Can the strategies developed in the field of merchant shipping, be defined, taught and transmitted to a wider audience – especially within the framework of a university approach? George Tsavliris, of the Tsavliris Salvage Group, and Pavlos Emmanouilidis, who teaches Strategic Management and Maritime Strategy at ALBA Graduate School, managed to do so, with the book “Winning Shipping Strategies: Theory and Evidence from Leading Shipowners”.


In the context of this year’s Poseidonia-2022, a discussion was organized by Economia group on June 9, 2022 to explore the strategic dimension of “the miracle of Greek Shipping”. In addition to the two authors, Dinos Arkoumanis, Emeritus Professor and former Vice-Chancellor of City University in London, President of the Academic Council of the Metropolitan College in Greece, attended the panel discussion. Harris Vafeias, founder and head of Stealth Gas, also intervened.


ADP: Our discussion today, in this year’s Poseidonia, is over shipping strategies. In a rather idiosyncratic field like shipping can one speak of strategies? Even more can one teach strategic thinking in shipping? This discussion is triggered by a book published by economia, “Winning Shipping Strategies” whose two authors, shipowner George Tsavliris and business professor Pavlos Emmanouilidis are both with us today. First, G. Tsavliris who – I think – had the core idea of the book.

G. Tsavliris: When I was around 20 years old, in an attempt to familiarize myself with the shipping business, I started by making an effort to focus on organizing my thoughts and the structure which I found in our family office. The reason being, as this had always been a ‘one man show’ with my father running the business, so the obvious contribution which I could make was in trying to improve the structure. One day, I had a long discussion with my father, where he emphasized that the decision-making process was rather unique in shipping as we had everchanging circumstances and the constant element of surprise. He finalized by saying that you’ll soon realize that in the shipping industry, the only appropriate term which we could use, is the existence of organized chaos.  He repeated, ‘organized chaos’!

In fact, when you think about it and you consider how circumstances, market trends and regulations change, one realizes that ‘organized chaos’ is actually a state of life in the highly volatile shipping market.  In shipping, things often happen for the wrong reasons and market trends catch you by surprise where you expect it least. You must have heard about the traditional family shipping company, R & K – Rethymnis & Kouloukountis who are a third-generation shipping company.  When I was 27 years old, I was sitting in a Greek restaurant in the city where shipping people would frequently meet, when along came Kouloukountis with his cousin.  He recalled an experience of about 20-30 years ago. He said, ‘We decided to inspect two ships which we were interested in purchasing & which were situated in Rotterdam. We went to inspect the ships and found that both ships were similar size, conventional and not particularly glamorous.  One vessel was poorly maintained and the other one was in much better condition, where obviously the price tag was significantly higher’.

Well, Minas who was older, had the feeling that his cousin had the inclination to buy the ship in better condition, so he said to his cousin, “πάρε εσύ το καλό, να πάρω εγώ το τυχερό», which means: “you buy the good vessel and I’ll buy the lucky one”.   In fact, they both progressed; both deals happened to be good investments but ironically the ‘old rust bucket’, which was upgraded to be seaworthy, effectively made more money than the better quality ship.

I say this as a basic example, for us to appreciate that beyond attaining University degrees, beyond knowledge, expertise – one cannot supplement one’s ‘gut feeling’.  It is important to have faith in God but as the above example proves, luck plays an important role.  To go forward, you have to take risks, to be daring, sometimes to defy logic ‘να είσαι τολμηρός’.   If you wish to work in the shipping market, obviously you need a logical structure around you. You must listen to people, listen to their advice but at the end of the day, decide what you feel is correct.  People who have achieved a significant amount of success have always gone along with their gut feeling – they had the endurance, the willingness to work hard and the stamina.

Just as an example, I’ll mention our friend John Coustas who founded Danaos Corporation as I feel that his ‘success story’ was the result of the vast change of circumstances in the container market.   Two – three years ago, the container market was going through a distressed period which obviously had a negative impact on Danaos.  The vessels were barely in the position to make their basic operating costs.  Then we had this miracle happen – could it have been the covid pandemic? All of a sudden, the need for global transport of cargo by containerships picked up & before we realized it, container vessels were earning in excess of $250,000 a day. Obviously, this had a tremendous positive impact on both J. Coustas and his company.  On the other hand, he committed himself to vast investments in the container market, he endured the very stressful market for years and through his endurance and of course with the element of luck, his company was elevated to one of the most admirable success stories in shipping.

