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Thessaloniki Maritime Economic Forum 2019 – “The Economy of Shipping and Blue Development in Thessaloniki & the Value of Education and Vocational Training”

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Thessaloniki Maritime Economic Forum, an initiative of non-profit associations and citizens of Thessaloniki, organized 5 April 2019 the first Conference on «Shipping and Blue Economy Opportunities in Thessaloniki & the value of Education and vocational training». The Conference was hosted by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP), Pylaia-Thessaloniki.

The forum aimed to become a permanent platform of dialogue and information on Maritime Economics, for the city of Thessaloniki. For that reason, the first Conference focused on the need for education and vocational training in Thessaloniki. Employment and education are setting the foundations of sustainability and growth opportunities of the port and shipping industry, marine research and coastal entrepreneurship.

Maritime Economic Forum is the next phase of what took place at the Conference for the World Maritime Day in HELEXPO, September 2017, organized by an informal group of citizens and professionals named “The Blueprints”. YET is a founding member of The Blueprints.

Organizing Committee: Non-profit companies & associations of Thessaloniki: 

Steering Committee: professors and executives

In collaboration with: 

  • Naftemporiki
  • European Business Review
  • TV100
  • ViLabs
  • Tre Marie Catering

Agenda of the Conference:


Welcoming Remarks by Ms Mara Brugia, Acting Executive Director, Cedefop

Introduction-Presentation: Mantalena Kaili, Policy advisor, Maritime Economic Forum

09.30-13:00 PART I The overview of the maritime and energy industry in the Region

9.30-10.00 Keynote Speaker: Sotirios Theofanis, CEO Port of Thessaloniki 

Presenter: Vasso Vegiri , Journalist, Naftemporiki

10.00-11.30 PANEL: Maritime Economics of Thessaloniki and the North Aegean perspectives 

Moderator: Vasso Vegiri, Journalist, Naftemporiki

  1. Andronikos Sinioris, Hon.Consul of Malta in  N.Greece, Head of Maritime Club of Thessaloniki 
  2. Christos Karantzis, Hon. Consul of Uruguay in N. Greece, Member & Research Associate of the World Federation of Consuls (FICAC) and an elected Member of the Board of Directors of the Consular Corps of Greece (CCG)  
  3. Charis Kotios, lawyer Platis Anastassiades Law Firm – EY Greece
  4. Charalampos Simantonis, President of the Hellenic Shortsea Shipowners Association represented by Mrs Alexandra Gkana,Member of the Council
  5. George Xiradakis, President of the Propeller Club Piraeus, XRTC Business Consultants

11.45 -13.00 PANEL: Geopolitics and Energy: the opportunities and challenges for the Region 

Moderator: Alexandros Lagakos, Greek Energy Forum

  1. Ioannis Vikelidis, First Counsellor of Embassy,Director of Intern. Relations Office of Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  2. Chip Laitinen, Economic Counselor, U.S Embassy Athens, Greece 
  3. Sofoklis Papanikolaou, CEO, Blue Grid Gas & Power 
  4. Liana Gouta, Group Director Energy Policy and International Affairs at HELLENIC PETROLEUM Group of Companies
  5. Nikolaos Farantouris, Prof. ΕU Competition & Energy Law, Chair Legal Affairs EUROGAS 
  6. Eirinikos Platis, lawyer Platis Anastassiades Law Firm – EY Greece

14.00-19.00 PART II | EU policy priorities,the vision & the opportunities for education and vocational training 

14.00-15.30 Keynote speakers 

Presentation: Vassilis Tsoulis, Young Entrepreneurs of Thessaloniki-YET

  1. Christos Economou  Head of Unit, DG MARE, EU Commission 
  2. Loukas Zahilas, Head of department for VET systems and institutions 
  3. Stelina Chatzichristou, Expert, Cedefop
  4. Pantelis Lamprianidis, Policy Officer, European Commission, Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport, Unit D2 – Maritime Safety 
  5. Dr. Maria Boile, Assoc.Prof. at the University of Piraeus, Department of Maritime Studies, & Head of Unit on Transport Economics and Environment, Maritime and Air Transport, at the Hellenic Institute of Transport (HIT), Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH)
  6. Stratos Papadimitriou, Prof., Member of the Board, Maria Tsakos Foundation- International Center of Maritime Research and Tradition 

15.45-17.00 PANEL: A city – maritime hub, synergies and clusters. 

