Hailing Helmepas godfather
This month is a good time to remember George P. Livanos, an owner who expanded the image of what Greek shipping could be
TWENTY years have passed since the death in June 1997 of George P. Livanos, but that is not the only reason why now is a good time to remember one of the greats of Greek and indeed world shipping.
This month also marks the 35th anniversary of the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association, surely Mr Livanos’ signature achievement.
By the late 1970s, Mr Livanos was convinced by the then-available science showing that environmental abuse threatened the planet. Helmepa, launched in 1982, united shipowners and seafarers and was a pioneering effort to do something about pollution, voluntarily.
He would be pleased to see that his brainchild is as active as ever. Intermepa, the Helmepa-inspired international league of ‘mepas’, is on the brink of adding its eighth member.
Helmepa has signed a pact with the Dubai Council for Marine and Maritime Industries to create Emepa, the marine environment protection association for the Emirates. It will join the current roster of kindred associations in Australia, Cyprus, Greece, North America, Turkey, Ukraine and Uruguay.
At home Helmepa tirelessly pursues its mission to train and sensitise companies and their crews, and to educate the wider public, with an emphasis on kids. Training programmes have been enhanced lately with a bridge simulator. A partnership with the Lloyd’s Register Foundation has taken an environmental roadshow to 14 Greek provincial cities over the last four years.
Mr Livanos comes to mind, too, as leading Greeks of today helm most of the top international shipping associations. He was in the vanguard of Greek shipping’s emergence as a force in the corridors of industry policy-making as well as on the high seas.
Mr Livanos was perhaps the ultimate reminder that Greek shipping, whatever national characteristics might be ascribed to it, is deep and broad, encompassing innovation as well as tradition, comprising bold as well as conservative spirits
He was the first Greek president of BIMCO. A key memory of his 1989-1991 tenure was championing development of electronic bills of lading. “He put a lot of time and effort into the project, that was ahead of its time,” recalls son Peter Livanos. “He donated an enormous amount of his own resources although the project did not come to fruition. I never saw him frustrated. His character was such that he always tried to develop a consensus.”
Mr Livanos was perhaps the ultimate reminder that Greek shipping, whatever national characteristics might be ascribed to it, is deep and broad, encompassing innovation as well as tradition, comprising bold as well as conservative spirits.
He was a contrarian who wanted the biggest ships and the smallest ships, as long as he was doing something different from everyone else. A believer in shipping’s humanitarian function, he built innovative mini-bulkers capable of carrying food aid virtually door-to-door. He was a Greek patriot who launched the country’s first fast ferry network as a service to travellers and to the islands, while his global Ceres operation ran some of the world’s largest tankers.
His ideas included the prototype for a huge catamaran tanker. He openly speculated that the cargoes of the future could be transported by rockets or submarines.
Mr Livanos believed first and foremost in the human aspect of the industry while being a Greek shipowner who embraced change and sought to mould it.
His views on our transitional times, and his approach to the topics du jour such as emissions, digitalisation, disruptive technologies and automated ships, would have been well worth hearing.