The effects of COVID-19 will eventually pass and trade patterns affected by the pandemic will normalise. This may happen sooner than we expect, provided a medical solution is developed.
However, what may take longer to resolve is the long-term stigma created by the disregard shown to seamen by so many nations as a result of the pandemic. The decision by many countries to ignore seamen’s rights by abandoning them without developing reasonable repatriation arrangements for them - men and women who transport almost 90% of world trade - the impact of this will take time to heal.
These problems of crew repatriation are still an issue.
Looking further ahead, the normalisation of trade and the easing of tariff disputes also pose some problems. These are of real concern to those shipping companies aiming to provide a consistent and reliable service to customers, as well as those who want to expand in their sector of the market.
Future environmental policy also poses some challenges. Inevitably, environmental issues are going to increase, requiring the development of new solutions. However, regulations will eventually become extremely challenging to comply with until a more reasonable approach is adopted.
Our industry produces less than 3% of harmful emissions worldwide yet spends a disproportionately large amount of time and money on implementing preventative measures.
Geopolitics has raised its ugly head, and this always has an adverse effect on trade in the short term. This is a problem that we have learned to accept and ostensibly we adapt our businesses to survive the impact of geopolitical issues.
Indeed, our industry thrives on the stability of trade and a consistency in regulations. When the goal posts keep shifting unilaterally, and superfluous regulations are introduced, this gives unfair advantage to the unscrupulous.
On an individual country basis, I think the countries that will succeed the most going forward will be those that master the infrastructural challenges. Globalisation has reduced the regional effect on trade and shipping, such that today infrastructure has become the governing factor.
Countries that develop more reliable infrastructure and can handle the greatest through-puts will benefit in the long run. The African continent has great potential for growth as they realise the enormity of their natural recourses and wealth.
At the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, we have three main projects underway: the upgrade of the naval academies throughout Greece, the renewal of the country’s ferryboat fleet, and of course the growth of the Greek Flag fleet. I would like to see these three projects through to fruition before my tenure expires.
The Hellenic Chamber of Shipping is the institutional advisor to the Greek government, and in this regard is involved in all aspects of shipping: from the largest tanker to ferryboats, tugs, fishing boats and right down to the smallest private yachts.
The Chamber has been in existence since 1936, and plays a range of roles, from offering opinion on draft legislation proposed by government departments, to proposing measures for the protection and welfare of seafarers, to conducting arbitration on maritime disputes.
We also carry out research and studies on shipping related matters, follow developments in international maritime legislation, and offer expert advice on specialised shipping issues.
As with many people in shipping, I love my job. It is a job that never ends, and brings the excitement of problem solving, together with the satisfaction of resolving issues. This is enhanced by the open-mindedness of people in our industry.
I have a long personal history with RINA as I sat on the board of the society’s first Greek technical committee. I have seen the society develop and grow and emerge stronger on the international market.
RINA has the great advantage of a close relationship with shipowners, plus a willingness to listen and adapt - always the basis for success.
George D. Pateras is the Deputy Chairman of Contships Management Inc, and since 2016 the Chairman of the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping. He studied engineering and economics and holds a BSc in Marine Engineering from Newcastle University, an MS in Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture from MIT and a PhD from Plymouth University.
He is a board member of the Hellenic War Risks Association and the Bahamas Shipowners Association, Chairman of the Hellenic Shipping War Risks Insurance S.A., Vice Chairman, NATO, PBOS now TG(OS) (2000-) and permanent advisor (AMSCC) of the Hellenic Ministry of Defense. Dr. Pateras has also served as the Chairman of the Bahamas Shipowners’ Association (2011- 2015) and as a board member of the Hellenic Seamen’s Pension Fund (1984- 1993), Olympic Aviation (1991- 1993), the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping (1986-2015), the Union of Greek Shipowners (1983-2004), HELMEPA (1996-1998), the BSA representative on International Chamber of Shipping (2011- 2015) and Managing Director of Aegeus Shipping S.A. (1981- 2018).