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  • Writer's pictureMare Greco

L. Demetriades-Eugenides: Οur tradition matched with vision and skill shall create the opportunities

Your Excellency, our Minister, distinguished guests, speakers, attendants, ladies and

gentlemen, friend Mrs. Travlou, Yes, Minister, what you told us before is very encouraging and a very good reply to a very good question because, yes, Greece is a very open country.

Ladies and Gentlemen, There is no doubt that we are in a period during which the core of the world’s economy sustainability factor, namely GWP target of about 4% or over or less, is at stake. Financial markets, after enjoying a phenomenal bullish period, presently are before high uncertainties and, in my point of view, with rather bearish foresights. Although a global recession for 2020 is not highly likely, a number of potential mishappenings are around us.

Tariff disputes are undermining one of the pillars of our contemporary world economy system, open markets, and free trade. Trade wars, although there are signals of them calming down somehow, are not yet over. The Brexit impact is still an unknown factor, and I was very pleased to understand that we are going to hear, and listen very carefully, much more in the course of this very exciting day. Geopolitical issues. Ha! No comments required. Now, we have the sudden appearance of the coronavirus, the impact and dynamics of which we cannot really foresee at this stage.

These are just a few of, without wanting to sound too bearish, at least worrisome potentialities.

We should not forget at the same time that central banks have almost reached their monetary policy limits, yet more financial stimulus may be required, which again is not a simple thing to happen, and to happen forever. We all know what financial stimulus means. You know, you cannot treat structural problems with aspirins.

Therefore, in all this exciting background, let us come to Greece and Greek shipping.

Greeks account for 0.16% of the world population, 0.26% of the gross world product, yet Greek shipping is representing more than 100 times its world population share, controlling 18% of world dead-weight tonnage, 53% of total European ownership capacity, with 22% growth as from 2014, growth in tonnage exceeding naturally the worldwide one.

During the crisis period in Greece and according to Deloitte’s study, between 2009 and 2017 employment has been reduced by 15.5% in Greece, whereas in shipping it has increased by 8.8% in the crisis period. Balance of payments, very good performance while output of water transport services increased from 11.5 billion Euros in 2013 to 12.5 billion Euros in 2019, meaning in very simple words that shipping is contributing almost 13 billion Euros or 6.6% of our GDP in Greece.

According, again, to the study I mentioned before, Greek shipping is responsible for 29,500 direct jobs. Of course, we have a discussion with George Pateras and I agree with him, because we have to add at least another 10,000 seafarers abroad. So, that makes 30,500 and still, according to other sources, the shore personnel is more than that. So, actually, the study indicates 29,500, it should be about 35,000-40,000, while the creation of indirect jobs is anything between 130,000 and 140,000 employees.

Our Greek shipping family has a very strong presence in social responsibility activities, Synenosis, we heard from the Minister before what our union is doing, but we also have foundations and other entities which emanated from shipping, whose contribution is also quite to the same direction. All that without mentioning direct investment of Greek shipowners in tourism, real estate, the primary and secondary sector of the economy, whereas provides great support to innovation and start-ups.

Well, this brings us to the future. There is no doubt, and I start from Greece and then I go outside, that there is a great potential in Greek shipping for increasing its positive impact on the Greek economy through many direct and indirect ways, and I am not going to spend your precious time for things which are understandable, but we are there. Greek shipowners are keen supporters of an enhanced shipping ecosystem in Greece; ecosystem, many people baptise it cluster, some differently, many things together, there are a lot of things that could be done, however you name them.

I was very happy to understand before the willingness of the Greek State to contribute through improving our seafarers’ education system to the core problem of why the Greek flag does not have a big role, only with 1,500 ships in Greek-owned fleet, which is about 4,500 or 6,000. It is very simple; we have a big shortage of officers. It is very sad, indeed, that we have anything from 16,000, okay, with George 26,000 seafarers, whereas we had about 100,000 in the 1970s. Of course, we cannot go back to these numbers, but certainly with better education and more officers, we can certainly have further strengthening of this important number of enhancing our Greek flag.

