Greek Business File, June-July-August 2020, No 126
History takes us back in 1983, when Professor Costas Grammenos founded The International Centre for Shipping, Trade and Finance and had the vision to introduce the three interlinked circles of Shipping, Trade and Finance, and along them a new approach to international business, the so-called global approach, and shipping fi nance as a new academic discipline
The Costas Grammenos Centre for Shipping Trade and Finance was established at London’s Cass Business School back in 1983. Almost 40 years later the Centre is regarded as the world’s foremost postgraduate and research center for marine commerce and economics. Is there a secret of success? How is the new era brought by Covid-19 going to affect your work?
I would not refer to it as a secret of success, rather as a recipe for success. What are the ingredients? First and foremost, our Professor, Professor Costas Grammenos,then the permanent academic and professional staff of the Centre, our graduates and current students; and certainly, if I may borrow the Professor’s lines, hard work, hard work, hard work.
History takes us back in 1983, when Professor Costas Grammenos founded The International Centre for Shipping, Trade and Finance and had the vision to introduce the three interlinked circles of Shipping, Trade and Finance, and along with them a new approach to international business, the so-called global approach, and shipping finance as a new academic discipline. Fast forward to the present, and the Centre has now been operating for more than 35 years, with an exceptional community, or –if I may say so– family, of over 3,700 alumni/ae from more than 150 countries pursuing careers in a wide range of industries; many of our alumni/ae are leaders in their sectors at either an international and/or national level. In 2007, to provide a lasting legacy for the lifetime achievements of its founder, the Centre was renamed to The Costas Grammenos Centre for Shipping, Trade and Finance.
Research is central to The Centre’s activities, and it focuses on areas such as shipping economics, freight rate dynamics and volatility, shipping assets valuation and trading, FFA hedging and option pricing, shipping finance, behavioral fi nance, energy and commodity pricing, volatility and risk management, among others. The outcome is a body of rigorous and informed research published in internationally recognized peer-reviewed academic journals, practitioner’s publications and books, combined with a productive and dynamic relationship with those who can utilized it in the day-to-day business. The Centre’s research is also communicated and shared with industry professionals and current students of our MSc programmes.
Building on the above, The Costas Grammenos Centre for Shipping Trade and Finance is a global hub that provides a forum for international dialogue and networking through our events, conferences, seminars and debates, where, leading international professionals and academic fi gures, policy makers, graduates, Centre staff and students contribute. The objective is to bring these clusters together, under the same roof, to discuss and debate issues of challenge, competition, innovation, and their consequences within a global context. This initiative dates back in 1983, with the introduction of the Piraeus Annual Meetings and later on with a more formal cooperation with the Piraeus Marine Club and other major meetings in various internationally important maritime cities; the establishments of the City of London Biennial Meetings at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 1999, the Athens Triennial Meetings in 2007, The Onassis Lectures and Onassis Prizes Banquet in 2009, and the Chairmen’s Forum in 2012.
Turning to the unprecedented times that we all live in due to Covid-19, I do not believe that the economy or the day-to-day life would snap back to the way it was before the pandemic. However, I do remain optimistic that something positive would come out of this. I regard this time to be diff erent in comparison to the global fi nancial crisis of 2008–2009, and I would find some similarities to the farm foreclosure confrontations of the 1890s and 1930s in the United States. We have already experienced huge monetary and fiscal stimuli around the word, but in the future, I expect serious economic problems in the Euro area and elsewhere.
Greek people are extremely ambitious
Despite the general criticism against the Greek public education system, its graduates often excel abroad. It could be Greek schools’ emphasis on mathematics (especially geometry) or the value of the Greek language (as a tool of thinking, analyzing and understanding). How do you feel about graduates of Greek schools and universities? Where do you attribute their graduates’ strengths and weaknesses? Is there a specific pattern of change through time?
Greek people are traditionally known for their ingenuity, adaptability, fighting spirit, competitiveness and persistence. Qualities that make them stand out and excel in an international setting of meritocracy and fair competition. Qualities that are a substantial part of Greek civilisation and cultivated through our families and didactic system, starting from the early stages of primary school to university level.
Greek people are also extremely ambitious and have come to terms with working hard in order to progress and succeed. This is where the Greek educational system also comes into play, which has shown steady positive signs of providing the right conditions and platforms for developing new and improving existing abilities and skills of its students. Given the close link of education and the labor market, it seems that a cooperation between universities and businesses has already begun and it must continue. This way will assist universities to raise funds from the private sector and non-profit institutions but also teaching will be based on both theory and practice that will eventually enable students to be absorbed by the labor market in a faster and more efficient way.
The disruptive effects of Brexit
Supporters of Brexit claimed that through it the UK is going to reclaim control over the economy. Shipping has been one of the key sectors of the British economy. What will be the effect of Brexit on it?
The UK maritime industry is arguably core to the country’s trade, as more than 90 percent of the goods traded pass through its ports, and as such, a valuable contributor to the UK GVA. The exit from the EU can potentially create disruption to the shipping industry. An end of the free movement of goods could lead to customs checks and duties, thereby, increasing the time spent at ports and the transportation costs. An end of free movement of people may also have an eff ect on ferry operators, as demand for travelling across the channel could fall due to increased complexities at the border. Then there is the free movement of services, such as the provision of fi nancial services within the European shipping sector, that could be potentially harmed and where frictions could emerge. These are just a few examples illustrating the disruption that could take place.
However, if we are to look at the bigger picture, the disruptive effects of Brexit can spread to all sectors of the maritime industry: the shipping sector (international and domestic transport of freight and passengers), the port sector (port activities and management to warehousing and storage), the marine sector (shipbuilding and support services to offshore oil and gas), and the maritime business services sector (such as insurance, shipbroking, maritime consultancy and education).
At the moment, the long- and shortterm effects, whether positive or negative, are only predictions of different models based on many assumptions. Taking into account that there has not been any other country exit from the European Union yet, predicting the full effects is just not possible. Until there is a clear picture about the facts supporting these assumptions, the answer will remain open for discussion and different conclusions will be drawn about the possible consequences of Brexit on the UK maritime industry.
London as the maritime capital
Can London successfully compete with major European ports and become the maritime capital of the world in the 21st century?
London can certainly be regarded as the maritime capital of the world in certain areas. London is a major maritime capital (or center) in law-related, marine insurance, and shipbroking services; and a leader –alongside Oslo I would say– in maritime technology, based on the quality of maritime research, education and innovation derived from the prestigious maritime academic institutions and for being home to the oldest classification society of Lloyd’s Register.
However, one has to consider the difference between maritime capitals as cargo ports and maritime services. For example, Rotterdam and Hamburg, which have strategic location and role in transporting cargo into the regional markets, are regarded as the leading cargo port capitals in Europe. In terms of ports and logistics, I believe that it would be hard for London to compete on a global scale with those of Singapore, Rotterdam, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Hamburg.