Moderator: Popi Asteriadou , Journalist, TV100

  1. Aggelos Kotios, Professor of the Department of International and European Studies, Rector of the University of Piraeus.
  2. Eva Kaili, MEP, STOA Committee Chair, Special Rapporteur on the digitalization of Maritime Economy 
  3. Gregory Yovanof, Prof. of Innovation and Technology at AIT, Manager of  Maritime ICT Cluster Stretegis

17.00-18.00 PANEL: The representatives of the Institutions and Chambers of Thessaloniki discuss on the priorities of the agenda. 

Moderator: Journalists Popi Asteriadou & Vasso Vergiri,  

  1. Grigorios Zarotiadis, Dean of Department of Economics, AUTH, Assoc. Prof. of Economics, 
  2. Stylianos Katranidis, Rector, University of Macedonia
  3. Georgios Gkotzamanis, Director of Engineers Department, Naval Academy of Macedonia
  4. Annie Michaelidou, former President International Propeller Club Thessaloniki, President and CEO EBIE MICHAELIDES COMPANY, CEO EBIP, Hon. Consul of Portugal
  5. Spyros Ignatiadis, Gen. Director, Exporters of N.Greece Association
  6. Nikos Tsavdaroglou, N. Greece Executive Coordinator at American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce
  7. Georgios Eliadis, A’ Vice-president Professional Chamber, Thessaloniki
  8. Nikos Antonakis, President, Chamber of Finance, Central Macedonia
  9. Nikolaos Margaropoulos, lawyer, member of American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce

Conference Synopsis

“The maritime economy and blue growth in Northern Greece and the North Aegean can be strongly boosted, with the support of ThPA (Thessaloniki Port Authority S.A.) investments and major current or future energy projects in the region, as well as the need to connect university education and the shipping business community, were two of the main conclusions of the conference organized in Thessaloniki by the Maritime Economic Forum – an initiative of non-profit enterprises and citizens of Thessaloniki with the support of the financial newspaper “Naftemporiki”.

Sotirios Theophanis, the chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of ThPA SA, announced (via Skype) that the consortium or investors decided upon the expansion of the container terminal (Pier 6) in the port at a depth of -17.6m. and 460 meters in length, despite the high cost, so that vessels with a capacity of 18,000 TEUs (main line shipping) will be able to visit the port, rather than 16.5 m. in depth, for vessels with a capacity of 14,000 TEUs. The project is expected to have been completed by the end of 2022.

Further projects

Furthermore, Mr Theofanis announced that in the next few days a competition to replace two tower cranes will be held, as part of additional investments (besides the mandatory investment of €180 million) to improve port services. Moreover, the first dry port in the Balkans, in Sofia, is soon to become a reality. The investors’ strategy aims at the construction of more cargo centers, either through collaborations or by investing in northern Macedonia, Serbia and possibly southern Romania. Meanwhile, at the beginning of May, ThPA will be able to store the export containers in the port, while in March 2019, a 9% increase in container traffic was recorded and in the first trimester 2019 an increase of 50, 6% on conventional load. Also, since March 2018 the new management of the port, managed to reduce the average ship waiting time (data March 2019: to 8.1 hours, compared to the previous average of 25.8 hours).

It is also worth noting that the port management are already searching for land in the wider region of Thessaloniki to create a satellite dry port due to the huge demand for space within ThPA. ”

Mr Andronikos Sinioris, the Honorary Consul of Malta in Northern Greece and President of the Shipping Club of Thessaloniki, spoke about the ambitious transnational project for the construction of the Morava-Axios River-Danube navigable waterway and its benefits for our country, adding that the project has not yet been realized in spite of Serbian and Chinese interest. Mr. Christos Kazantzis, the Honorary Consul of Uruguay in N. Greece and member of the Board of Directors of the Consular Corps of Greece presented and set as an example the Uruguayan model. Uruguay, exploiting its geostrategic position in international shipping, linked its economy, innovation and training with the port and emerged as a major maritime junction in Latin America.

