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John Platsidakis: Where shipping got it wrong with regulators and the environment

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John Platsidakis is a great champion of the traditions of Greek shipping, having acted as a de facto consigliere to many of the biggest names in the business such as Costamare and Angelicoussis over a 40+-year career in the industry. The ex-banker is also honorary chairman of Intercargo and a board member of the Union of Greek Shipowners as well as being on the executive committee of the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping.

Grilled at the Ship2Open Shipping Finance conference, which took place in Athens in March, Platsidakis discussed sustainability, how shipping needed to defend its green corner, and the importance of upholding the management techniques of previous generations of Greek shipowners.

Shipping’s day-to-day operations and long-term planning will be hugely influenced by sustainability and the protection of the environment, Platsidakis conceded.

“Shipowners have been on the defensive and personally I believe it is a very unfair treatment,” Platsidakis said, going on to explain that when the International Maritime Organization (IMO) first came up with its greenhouse gas strategy, it was a mistake for shipowners to meekly said they’d comply. This, he said, sent a bad message to the public, to consumers.

You entrust a ship to 22 people and at the end of the day those people make the difference

“We ought to have said we would comply to the extent that we are responsible for but because we said we would comply, the public thought we were at fault,” Platsidakis said, adding: “Shipowners do not manufacture engines, they do not build ships, they don’t produce bunkers themselves – simply they are consumers – they go out in the market and find among the producers what is best for their needs. The fault is the responsibility of the producer.”

In the automotive industry, by contrast, regulators in the US or Europe map the standards and tell car manufacturers that unless they produce a car that meets those specific conditions they will not be allowed to sell, Platsidakis said, pointing out the same conditions applied in aviation.

“What happened to shipping,” Platsidakis told the conference, “is that the regulators went to the consumers – to the ones who bought the car – so it is as if we bought a car today and they don’t blame the manufacturer but they blame us, that we have to meet certain criteria.”

Platsidakis also hit out at shipping’s lack of clout when it comes to lobbying. “Regrettably big countries such as the US, Germany, France, the UK, they do not have substantial shipping any more so they don’t have the weight, they don’t have the interest to come up with the right framework,” he said.

Asked what elements the upcoming generation of Greek shipowners need to bring to their business to ensure success, Platskikardis said Greek shipping over the years has proven to be highly adaptable. The new generation of shipowners must stay close enough to the ship, he urged, because their fathers and grandfathers were hugely attached to the vessels, attached to the crew.

“The crew is the key in shipping in the sense that this viable asset is trading thousands of miles away from the shipowner, the shipping company, and you have to trust the crew to comply with regulations, with the performance under the charter party, etc,” the shipping veteran argued, adding: “Over the years what has made the difference between Greek shipping and non-Greek shipping is the fact that management was on-hand management so if we lose that and we create a very corporate structure with a lot of reporting and we lose the attachment to the ship and the crew we don’t have any other competitive advantage with other shipping communities.”

Concluding his chat with event organisers, Platskikardis said: “You entrust a ship to 22 people and at the end of the day those people make the difference.”

This profile first appeared in the latest issue of Maritime CEO magazine. Splash readers can access the full magazine for free by clicking here.


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