In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Gordon Robertson, Director (Greece) and Tony Allen, Director (Greece) at North P&I Club explain why the Greek market is so important to the Club. On the occasion of a 20-year presence in Greece, the two Executives from North Club share key initiatives taken and milestones achieved while they also reveal future plans of their agenda. The North Club in Greece has 83 members and around 20% of the Club’s entered tonnage. Its continuous investment in talent has enabled Club’s business in Greece to grow organically and accomplish great achievements.
SAFETY4SEA: On the occasion of the 20 years anniversary, how happy are you with the presence of North P&I Club in Greece?
We are very happy but there is always room for improvement. North P&I Club’s continuous investment in talent has enabled the business in Greece to grow organically. As our membership has grown, so have we. The Club is now one of the largest in Greece, with a 20-strong team working in Piraeus to serve 83 Greek-based members.
The 20th anniversary of our Piraeus office coincides with record levels of Greek-owned entered tonnage and with such a strong presence in Greece already, we hope to continue to grow in a sustainable manner with our Members.
S4S: How would you describe the prospects in the Hellenic shipping market amid COVID-19?
The impact of Covid-19 has been felt by everyone in the industry, and the Hellenic market is no exception. However, a country does not become the world’s foremost ship-owning nation without surviving its share of crises. Greek shipping has the resilience to thrive and move on from what has been a hugely challenging year – and as the market’s leading P&I Club, North will be on hand to support its members.
S4S: From your experience, what are the key challenges that the maritime industry in Greece is currently facing?
In common with other major industries and as explored elsewhere, shipping in 2020 has been affected profoundly by Covid-19. However, there are other challenges for the sector: cybersecurity; decarbonisation; trading relations and tariffs; sanctions; digitalisation; etc. It is nonetheless important to keep matters in proportion because some of these challenges can also create opportunities for responsive, high quality owners.
S4S: How has the overall pandemic crisis affected your operations?
The Covid-19 crisis led to the temporary closure of the majority of North’s global offices, but we have sustained our full portfolio of services by adopting remote working practices, maintaining our business continuity while protecting the health and safety of our employees.
Throughout the pandemic, we have been busy helping our members rise to the challenges of this unprecedented period, providing regular updates on developments related to coronavirus. Our teams have remained in contact with members. In addition, North’s industry-leading strategy to invest in digital services has proved especially beneficial in its response to Covid-19 (please see question 6 for more information).
S4S: In terms of Hellenic-based clients, how does the North Club perform and how important is the Greek market for the Club?
The 83 North members based in Greece contribute a total of 43 million in gross tonnage. This accounts for 25% of the GT on the Club’s books – so it is clear that Greece is an extremely important market for North. This journey began in the 1980s, with the Club insuring its first Greek fleet in 1984. Since the establishment of its Piraeus office in 2000, it has devolved key areas of responsibility to Greece, building up a staff of 20 in Piraeus, with full support provided by its expert teams in Newcastle.
S4S: Are there any initiatives/projects that the North Club offers to the Greek ship operators? How they can be benefit from these?
Like all North members, those in Greece have free access to our extensive library of digital tools and resources. In 2020, an especially significant addition is the Digital Covid-19 Tracking Tool. Based on the advanced geographical information platform MyGlobeView, the Tracking Tool provides live updates on developments related to coronavirus, such as infection rates, port entry requirements, quarantine rules and more. This enables shipowners to plan their operations safely and in accordance with regulations, protecting their investment as well as the health and wellbeing of their crew. The platform’s contribution to marine safety was recognised at this year’s Safety4Sea Awards, where it won the Technology Award.
Another MyGlobeView-based solution is the recently launched Route Risk Advice, which allows users to input a voyage plan and receive up-to-date information on the risks that may arise at sea and in port, helping to ensure safe and efficient operations. Since the application is regularly enhanced with new layers of data, its contribution to voyage planning is constantly evolving.
Meanwhile, North’s partnership with HudsonCyber (see answer 8) has been helping members to prepare for the approaching IMO cyber security deadline.
S4S: What do you do to motivate and support the younger generation of shipping?