Connection to Smyrna

Alexandra Gana, member of the BoD in Hellenic Shortsea Shipowners Association, referred to the opportunities that occur from the connection of the Thessaloniki port to the port of Smyrna as a competitor to the connection of Smyrna with Italian ports eg. Trieste for freight transport as well as the connection with the port of Novorossiysk. Moreover, Harris Kotios, lawyer at Platis Anastassiades Law Firm (EY Law), talked about the need to harmonize Greek shipping with the GDPR Data Protection Directive, both to avoid the risk of complaints from competing countries and to allow for market self-regulation.

George Xiradakis, President of the Propeller Club Piraeus, XRTC Business Consultants, highlighted that our country is basically coastal, generating many opportunities for growth. However, young people in Greece although they are over-trained, they accumulate high quality degrees but do not enter the labor market and production to obtain business and professional experience.

Mantalena Kaili, Policy advisor of the Forum, pointed out that the forum aims to become a permanent platform of dialogue and information on Maritime Economics, for the city of Thessaloniki.

The New Fuel

Sofoklis Papanikolaou, CEO, Blue Grid Gas & Power Remarkable pointed out that there was never as much interest as ever for LNG on ships and Liana Gouta, Group Director Energy Policy and International Affairs at HELLENIC PETROLEUM Group of Companies that HELLENIC PETROLEUM will market new environmentally friendly marine fuels, based on changes in crude oil, while four related tests are being realised”.

The Energy and Geopolitics Panel coordinated by Alexandros Lagakos of the Greek Energy Forum was also attended by Ioannis Vikelidis, First Counsellor of Embassy, Director of International Relations Office of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nicholas Farantouris Prof. ΕU Competition & Energy Law, Chair Legal Affairs EUROGAS and Chip Laitainen, Economic Counselor, U.S Embassy in Athens.

Ioannis Vikelidis, Director of International Relations Office, spoke about the strategic value of the geographical position of Northern Greece, as it shares land borders with Albania, Bulgaria, Northern Macedonia and Turkey. He outlined the transport networks, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, the Gas Interconnector Greece – Bulgaria (IGB), the Ionian Adriatic Pipeline (IAP), which will fuel countries in the western Balkans, FSRU Alexandroupolis and the Liquified Natural Gas Terminal in Revythousa, stressing that the participation of Northern Greece in energy events is decisive.

Chip Laitinen, Economic Counselor, U.S Embassy in Athens, said that a huge development from a US Government perspectivethe is the TAP completion, as the growth or creation of the remaining pipelines seems increasingly realistic. As Northern Greece is the crossroads of all major pipelines, the latest developments in the energy sector are changing market dynamics. He, also, said that actions are also being implemented in relation to renewable energy sources.

Professor Nikolaos Farantouris, Head of Legal Services of DEPA and EUROGAS, the association of 45 energy companies in the gas market, mentioned the significant investment prospects of the blue economy in the energy sector. Mr. Farantouris presented developments in the areas of energy projects and infrastructures in northern Greece, bunkering and short-scale LNG to supply remote areas with cleaner forms of energy, for which there is a keen interest from the companies of the international organization EUROGAS in Brussels, (DEPA is a member), which coordinates relevant actions. ”

Vassilis Tsoulis, Young Entrepreneurs of Thessaloniki-YET, coordinated the presentations of the keynote speakers, that followed. Christos Economou, Head of Unit, DG MARE, EU Commission, presented the opportunities of the European framework for Blue Economy and Development, beyond the traditional maritime and fisheries sectors. “Blue Growth means countless new forms of economy based on the wealth of the sea The OECD forecasts strong growth in Blue Growth and Innovation by 2030, and Offshore Energy, employability has exploded, particularly in northern Europe but with potential for the Mediterranean”, he remarked.

