Tsakos Columbia Ship Management Company is in a league of its own when it comes to the provision of crew and technical operations management services. So much so, in fact, that over 70 vessels are currently making use of their abilities, with many more set to join the fleet. Endeavour Magazine spoke with Capt. Panagiotis Drosos to find out just how they are managing to stay nautical miles ahead of their competition.
One of the largest ship operators in Greece, Tsakos Columbia Ship Management Company (TCM) is well versed in its industry, providing not only technical management but also operational support and crewing resources to a multitude of high profile vessels, which include tankers, dry cargo and container ships capable of transporting 7 million deadweight tons. The question is, how did this company get off the ground and into the sea? Capt. Panagiotis Drosos offered to explain,
“TCM was established in 2010 with principal offices in Athens, Greece. The company constitutes a joint venture between the Tsakos and Schoeller Groups and combines the considerable management and operational expertise and professional skills of the two groups, both in ship management and client service.”
With impressive legacies standing at the back of TCM, it is no wonder that in a short time, they have come to be a principal leader in their industry.
“The company has been a frontrunner in building strong leverage from the alliance’s arising synergies. This allows us to build upon our competitive advantage, within the maritime industry, as a preferred partner of choice with a solid track record for providing reliable and quality transport services. We remain firm in our commitment to a quality client service with the utmost regard for safety and environmental compliance. Nothing has changed in this respect, ever, since the establishment of the company.”
It’s clear this is a company that is as focused, as it is expert, so with that in mind, we have to wonder if they ever have plans to diversify their service portfolio, or if they have already. We are told that TCM is explicitly involved in the technical management of a wide range of vessels, but that outside of the shipping core business itself, there is scope for more development,
“The Tsakos Group is diversified into other investment areas from shipbuilding, ship repair and ferry services to oil exploration and real estate, agriculture, forestry and renewable energy projects along with cultural, educational, philanthropic and charity activities.”
Suddenly, TCM’s stratospheric rise to prominence becomes a little more understandable as it is clearly part of a larger group that not only seeks to impress with knowledge and expertise, but also an undeniably ambitious thirst. How else could five short years have yielded such impressive success? The answer is simple; it couldn’t.
Day to day, we wanted to know what the core activities of this impressive industry giant are and Capt. Drosos was happy to oblige,
“Technical management and maintenance services are our first specialisms, which aim to maintain vessels in optimum operational efficiency and robust condition while ensuring full compliance with current and upcoming international and national rules and regulations as well as owners and charterers’ requirements. Crew management is also key for us and relates to a broad range of activities starting from recruitment and selection to the deployment, training and on-going management of officers. Finally, commercial management services are handled too, with marketing and accounts all brought under one roof.”
Diversification aside, this is an organisation that clearly likes to busy. While lesser competitors may only seek to offer technical management services, or crew provisions, TCM takes everything in its stride and makes this one-stop approach look simple to accomplish.
With financial turbulence having plagued all industries for a number of years, shipping has not been able to avoid the choppy waters of instability. In fact, maritime transportation has been hit harder than many with countless blue chip companies being forced to close their doors. There is light at the end of the tunnel however, as recent improvements in the tanker sector are bringing a little more buoyancy and helping to offset the depression in the bulk and container sectors. Though it’s sad to see so many companies suffering due to the worldwide economic crashes of recent years, one thing is for certain; those who have the will and experience to survive, do and TCM has unequivocally.
Perhaps this ability to survive and thrive comes from the set up of the business itself, with clients recognising that there is something special about this firm. We asked Capt. Drosos what makes TCM unique from its competitors,
“Our industry is not a simple business. To us it’s a way of life and calls for commitment, consistency and quality around the clock, amid a highly competitive, cyclical and demanding global arena. An industry of such characteristics demands alertness, continuous improvement, agility and full commitment to excellence.
What distinguishes us is that we have one firm belief; that corporate responsibility is an integral part of our business and our culture. In this respect the Tsakos Group has established two non-profit foundations. The Maria Tsakos Foundation – International Center of Maritime Research & Tradition undertakes a diverse range of activities within education, research , industry awareness & community support and the Maria Tsakos Fundacion, which was founded in Montevideo more than 35 years ago, continues, with enormous success, to support the promotion of the Hellenic spirit in S. America.”
With this knowledge firmly in the front of our minds, we barely need to ask TCM how they feel about their staff, as we already know they will be thought of as so much more than just an efficient resource. With thousands of experienced and able crew at their disposal, of various nationalities and cultures, the company describes its people as its most valuable asset.
“The fundamental driving force for our company’s success is our people. Our company’s progress goes hand in hand with our people. In this respect we always aim to attract, develop and sustain the best-qualified personnel available to manage and operate our fleet and associated activities. To do this, we build on our people, committing to foster initiative and develop human potential.”
It’s so much more than just a policy that looks good on paper. TCM genuinely cares, nurtures and encourages its people, safe in the knowledge that when they thrive, so too will the company. That is why a training centre has recently been established, kitted out with the very latest technology designed to train the highest elite of on-board and ashore personnel. How many companies make such a huge commitment to their teams?
A finely honed team of professionals in place, TCM is free to turn its attention to the task of keeping clients happy, so we asked what policies are in place,
“We would sum it up as follows; we give full commitment to solid and consistent performance in providing reliable, safe and environmentally conscious maritime transport services.”
The rest is simple. When you offer and provide the best and most sustainable services around, you are guaranteed to win repeat clients and the lion share of available contracts. It seems like such a simple formula, but perhaps TCM are on of the few global organisations that are truly making it work, but what of the future? How does TCM plan to stay ahead in what it has already acknowledged to be a struggling industry full of competition?
“Our challenge is to grow in a sustainable manner and to abort complacency. Establishing a culture of awareness, alertness, competency and commitment to continual improvement requires constant training, thorough performance monitoring and the appropriate procedures to be in place. At TCM, we have established a management system that is based on the principle of continual improvement. The main overall objectives are to ensure flawless operations with zero accidents and zero pollution. This is carried out by instilling and maintaining a strong safety and compliance culture, maintaining a working environment where risk is properly managed and reducing our environmental impact by increasing the energy efficiency of our operations.”
It’s not so much a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ as ‘when it’s working well, just tweak it’. Already a hugely successful and unique organisation, TCM doesn’t need to make drastic changes to retain its prominent industry position, it simply needs to keep on sailing into the future.