I’ll let Paul take over now a little bit, because my usual impulsive and romantic manner get me carried away and I may tire you.  So, Paul, go ahead and tell our audience how you tolerated me, while we were writing the book!

ADP: Well, the way that George Tsavliris presented the book is both very close to the book and totally out of the book! I mean that this is a book that tries to organize all this world of feelings and thoughts about an extremely personal business but also – probably because of Pavlos Emmanouelides’ contribution – it makes it useful to normal students who have to study so as to follow the track of rationality and discover this explosive nature of shipping. Interesting case-studies are built and presented, but the effervescence of Tsavliris’ approach colours all these pages. But now, I will ask Pavlos Emmanouelides to explain to all of us who we are not engaged in shipping, how such matters can be explained and end in a reading to be used by normal students?

P. Emmanouelides: I promise to keep my intervention to the minimum, because G.Tsavliris is a great storyteller – and it was a true delight to be his co-author. He told me so many stories because we had many meetings and that turned out to be storytelling about shipping and about his romantic love –  I might say – for this sector.
This book basically tries to combine economic and management theory of shipping in practice. I have an academic background; George comes from a shipping family -we’re talking about a century of shipping experience. So, what is better than to put these two things together? And, actually, there is not much in the literature that combines economic and management theory on one hand, and shipping practice on the other. So, I decided mostly for educational purposes that we need to give to our students a framework: we need to tell them how it’s done. Just a way to tell them that it’s more than luck or it’s gut feeling. I wanted – so to say – to decodify the successes.

We are honored to have Haris Vafias here. StealthGas was a success. Why? What are the key success factors? A lot of times ship-owners take decisions subconsciously. They understand it because of their profound love of the sector that goes back generations and the fantastic intergenerational transfer noticed in many families. But can this be told to young students? We have to give them a framework. We have to give them a rational basis of analysis. That’s why in the first part, I worked mostly on my own to give into the book some economic theory. I went back to the classics of management theory, Michael Porter from Harvard Business School, industry analysis, generic strategies and so forth, because I saw much  in many success stories, including StealthGas which is one of the six stories we present in the second part of the book.

So the book avoids being boring. The second part has good stories, six case-studies of success stories of firms, of what drives success. What drives profitability. What drives effectiveness. One has to be very strategic since we are talking about a capital-intensive industry, we are talking about major investments. What is to drive all these investments? We need to have a strategic framework. What is subconscious and of course it works subconsciously in the mind of the key strategy-maker of the firm? So, we tried to write down, de-categorize the driving strategies, the successful business-based on the classical management theory on the one hand, and on the peculiar shipping idiosyncrasies on the other hand. And we came up with a framework which summarizes the successful strategies and how different firms have combined in a synthetic way various strategies into their own strategic mix.

In that sense, we use this framework to analyze a number of case-studies and understand the strategic profile of each company. Later on, we proceeded to analyze and underline successful factors that mobilized those strategies. At the end, we have a very interesting synthesis: a fantastic remark by George Tsavliris on shipping in general and Greek shipping in specific. And we also tried to analyze and understand the paradox of Greece, such a small country with 0.5% of world GDP has 20% of global shipping. This is a paradox, it is strange, but we are scientists, and we need to explain it and I think we gave some explanation, a multi-dimensional explanation of this fantastic achievement.

So, yes, this book is mostly for educational purposes even though it is an easy read even for executives, it tries to make explicit the available strategies for any shipping firm. In that respect can be useful for our students but not only. G.T’s contribution has made it more interesting: he is a fantastic personality, a sui generis one, one of a kind, romantic,  fun to work with him. Thank you very much, George, for being on board.

ADP: If I may raise a question. When this kind of teaching is used to people who are in their 20s, trying to define how life will be forward for them and what luggage they should carry, how do you see their eyes react? Do they get the message that they have to keep ready to change track in their potential professional life? and when they get up in the morning of 24-25 of February 2022 and they learn that a war is starting in the Black Sea, how do they react with a sudden and unexpected change?

