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“Diversity and inclusion improve companies revenue” / INTERVIEW

Athens - Lloyd’s List has recognized Greek manager Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, co-managing director of Tototheo Maritime, among the 100 most influential people in the global maritime transport sector, as well as one of the top 5 most important executives of the “young generation of shipping”

Athens - Lloyd’s List has recognized Greek manager Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, co-managing director of Tototheo Maritime, among the 100 most influential people in the global maritime transport sector, as well as one of the top 5 most important executives of the “young generation of shipping”.

As President of WISTA International, Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou has decided to concentrate the activities of the Association on new technologies in the maritime sector and on the progress of female professions in the world of shipping: “I am honored that Lloyd’s List has recognized me as one of the top 100 industry leaders, - says Panayiotou. -Our sector is going through a phase of significant changes and I am happy to be able to play my role favoring this change with a particular attention to the role of women, rebalancing technology and tradition. It is also a challenge for those women who will have to grow in this sector by demonstrating all their skills and their professionalism”.

What are the priority objectives of WISTA international?
“WISTA is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. Founded in 1974, WISTA international has been the voice of female professionals in management positions in the shipping industry. Today, more than 3,000 individual members and 46 National WISTA Associations (NWAs) span five continents, with each individual and NWA working to increase the visibility and opportunities for women on a national and international level in the industry. Our 2019 theme is “The Women Who Move The World”. This represents our focus on highlighting the community of experienced professionals participating in various areas within our sector.”

What are the most urgent problems facing the Mediterranean Sea?
“The Mediterranean Sea is a dynamic and multifaceted region, steeped in history. The challenges in the region come on top of the changes that we see in the shipping industry in general, so we need to ensure that the changes that are happening, do so in the right way. Shipping is transforming and as with companies in other regions, we have many different influences bringing about that change: Technology, regulation, markets but also diversity issues are all part of what is being seen as a perfect storm of change. We also see other developments in the shipping industry in the region; such as studies and proposals to turn the region into an emission control area, but come at a higher cost to the many operators in the region and vessels sailing through the Mediterranean. Another significant challenge is the continued migrant crisis as people continue to attempt crossing the Sea in dangerously unsafe boats.”

What contribution can women engaged in sea professions give to solving Mediterranean problems?
“Women form a significant part of any potential workforce and one of the key messages in raising diversity. They are also a significant pool for recruitment and skills. There are various reports showing how a proper and well installed diversity and inclusion programme can improve a company’s revenues. To achieve this though a programme of change from the grass roots upwards is required. Girls and young women need to be given the chance to have the same levels of education and be encouraged to see the shipping and logistics industries as good career choices. By building up a dynamic workforce we build up the potential to have more dynamic solutions, with new ideas.

What contribution can maritime companies give to protecting the sea from the pollution?
“Shipping already has a large number of regulations that have had a significant impact on reducing pollution from the industry. It started with the marine pollution convention (Marpol) and today includes regulations that influence discharges of oil and dirty water into the sea as well as emissions of gases into the air, notably nitrous oxides, sulphur oxides and now CO2. The organisation that makes these rules is the International Maritime Organisation, part of the UN, and its member states are currently working on even stronger regulations to curb CO2 from shipping (there are currently rules on how vessels are designed, and how they are operated as well as a rule forcing shipowners to collect annual emission data form their ships).”

Do you think it is necessary to use LNG to reduce pollution? how long will it take to implement this change?
“LNG contains no sulphur, which the more common oil- based marine fuels do. Vessels using LNG as a fuel will therefore meet the current limits for sulphur in fuel as well as those that come into force in January 2020. Although LNG is a hydrocarbon, engines powered by LNG will also produce less CO2 than when they are powered by oil-based fuels. However this is not seen by everyone as enough of a reduction for the industry to reach the IMO agreed targets of halving its CO2 emissions by 2050. LNG has certainly gained ground as a fuel in recent years, now being used in a growing number of larger vessels having spent years used only on smaller ships on dedicated short sea routes. However there are new alternatives emerging, particularly hydrogen, and I think in the near future the choice of fuel will depend on the vessel type and where it will operate. But regardless of whether the choice of fuel is LNG or hydrogen, or even electric propulsion, the key will be the creation of the right infrastructure to ensure the fuel can be supplied economically.”

Which opportunities do women have to find work in sea professions on the same conditions as men?
“This depends on the company recruiting a seagoing workforce, the training schools and the country where the seafarers are sourced. On board today’s vessels there is nothing that a man can do that a woman cannot. It is a matter of culture and attitude of those already onboard and in the manning offices. However there needs to be training and awareness of existing crews, as well as a grass roots awareness of the opportunities for young women leaving schools. We can promote seagoing careers to all school leavers, we can get colleges to make sure girls and boys are properly trained and we can make sure manning agencies, crewing bodies and ship managers have the understanding to make gender neutral recruitment decisions.”

This year the topic of World Maritime Day, promoted by the IMO, is empowering women in maritime Community for gender equality. What are WISTA international’s initiatives on this topic?
“We have been pushing awareness through events, and campaigns. One of these is the diversity pledge where we encourage people and organisations to make a commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the maritime industry. We also are in close cooperation with the IMO on diversity issue and plan different projects and ways of furthering our cooperation.”

Which are the Mediterranean countries that have a WISTA delegation?
“Spain, Monaco, France, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Morocco. We now have 46 national WISTA Associations around the world.”

Women are, thanks to their nature, messengers of peace and tolerance. Do you believe that if women would have more power and would be more present in governments it would be easier to avoid conflicts and wars?
“Firstly our goal should not only be to include more women in governments, but to look at the participation of women in a more holistic view; we want to create diverse, engaging, inclusive societies and women need to be included in all dimensions - economic, political and social life. UN Women present statistics that say that if women are included in peacekeeping discussions then that improves the durability and quality of peace. But as I mentioned, we are not looking for a few token women to have a place at the table – we need a solution that brings about the participation but also inclusion of women. Governments and governing bodies that are diverse and inclusive have a better perspective on the experience, needs and perspective of others.”

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