Tsakos Columbia Shipmanagement S.A.: Foreign Shipowners Are Interested in Ukrainian Seafarers

Capt. Georgios Vlachos, HR-Training Director of Tsakos Columbia Shipmanagement (“TCM”) S.A.
Capt. Georgios Vlachos, HR-Training Director of Tsakos Columbia Shipmanagement S.A.

The Greek company, Tsakos Columbia Shipmanagement (“TCM”) S.A., enjoys one of the leading positions in the international cargo shipping industry. The company manages almost one hundred vessels, including container ships, bulk carriers and tankers. At the International Forum, “Seafarers’ Education, Training and Employment”, recently held in Odessa, TCM’s exhibition stand never failed to attract crowds of people. Cadets from maritime schools and colleges were interested in practical training possibilities, current seafarers asked about job prospects, and colleagues from other shipping companies discussed new aspects of international conventions. Capt. Georgios Vlachos, HR-Training Director of Tsakos Columbia Shipmanagement (“TCM”) S.A., told The Professional Seafarer newspaper his ideas about Ukraine’s future as a maritime state and the reason why foreign employers are very interested in Ukrainian seafarers.  

The Professional Seafarer: First of all, please share your impressions of the International Forum.
Capt. Georgios Vlachos: I think such events are very important for employers, shipowners, shipping companies, field-specific educational institutions and the entire maritime industry. Yet the key figure, whose importance was stressed for forum participants, is the Ukrainian seafarer. I am not one of those who think the future belongs to “vessels without seafarers”. Whatever lies ahead for the shipping industry, the key role will be played by professionals.

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The Professional Seafarer: What can you say about Ukrainian seafarers? Are you interested in them?
Capt. Georgios Vlachos: As far as I know, today Ukrainian seafarers rank third in the world after Filipino and Indian seafarers in terms of employment in the shipping industry. Ukrainians are true professionals. They have an attitude to work and level of training similar to those of Greek seafarers, who sadly are very much underrepresented in the fleet – only 17,000. Today, many young people – representatives of the new generation – seek jobs in the maritime industry. It is very valuable for Tsakos Columbia Shipmanagement (“TCM”) S.A., because young seafarers, including Ukrainians, adopt skills, practices and maritime traditions from their senior colleagues, bringing their own knowledge and skills into this process.

The Professional Seafarer: What kind of advice can you offer to seafarers from Ukraine? What skills will help them to build a career on vessels operated by Tsakos Columbia Shipmanagement (“TCM”) S.A.?
Capt. Georgios Vlachos: A job in the maritime industry opens up possibilities to learn about the world. A successful career in this field means personal financial stability and investments into the country’s economy. I think anyone who wants to build a career in the maritime industry must be open to new knowledge, to be able to build relationships with colleagues from various countries and representatives of different cultures.

And I can add that in order to be successful in this field, one must know English, have good basic professional training and hold all required international and European certificates. At the same time, when we talk about attracting new people for work at sea, we must remember one thing: they must love this work. It is an interesting and at the same time difficult occupation. Progress and development are a must. Seafarers never stop learning and improving their qualifications.

The Professional Seafarer:Do you encourage cadets to seek employment on vessels operated by Tsakos Columbia Shipmanagement (“TCM”) S.A.?
Capt. Georgios Vlachos: Naturally! We have a programme for cadets, which has been successfully implemented for a long time. Moreover, the company pays maximum attention to seafarers’ training and professional development. Our training centre in Greece (Maria Tsakos TCM Academy – Maritime Training Center) offers various professional development programmes available for Ukrainian seafarers as well.

It is interesting to note that the company’s founder, Panagiotis N. Tsakos, was a captain who came into the industry as a seafarer working on a small vessel. In 1970, he established the company, which currently manages about one hundred vessels accommodating 2,500 crew members aboard, and has over 2,000 employees ashore. The company has approximately 300 people working in its offices, as well as many employees from associated companies involved in the operations of Tsakos Columbia Shipmanagement (“TCM”) S.A. And we have all this now because some time ago Capt. Panagiotis Tsakos believed his company would be able to change many things for the better in the shipping industry. Faith is very important. You won’t be able to create anything if you don’t have faith in what you do. At some point we, the representatives of the older generation, will step aside, so we must have faith in the young people who come into the maritime industry today.

The Professional Seafarer: What are TCM plans for the near future?
Capt. Georgios Vlachos: We are building up our fleet: we accept delivery of a newly built ship almost every month. Since April 2016, we have increased our fleet by 12 newly built vessels. We face the future feeling confident and planning to order modern safe vessels whose designs are based on innovative solutions. Our plans include staff expansion. We need professionals of various levels, from seamen to captains, who are familiar with new technologies, have potential and love their work. It will be up to such people to help the company to become a leader in the international shipping market. And, certainly, we count on further enhanced cooperation with Ukrainian seafarers and will offer them maximum opportunities for career development at TCM.