P. Emmanouelides: Well, that is a million-dollar question. Mostly, we talk about the big picture. We try to understand what drives success. We are combining theory and practice. Teaching in University keeps very close to practice and vice versa; theory that learns from practice and the opposite. In that sense of course, we need to understand the general pattern of things and what it is that drives success: it is  a matter of being flexible and – to the extent possible – to be prepared. Each time you have to be adjustable. You have to set the sails. As Nikos Kaklamanakis, our Olympic Gold Metalist, used to say “I cannot control the winds, but I can set my sails”.

There are some very important strategic decisions. Again, an example -since we have Mr. Vafias here-, StealthGas “δεν έτυχε, πέτυχε”. It didn’t happen just like that. Mr. Vafias decided to have a triple specialization: going into LPG and get there a very large market share. That is a conscious strategic decision and it worked. Somebody has to take these tough decisions that we talk about. The students love to see theory along with practice. I keep the teaching side interactive. We try to visit companies to talk to the people and at the same time go back to our theory and get informed about the managment theory. So, yes, they love it, they love this type of teaching, the interaction element. It is an exciting industry. You know Mr. Kassidokostas said, “It’s an addictive industry”. Because if you love change, if you love this chaotic situation, as George Tsavliris said before, you never get bored. You might get a little tired, it can be quite overwhelming, but you never get bored, it’s such a great, fascinating global sector.

ADP: Before asking Mr. Arkoumanis to start commenting, I would like to ask Mr. Tsavliris the same question: In the night when the Ukraine war started, how did you expect the impact of the war on the global industry shipping is next week or month or year? Is this the kind of a rough change more disruptive, as opposed to more gradual but extremely important changes like adjusting to climate change to the industry?

G. Tsavliris: Now you’re touching on a very sensitive topic. I never thought that during our lifetime, we would experience war; let us hope that our faith will not abandon us. I’ve read quite a lot about the invasion of Ukraine: James George Stavridis, a retired United States Navy Admiral and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation – has the background and experience to be a leading voice on the current situation. I feel that there is a hidden agenda behind this war.  Stavridis predicts that there is a 65% possibility of reaching some kind of agreement and when this happens, Ukraine will be left with 15% less territory.  Now, we’re talking about a 65% chance in achieving a settlement, the question is when? Let’s face it: when the war started, we all thought that it would last a few days, or a month at most.  Now, I fear that this war may go on for years and I’m also very worried that it may turn into a Third World War.  I know this is not the time or place to discuss such a notion, but it is so important which is why, I also would like to mention the following:

A few years ago, I happened to be at a venue where Prince Philip, Prince Charles’ late father, was present.  I was having a discussion with Prince Philip, and he mentioned that about a few weeks before the commencement of WWII, the German royal family was hosting the English royal family, at a hunting venue in Germany.  During this venue, one turned and said to the other, “it’s funny that we’re shooting pigs, let us hope we don’t find ourselves shooting each other one day”.   Let’s not forget that when the Second World War began, people literally never believed it would happen. The First World War started due to trouble in the colonies which erupted in the Central Europe and the conflict turned into a world war.  All of this negative energy … Personally, I’m very worried that if this situation remains unresolved, it may become much worse.

With respect to the war’s side effects:  We know that wars bring catastrophe, loss of lives and disruption.  The shipping market depends on three factors: Disruption, disruption and disruption!    I personally I do not have any direct statistical data on the tanker market or grain market, but again we have to deal with the current war and how it affects shipping. We’ve got over 500 million of the world population, who will be on the “red line” of poverty if this situation continues.  I’m worried about the fact that we’re going to have a lot of trouble bringing food to the tables around the world; not so much for the more developed countries, but the underdeveloped countries are going to see some very devastating days. This is why I do not like to draw a parallel between the devastation/starvation of millions of people and shipping –the prospect that shipping may be thriving due to a number of complex trade, supply and demand issues including the War in Ukraine -while millions of people are struggling for their survival – is an unnerving contradiction.

