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Panos Laskaridis Departs UGS Over Politically-Charged Comments

panos
Panos Laskaridis, right, receives an award for his foundation's role in repairing a Greek government vessel, 2015 (Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation)

Published Jun 2, 2021 2:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

Panos Laskaridis, the founder and co-owner of Athens-based Lavinia Corporation, has left the Union of Greek Shipowners over controversial remarks on the relationship between the Greek shipping industry and the Greek government. 

In an on-camera interview arranged for the advocacy-journalism climate documentary "Black Trail," Panos Laskaridis spoke frankly about his forty-plus years in the industry. Asked whether the Greek national delegation has been attempting to delay climate regulation at IMO, he responded, "Do you know of any industry that likes to speed up and promote the new regulations? I think there is hardly no such business [sic]."

Later in the interview, he appeared to suggest that some Greek shipowners may not derive an advantage from their national government or from Greece's shipping economy. 

"This you need to understand well. People who are in shipping don't need the Greek government, don't need the [shipping] ministry, don't need the IMO, don't need the prime minister. They can [expletive] on the prime minister. They have no need of the prime minister," Laskaridis said. "Why? Because shipping has nothing to do with Greece. There is nothing that a shipowner will gain from Greece. No cargoes to Greece, no contracts from Greece, nothing in Greece. Only his office is here. 80 percent has foreign flags. They don't care about the Greek flag."

After the documentary was released, Panos Laskaridis said that his comments had been taken out of context. "My statements have been published on various social media, taken from irrelevant discussions that in no way concerned the current state of our shipping and, of course, neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister of Shipping," he told Greek media outlets in a statement. "Those who indiscriminately and slanderously used these [comments] will, of course, suffer the consequences of their actions."

Despite his explanation, the response from Greek shipowners - and UGS - has not been positive. Theodore Veniamis, the president of UGS, said that the organization "unambiguously condemns and which do not reflect the genuine and deep patriotic feelings of the UGS,” said 

"Any reference made by Mr. P. Laskaridis to the institutions of the European Union, as well as to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has absolutely nothing to do with the respect, confidence and sincere cooperation that governs the long-standing relations of the UGS with them," the organization said in a statement. 

Panos' brother Thanasis - the president and CEO of Lavinia - took pains to distance himself as well. 

"Regarding the recently created noise regarding the statements of my brother Panagiotis Laskaridis . . . I would like to state that these are his personal views which not only do I not share, but [to which I am] diametrically opposed," said Thanasis. "Greek shipping owes its meteoric rise and extraordinary success since World War II onwards, primarily to the protection and support shown to it by all post-war governments."

In a letter published Tuesday, Panos Laskaridis said that he would be leaving UGS (both as a board member and as an association member) because of the fallout. 

"I resign because I am not going to bless with my presence the ongoing [character assassination] attempt undertaken by some within the Union, along with various media of known 'credibility,'" he wrote. 

The full documentary - including an impromptu interview with IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim - may be viewed below.