Our industry is actively engaged into the fight to mitigate climate change alongside environmental, social, and governing issues. However, render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things which are God’s, shipping alone cannot save the planet, neither can it be blamed for all that that has befallen us. 2020 is not only the beginning of a new decade, but it is also the year of 0.5, the sulphur cap, for which apparently the world system, and I am not only referring to shipping, was not and is not yet prepared to respond effectively and efficiently. Future has already started yesterday; we are looking at only another ten years ahead of 2030 targets and ahead United Nations sustainable goals. We are already living the era of digitalization, while the one of autonomous ships is dawning. Of course, autonomous ships, we do not take it 100% but it certainly shows a roadmap, it shows an indication.

Artificial intelligence is rising and teasing already our natural intelligence. These are really great challenges. I honestly believe that shipping, while maintaining its key role as the transport mode which carries about 90% of world trade, may have somehow reduced strategical importance within the future supply chain as an independent link and much more for the case of the liner shipping, but not only. We all heard what is happening in Europe with very big liner companies and, also, we should not forget what

China emphasized when announcing how they visualise shipping; it was very exciting. Shipping is expected to be affected therefore by more regulations and vast structural changes. In that process, particularly of increased regulation, all entities associated with shipping activities work hand-in-hand aiming at shipping taking its part of responsibility in a fair and equitable world, whereas taking advantage of knowledge and showing a proactive attitude to prepare ourselves for tomorrow. Solas is a case study for how technical solutions were properly prepared before politically agreed and enforced. The road to the MLC was not a bad example either. I honestly believe that we have to learn

lessons from these cases in respect of sulphur cap 2020 and to avoid mistakes like what we did in year 2008, where we put politics before technicalities without having an impact study. So, of course, history sometimes is teaching us the mistakes of the past, as Einstein said, in order to repeat them with greater intensity in the future, but that is another story.

In terms of financials, the scarcity of traditional bank credit and further pressure on medium sized ship owners is there and shall continue to increase. It is commonly acknowledged that the owners who need more assistance in such a transition era are the ones with smaller, older, and less efficient vessels and, believe me, this is the bulk of shipping in terms of numbers and has to be considered for whatever transition we have to be confronted with, they have to be through adaptability, I refer to this part of shipping, and flexibility, a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.

Someone may argue at this stage that I give a very bleak shipping outlook. Well, shipping and in

any case weak shipping was and shall continue to be there, but not for everybody. In a changing world, the lessons of the past, our tradition matched with forward vision and skill, shall create the opportunities for the ones who read the message and take proactive use to be there in the future. I honestly believe that Greek shipping shall be there, maintaining its leading position.

However, the shipping ecosystem will become more complex, more aggressive, with its dynamics favouring, at least in the mid-term, larger and more integrated entities. Against that, foresight, adaptability, skills, and hard work are the right answer. Greek shipping needs to take a more holistic approach to meet the challenges, and I am confident that we will do that. We need a healthy shipping ecosystem, with the right hardware and software, good and competitive ships, efficiently run and manned, ships closely linked to the offices, the relations coming more hybrid, and the new intelligent shore systems. In the meantime, knowledge, education, skill generation coupled with tradition shall be a prerequisite in striving for success.

Therefore, I am looking forward, and sorry for taking your precious time, and I believe that we are all anxious for the input of the distinguished guests in this very helpful event, and we have to congratulate Slide2Open and also the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Island Policy and the Maritime Chamber of Greece for sponsoring and supporting this very useful event. The future is there; let us prepare ourselves for it. Success or failure are like war; they are gained or lost before they start. Thank you.

Leonidas Demetriades - Eugenides was born in Athens Greece, in 1958. He studied Economics at the University of Athens and completed his M.Sc. degree in Transport Economics at PCL in London.

In 1976, Mr. Demetriades - Eugenides joined Eugenides Group. He was appointed President and CEO of the Group in 1995 and President of the Eugenides Foundation in 2000.

He was elected for the first time Member of the Board of the Greek Shipowners Union in 1996. He served as Secretary of the Union from February 2000 to February 2003 and as Treasurer from February 2003 to February 2012. He has also served as representative of the Greek Shipowners Union at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

He is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Transport, M.C.I.T, and the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers.

From March 2013 to December 2013 he was a Member of the Supervisory Committee of the National Library of Greece.

The Academy of Athens awarded him in December 2015.

Mr. Demetriades - Eugenides was appointed as IMO Ambassador representing Greece in May 2018.

In June 2018, he was awarded an Honorary Doctoral Degree from the Department of Maritime Studies, University of Piraeus.


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