Back to our book – when we actually put this book together – it was a ‘bit of a gamble’ because it’s very difficult to talk about companies / owners who you know.  We did our best to be objective, and yet we felt we may not be saying the right things – in covering Topships, Danaos, StealthGas, Angelikoussis Shipping Group, Tsakos Energy and then at the end, here we [Tsavliris] are. Paul insisted we put something in about our company [ the Tsavliris Salvage Group]. Harry [Vafias] we are very happy to have you with us, would you like to give your views or comments about your company?

H. Vafias: Well, the book was really well written and I read all the stories about all the companies. Each company obviously is a different success story. Some have common aspects, some not. Probably our story is slightly different because of the age I started doing it, where as in the other stories the protagonists were a bit older and also because we chose as it was previously said the sector, which was not a typical Greek focus sector (few Greeks, less than three, were dealing in that sector) since most Greeks as we know are in the main segments, which are tankers and bulkers. A few had entered into container ships and a few to LNG, but focusing on small-scale LPG and creating a company with close to a 20% market share had not been tried before; when we started doing it, our competitors were actually laughing at us. They were saying that I will spend that way my father’s money and that we cannot enter this very closed club with mainly Norwegian players in it, and I think we taught them a good lesson.

P. Emmanouelides: This is the kind of thing that gave us of inspiration from this fantastic story. About the world that you mentioned before, we are all humanly sorry about what is happening. However, talking about shipping -since our discussion is about shipping – as George mentioned before, sometimes horrible things can be good for shipping, or at least positive. For example COVID made Dr Koustas from a millionaire to billionaire (with a B ). What happened to the world is horrible, but sometimes you know it’s a peculiar supply and demand game chased by shipping segments. And of course, there is some inherent cyclicality and market correction mechanism in terms of shipbuilding and -destroying etc. But there are all kinds of unforeseen events like the war, and you have to be agile, you have to be flexible to react to that. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why the Greeks are better compared to, let’s say the Germans. On the average, Germans are fantastic in stable manufacturing – instead of being more flexible in terms of responding to events that can be unfortunate; but a good executive with long experience has a better probability of guessing right. And even if it is 1% higher probability of guessing right, this is vital. Cyclicality hides a lot of opportunity and is very important for this sector. And of course, all these unforeseen events can also hide opportunity.

ADP: Now over to Mr. Arkoumanis. I would like to ask him, how he combines in his view things like disruption, disruption, disruption with the longer-term perspectives of engineering changes, of environmental regulations, of overall regulations the IMO or the EU ones. How these worlds come together?

D. Arkoumanis: Let me start with my reaction when I heard about the book. I was initially surprised but then I started guessing what to expect based on the two authors: I know George for a very long time, but I didn’t know Paul. And then I started understanding directly what would be Paul’s contribution; it should be on the theory! But then what is George going to contribute? Because he is always very open, he speaks with his heart and those things cannot be put easily on paper. Overall, the outcome is a very interesting one because it brings together different sides. I’ll try to see things looking at the test-cases at the back pages of the book. And I have to say that there are some other test-cases that can be handled completely different than those described in the book. From my brief experience in the Boards of shipping companies, I can bring forward 2-3 characteristics of those shipowners that are seen as idols in the eyes of the public. The first thing is what we say in Britain – after spending 42 years there- that these individuals ‘can think for themselves’. Through interviews in Tradewinds and Lloyd’s List and so on… you listen to those big names from an academic point of view and draw conclusions. Not everything they say is highly interesting, but suddenly they bring an angle to the discussion that you haven’t thought previously. That’s what it means “they can think for themselves”. They can separate from the noise those things that mattered to them and focus only on those!

The second point is based on my experience as member of the John Angelikoussis board: somebody very well known in the shipping community asked me: is John really coming to meetings? Which describes the ignorance that exists in the community since John was one of the most committed people to his job despite his huge successes. And that’s my second conclusion: success comes with strong commitment. They are focused on the job 24 hours per day, despite the fact they may be sailing yachts and flying in private jets around the world.

The third is they are very capable and competent in choosing the right people around them. And I have to say that because Harry Vafias is here and one of his closest colleagues is an ex-student of mine, so I have to say that in order to promote academia in the eyes of the shipping community.

