Representing technical managers across Greece’s ship management fleet
MARTECMA – the Marine Technical Managers Association – celebrated its 20th anniversary in October 2018.
Dedicated to Greece’s ship management industry, MARTECMA provides its 200 members – made up of technical managers at many of Greece’s smaller ship management companies – with important news and developments, as well as the chance to pool their knowledge and form a collective voice that individually, would be lost on the waves of the Ionian Sea.
Stavros Hatzigrigoris, Chairman of the association, spoke to Inside Marine’s Daniel Barnes.
Please can you tell the readers of Inside Marine about the key reasons behind MARTECMA’s formation over 20 years ago?
I’m currently the Managing Director of Maran Gas Maritime – the LNG shipping arm of the Angelicoussis Shipping Group. I was a founding member of MARTECMA when it was founded in 1998.
We decided to set up this knowledge-sharing non-profit organisation back in the 1990s when myself and a number of my peers at other tanker companies in Greece used to get together to share our knowledge, experiences and challenges within the industry. We were encountering a variety of problems, such as class rules varying between the societies, the substantial differences between the quality offered at various shipyards, and the first independent vetting by the oil majors. We also wanted to develop common proposals to class societies and other industry bodies.
In fact, the first process we undertook where the results were shared with our members, was about information pertaining to the Y2K millennium bug and how that could affect shipping. As you know, the bug proved to be somewhat of an exaggeration!
Whenever international regulations change, we discuss these at MARTECMA, and we study what kinds of measures members can take in order to comply with these regulations.
How many members do you currently have?
We have about 200 members at present, who combined are managing approximately 2,800 ships and a total 265 million DWT.
In total, there are about 650 ship management companies operating out of Greece, with the majority being in Athens. All technical managers at these companies have the right to become MARTECMA members, participate in our meetings and vote for the council and so on.
Out of these 650 companies, only around 50 of them operate a fleet of more than 36 vessels. The bigger companies, as you would imagine, have a lot more information available to them. So, the basic objective of MARTECMA is to inform our members of what is going on, taking into account their opinion of developments, and if it is necessary, we voice this opinion to the Greek flag and other flags, to the IMO, to INTERTANKO, and to the industry in general.
We do this with just one paid member of staff, our secretary. Our work is conducted via various committees and through our members. We utilise the resources that our members have at the companies they work for to carry out a lot of our work. The guys who are responsible for what we do are the members.
How has your status grown over the years as an influencing voice for the Greek shipping industry?
In general, one of our objectives is that we strive to improve the level of knowledge of our members, who are the technical managers. We try to provide information – in the form of databases – that our members can use, which will save them time.
If you read the shipping newspapers you will see that MARTECMA is now being referenced from time to time; not like the IMO or the classification societies, but they do regard us now as a serious voice on what Greek shipping wants.
Recently the issues that we have to discuss are related to the energy efficiency design index, and towards the 2020 sulphur emissions limitations. These are the topics that are hot at the present time.
The IMO 2020 sulphur cap is less than 12 months away now. How prepared are your members and what is the association’s opinion on these tighter regulations?
The opinion of our members is that we must of course comply, and that we are preparing for this. There are other companies – who are operating the larger vessels – that are installing scrubbers, but the majority of Greek owners in terms of ship numbers will not install scrubbers. Instead, they will have to purchase the compliant fuel to comply with the sulphur reduction regulations in 2020.
Is there some concern regarding the additional cost of this more expensive and compliant fuel?
Of course. My personal view is that at the end of the day, it will be you and I who will count the additional cost of this fuel.
Profits are going down in general for the shipping industry. It’s a difficult industry but ship owners must make a profit. We cannot accept that our profits will be either minimised or zero because the fuel regulations are changing.
To give an example of how to overcome this issue, container companies already have a fuel surcharge. If the fuel gets more expensive, the cost of transporting a container becomes more expensive. We will try to keep our margins healthy because making a profit also relates to the quality of operations you can have.