“Young people deserve to keep up with this development. From Liverpool, Rotterdam and Vigo, to Piraeus, cooperation platforms and investment opportunities have been developed. When I received your invitation, the reason I wanted to come was to share with you the countless possibilities that the EU has secured. For example, the Blue Calls and Academic Networks Networking, Entrepreneurship and Education: we already have pilot projects funded by our Fund, with synergies among European Universities and American Universities. Thessaloniki needs to know the possibilities and legislation, e.g. Spatial Planning, according to which the local coastal areas should decide on the targeting and the character they want to have for tourism, maritime, academic, marinas etc.

We will soon sign the “Blue Agenda” with the Black Sea countries, which are open to cooperation. Can you tell us where the city of Thessaloniki stands in cruise design? You must be ready and present. As far as Education is concerned, in my last trip to Barcelona, we concluded that young people should study and train in something that would give them flexibility and readiness for the rapid changes in the labor market in the years ahead”.

Pantelis Lamprianidis, Policy Officer, European Commission, Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport, Unit D2 – Maritime Safety, presented the official adoption of a training framework for seafarers from April 4, 2019 by the Plenary of the European Parliament and the Commission, international standards and the evolution of the existing control mechanisms and the global European innovation of digitization of certificates for the performance of ship operations. “Shipping is the ultimate internationalized industry, which is why IMO, the International Maritime Organization, has enshrined a minimum set of minimum conventions on minimum training for seafarers and the safety of human resources, navigation and the environment, since 1978. The EU has adopted a number of international conventions to ensure their common acceptance by the Member States and the minimum common basis and progress on security for all members. and protection of European seafarers. The issue of recognizing and equating proficiency certificates between states remains. The challenges of the future are self-regulation of shipping in terms of environmental protection and the absolute change in conditions and roles, and skills in the labor market through automation. From the captain to the land manager… ”

Stelina Chatzihristou, an expert of CEDEFOP, spoke for the ‘measurable value’ of developing and recording skills for the EU Single Market and workers. In her presentation on the Center, she talked about the importance of CEDEFOP for Thessaloniki and the opportunity to adopt prerequisites and targets. Finally, she presented useful information and references for a number of programs for the development of professional skills and training that the European Union promotes, such as the skills panorama, and the cooperation for the Governance of Skills, between Greece, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Estonia.

Maria Boyle, a Professor at the University of Piraeus presented the benefits of shipping for the economy, employability and opportunities for young people. “Shipping extends beyond the sea, to services that do not stop at the port but reach the mainland, through a chain of land-based businesses and products. Changes are rapid due to innovation, new technologies, the new networked digitized market, and the entry of major players into global competition. This requires a strategy for skills development. The University of Piraeus has specialized programs, and our graduates are evolving into world-renowned future executives. The objectives of our University are: scientific and practical training, research in interdisciplinary projects, expanded synergies. Very recently, we launched the tripartite partnership between the University of Piraeus, the Institute of Sustainable Mobility and Transport Networks (HIT) of CERTH and the EXTANA Port Training Institute. The objectives of this synergy are in line with the new EU skills and vocational training agenda. This platform we launched in Piraeus will soon be launched in Thessaloniki, as Mr. S. Theophanis briefed you earlier. “

Mr. Stratos Papadimitriou, Professor at the University of Piraeus and member of the Board of Directors of Maria Tsakos Public Benefit Foundation, made the last keynote speech: “The Foundation, with a multitude of programs, cultivates naval Greek tradition and promotes maritime issues, based in Chios, but also in non-EU countries, Uruguay and Ghana. Our country has always been a maritime power, and knowledge was circulated and shared by ships, ports and companies and academies, giving the best results. Today, however, Greek seafarers may have increased in numbers, but this is the case for senior crews, whereas the number is marginal, endangering the whole viability of the industry, from ship management to shipbuilding. For this reason, Captain Chakos also wanted to offer training options, since the official state only recognizes merchant navy academies, although there is a demand for Greek seafarers worldwide. With the more recent programs, “adopt a ship”, we entered schools and the first non-profit highschool of nautical direction to encourage and bring new children to shipping, to create a new generation of Greek shipping, and so the Captain’s vision continues “.