So, coming back to the book and thinking about the students, since Antonis asked what is the reaction of a young person being taught about shipping strategies? Of course, they can try to understand the strategies and Paul has very clearly described those. But at the end of the day, it is the personality that counts. That counts these days even more than the knowledge that students acquire – and personality cannot be bought in the supermarket! It’s something that develops as an integrated process from a young age. And to be a leader in shipping you need to have in your personality something special, looking at those some 15, 20, 30 ago, since there are so many Greeks, each one is very different. Just one more example: being at the board of Angelikoussis and being an engineer, I thought, looking at the other members of the Board: “Maybe I can bring some technical expertise to the group.”. But after a few meetings John Angelikoussis grounded me immediately saying ..’too much technology is not interesting, let’s focus on the financial side’. However, maybe in the past technology was not so important but decarbonization is in front of us and this brings technology to the front. From now on that’s the way companies will be judged and separated from the others, based on the advanced technological insight that they have on the road to become leaders in the choice of technology.

Going now to Antonis’ comment about the war in Ukraine, let’s not forget that most people think it’s going to accelerate the process towards decarbonization. But let’s also remember that because of the pandemic, trillions and trillions of dollars have been spent on solving the problems of Covid; not so much spent during this period on technology. Now of course, with the war again there are different issues. We see natural gas getting more than the ‘kiss of life’ being again ahead of the queue, but in this element the important thing is the level of investment that is needed, and it depends on what will be the reaction of shipping waiting for the direction to be given about green fuels. That’s where the money is going to be spent, not so much in the sea but mainly in the land producing these green fuels.

ADP: Before you leave the podium, since we have you here, there are several aspects to this equation. There is technology, there is finance, there is disruption – but there is also the leading role of politics, of political decisions. These last two days I’ve heard here at Poseidonia that the legal departments of all shipowners have to work overtime on what is applicable with sanctions. Such decisions of political interest, of great geopolitical importance, but also of everyday consequences come from different fora. They come from the EU under American incitement, they may go through the IMO in the near future… How do you assess the clear-headedness of political powers when looking at shipping?

D. Arkoumanis: I see the Ukraine war as probably one of the best ways to energize and focus the EU towards shipping in a more committed way. Because as we know, hearing from the discussions in Brussels, there is confusion there about ocean-going shipping. They think more about other parts of shipping but not ocean-going, so the effort for Europe to become independent from Russian gas and oil is going to convince – I hope – Brussels that they have to do something now. IMO is listening and there is an important meeting there very soon. The committee, and IMO, have to accelerate their business and the relevant decisions because EU’s role is not anymore just to encourage the IMO to move faster. That was the role of the EU up to now to say “better do faster”. On the other hand, IMO is representing so many countries, and there are so many different interests and expectations from shipping countries that may not exist in a few years’ time due to the climate changes. So, what I hope is that IMO will react and try to reach some decisions in the short term. We have the technical departments of all the shipping companies that are focusing on new directives and this is the irony: if you speak to those engineers in the technical departments of large companies and you tell them about green hydrogen and green ammonia and methanol, they say “we have enough on our plate, don’t bother us with those since we have to evaluate every ship and see what we are going to do with them’. But at the same time, they are the same people who have to remain very aware and informed about the decarbonisation process. We’re talking about 2050 net-zero carbon, and that’s the way – 2050 at the latest as these things go. But only green fuels are not going to solve the problem. In all the calculations you cannot find the land so as to have solar panels. You cannot install gas turbines around all shores. What is needed is a combination with small nuclear reactors plus carbon capture, storage and utilization. Without all these together we wouldn’t be able to reach the target of 2050!

AUDIENCE: Just to get back to the book, I was just wondering is this a book for students? Do you think that it’s realistic today for an average 18 year old who goes to study maritime business or anything and who doesn’t come from an established shipping family can be, can he expect to become a shipowner himself?

