Ties with ClassNK are still strengthening, says Mr. Charalambos Mylonas, Chairman, Transmed
Can you explain your role as the Chairman of the ClassNK Greek Committee and what are the main activities of the Committee? What issues are you currently discussing and what are your hopes for the outcome?
As Chairman of the ClassNK Greek Committee I organize (in co-operation with the ClassNK Regional Office) the agenda of the upcoming ClassNK Greek Committee Meetings. The aim is for the topics discussed in Committee Meetings to be of real interest to members and to be addressing key issues or difficulties faced by our industry. As such, I always discuss and exchange views with committee members prior to finalizing our agenda. We have in the past invited key experts from the banking sector to offer their ideas on shipping finance, from chartering houses to express their opinions as to the future trends of the business, etc.
Some of the recent problems raised and discussed between members relate to the ballast water treatment systems and how the IMO stand is opposed to the USCG’s, the emissions reduction problems, the carbon footprint and the price of implementation across the whole energy sector.
Given that the topics discussed arise from the committee members themselves, the annual Committee Meetings of ClassNK as well as the ClassNK Technical Committee Meetings are always well attended and create the platform to discuss common issues, sometimes starting conversations that continue well after the meetings are over.
What are Transmed Shipping Ltd. core values and can you give any recent examples of steps you have taken to advance these values over the last two years?
We at Transmed take pride in our commitment to always adapt and excel within the ever-changing challenges of the global markets. Whether it is changes in regulations or changes in the macro-economic scene, we endeavor to always remain at the forefront. The mere renewal and upgrading of the fleet often heralded as being essential is by no means enough to ensure that the Company remains a forceful competitor in the market.
Excellence in the quality of the services provided needs the constant adaptation of procedures to meet the challenges of the times. The continuous training of our crews, the creation of a special department overseeing the relations of the Company with third parties, the regular visits of the ships by shore personnel and the high caliber of staff in the head and regional offices are examples of changes effected during the last 2 years.
Can you give examples where Transmed has taken steps to improve its safety and environmental practices, for example improved iron ore loading procedures, or investments in vessel efficiency? Has ClassNK been involved in these measures?
In Transmed we have a “zero tolerance” policy in respect of safety and environmental protection breaches, so practices and guidelines are continuously re-evaluated. In this context, we find the ClassNK bulletins to be of great assistance. For example, the bulletin on Group A cargoes provided helpful and practical suggestions for the meticulous checks carried out during loading of iron ore and checking of the cargo moisture content to prevent the possibility of liquefaction.
The ClassNK’s regular notices for port state control matters worldwide are also helpful in raising awareness and help us to create checks and guidelines to prevent mishaps.
Transmed Shipping, closely screening the safety and environmental related developments in the industry, continuously adjusts its safety management system, aiming at the highest standards of safety on board and environmental protection. We have established and are always updating sound procedures to ensure safe operations on board our managed fleet, and we have extended the authority of the QS (Quality and Safety) Department over and above all other departments. In addition, our environmental procedures as well as respective actions are based on the industry’s best efficiency practices. An indicative example is our initiative to build vessels with electronically controlled engines, over the past years. In all our efforts towards the optimization of safety and environmental efficiency on board our fleet, ClassNK assistance has always been of utmost importance.
The majority of your ships are registered with ClassNK. When did your relationship with ClassNK start and can you explain the benefits of this long-lasting partnership?
Not only the majority but all of the Transmed ships are exclusively classed with ClassNK. The relationship started four decades ago when we used to buy second-hand tonnage from Japanese owners, but our co-operation was truly cemented in 2002 when we decided to build our capesize bulk carriers in China. For our company it was the first time we ordered newbuildings in China, for the shipyard it was its first time building ships for non-Chinese interests, and for ClassNK that was the period when it was looking to expand its presence in China. In the end I would say a miracle happened. Fifteen newbuilding vessels (10 capesizes and 5 Newcastlemaxes) were built to what I consider are of the best specifications in the shipbuilding industry. Had it not been for ClassNK’s whole-hearted assistance we could not have achieved these excellent results. Both we and the yard are proud for having co-operated with ClassNK. The assistance and expertise offered by ClassNK in that instance was so valuable and we at Transmed consider ClassNK to be our true partners in the shipping business.