Aggelos Kotios, Prof. & Dean of University of Piraeus, stressed the importance of the blue growth as well as education and vocational training in our country. Education should be linked to the major sectors of the economy, both at university level and at the level of vocational training programs, as there is a demand for jobs but no supply. The strategic objective of Piraeus University is to link curricula to the needs of the economy and to search for synergies and partnerships to enable young children to graduate from the University to enter the labor market.

“Greece may remain a shipping leader in the digital age. The digitization challenges as well as opportunities for Greek shipping and the blue economy require a rapid adoption of technological developments and the development of synergies, as highlighted at the conference organized by Maritime Economic Forum in Thessaloniki … “Shipping is on the brink of a digital revolution, the strategic imperative is” digitize or wreck“, said Gregory Yovanof, Prof. of Innovation and Technology at AIT , Manager of Maritime ICT Cluster Stretegis. Greek shipowners have proved that they know how to cope with the changes, and we are sure that with digitization they will remain leaders. Greece, however, has great prospects for growth beyond shipping in all other sectors of the blue economy, “Mr. Yovanov also pointed out and presented the” Strategis “Cluster project in view of the future of unmanned vessels.

Complementing Skills

“The message is clear, cooperation and skills and capabilities from various aspects of the market are required. “These are exciting times, we must have our ears and eyes open and prepare for what’s soon to come and get licensed”, Eirinikos Platis, lawyer at Platis Anastassiades Law Firm – EY Greece commented and focused on the rapid changes brought to shipping by digital technologies, the block chain and the internet of things, leading to the development of unmanned forward-looking ships of the future.

Continuing training

Eva Kaili, MEP, STOA Committee Chair, Special Rapporteur on the digitalization of Maritime Economy, stressed that because new digital technologies, such as blockchain, reverse, the legal profession and shipping contracts, there is a need for continuing training. However, enormous opportunities are offered for open-minded action in Greece in the development of relevant global services. Furthermore, she warned that if coding and digital literacy are not introduced into the Greek public education, Greece will not be competitive in ten years.

Universities – education

Both Stylianos D. Katranidis, Dean of the University of Macedonia, Professor of Economics, and Grigoris Zaratiadis Politica,l Sciences of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki expressed deep concern for the “collapse” of technological education in Greece, which has a negative impact on shipping and blue growth and They have also expressed the intention of the two universities to develop curricula in the sectors of transport, logistics, energy networks, sustainable development, and so on.

Aggelos Kotios, Prof. & Dean of University of Piraeus had expressed the same concern earlier, mentioning a huge deficit in upper and middle vocational training in general, and more specifically in the professions related to shipping and related disciplines such as logistics, middle and lower workers.

Aini Michailidou, the well-known entrepreneur of Michaelides Group, Honorary Consul of Portugal and former President of International Propeller Club Thessaloniki, stressed the great diversity and opportunities of blue growth that the Thermaic Gulf has to offer, from the village of Poseidi in Halkidiki to the outskirts of Olympus. “Growth should not only be green or blue, but colorful so that it can give the white light that the local economy needs.

Emphasis on logistics

Spyros Ignatiadis, CEO of the SEVE Exporters Association, highlighted the need to emphasize the logistics sector and the appropriate training and Nikos Tsavdaroglou, Northern Greece Executive Coordinator at the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce, stressed the need to improve the road and rail link of ThPA. He said that Northern Greece is now the subject of discussion in the White House and that the city’s institutions and enterprises should start a dialogue to decide what kind of city they want.

Giorgos Gotzamanis, Director of the Naval Academy of Mechanical Engineering in the region of Michaniona, invited the institutions and citizens of Thessaloniki to embrace the School, while George Eliades, the first vice-chairman of the Chamber of Commerce in Thessaloniki, emphasized the benefits of blue growth for Thessaloniki. ”

The Hellenic Rescue Team were also present, and briefly informed about the number of activities and missions that are being carried out daily along the sea front of Thermaikos.

The conference was concluded with images from the interactive exhibition ‘HealingSeas’, which is under preparation by the architect Evi Polychroniadou, who offers information and awareness tools for the protection of the seas, through art.

#tmef #yetngo

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