Tell us a little about your role and responsibilities at V.Group.
For the last 18 months, I have been fortunate enough to be the managing director of V.Ships in Cyprus, and the company is actually celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. We have a global client base, the majority in Greece, but also customers based in the UK, Caribbean and West Africa.
As of today, we manage 70 ships, and employ 76 ship management colleagues based in our Cyprus office. Cyprus is also where Oceanic Catering, V.Group’s leading catering and hospitality brand, is located so, overall, the office has around 200 people. About two months ago, we moved into a brand new office, but due to Covid only now are we able to reach full occupancy and continue our focus on growing our businesses.
The majority of our managed fleet is made of tankers , capsize bulk carriers and we have also set up a dedicated LPG fleet cell, which currently has 12 vessels. The dry market is reportedly heading into boom time, owners that suffered poor markets since the 2008 crisis, do not want to occur unnecessary off-hire and therefore want their assets to be run well and to continue earning. I believe these are some of the reasons why we’ve seen an increase of bulk carriers joining our management.
What made you decide to join the maritime industry?
My grandfather was a Captain at sea with P&O, he introduced me to going to sea, and helped me get a cadetship with P&O. I joined my first ship MV OTAIO in New Zealand (my first time on an airplane) and then sailed back to UK via Pitcairn Island and the Panama Canal, first trips don’t get much better than that. It was this and many other great experiences that make seafaring a fascinating career.
What in your career to-date has given you the most satisfaction?
I have to admit I was never a great academic preferring sports to books so when I was awarded my Masters FG qualifications – I knew I had reached my academic pinnacle… but it was gaining this experience and qualification that was the biggest contributing factor to the rest of my career.
I would also like to mention SOS the “Save Our Seafarers” campaign, which raised awareness on the piracy in the Indian Ocean. I was very fortunate, as President of InterManager, to be invited to chair the pan industry body which had all the main shipping representatives such as ITF, ICS, BIMCO, InterManager etc. This was probably the first time I can recall every organisation in the industry getting together behind one cause. And I had the privilege of chairing it. When we were given a Seatrade Awards at the Guildhall in London, it felt like a very rewarding and proud moment and showed what we, as an industry, can achieve when we work together.
What three words best describe the qualities needed in your role? My first one is stamina. Stamina is important because we really do operate in a 24/7 environment. It may sound cliché, but we are one of the few industries that literally work around the clock, so stamina is needed.
Resilience is the second, as like any industries, you need to be resilient to face challenges and overcome them and the last one would be patience.
Stamina, resilience and patience would best describe the qualities needed in my view.
If there was one thing you could change about the maritime industry, what would it be?
Covid has highlighted the lack of recognition afforded to the critical role played by our seafarers worldwide. I would like to think that when I went to sea in 1975 seafaring was still seen as an honourable profession. Promotion through the ranks and from ship to office was seen as recognition of a job well done and ‘the Superintendent’ was a respected figure onboard and in the community. That recognition of the industry has sadly deteriorated. I would say that we need to give our seagoing colleagues the respect they deserve, they do a terrific job out there often in difficult and treacherous conditions.
The other thing I think that needs changing is the pace and scale of diversity within the industry. We are missing out on fantastic opportunities by not being fully inclusive and diverse, and particularly in respect to gender diversity.
How do you help your customers meet their environmental obligations?
The environmental challenge is, and will continue to be, the single biggest challenge facing at present and. and rightly so We support our customers in meeting their obligations through everything that we do, by doing our job right in respect to single use plastics, in respect to limiting packaging, in compliance with MARPOL, and by monitoring individual vessel performance, fleet performance, fuel consumption performance and many other parameters.
It’s a difficult question to answer because really everything that we do is focused on helping our customers to meet their obligations, which meets our obligations, and collectively contributes to meeting the industry obligations too.
Explain how V.Group’s use of data and technology is helping one of your customers.
The future is going to be data driven, without a doubt. We have customers who are embracing data, and are hungry for data, and we have others who are still not paying enough attention to data. Data is data but those clients that will benefit are those are committed to learn how that data can work for them. What are the trends the data is showing, and how can they use this information to improve the business and the running of their vessels. The data can help to make ships more environmentally friendly and more efficient within the charter party as an example. So, it’s clear that the influence of data is getting stronger and stronger in the industry and it is something that more of our customers are getting onboard with.
What do you think will attract young people to a maritime career? OR What are the key attractions of a maritime career?
As previously mentioned, I was attracted by the opportunity to travel however nowadays the world has shrunk we live, or did until Covid, in an environment of relatively cheap travel and the details of exotic destination available at the click of a mouse.
Ships have changed, they don’t have the time in ports and the social infrastructure onboard have changed, so I would like to think the opportunity to travel is still an attraction, but I am not convinced.
What also attracted me is that is a vocational degree. So, if you work hard and join the right company, your training can be paid, and if successful, you can gain responsibility at a young age. If I was to sell the industry to young people today, I would say that there’s great training, a great opportunity to learn and get qualifications while gaining responsibilities with good money at young age. This lets you set yourself up, if you choose to, for a job onshore. I genuinely believe that choosing a career in the maritime industry is a lifetime opportunity.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
When I came ashore in 1990 with Acomarit, I had come from being a Master onboard a particular ship type into an office environment. I was amazed at how much everybody else seemed to know and I didn’t. They knew about different types of ship, charter parties, accounts…
Not long after joining I happened to be on a train with Lock Parker, our Technical Director and he asked me ‘Laddie how is it going?’ I answered honestly saying that I was overwhelmed by how much information there is out there, and by how much I appeared not to know. He gave me the best advice that stayed with me: “Laddie – focus on what you need to know to do your job and run your ships, and the other knowledge will come”. And he was right, because you pick up the additional knowledge along the way.
Another one which stayed with me, and which I repeat to most of my colleagues: “focus on the things you can influence and you can change, and don’t waste your time worrying or trying to change things you can’t”. I believe if you follow these two rules in Ship Management, you won’t go too far wrong.
And finally, tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
In my career with V.Ships I am probably one of the only people that has had the privilege to manage every ship management office within V.Group. I have been responsible for South Europe, then Europe and the Americas, then the Far East. This is important because having this network of colleagues across all V. Ships offices, makes it is much easier for me to communicate and collaborate within the team – and developing this ‘network’ is something we should all aspire to.