It must also be placed on record that our long-lasting relationship with ClassNK has been greatly advanced by the management of their Piraeus Office. This is the place where our people can freely apply for advice, for help and assistance in difficult situations. Day and night the Piraeus office is at the disposal of our officers, and it is the place where “service is delivered with a smile”. I believe that this is the reason for their success, and we wish them greater future prosperity.
Which geographical markets are offering you greater investment opportunities and where are you looking to expand in the next 10 years?
The world economic crisis generally and the Chinese slowdown in GDP growth has restricted the areas with possible investment opportunities. The new areas of interest seem to be India, Indonesia, Iran, South East Asia generally and Vietnam. It is important however to note that every new area may have its particular “game rules” as well as its peculiarities. A scrutiny of all aspects will be necessary before a plunge is attempted.
In 1997 the company’s management decided to dispose of all small ships to concentrate solely on panamax and capesize vessels. Can you explain what were the main reasons behind this move and if/how ClassNK supported it?
The decision to concentrate solely on larger size bulkers was seen as a challenge to enter a more elite segment of the market that was dominated by fewer major players such as the industrialists of the world. We at Transmed take pride that since 1997 we have been able to develop long-lasting relationships with some of the world’s biggest counterparties, a fact that underlines the excellence in the service we provide. Another factor for abandoning the old type of business (general cargo vessels, smaller ships etc.) was our view that containerization was eroding the cargo share of such ships whereas the energy and raw material segment was expected to expand significantly.
A recent report from analyst Drewry suggests that capesize tonnage is currently reasonably well employed, but that demand is a short-term phenomenon in an otherwise difficult market, driven by stockpiling of raw materials in China. Could you offer your current market outlook?
We are optimistic that the markets will come back again in the not-too-distant future. For the near term, it is true that there is no substantial recovery in sight, but Greek shipping has a long legacy in “handling” such markets. We clearly share these ideas.
Transmed Shipping Ltd. set up a manning agency in Manila in 1976 where it has its own training school. Can you tell us more about the training courses you offer and how you value the importance of high quality crew onboard?
Even the most expensive, state-of-the-art car is useless in the hands of someone without a drivers’ license! We at Transmed take great pride in our high percentage of crew retention and constant training that takes place both on board and ashore. There are two types of training that the company actively promotes: One is subsidizing the further training required to obtain higher rank, or a specialization in the new engine types. Special training of office superintendents as well as engine-room officers in the electronically operated engines (such as the MAN-ME and WÄRTSILÄ RTFLEX) as well as boiler maintenance is ongoing continuously. The other is our in-house training which is company specific and encompasses topics of safety, maintenance, pollution, accident prevention etc. This ensures continuity in our core policies and corporate culture as well as excellence in the service rendered to our charterers.
In the last ten years, Transmed has built 42 newbuilding ships. What would you say are the key differences in design and technology on these ships comparing the earliest and latest of these ships? And, how has ClassNK contributed?
Over the last decade we have seen dramatic changes in the designs of vessels concerning their efficiency. Specifically, we have seen an increased awareness of environmental issues which has led to changes contributing to a significant decrease in consumptions and therefore also lower carbon emissions per ton/mile. This type of technology has also created a competitive advantage in the market. For the optimization of the hull lines and the machinery upgrading as well as the ideas for efficiency devices ClassNK has always been next to us with suggestions and advice. We are grateful to ClassNK.
Namura Shipyard, where your latest newbuilding m/v Nicole was built, has recently introduced ClassNK-NAPA GREEN on one of its newbuildings. How do you think voyage data collection and performance monitoring can improve ship operations and develop enhanced ship design for newbuildings? And, are you using ClassNK-NAPA GREEN on any of your newbuilds?
Voyage data collection and performance monitoring is a key tool to effectively manage a lot of different issues ranging from emissions to the performance of the main engine and more effective routing. All of these parameters contribute to the better usage of the world fleet. Our QS Department in co-operation with our Technical Team as well as the Third Party Services Team are in constant co-operation on the theme. Although we have not yet proceeded to install ClassNK NAPA GREEN, our Technical Department is currently investigating the best possible implementation methods.