Hard Work, Perseverance and Dedication
Julia Anastasiou, Managing Director, Crew Management, OSM Maritime Group, talks about the importance of great leadership and teamwork in today’s rapidly evolving maritime industry, how Cyprus can play an even greater global role, and what she tells young people considering a shipping-related career.
By Athena Yiazou
Congratulations on your recent promotion. What does this recognition mean to you? Also, what are some of the main differences between your two roles, Managing Director of OSM Cyprus and the global position of Managing Director of Crew Management organization, and in what ways do the two roles converge?
Thank you for the congratulations! For me, this recognition symbolizes yet another breaking of the glass ceiling, where hard work, perseverance and dedication are recognized, regardless of gender. I have always strongly believed that, by paving the way for others to develop and succeed in their careers, I too would also receive similar opportunities from my leaders to develop my own aspirations and ambitions. My appointment sends a strong message to the young generation that anything is possible and equal opportunities are becoming the norm. Investing in people has been an important part of my journey. My team, which is very diverse and international, sitting in several locations globally, is the greatest recognition there is for me. I cannot stress how honoured and humbled I am to be surrounded by incredible talent that enjoys challenging me, engages in critical thinking and gets creative. There is never a dull moment and that is what makes my role so rewarding. My team’s success has been my ultimate success – they are the backbone of OSM and I am excited to be leading this ‘Team of Teams’ to even greater successes. In terms of my dual role, Cyprus is one of four main offices within the OSM Maritime Group and is the headquarters for our crew management activities. As such, having the responsibility and leadership of the Cyprus office, as well as the global crew management operation, creates alignment and the opportunity to lead with integrity based on a common vision and shared values.
What would you like to accomplish within your new positions? What, for example, is your vision of overcoming the long-term challenges falling under your jurisdiction?
Leadership based on values, integrity and a common vision is business-critical when operations are global. For example, we operate on every continent from South America to Oceania and, therefore, need to have a strong sense of identity and corporate culture. Our values have been one of the key enablers of our success and they have allowed us to grow significantly. As we expand our footprint and prepare for further robust growth, the challenge will be to ensure that we do so based on our values and, as an OSM leader, that will be a long-term opportunity (not a challenge) for me to prioritize. I remind myself daily that leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could and that it is the job of the leader to set direction, unlock potential, set expectations, develop people and engage them. This is how I will be instrumental in achieving the OSM vision.
You joined the OSM Maritime Group in 2009 but have also been an active member of the shipping industry since 1997. While the maritime sector has traditionally been fairly male dominated, do you believe there are more opportunities for women nowadays?
In the past 25 years, the industry has been moving slowly and steadily in the right direction. With a great emphasis on equality, diversity and inclusion, numerous initiatives and campaigns have been conducted, either through the IMO’s “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”, which was selected as the World Maritime Day theme for 2019, or the current “Women in Maritime” Gender Programme. Such initiatives, when conducted on a global scale, emphasise the need for action and stress that gender equality is not a “nice to have” but a “must have.” Of equal importance is the role played by influential women leaders who occupy seats on Boards and those holding significant functions such as the Managing Director of Intertanko, the President of BIMCO and several other women holding C-suite positions in various maritime organisations, not to mention the instrumental work carried out by WISTA on an international and local scale. We also have seen in recent years a female presence on the Board of the Cyprus Shipping Chamber and that is a formidable achievement. Opportunities are therefore being created not only by women in prominent positions but also by men supporting women in leadership roles.
What are some other ways in which the shipping industry has changed over the past 25 years, both in Cyprus and internationally?
One of the most impactful changes is that of the focus on ESG or Environmental, Social and Governance. ESG refers to these three key factors when measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a business or company. ESG focuses on the environment and its conservation, the human element, in particular on labour management and human development and governance in terms of business ethics and Board diversity.
This of course ties nicely into creating quantitative and qualitative measures. These measures support diversity and equality, whilst placing a great emphasis on creating initiatives that will positively impact the environment. We have a responsibility to do our utmost to combat climate change through sustainable and responsible corporate strategies, so this is an opportunity for not only the shipping industry but all industries to become change makers.
What do you anticipate for the sector in the future, given the push for greener shipping, the emergence of new technologies including digitalization, and other factors?
As with ESG, decarbonization, digitalization and new technologies will create several opportunities for the industry. I anticipate we will see a rise in automation in terms of how we deliver products and services with an even greater focus on eliminating unnecessary manual labour as cost incentives and differentiation become even more significant. We have a way to go before realizing complete autonomous solutions for our vessels, however the traditional ship management model as we know it, is, and will continue evolving to become more scalable and cost-effective. Creating models for efficiency gains will be supported through the use of artificial intelligence as we are already experiencing today.
How is Cyprus perceived by other major players within the international shipping sector?
Cyprus is the second-largest global centre providing shipping activities to the international Maritime community and is poised to become even greater. The establishment of the Deputy Ministry of Shipping in 2018 reiterated the Government’s intention to focus on development strategies and an infrastructure that will continuously position Cyprus at the forefront of the maritime industry. Implementing and updating legislation, promoting and supporting investments in Cyprus, encouraging the development of maritime education and training and recognizing seafaring as a career opportunity are all factors influencing the perception of Cyprus as a bona fide international shipping centre. Our advantageous Tonnage Tax System, approved by the European Commission as compatible with the guidelines on state aid to maritime transport, provides a stable fiscal environment for Cyprus Shipping in the long term, where owners of Cyprus and foreign ships, ship managers and charterers alike can benefit from this tax system. The Cyprus shipping industry creates value for investors and owners by enhancing competitiveness and further developing the Cyprus shipping cluster. It is therefore seen by other major players a force to reckoned with.
What are some of the steps that Cyprus can take to maintain its leading role in the global shipping industry?
Cyprus shipping needs to continue the various activities initiated, including but not limited to reviewing current legislation to optimize services, campaigns to attract foreign investment, the use of technology to enhance systems and being as visible as possible to the international community. Targeted marketing, lobbying and an unwavering presence both locally and internationally need to continue.
What advice would you give a young person who is interested in pursuing a career in the shipping industry today?
This is one of my favourite questions and one that I am asked quite frequently! When I started my internship as a young aspiring newbie to the industry, it was both exhilarating and daunting at the same time. I was up against people with decades of experience and I felt that my knowledge would never be up to standard or that, one day, I would be in a position to advise others. Fast-forward to 25 years later and I am now encouraging and empowering those impressionable young people to be the best version of themselves. I encourage young people to persevere, to never give up and always do their best. It is important for them to gain the trust of others and maintain that trust whilst, of course, working smart and putting in the effort needed to make a difference. These steps will pay off one day.