Having heard about the Posidonia International Shipping Exhibition, organised biennially in Athens, I was excited to attend this year’s show, held at the Metropolitan Expo centre on June 2-6, 2014, and to ascertain Greece’s position in the global maritime map. For five days, this exhibition venue was transformed into a huge Celebration of Seas platform, providing access to Greek and international shipowners and all stakeholders in the shipping business.
I was inspired by the maritime experts’ courtesy and enthusiasm, as they sought to guide the new generation into their fields of expertise, as well as their sparkle of excitement and their vibrant personalities.
The exhibition included National Pavilions and stands from 94 countries and various spheres such as organisations and companies in the financial field, logistics, security on board, naval architecture, ship classification, maritime education and much more related to sea commerce.
You could even find professional diving equipment! That almost seemed a little out of place, in close quarters to the well dressed sales men and women.
Apart from the stands, Posidonia 2014 had a range of seminars for people interested in learning more about the maritime industry, conferences and useful workshops by respected international organizations, for instance the collaboration between the Department of Naval Architects – TEI of Athens and the Hellenic Register of Shipping.
The seminar that caught my attention was “Piraeus and its Prospects as an International Centre of Maritime Service”, organised by the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence of the Department of Maritime Studies at the University of Piraeus, in collaboration with the Information Office of the European Parliament in Greece.
I grew up near the port of Piraeus which is an established power with great tradition in nautical and maritime activities, and wanted to learn more about its history. In addition, I attended the second round of lectures including panelists who were maritime students at the University of Piraeus.
Department supervisor at the Hellenic Register of Shipping company Apostolos Venizelos highlighted the mission of the Hellenic Register and its future plans, concluding that aspects of the Piraeus port should be better organised and that this can be achieved by people attuned to the principles of the registry, with the notion of working as a team rather than as individuals.
Executive Director at the Institute of Energy for South East Europe (IENE) in Athens, Costis Stambolis, delivered a lecture on future environmental and safety issues of Piraeus port, and the need for an integrated approach regarding the future of local industry, in relation to the oil and gas sector.
Marine consultant Dimitri G Capaitzis was the final speaker, making an appeal to initiate a Greek maritime cluster based in Piraeus, on the model adopted in other nations including the UK with its notable success the London Maritime 2013 Cluster, with the kind of support that would establish a formal Greek cluster on the EU list.
Mr Capaitzis contended that likely future developments in local industry showed that shipbuilding was not a good fit with the Greek mentality, as the Greeks had an adventurous nature. It seemed impossible to make a success of Greek shipyards like Hellenic Shipyards at Skaramangas (Hellenic Shipyards), and the best we could do is take a leaf from the British and concentrate on making a better educational system for marine studies.
My personal view on the above is that rethinking our maritime educational system is a great idea, and that already has started. But once there is no ‘new world’ to discover, what could result in greater profits than shipbuilding? So I believe that we have more to show than simply our adventurous nature if we wish to maintain our importance in the international maritime market.
A speech by Capt Panagiotis Tsakos, founder of Tsakos Group, was so enlightening for students, as he told us that the existence of ‘clusters’ in shipping dates from long, long ago. Greek Philosopher Xenophon was the first to study closely the ship’s economy, and he wrote to his teacher Socrates, after observing the work of a boatswain. Xenophon was surprised and impressed by the special provision the boatswain made to organise and double check ships’ equipment so that the vessel was fully prepared for any kind of water hazard.
Visiting Posidonia for first time was a great experience as I was introduced to new technologies, expanded my network and gained valuable knowledge. An event highly recommended for students seeking for a job in the field or for those who are just shipping aficionados.
*Georgia Tsiraki holds a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce, Finance and Shipping.