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Travlos succeeds Veniamis as Greek shipowners’ leader

Owner of Neptune Lines and Neptune Dry becomes first woman president of the Union of Greek Shipowners

An unprecedented five women have been elected to the UGS board after elections that brought 10 changes overall

MELINA Travlos has been elected as president of the Union of Greek Shipowners for a three-year term.

The car carrier and bulk carrier owner becomes the first woman to head the UGS, established in 1916 and now the world’s largest national shipowning body.

In succeeding Theodore Veniamis, she is also the first new president in 13 years. Mr Veniamis served for four terms, a stint unprecedented since the UGS’ rulebook was overhauled in 1974 to cap presidential spans at two terms.

Mr Veniamis also served an extra year because the coronavirus backdrop disrupted the UGS’ ability to hold a proper annual assembly. 

Ms Travlos, 55, controls Neptune Lines, which operates a fleet of 18 pure car and truck carriers of capacities ranging from 1,500 to 4,600 cars.

Unique in the Greek shipping community, Neptune runs about 10 regular services covering the inter-Mediterranean and Black Sea vehicle trades.

In the past year, Ms Travlos brought in former Wallenius Wilhelmsen head Craig Jasienski as her chief executive but remains company president.

She is also chief executive of Neptune Dry Management, that she launched in 2017 and which has to date acquired five modern bulk carriers. The bulker fleet comprises three supramaxes and two ultramaxes.

Ms Travlos has been on the UGS’ 30-person board of directors for 15 years and in Mr Veniamis’ last cabinet served as one of two secretaries. She has also been serving as secretary of the board of the Greek Shipowners’ Social Welfare Company, or ‘Syn-Enosis’.

She entered the election as favourite for the post, not least because she had the clear backing of the outgoing UGS president.

Any doubts about the outcome effectively vanished when, according to well-placed sources, Ms Travlos placed first among the 42 board candidates in the votes of the membership. She was unanimously elected president when the new board was convened on Thursday.

The new board includes a record number of women — five in all. Three were elected for the first time including the country’s largest shipowner, Maria Angelicoussis, who is said to have come second in the members’ voting.

Also making their first appearance on the board are Diana Shipping chief executive Semiramis Paliou and Marily Fragkista of Franco Compania Naviera. Ioanna Procopiou was among board members who successfully sought re-election.

The trio of women elected for the first time are among nine new faces overall on the board. Other newcomers include Filippos Efstathiou of Efnav, George Karageorgiou of Olympic Shipping & Management, Thenamaris chief executive Nikolas Martinos, Alexandros Pappas, son of Star Bulk chief executive Petros Pappas, Dimitri Frank Saracakis of Ionic Shipping, and George Youroukos, founder of Technomar Shipping and executive chairman of Global Ship Lease.

In another change, Evangelos Marinakis of Capital Maritime & Trading was also elected to the board, although this was a return after a hiatus of several years. Mr Marinakis was a board member during two previous terms between 2006 and 2012.

Ms Travlos’ vice-presidents will be Michael Chandris and Enesel chief executive Antonios-Thomas Lemos. 

Dimitris Fafalios, the current chairman of Intercargo, and Mr Veniamis’ son Nikolaos Veniamis were elected secretaries. Rounding out the executive committee, John Xylas remains treasurer and Dinos Caroussis of Chios Navigation is deputy treasurer.

Mr Veniamis headed the UGS for so long as he was widely seen as the right man to cope with an extended period of volatility that started with the global financial crisis and ended amid the global pandemic and supply chain disruption. 

His reign also encompassed Greece’s national economic meltdown and saw Greek shipping come under fierce scrutiny from Brussels for certain aspects of its taxation arrangements for the industry.

Although Mr Veniamis was credited with skillfully navigating the industry intact through the difficult years, that does not mean Ms Travlos’ presidency begins in calm seas.

While markets are brighter for Greek owners, at least those with containerships or bulk carriers, the industry is still struggling to be heard as regulators seek to speed up industry decarbonisation.

Ms Travlos will also be expected to deal with what some say is a renewed attack on the country’s shipping tax regime in recent weeks by the EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Close to the top of her in-tray will also be perennial hand-wringers such as the plight of the Greek flag and the state of the country’s maritime education system.

Greek owners are estimated to control close to 20% of global shipping capacity and more than 50% of the EU fleet, but new initiatives meant to make the Greek flag more competitive have so far failed to translate into any significant number of ships being repatriated to the national ship registry.

In a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, Ms Travlos pledged to “defend the achievements of Greek shipping.”

She said: “We have many great challenges ahead of us. We move forward united and focused on our goal.”

Ms Travlos also praised her predecessor for his “long, consistent and multi-level” contribution to the industry that, she said, was widely recognised.

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