Talking about new technologies is also an issue. Apart from the 2020 sulphur regulations, the IMO has set targets for reducing greenhouse emissions by 2030, and then more so by 2050: I believe this will be the next big issue that we will have to discuss.
I don’t think that we can meet the 2030 or 2050 regulations targets with the current technology; we have to take into account that ships live for over 20 years. If we are talking about meeting the new regulations, we have to start preparing now. I believe we will see new solutions, including new technologies, alternative fuels, maybe reducing the speed of vessels or increasing the size of vessels by 2025. If you ask me, 2020 is already passed. That horse has already bolted.
How has the introduction to LNG fuel impacted the Greek shipping market?
Greek shipping started working in the LNG industry in 2005 and now, the number of LNG vessels across the Greek-owned fleet is at about 17%. If you look into new buildings, you will see that almost 40% of new LNG vessels are orders that have been placed by Greek interests.
From a ship-owning point of view, what LNG is offering to those who are owning and operating LNG vessels and to the Greek shipping industry is long-term contracts and positive cash flow; I believe those are the two main things. Technically speaking, the LNG ships are more advanced than tankers and bulk carriers and this is helping the Greek shipping industry to operate in a better way within world shipping.
But LNG is more a topic for the companies with larger fleets. For MARTECMA members, out of our 200 members, only 11 or 12 are involved with operating LNG vessels. I think it will be difficult for LNG to grow in a big way amongst our membership. We may see a few more companies come into the market, but as the majority of the companies are small, they don’t have the capital or the willingness to take the risk of operating such expensive vessels in a difficult industry. In general, LNG shipping is indeed a difficult industry.
How would you assess maritime recruitment in Greece?
Greece has two big industries: tourism and shipping. Shipping had a down period during the years when tourism was at its peak – arguably too big – and we lost a lot of seafarers from the islands. But now, because of the financial situation in Greece, in a way this has been reversed and we see more people joining the marine academies and wanting to become officers on board Greek-operated ships.
We are currently seeing more people joining the marine academies; they get valuable experience, at the later stages of the course they come to work in the shipping offices and the percentage of the Greek fleet is not going down. It is steady, if not increasing.
Regarding ship recycling, the recently updated EU regulations have tightened this sector. How is MARTECMA assisting its members to ensure they comply with the new rules?
In terms of new building specifications, I believe most of the Greek companies that have been building vessels – and had ships delivered after 2010 – will have the hazardous materials inventory on board, and there are now some additional requirements.
In general, if we talk about ships delivered after 2010, I believe the vast majority of Greek ships will comply with the ship recycling requirements. This is a process that we are now starting in MARTECMA. The objective is to contact equipment manufacturers, make sure that they are not using hazardous materials, and input this information into a database so that members can utilise this database. The end result would mean that each company doesn’t have to go individually to equipment manufacturers and ask for information, which wastes a lot of time repeating this process for each company who needs the same questions answered.
Am I right to say that as a lot of your members are working for smaller Greek companies, most ships will be second hand vessels rather than new builds? Is it fair to assume they would be the ones buying them to eventually scrap them?
It is a fair assumption, but if you look at the average age of the Greek fleet, it’s getting better and better. Statistics provided to the Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee by IHS Markit in March 2018 stated the average age of the Greek controlled fleet increased slightly compared to the previous year, but, nevertheless, continues to be 2.8 years below the average age of the world fleet. The average age of the Greek controlled fleet in terms of ships now stands at 10.6 years as against 13.4 for the world fleet.
So, the old opinion that the Greeks are only buying old ships and then a few years later they sell them for scrap or to China is no longer valid.
Finally, what do you consider to be MARTECMA’s greatest achievements to date?
We have managed to represent Greek shipping. If you ask me what the most influential body in the Greek shipping industry is, of course I will tell you that it’s the Union of Greek Shipowners.
Next to that, I believe that MARTECMA has a role to play, basically because we are technical people and we can look at technical issues which affect most of the industry; most problems are indeed technical, such as how to comply with the 2020 sulphur reduction regulations. We have a few things to say, and the information we are giving to our members is received with appreciation.