Ilias Tsakiris at “IUMI PEOPLE”

Ilias Tsakiris, Chairman of the Ocean Hull Committee of the International Union for Marine Insurance and CEO of Hellenic Hull, was featured in the December edition of the IUMI Eye discussing the challenges en route to the decarbonisation of shipping.

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What is your IUMI role and what does it involve?

I feel honored to be elected by the other members of Ocean Hull Committee as Chairman, during IUMI’s annual meeting this September, being the first representative of the Greek and Cypriot marine insurance communities to be given a place on the committee.  

We have all voluntarily committed to assist the marine insurance society with a roadmap on the trends, risks and myriad of other factors that influence our industry. I firmly believe in strengthening the participatory procedures of the committee through regular meetings, debates and projects undertaken by the members. We have to keep up to date with all the developments and challenges in the industry providing a lead for hull and machinery underwriters, brokers and shipowners around the world.  

Being in favor of an open data policy, I will be accessible to other committee members at any time. This is a pivotal industry position as the Chair consults and liaises with other shipping related bodies.

What are the main issues that are currently impacting H&M insurance?

As you would expect, the current challenge is the invasion of Russia in Ukraine and its repercussions to shipping in general, either indirectly by way of sanctions, or directly by physically vessels’ being blocked and trapped in the area.

However, the overarching global concern is shipping’s transformation to a decarbonized and beyond this, to a net zero industry. This is a tectonic change that resembles the transition from sail to steam, and later steam power to internal combustion engines.

It’s not just a question of ensuring that we play our part in creating a sustainable future; we need to show our tangible commitment. Marine insurance community is already taking initiatives, such as UNEPFI’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance, the Poseidon Principles for Marine Insurance, and the Net Zero Insurance Alliance.  

Meeting shipping’s decarbonization and net zero targets will require new technologies and fuels. Such changes always mean there will be new risks that we as underwriters must fully understand.

At more of a micro level, cargo fires on containerships and vehicle fires aboard ro-ros are a source of concern for the sector and action needs to be taken to reduce the risk these types of ship face from their cargoes. Our committee is working closely with other stakeholders to prevent such incidents in the future.  

Are there any particular issues that might become prominent over the course of 2023?

We can only hope that the war in Ukraine comes to an end soon. Most of this year’s agenda will carry over into next year’s agenda too. All ESG issues will remain at the fore and probably even more than previously. E, S, or G cannot be looked at in isolation. Our aim will be to focus on ESG as a whole, in direct relation with our industry.  

What benefits do you get from being associated with IUMI?

IUMI is a valuable source of information. Networking with all the major players in marine insurance gives you a complete and up-to-date picture of all aspects of the business.  

In addition to the personal level, I am here to listen, contribute and let the voice of the eastern Mediterranean be heard.

If you could change anything at IUMI, or marine insurance in general, what would it be?

 It was crystal clear from the annual IUMI conference this year in Chicago that the sector is changing, looking to the future and in a position to create a positive impact.  

In this evolution, IUMI has a strong educational role to play for ourselves, our clients and the wider market in what to expect in the years to come from their insurers. To this direction is the hull and cargo tutorials for young executives in our industry. In addition, the announcement of the cargo master class (for more advanced insurance executives) signifies the commitment of IUMI of further enhancing its role to the maritime society. I would like to see IUMI’s educational character strengthened further, exemplified by the excellent initiative with World Maritime University.

As for the marine insurance sector in general, I think it would be great if the industry could be more sustainably profitable in the future. This is important to keep and attract new talent and to ensure the best and most competitive service to the global shipping market. After years of poor results, we have turned a corner, hopefully. We have seen a reduction in many types of claims, but the big exception is fires, and this is something to focus on.  

How did you reach your current position in marine insurance?

I started from the sea, as I am a proud son of a Captain. Undoubtedly, my love for the sea was a family affair. Eventually, I moved from sea ashore and put my experience and education to use, working as an average adjuster in London.  

During my early years in the maritime industry, I realized that despite Greece and Cyprus being the world’s biggest shipowning markets, they were lacking local hull and machinery insurance underwriting capabilities. Therefore, I made my life mission to promote H&M underwriting services in the area.

I joined Hellenic Hull Mutual Association via its managers that began as something akin to a brokerage that retained a small line of business itself. Over the years this has been transformed with the help of the American P&I Club into a successful international hull and machinery underwriter.

As chief executive of the American Hellenic Hull Marine Insurance Company, now the American Club (Europe), I am responsible for a book of more than 3,500 insured vessels. I am glad to say we have been among the primary pioneers of sustainability in marine insurance.

And what do you do away from the office?

I enjoy watching football and I have been a huge fan of Panathinaikos FC since I was a kid. A majority of the Greek shipping community probably supports our traditional rivals, Olympiacos! This year is an exciting one as Panathinaikos leads the Greek Super League and has a real chance of winning our first championship since the 2009-10 season.

As a marine insurer, like many other members of the shipping community, I tend to spend long hours at work – both in the office and at home. Enjoying as many moments as possible with my family is therefore a priority. In summer, Greece provides the perfect scenery to help you wind down and we spend as much time as we can on the islands, enjoying the Aegean.

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