P. Emmanouelides: First of all, we witness a professionalization of the shipping sector, the old paradigm of a family firm, of the closed universe is becoming increasingly obsolete. We have an increasing need for “soft” and managerial talents and skills. Our students, at least at ALBA have an average of 28 years old, many of them are working full time in shipping firms -and that’s why we have evening classes- and they are quite experienced so they’re not 18-year-old people who don’t know what shipping is about. They understand the sector quite well. I understand that there is a tendency towards increasing professionalization: our graduates have no trouble finding a job and most of them take a job and the shipping sector is so dynamic and eager to find talent that is no longer the former captain who goes to the land office, but it can be the graduate student from a shipping program or a managerial program. The management program that understands marketing, understands the nature of the business – because it is a business after all – and some principles are common to any type of economic activity. Of course, there’s a lot of specifics to the shipping sector, but I understand that we are moving towards an era of increased professionalization and of need for “soft” and managerial skills. So, yes, I think it is useful. Yes, I think there are job and employment opportunities in the sector, especially in Greece: we are privileged to have such a vital and dynamic sector. Look at Poseidonia, the attendance unbelievable! I think that it’s a record for young people who love the sector, love what they do and are smart enough to understand the fundamentals, they can have a bright career in shipping.

H. Vafias: Just to add something to the same question. Yes, I think they should. The 10-year-olds and the 15-year-olds and the 11-year-olds should read this book. Because you get inspired, and the younger people need to be inspired. When we were younger, we were reading about Bill Gates, does that mean we were going to be multi-billionaires? No, but it means that you get inspired. Without dreams you cannot go forward. So, I think what would you want to be in such a book describing let’s say a family-run shipping company with three ships. Of course, that’s admirable, but that’s not what to dream means. You start with very little or nothing and you get big, and some people will manage it. Some people won’t, but they need to dream.

P. Emmanouelides: And it’s a starting point. Then, of course you have to work for a company, and that’s another learning experience you have. It’s a learning experience. But then the real skill with scars is that you need to work for a good company to learn and learn and learn. And maybe one day you will realize ship-owning yourself. It is tougher nowadays. More administrative burdens, more regulation, more expensive. But we are witnessing shipping startups right and left. I think that there is opportunity for ambitious people.

G. Tsavliris: As I mentioned I have six children. My 28-year-old son is studying for a business degree at Whartons Business School, University of Pennsylvania. At the age of 22, he was asking me when I was going to change the structure of the business, which is a family-oriented business. When one is considering the corporate veil and a 22-year-old offers you an array of objective comments and in fact criticism, this is quite an experience! You realize that the business you are running is not structured enough; You don’t have five-year plans etc.  In fact, I actually get enthusiastic about the fact that none of my kids ever make compliments about the way we run our business – this keeps us on our toes!    When my father passed away, I was 25 years old, which meant we had to start ‘at the deep end’. But I’m quite impressed and grateful that I’ve got six children – my youngest I can’t bring into the equation yet, because he is only four and a half years old.  All of my other children are self-sustaining, have very constructive ideas about shipping, and literally their feedback and input, are such that, one would rarely hear from a more experienced professional!

At the end of the day, over the years, my children have given me more valuable advice and input than I have given them.

AUDIENCE No2: Congratulations for the book though I haven’t read it yet. First of all, let me say I’m assisting to sustainability by providing 3 kids. My daughter 27 and two sons, 25 and 23 have all finished shipping faculty and all of them are taking Master courses. One is getting a Master’s actually at the Metropolitan University. I wanted to add something being an agent and sharing the cargo flows because this is what I’m doing. I’m just seeing what is moving from port to port. Once that’s when the legal question that was passed earlier on: yes, the lawyers are going to have very busy time to see whether they’re liable to sanctions or not, and I want to touch on the sanctions because we have a very big disbelief of what sanctions are these days. Actually, by imposing sanctions to Russia, we are shooting ourselves not to one leg, but to both legs. What we see as agents is that the cargo that goes out of Russia these days is triple the cargo that used to be before the war. And it’s all ending up in Europe or even America. We see countries like India and China profiting from what we are paying for as Europeans, because what happens is that India is buying fuel from Russia at a discount of $20-30 a barrel and then they give it back to us at the skyrocket prices we pay today at the gasoline stations. And that doesn’t do anybody harm, except us. Same thing for the food crisis. I was speaking in the Conference Maritime Days, some weeks ago in Istanbul (when it moved from Odessa to Istanbul) and my speech was about what happens in the Black Sea. But the analysts with the brains said that it’s a record year for Ukraine: they have planted the land before the war and it’s going to be a fantastic production year and they have found a way to ship the food out of Ukraine by Moldova or in other ways. The biggest problem is the railway system, since the Russians wanted to stop the Germans and they have wider range tracks than in Europe. So, the borders of Ukraine cannot be reached by European trains.