North understands that the first experiences in a seafarer’s working life can be career-defining. In Greece, we deliver an annual lecture to cadets at the National Merchant Marine Academy of Hydra, drawing on actual incidents at sea to help aspiring mariners make the connection between what they have learned in the classroom and real life. The idea is to prepare the future generations of the Hellenic shipping industry for the challenges they will face in their careers by examining ‘what if’ scenarios and the consequences of preconceptions, attitudes and decisions. The Club also presents the ‘Best Cadet Award’ at the event, acknowledging the academic achievement and potential of these budding seafarers. In addition, for the last few years we have been supporting Isalos.net around Greece giving presentations and attending events.
We also support Real Time Graduates which is a non-profit organisation that connects graduates from all disciplines with the shipping industry. They run a fantastic and informative blog as well as open house sessions bringing graduates into direct contact with the industry. These have seamlessly moved online during Covid.
We receive a great number of CVs through various sources with people looking for work experience, advice and of course employment. Where we can, we aim to give constructive responses to as many of these as we can giving pointers on style and content and directing them towards the opportunities they are after if possible.
S4S: How are you planning to help ship operators/ owners with the implementation of IMO Resolution on cyber security from the new year?
Ahead of the IMO’s January 2021 deadline for safety compliance, North has partnered with cyber risk expert HudsonCyber to offer our members access to HACyberLogix, a secure cloud-based programme designed specifically for the maritime industry. This has enabled members to assess their cyber security capabilities and gain insight into the operational changes and enhancements they need to implement in time for next year.
S4S: Why do shipowners in the Greek market choose North? How could you assist them?
North’s approach to member engagement is based on the warmth derived from its native Newcastle – a city that is known within the United Kingdom for the friendly and open nature of its people. This makes the Club an ideal fit for the Hellenic shipping market, where personal, long-standing relationships based on trust and transparency are so highly valued.
Owners in Greece also expect long term commitment to the market. Over its 30-plus years of supporting Greek shipowners, North has developed a deep understanding of the local market. The Club serves everyone from the large listed operators to smaller, family-run companies that are such an integral part of Hellenic shipping.
S4S: What are your top 3 priorities for 2021? Do you have any new projects you would like to share with the Greek market?
Our overriding priority is to enable our members to trade with confidence and we do so by reviewing and evolving the service we offer.
While the threat of Covid-19 persists, helping our members to minimise the impact of the pandemic on their operations – as well as on the welfare of the seafarers they employ – remains a top priority. Our Digital Covid-19 Tracking Tool (see answer 6) was designed with these objectives in mind, and we will continue to update the platform for as long as it can be of benefit to shipowners.
Supporting our members’ cyber security needs is another priority for the coming year. We have developed digital solutions to help them adjust to IMO 2021 safety requirements, but we believe there is greater value in giving customers the tools they need to find their own answers. This is why we have partnered with HudsonCyber to grant our members access to the HACyberLogix platform (see answer 8).
S4S: What is your key message to your clients?
2020 has seen North reach two significant milestones: the 160th anniversary of its existence as a P&I Club and the 20th anniversary of its Piraeus office.
Unfortunately, 2020 has also been one of the most challenging years for the shipping industry in living memory. However, the Club will continue to offer guidance on issues such as port restrictions, quarantining and crew repatriation until the threat of coronavirus has passed. And as a new year brings new challenges, it will remain on hand to respond to the evolving needs of its members in Greece and throughout the world.
We look forward to a brighter 2021 for the maritime industry – and to many more years serving the Hellenic market from our office in Piraeus.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.
Tony Allen – Director (Greece)
Tony joined North in 1998 and is responsible for managing the Greek office. Tony qualified as a solicitor at City of London law firm Simmons & Simmons in 1989 where he worked for 8 years in the shipping litigation department. In 1996 he joined Norton Rose’s Piraeus office before moving to North.
Gordon Robertson – Director (Greece)
Gordon joined North in 2009 and is responsible for service delivery and development for our Greek Membership. He is an Associate Member of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects and Solicitor of England and Wales. Gordon has degrees in naval architecture and ocean engineering, attended the College of Law in York and qualified as a solicitor in London with shipping firm Shaw and Croft. In 2016 Gordon joined the P&I management team and his background in engineering, law and claims makes him ideally suited to coordinate Member’s use of Underwriting, P&I, FD&D and Loss Prevention.