect that the market will improve after 2020? Are you well positioned to take advantage of the market potential?
- We except a slow start of the year. On the other hand, we also see real worries from the charterers side about ships compliance with new bunker regulations as well as the expected increased cost that will make the more efficient ships more competitive, so we believe there will be opportunities to secure good employment.
- Can you refer to the trading capabilities and chartering policy of your fleet?
- Our ships and our people meet all criteria and are able to trade the fleet to its optimum. Our strategy is trading mainly in the Atlantic basin with a balanced ratio of period cover and spot trading, as market conditions prevail.
- How do you cope with the new environmental regulations of BWTC and sulphur 2020 cap? Describe the efforts of your company to meet the increasing industry standards.
• Regarding BWTS:  i) We are currently in progress of this project and have successfully completed the installation on board our first lady MV Emerald Bay. ( en – route with no off hire cost). This was the result of extensive planning, including 3D scanning of engine room, preparation well before the project commencement and our technical department day to day involvement on board the vessel throughout the project.
ii) We have already agreed to purchase the system from a reputable Greek supplier and our intention is to supply the same system throughout the fleet so as to utilize on board experience for our crew and enjoy economies of scale as far as the contracted price is concerned. Regarding Sulphur cap: i) Our strategy is to supply compliant fuel and not install scrubbers on board. ii) We believe that the price differential will eventually minimize between the High Sulphur Fuel and the Compliant Fuel. iii) We are well ahead in the completion of this project since all our vessel are ready with clean tanks to receive the new fuel and almost half of our fleet have already been supplied with fuel meeting the 2020
regulation.
-Do you have access to alternative financing sources such as leasing facilities, export credits, capital market equity, PEs etc? Have you diversified your fleet in more than one sectors of shipping?
- Our major shareholder is US based, thus since our inception we had good access to both traditional and alternative sources despite being a startup. However, we must note that after being established in the market for the last 6 years we are now in the position to pick and choose our financing strategy. We focus on the geared sector and more specifically in the Handy size vessels. We have specialized in this trade and have built strong relationships with the major grain houses worldwide. Good results combined with transparency attract attention of third-party owners. Having said that, Pioneer apart from its own fleet currently has seven vessels under commercial management. Third party owners have trusted us since we are committed to adhere  to the highest standards of ethical, moral and legal business conduct and we have developed and adopted an ethics framework (Standards of Business Conduct & Ethics) that cultivates an ethical working environment and demonstrates our commitment to good corporate governance.
- Have you invested in social responsibility activities to promote the image of shipping in the public opinion?
- Our Company annually actively participates in various fund-raising activities, either through supporting local organizations or worldwide movements.
-Explain the company’s policy to promote gender quality in the  employment of office’s personnel?
-50% of our employees are female. 15 colleagues make up half of Pioneer Marine’s total staff in Greece. Female employment is spreading in the maritime world. However, Pioneer Marine is at the for front of that trend. It employs women in all parts of the business, such as legal, operations, and marine accounting .

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