At the convention in Lagonissi near Athens, speakers and delegates discussed European short sea shipping and its benefits economic, environmental and social terms.
Bringing together more than 500 delegates, including including representatives of the European Commission, transport policymakers, representatives of the European logistics, ports and maritime sector, the event is in its 22nd and this year saw some lively debates.
Grimaldi Group managing director Emanuele Grimaldi opened the convention with a speech outlining the format, of working sessions discussing some of the burning issues facing the sector today. He spoke of the global topic of environmental regulation being seen as an opportunity, thanks to the contribution of expert players in the regulatory sector, such as speaker Mr Ugo Salerno, CEO of the RINA certification company.
Technology progress was also addressed in detail, with input from Mikael Makinen, President of Rolls Royce Marine who spoke of the tremendous efforts being made by companies like Rolls Royce Marine to bring clean technology to marine propulsion.
Public institutions were well represented, with the President of Eastern Sicily Ports Andrea Annunziata and the Managing Director of the Mediterranean Short Sea Network Ennio Cascetta making significant contributions to discussions.
A further panel addressed challenges in Greece’s domestic ferry market and its potential recovery, with speeches from the Secretary General of the Ministry of Shipping & Maritime Affairs, Dionysios Temponeras. Manolis Tsagarakis from the Shipping Division of the National Bank of Greece, and George Xiradakis, Managing Director of XRTC Financial consultants.
The theme of short sea shipping was also approached from an industrial perspective, with the shipowner view of Dimitriadis Eugenides, President of Eugenides Group, and Guido Grimaldi, speaking as president of Italian Shipowners Association Short Sea Shipping and President of ALIS logistic association, and with Antonis Maniadakis, Managing Director of the Greek Short Sea company Minoan Lines. The Port Authority view was represented by the President of the Port of Igoumenitsa, Andreas Ntais.
Grimaldi Group’s commitment to the environment
Emanuele Grimaldi spoke about the promises the Grimaldi Group made in 2017, to order a series of 10 green giant newbuilding, halving the emissions per ton and sailing with clean electricity only, when in port. He said of the order: “We kept the faith and exceeded it with a 12 ships order, out of which 3 ice-class. For the size and technological content, these units will be the roro flagships not only within our Group, but also at a global scale. Last year by this date we welcomed also the delivery of the Grande Baltimora, the first unit of a series of 10 green giant car carriers for the deep sea routes. The deliveries have continued with the Grande Philadelphia and Grande New York. Again, crossing the frontier of modernity thanks to their size, cargo flexibility and low consumption score.”
Grimaldi went on to talk of the consolidation of efforts by shipping companies, highlighting Grimaldi’s moves: “In a fast but changing world, moulded by globalisation, consolidation is a must and comes together with R&D and sustainable policy. Grimaldi Group is totally committed to sustainability and to the reduction of emissions. In this respect we have invested in silicon coating cycles on 80 ships, propulsion system upgrades on 30 ships and scrubbers installed on 26 ships in service.” He said that these investments were bearing fruit: “Last year only, despite cargo tons transported increased by 11%, the Co2 emissions produced per nautical mile were reduced by 3.3% and So2 by 6.2%.”
Investment and diversification
Emanuele Grimaldi went on to talk about how Grimaldi is an integrated logistical Group, with 62% of its human resources working at sea and over 38% on land: “It is logical that the strategic increase in numbers, capacity and technological content of ships has gone arm in arm with a growing terminal and agency service demand. That’s why the Group have also plans of investment in new quays, multilayer car parks and terminals, solar panels and windmill in ports, heavy equipment and cranes in Antwerp, Hamburg, Wallhamn, Salerno, Catania, Savona, Valencia, Barcelona, Lagos, Uusikaupunki and Travemunde.
He talked of the Minoan [passenger ship] company and its future: “If we were to label the year just passed, in Grimaldi Group we would have named it ‘the Greek year’. Our sister company ACL also is having its new start with the five new G4 ships, but in a totally different and deteriorated North Atlantic scenario, with a freight war among container carriers, high oil prices, congestion in ports and custom duties war among the European and US blocks. ACL is the only piece in Grimaldi Group which is somehow exposed to container price wars, but it is solidly facing the cycle leaning on the low level of debt, on the high carbon efficiency, on the flexible intake of its conro ships, the biggest on the market, and on a tight cost cutting programme ongoing.”
A finely tuned machine
Speaking on the Group’s activities in the Baltic, Grimaldi said: “Whilst Minoan is gearing up for growth and ACL is navigating in very difficult waters, after a long run-up Finnlines is getting up to speed and burning records. During 2018 Finnlines bought back and retrofitted its flagship Europalink, lengthened six ships and ordered three new ones with a capacity of 5,400 lm each. All this is leading to multiple upgrades of the fleet plan connecting southern and northern parts of the Baltic with an unprecedented offer of lane metres and departures.
“While the Baltic business is a fine tuned working machine, the west Mediterranean is an open workshop. In the first semester of 2018 Grimaldi hit the gas on passenger routes launching the Salerno-Catania ropax line and reinforcing the passenger offer from the Continental ports of Livorno and Salerno to both Sicily and Sardinia. Outcome was a an increase of 200.000 passengers more travelling with Grimaldi Lines compared to the same period of last year. Also cargo service was upgraded with the introduction of superior tonnage in Italian Domestic Cabotage Lines, with the strengthening of the East-West European bridge concepts and introduction of new lines from Spain via Italy and to Turkey and vice versa.
“Both Euro-Med and deepsea oceanic lines are more of a stable business, based on big car manufacturer multiannual contracts and import/export steady flows of mostly full loads, project and used vehicles. Also in this perimeter of business, large newbuildings are phasing in helping both economies of scale and scope, and allowing for some fleet plan optimisation and introduction of new ports, like Tuxpan, in Mexico or Davisville in the US.”
Digitalisation and labour
Grimaldi spoke about digitalisation and how the Group is making advances: “We are involved in studying and pilot projects in Europe for big data management, automatisation, custom simplification and cybersecurity. We are also unifying and connecting our software systems within our Group, onboard and between agencies and clients.”
On the perennially difficult subject of manpower, he said: “We are investing in human resources. Safety and security of seamen is a key area of action. In this domain we are adhering in these weeks for example to the multiple requests coming from Unions to exceed national law levels of security and grant on all our ropax ships the application of Athens protocol, embarking only communitarian people on all ropax ships running amid european ports. By this point of view, we are perhaps among the better example of compliance in Europe. Indeed, despite what competitors misleading information may say, within the end of this year our Group will employ only EU seamen on all its ropax ships both in Italy and Greece, but also in Finland, Sweden, Germany and Spain.
“A special thank should go to those of them doing heavy duty jobs onboard, who are the real working engine of shipping. Finally, I would like to thank all our clients for supporting us more and more also this year. Prizes and Awards are welcome to us, but what we appreciate most is the choice you make of our services every day.”