WISTA med conference 2019 “turbulence or fair winds in the med”
More than 130 representatives of the shipping community from Greece and the Mediterranean countries gathered at the Hotel Costa Navarino, Pylos Messinia, from 23 to 25 May, for WISTA MED conference 2019. Lively discussions on the conference’s theme – “Turbulence or fair winds in the Med?” – were led by 21 speakers. Among those at the conference were representatives of international organizations, including BIMCO’s first female president, Sadan Kaptanoglu, IMO representative Frederick J Kenney, Despina Panayiotou-Theodosiou – President of WISTA International, President of the International Maritime Union Philip Costopoulos and Simos Anastasopoulos, President of the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce.
The WISTA Med conference is staged every two years by WISTA countries/members in the Mediterranean, each time in a different country, with representatives and experts from the local and international shipping community invited to participate. This was the second time it had been hosted in Greece by WISTA Hellas. During the conference, it was announced that the next WISTA Med, in 2021, will be organised and hosted by WISTA Turkey. Angie Hartmann, President of WISTA Hellas, opened the Conference by thanking participants, speakers and sponsors supporting the work of WISTA Hellas, then stressed the importance of forging links between Mediterranean maritime nations and the role of WISTA Med conferences to achieve that goal.
She noted that the venue paid homage to the founder of Costa Navarino, Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos, who was also a shipowner, founder of the HELMEPA Sea Protection Organization and a member of a prominent Greek shipping family. The first panel discussion, «Challenges and Opportunities in the Med» was moderated by Elina Souli, Regional Business Development Director, V.P. – FD&D Manager, Piraeus Claims Liaison Office for the Managers of American Steamship Owners Mutual Protection and Indemnity Association. Participants included Sadan Kaptanoglu, Shipping Manager of Kaptanoglu Shipping,making her first public appearance after assuming the presidency of BIMCO a few days before. Other participants in the panel discussion were George D. Gourdomichalis President & Managing Director of Phoenix Shipping & Trading S.A., Matthew C. Los, Group CEO Blue Planet Shipping Ltd., and Kostas Ifantis, Professor of International Relations, Dept. of International, European & Area Studies at the Panteion University of Athens, Greece and Visiting Professor at Kadir Has University, Istanbul, Turkey. The debate was dominated increasing sanctions and protectionist policies and their harmful impact on the world economy. Another key subject was environmental protection, reflecting the fact that ships remained also the most environmentally friendly transportation means serving world trade.
The second panel discussion considered «Roots Program: Preparing SMEs to access capital markets» under the moderation of Peggy Papastavrou, Attorney-at-Law, LL.M. και Head, Issuers Support & Markets Development Unit, Athens Stock Exchange. The speakers were: Simos Anastasopoulos, President of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, President of The Council on Competitiveness of Greece and Chairman & CEO of PETSIAVAS S.A.; Lina Kaza, Partner at Grant Thornton Greece; Georgia Mourla, Director, Listings Division for Athens Exchange Group; and Sofia Zairi, Head of Investor Relations at VIOHALCO & CENERGY HOLDINGS. Panellists presented to the shipping community for the first time the ROOTS program, which aims to support small and medium-sized enterprises of any market sector in Greece in a bid to keep remarkable ideas and prospects and visionary entrepreneurs in the country.
The third panel discussion, entitled «IMO World Maritime Day theme for 2019: Empowering Women in the Maritime Community» was moderated by Angeliki Xylaki, Corporate Communications & Marketing, Seanergy Maritime Holdings Corp. and Radio Producer, Amagi Radio. Participants were: Ilias Bissias, Director of Naftika Chronika, Isalos.net and Teaching Fellow at ALBA Graduate Business School; Frederick J Kenney, Director Legal Affairs and External Relations Division for the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Yasmina Rauber, President of WISTA Switzerland and Managing Director of Swiss Maritime Services AG. The discussion was centered on the IMO’s theme for this year’s Global Shipping Day: “Empowering women in the maritime industry”. Despina Panayiotou-Theodosiou, President of WISTA International and CEO of TOTOTHEO Maritime, fueled the debate with statistics on the employability of women in shipping and the need to use KPIs to measure the achievement of gender equality goals set by the United Nations and the IMO. Ιlias Bissias presented research findings on the subject «Young women at sea: A study on the sociological profile of future Merchant Marine Officers» conducted in 2018 in a sample of 1,044 first-year students at the Greek Naval Academy, just 113 of whom were women. The findings related to the sociological profile and preferences of the students for the particular profession, the type of ships and the companies they favored for their careers, and the need to build a communication channel with the new generation of students and workers in the maritime sector. Yasmina Rauber presented a UNCTAD study on “Assessing gender equality in shipping”, focusing on the inequalities summarized: the overall percentage of female workers in the shipping industry, the participation rate in high hierarchy positions and the level of pay. Inequalities can be mitigated through education and awareness about maritime professions, changing regulations and institutions that include women equally to change the shipping community culture in general. As noted by Frederick J Kenney, access to high-level technical training for women is necessary in order to create opportunities for their professional development in shipping.
The forth panel discussion on «Challenges and new opportunities ahead for the Mediterranean ports» was under the moderation of Mary E. Pothitos LLB, F.Inst.Pa, Paralegal Maritime Services and Marine Claims Consultant. Panelists were: Philip Costopoulos, President of the International Maritime Union and Managing Director of Arkas Hellas S.A.; Joseph Florentin, Business Development Dept. Manager and Project Manager for Poseidon Med II, National Natural Gas System Operator (DESFA) S.A.; Panos Kassis, LLM, Attorney-at-Law. and Legal Advisor for NAFSI Shipyards; and Dr. Nikolaos Liapis, Supply & Operations Director for ELINOIL SA. The discussion covered many issues centered around the evolution of Piraeus into a major Mediterranean port , supporting the importance of Greece as a geo-economic and transit centre, while noting that ports that will strengthen their position are those that understand the new needs of trade, the importance of technology and sufficient connection with other ports or points-nodes of the mainland. The conference was flanked by two events in order to honour the speakers, sponsors and delegates: the welcome reception cocktail on Thursday evening, May 23, 2019, when participants had the opportunity either to meet or to renew acquaintances in a relaxed atmosphere and a dinner gala on Friday May 24, 2019 that ended in a fiesta of fun and rejuvenation meetings between members and friends of WISTA.