AUDIENCE No3: Thanks to the team. I was wondering whether you have any reflections on strategy for the decade ahead for the small ship-owner. Historically barriers exist: some companies grew to become huge corporate behemoths among the biggest shipping groups in the world. But as everyone’s well aware, the complexity of the industry is increasing, thus accelerating the attrition rate. Technically and commercially operating the sanctions is just one side of things. It means that the demands on management of any the organization are growing. Does this present an existential threat to the smaller ones?

ADP: May I add follow up to that. All this complexity is it really understood on the political side/the regulatory side? or is the industry getting regulated now under pressure?

P. Emmanouelides: Shipping is becoming more and more complex and that gives advantages to bigger companies as opposed to smaller companies. On the other hand, the vast majority operates two or three or four vessels. We have an example in our book, we call it “Papadopoulos shipping”, meaning that they have a small office with two three vessels, a family business. And there are still lots of them, they survive. Of course, we observe an increasing consolidation in the sector, but we see that this model still persists.

Yes, we do have some piece of advice for them. First of all, some of the strategies are applicable to them. Most of them operate dry bulkers, not necessarily state-of-the-art or new buildings. They have been historically very good in the first two strategies, maintaining a low cost and of course playing the cycle. They have been very successful throughout the years, and that’s how they made most of their money. Buying and selling at opportune times. There is more advice for them: in many cases they would be better off, for example, to outsource and subcontract administration of their vessels so as to tap on the economies of scale that the large operator has – and there is a lot of reference to them. Most of the companies we have analyzed in the second part of the book – the six case-studies are relatively large companies – but we refer to those who are still the backbone of the Greek shipping sector and what can they do to increase their competitive position.

It is tough: financing for one is getting tougher. Regulation means more money, more headaches. It also gives an advantage to newer as opposed to old business. But there is money to be made and I know I have many friends of mine who are very well off being small and flexible and very innovative in terms of managing their cost side and maintaining costs down. They know shipping, they know their ships, how to keep afloat with less money, buying used vessels and of course buying and selling at the opportune times as another way to make some easy money well needed. Saving money on the side for the bad times where more opportunities arise and, with the cyclicality being huge, nobody should complain about the source of major opportunities and these guys have played very smartly on the cycle.

AUDIENCE No 3 (AGAIN): Would you say what’s happened in the small-vessel market over the last 18 months may continue all other things being accepted for the next same year or maybe two years? When you have an old ship, that’s the liquidity that’s being built up in the smaller companies right now and has been quite important. Would you say that is positioning various companies to be in a very strong position in fact?

G. Tsavliris: Liquidity is very important in our business. I’ll give you another example which confirms the secrets to success: Dionysis Delaportas [ Meadway Shipping & Trading] who built a business from scratch. His two sons were involved in the company and have since gone their own ways and are each running their own respective dynamic, successful businesses. When I first met Dionysis about 30-40 years ago, we were kids.    In fact, we were playing in the office as kids.  In commencing a business career, one has to be daring – ‘τολμηρός’.   Luck is an important factor, but one should always be hard working and maintain a code of ethics.

I think the younger generation, fortunately, is learning that this business is not just about making money. Our purpose in life must be about leaving a positive mark on society, not just about putting money in the bank. I think the younger generation, even though at times may be bit flamboyant, it is focused on the future with a strong set of values as their lighthouse.  Evangelos Marinakis’ father, Miltiadis Marinakis who I know well, started by having a technical outfit for ship repairs [μηχανουργείο]; he initially bought a couple of ships and now, his son is colossal. No one would ever have imagined 20 years ago, Marinakis’ success today – it’s truly mind-boggling.

