Harry Vafias: We have the sea in our DNA - We will beat China, our biggest competitor in shipping

Harry Vafias

On Monday, the Greek shipowner was declared an honorary member of the Piraeus Chamber of Commerce and Industry and received an honorary plaque from Christos Staikouras, Minister of Infrastructure and Transport and Deputy Minister of Shipping Yannis Pappas.

Taking the floor, Harry Vafias emphasised the need for Piraeus to develop into an even stronger shipping centre. He pointed out that the sea is in Greek DNA and added that "it is very important to invest in extroversion. Greece has very capable people, and I see it when I go abroad."

Also, in the presence of the Chinese ambassador to Greece, Xiao Junzheng emphasised that as Greeks, "we will manage not only to be an example in Europe but we will be able to defeat China, which is our biggest competitor with a population of 1.5 billion and we only 10 million. We will be victorious. The sea is in our DNA. It is no coincidence that 90% of ship owners are from Chios, a small island in the Aegean."

Referring to Greece's largest point, he pointed out: "Piraeus, which has this strength and this shipping DNA, must invest more and become a real shipping centre. It has nothing to envy from London, Singapore, or other shipping centres."

"Here is the international shipping centre in Piraeus. We have about 600 shipping companies, 5,500 ships, and we are a country with 10 million inhabitants," the shipowner added.

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As he emphasised about the Greek maritime miracle, "Foreigners do not believe that we have such maritime power. We have to invest in it. And I am sure that with the right conditions and the government's help already investing and promoting shipping."

Harry Vafias made a historical review of his family's business career:

"I go back a bit in history. My grandfather Charalambos started from Chios. He came from a very poor family. He was not related to shipping like most Chios who were involved. He went to Argentina and learned the trade and export of meats. He built a very large business together with his cousin Alexandros Zimnis. My father, the only son, wanted to join the Navy. My grandfather wouldn't let him because he was the only son, and he wanted him in the meat business. So he went to the meat market to sell to American butchers and then went to a shipping company to learn shipping. Neither a personal life nor a social life for my father to be able to succeed."

He then referred to his own beginnings :

"In 2000, when I finished my master's degree in London, I didn't want to follow my father's company, which was active in dry cargo shipping. I wanted to deal with oil transportation. With a small capital, with persistence and the help of banks, I managed to start my own shipping company,"  Vafias said.

"In 2005, we entered the American stock market, and I was the youngest CEO in a listed company at 27 years. Today, as a group, we have three companies listed on the US capital market and two private with a total fleet of 91 ships valued at 2.4 billion dollars," he added.

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Harry Vafias also thanked the Board of Directors of EVEP: "Perhaps I am one of the youngest to be awarded, and I want to thank the president of the Piraeus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Vassilis Korkidis. A special thank you to Mr Giorgos Xiradakis, who I have the honour of having on the Board of Directors of two of my three listed companies in America."

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