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The Power of People

Melina Travlos, president of the Union of Greek Shipowners, discusses her leadership philosophy of putting people first

26 June 2023
Melina Travlos, President of the Union of Greek Shipowners, discusses her leadership philosophy of putting people first. Credit: Union of Greek Shipownersenergy

You became President of the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) in 2022 during a uniquely challenging time for shipping with regards to the war in Ukraine and the aftermath of COVID. How do you think maritime can best navigate the challenges of a demanding present and an uncertain future?

Navigating in rough seas is “business as usual” for us. So, we know how to successfully deal with challenges. 

However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine were indeed unprecedented for all. Despite this turbulent landscape, our people, our seafarers, worked tirelessly to keep the supply chains open. Thanks to their professionalism, persistence, and dedication our ships always reach their destination and every citizen in the world has access to food, medicines, energy and all other essential goods. 

Our sector is a pillar of stability in a state of flux and has proven its resilience throughout history. We need to make sure the strategic role of our sector is acknowledged. It is our duty to ensure that. Through collaborative thinking and shared effort among all players within our industry we can successfully overcome whatever hardship the future brings.

What advice would you give to maritime leaders also navigating these same challenges?

We need to remain focused and speak with one voice. Maritime leaders need to adopt a holistic approach, regardless of the shipping segment we serve. We must be able to cooperate in an institutional manner and through our national and international representative bodies, like the ICS, to serve the common and legitimate interests of our sector. 

What is your leadership philosophy as head of the UGS and what are your priorities for your time as president? 

I am a strong advocate of teamwork. Our mission in the UGS is to serve and protect the common interest of our members to the best of our ability and we succeed in this through collective efforts. People always were and will always be my priority and hence at the centre of what we do. 

At the same time, promoting and further advancing the maritime profession by attracting young talented people and offering them high quality training – is also a strategic priority intrinsically linked with the sector’s longevity and success. Maritime know-how is key both at national and at EU level. In Greece we are particularly proud of our seamanship. Our seamanship is our history, it is our culture, and we must safeguard it.  

Overall, my vision and prime concern is to highlight in every way the vital role of shipping to every citizen in Greece, the EU and around the world. Since politicians and the wider public do not have a clear perception of its indispensability, it is our duty to educate them accordingly.

Turning back to global events, the energy market has experienced unprecedented volatility in recent years. How is Greek shipping stepping in to ensure the supply of oil and natural gas in Europe and worldwide?

Greek shipping is strategically important for the EU and the whole world as it is pivotal in securing the countries’ supply of energy and all essential commodities from diverse sources and at a low transport cost. Almost 72% of the EU’s external trade is carried by ships and 60% of the EU controlled fleet is in the hands of Greek shipowners. 

In particular, Greek shipowners control 80% of the EU-controlled bulk carriers, 73% of the EU-controlled oil tankers, 85% of the EU-controlled LNG carriers and 17% of EU-controlled containerships.

The strategic importance of Greek shipping for the EU needs to be further highlighted in all EU policies and regulatory initiatives. The international competitiveness and sustainability of EU shipping must be upheld and safeguarded. Towards that, better coordination among the different competent EU legislative bodies, as well as closer consultation with institutional representatives of our sector should take place in order to take into account the special characteristics and operational needs of ocean-going shipping.

Greek shipping, as the leading shipping power, is committed to the provision of reliable, efficient and green international transport services and it will remain at the forefront of technological advancements. 

Shipping is also currently at the beginning of a major transformation to using and transporting green fuels. What do you think maritime can do to adapt and achieve net zero emission goals?

Green technology will lead shipping to the energy transition, but information technology and logistics technology are also vital in contributing to our sector’s sustainability. They lead to optimisation and, hence, efficiency, thus also paving the way  for the sector’s energy transition. Greek shipping has always successfully embraced all available technological tools, enhancing its performance to the benefit of global trade, economy and of course, the environment.

Our industry is committed to the goal of its energy transition and it is already doing a lot working towards this. But shipping cannot achieve its decarbonisation on its own. The sector needs the development, deployment and market uptake of new economically viable and safe zero emission fuels and technologies available worldwide. These are the responsibility and area of expertise of out-of-sector stakeholders, such as energy producers and suppliers, shipyards, marine engine manufacturers, etc., whose commitment to produce them must be secured.

We must not forget that the safety of the crews, of ships, cargoes, property and the environment is a prerequisite for developing and using new fuels and technology. Last but not least, it is essential to retrain the human capital in line with all these developments ensuring their successful adoption.