Finally, look at the age profile.  People of my age, we sometimes can be too ‘narrow-minded’; when you get to a certain point of maturity and you look for say, 10 reasons for doing something, there are also another 10 reasons for not doing it – we’ve become less flexible and tend to be too conservative. The sea is what it is and we love it. During this Poseidonia exhibition, we saw so much youthful enthusiasm emanating from the younger generation and willingness to progress in shipping!

ADP: If you go through the book, you will discover that at least half a dozen time the word “romanticism” creeps into the text…

D. ARKOUMANIS: I doubt it that any short-term profits or smaller companies will be able to cope with the exponential increase of costs having to do with technology in the coming years. Some 50% or 60% of the existing companies today will survive. It’s not something positive. How can we imagine the trillion dollars’ investment required for green fuels and again leave nuclear to the side? Although nuclear is a very capital intensive, it’s the initial cost very high for reactors, but the maintenance is much lower, so it’s the initial cost of these new technologies that may separate the players in shipping of the future.

STUDENT: My name is Danai Carly. I’m currently studying maritime studies at the University of Piraeus. I had a question which was partly responded, but as a student and part of the younger generation I’d like to make my own contribution with a statement. When I chose my studies, it was partially for romantic reasons as has already mentioned, but what I see among my fellow-students of 18-years old or 20-years old, is that we have lived through these disruptions. These constant disruptions which are part of the maritime scene and the shipping industry. So, we had the chance to be observers and learn from this. And actually, we have a way of thinking that can thrive with disruptions which are part of the shipping experience. So, I think that this makes this industry a very good choice for the younger generation. Evidently the fact counts that it is one of the industries which take the first steps to sustainability, which is also what my generation is vastly aware. So books like the one that you have written, that we need technical and theoretical knowledge paired with actual facts, it can also make a big contribution to the way that we pursue our studies.

P. Emmanouelides: Thank you very much Danai for your exciting comments. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the future of Greek shipping! The young generation (applause) …

When I’m talking about the future, I have been amazed by the number of successful intergenerational transfers that I have witnessed in the Greek shipping sector. For every Nikos Vafeias there is a Harris Vafeias, for every Panagiotis Tsakos there is a Nikos Tsakos and so on. So from every generation we gain, we maintain values, we accumulate knowledge and then we have new things that come up and remake the mix that makes the Greek shipping successful. Many people thought that Greek shipping would lose its hegemony in the new era in the beginning of the 21st century, but Greek shipping is here and it’s growing faster. As an academic it’s for me a mystery how this family succession works so well. And my explanation is (a) the family ties and (b) the spin-off, the family spin-off, the fact that you can easier divide the fleet by vessels category or type etc. Knowledge accumulates over the years, over the generations and this profound knowledge can be the basis of strategic decisions that we see, especially in companies that have been in existence for a long time.

D. ARCOUMANIS: There are many positive examples but there are also others of many families that are proving that the first generation succeeds, the second generation maintains and the third generation throws it away. So, there are no rules!

ADP: This is called life, I suppose…

G. Tsavliris: Dino, I’ve heard that before and indeed we’ve all at times considered this, but I don’t necessarily agree.  On a global level, family businesses often have attained more continuity than the big multinationals.  In fact, there was research study conducted by the Economist magazine years ago where they came to the conclusion that family businesses have a better survival rate in the long term than the conventional-structured companies.   So, I think there are ‘two sides to the coin’ and there is always an ‘exception to the rule’.    It may be a romantic thought, but I hope our family business will continue way into the 5th and 6th generation!  As I said, I find that what really attracts young people to the business is not just the earning capacity but the creativity.

I can’t think of any other business which is as fascinating as shipping.   I mean, you’re literally involved with every single social sector of life, and you can do that within a single day sometimes.  Shipping is full of contrasts and never is one day like the other – One day you can be having a formal black-tie dinner with a Head of State and the other, you can be eating with a bosun [ λοστρόμος] on some back street in a port.  These contrasts are definitely a very important part of shipping – they are what makes it so attractive: ‘Food for thought ‘!

ADP: I would like to thank Haris Vafeias for the discussion. Most certainly George Tsavliris and Pavlos Emmanouelides and for his participation and for the important comments made by Dinos Arkoumanis. This has been for me, who am a total stranger to shipping, a very interesting discussion showing to us all the way of a decidedly challenging future. Thank you all.