We must move forward, says IMPA’s new Global Ambassador 

Apr 12, 2023

Kyriakos Hadjikyriakou, Managing Director at Cyprus-based marine services provider Oceanic, is IMPA’s new Global Ambassador. He talks to Felicity Landon about his career, the changing shape of shipping and why IMPA is close to his heart

If you ask Kyriakos Hadjikyriakou what attracted him to the shipping industry, his answer is one we hear all too often. “To be honest, I had never thought of a career in shipping,” he says.

His degree was in hotel and restaurant management, and he followed up with a master’s in international finance; when he had finished his studies, he tried a few jobs before working as a storekeeper on a Louis Cruise Lines vessel from 1997.

“That was my first experience in the maritime sector,” he says. “When I went on board, I was intrigued and really liked it. I stayed for three contracts and rose to provision master.

Having had this experience, he had to decide – stay at sea for a long career or look for a job on dry land. The availability of an onshore position with Louis was the turning point.

In 2002, an opening with V.Ships proved a turning point – for both the company and Kyriakos. “V.Ships was setting up its catering entity, Oceanic, and I got the job. Twenty years later we are still here and going strong. It has been a fascinating journey; I started with three colleagues and serving two or three vessels and now we have over 250 people and 2,200 vessels.”

Kyriakos brings a wealth of experience to his role as IMPA Ambassador. “I want to impact positively the development of IMPA suppliers,” he says. “I want to influence suppliers to change, to bring about the changes the industry demands. Shipping is a huge industry but very often it is slow to change.

“I am encouraged by the work that other key personalities are doing in the industry and I want to join them, to bring the experience I have and the knowledge I have from our huge client base, including their demands for change, to IMPA and its members.”

Of course, there have been changes in the two decades since Oceanic was set up, he says: “When we started, most of the suppliers were delivering food in open trucks. We pushed for them to make sure the cold chain is kept intact. The quality of provisions and meals onboard is so important. The crew can feel there is not much to look forward to on board – OK, there is the argument for the Internet – but aside from that, a really good meal is what they look forward to at the end of the day. And a caterer or supplier can be quickly exposed if they don’t meet those expectations. It is very easy for someone to post something to social media.”

The shipping industry itself is evolving – for example, Kyriakos points to huge investments in renewable energy, particularly offshore wind farms, as shipping and other sectors push for decarbonisation and emissions reduction.

He also predicts significant growth on the leisure side, not only with more mega cruise ships being built but also with an expected surge in expedition cruising and yachting.

Container shipping is less easy to read; it depends on economic growth, demographics and consumer preferences, he says. “Will consumers continue to stick with globalisation, buying goods from foreign countries for shipping in containers, or will they say ‘let’s reduce our purchasing for a more sustainable future’? We talk a lot about buying local, and attitudes might change.”

Whatever happens, decarbonisation is key and shipping as part of global supply chains must adapt.

“Shipping has to navigate through a very challenging regulatory environment; there is a lot of pressure to operate zero-emissions ships and at the same time there will be pressure for all stakeholders in the sector to minimise their energy footprint. For example, we expect our suppliers to invest in solar panels and electric cars. We talk about eliminating single-use plastics from ships – some countries have already put that into legislation and there will be more. We will see a wider demand for owners, managers, caterers and suppliers to find solutions to reduce single-use plastics.”

Oceanic has been working on alternatives to single-use plastics for the past two years. To date, more than 1,000 onboard water units have been installed, on at least 500 vessels, and more than 60,000 stainless steel bottles have been provided for seafarers to refill and use as needed.

“I am encouraged by the work that other key personalities are doing in the industry and I want to join them, to bring the experience I have and the knowledge I have from our huge client base, including their demands for change, to IMPA and its members”

As a result, it’s estimated, based on the number of vessels and seafarers, that 5.5 million plastic bottles a year are no longer taken onboard.

“We are constantly pushing our clients to engage with this initiative. It is not only a benefit to the environment but also to their benefit as part of their ESG commitments and it saves money. When you take into consideration the cost of plastic bottles and their transport and the cost of offloading the plastic, we estimate a 60% saving to the owner by using water machines. That could be as high as US$5,000 per vessel per year.”

Oceanic is pushing its suppliers to find and adopt alternative solutions in order to eliminate plastic bottles entirely. “We want our suppliers to understand the urgency. We need to come up with results fast,” says Kyriakos.

“Another initiative we have in place is our recycling initiative in Singapore. During regular deliveries, our appointed suppliers will collect from our clients’ vessels calling at Singapore port MARPOL garbage categories A and C for further processing and recycling, including plastics such as empty drinking bottles, plastic wrapping and tin or aluminium cans and empty food containers.

From the provisions and catering point of view, he says that where the focus in the past was almost completely on price, there is now a push for visibility, including investment into digital solutions to give real-time information on stock levels and upcoming needs. “I think we are moving away from just being a part of a transactional/support process to taking a leading role in making operations more efficient and providing more information to our stakeholders.”

Oceanic has been investing for some time in technology and data analytics, building APIs with clients who want to know “what we buy, where we buy, the menus we provide, calories, and so on”.

Suppliers are making a lot of effort in meeting these requirements – they have to invest and embrace technology too, he says. “They used to get all these orders via fax. So much has changed in the past 20 years. Imagine what will change in the next 20!”

Kyriakos says a positive outcome of the pandemic has been far more focus on seafarers and their needs. “The way we look at our seafarers, the way we value them, the way we take care
of them – that has really changed. Our crews are our greatest asset, and Covid-19 accelerated a mindset change that might otherwise not have been so drastic.”

As IMPA Global Ambassador, he wants to encourage the suppliers that Oceanic works with to join the organisation. “It is to the benefit of all suppliers to join IMPA, which will support their needs. We must move forward and whether we are discussing sustainability or the reduction of single-use plastics and better packaging for goods, we need to see what we can achieve together. Our clients face a regulatory environment that is becoming more challenging every day and society is demanding that everyone become much more environmentally conscious,” he said “Through my role at IMPA, I want to push change in that direction.”

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