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Dorothea Ioannou – Breaking a 167-Year-Old Maritime Barrier

In the 167-year history of the P&I Industry (of all 13 P&I Clubs), there has never been a woman CEO until now. Dorothea Ioannou is the first-ever female to lead a P&I Club in the history of all P&I Clubs.

Furthermore, there has also never been anyone of Greek descent until now. The top two leaders of the American Club (Dorothea Ioannou – incoming CEO and Dan Tadros – incoming COO) will now be Greek-Americans as of August this year.
Dorothea was born, raised, and educated in New York. A graduate of the City University of New York and St. John’s University School of Law, she relocated to Greece in 1997.

This is Daniel Tadros (incoming COO) on the left and Dorothea Ioannou (incoming CEO) on the right, in the American P&I Club Board Room at One Battery Park Plaza in NYC.

TNH: What is a P&I club, what does it do, and what does it cover?

DI: A P&I Club, which stands for ‘protection and indemnity,’ is a non-profit mutual marine insurance association covering ship operators for third-party liability. This includes things like oil pollution, collision, damage to docks, personal injury to crew and/or passengers, and damage to cargo being carried, to name a few. It is necessary insurance for vessels to trade, as maritime regulation will not permit vessels into ports worldwide without acceptable evidence of financial responsibility for third-party damages. These requirements are met through the mutual P&I insurance mechanism. These liabilities, through the years, have increased to extraordinary levels reaching billions in some instances. The P&I Clubs provide peace of mind to stakeholders worldwide, which is critical to supporting global trade.

There are 13 mutual P&I Clubs in the world, members of the International Group of P&I Clubs. These 13 Group members insure over 90% of the world’s ocean-going tonnage. Through the mechanism of the Group, the 13 members retain and insure for their own account the first 10 million of liability and then together pool and reinsure the liabilities that exceed this level. The reinsurance structure of the Group is extraordinary and provides cover for amounts over $3 billion. The American P&I Club, founded in 1917, is a member of the Group and the only one domiciled in the United States.

From left: Her brother Dr. John Ioannou, brother Evan Ioannou, mother Marina Ioannou, Dorothea Ioannou, her sister Niki Ioannou.

The National Herald: Tell us about yourself and your family.

Dorothea Ioannou: I was born and raised in New York, the eldest of four children of Greek-Cypriot parents, Dr. George and Marina Ioannou. My father was a well-known pediatrician who served the community for over 35 years. My parents had high expectations but taught us also that how we took our steps in life mattered just as much as actually achieving our goals.

Working at my father’s clinic, I observed firsthand the respect he garnered through the precise way he administered his practice and the excellent care and generosity with which he treated his patients. I have done my best to set that same example for my daughter, who is now about to embark on the next stage of her life as she graduates from college.

I am a New York lawyer, having obtained my BA from Queens College CUNY and my JD from St. John’s University School of Law. My Greek-Cypriot roots from nationality and cultural and religious perspectives were essential to my family.

Growing up, I attended afternoon school at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church of Whitestone. As a child, I did not fully appreciate the value of that education, complaining that I would never need to know the language in such depth since I lived in America! Ironically, I relocated to Greece in 1997, where I lived for 20 years raising my daughter. Being in Greece, I ensured she learned the English language and understood and valued the principles, history, and foundation of the United States.

At the American Club’s Posidonia Reception in Greece in 2018 from left: The American Club Chairman George Gourdomichalis, Board Member George Vakirtzis, Board Member Markos Marinakis, current Managers CEO and Board Member Joseph Hughes, Dorothea Ioannou, Board Member Angelos Kostakos, current Managers COO Vincent Solarino.

TNH: How has your life outlook changed with the pandemic?

DI: The pandemic reaffirmed my existing outlook and philosophy on life and strengthened my faith in God. Take each day one day at a time, concentrate on what is happening now, and do not look too far ahead. Be grateful for each day we are blessed with and be generous to others, whatever that means for you, whether it be time or other contribution.

Dorothea Ioannou with her late father Dr. George Ioannou at the Awards Ceremony in Nicosia, Cyprus in 2016 when Dorothea was nominated for the Business Woman of the Year Award.

TNH: Is being Greek more than a birthright?

DI: Absolutely. Being Greek is more than just heritage. It is a feeling, a love, really, for all that it represents and has a deep understanding and appreciation for all that comes with it.

TNH: Businesswise, you have accomplished the impossible. How did you manage that?

DI: I’ve always looked at things in small steps, taking each step very seriously. I never look too far ahead, satisfied that whatever I have on my plate needs to be done very well before looking ahead. This ensures a steady and robust progression, with an ability to adapt, even in the most challenging circumstances. Each step builds the foundation for the next. The key to this is making sure I respect those that have come before me and be considerate of those that will come after. The principles I live by are patience, empathy, and generosity.

When I relocated to Greece, I adapted to a whole new world, both personally and professionally. Having no professional contacts or connections, I faced many difficulties and initially taught English while working in a local law firm.

Dorothea Ioannou presenting at the American P&I Club’s Centennial Celebration at Cipriani’s in NYC, in June 2017, on stage along with executives of the Managers of the American Club.

Researching options in Greece, I concluded the best industry was maritime and landed a job with a marine insurance brokerage in 1998, taking on the claims department and developing a name in managing maritime casualties.

In 2005, I joined SCB (Hellas) Inc., the Piraeus Office for the NY Managers of the American P&I Club, as a Claims Executive, and became known for quick claims resolutions balancing insurance and client needs. This ability to balance cultivated trust from both the company and the market, and I assumed the general management of the office in 2009.

In 2013, I was named Regional Business Development Director. The model implemented brought impressive results, and the regional strategy became the management model for global implementation, and in 2015, I was named Global Business Development Director.

I was later identified as a candidate for leadership, and I was lucky that my mentors, the CEO Joe Hughes and COO Vince Solarino, were ahead of their time, recognizing that talent progression and leadership need the right environment. As a single mother, travel and meeting the demands of an executive role could only be possible with the right support, and they provided that. They enabled me to maximize the value they saw I could contribute. I became part of a succession plan leading to roles of Chief Commercial Officer, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, and appointment as Secretary to the Board of Directors before this ultimate appointment as CEO. I am honored by the faith the management and the board have placed in me, and I am very conscious of the responsibility that comes with it.

Dorothea Ioannou on the right with her daughter Chrysanthi Podaras at the American P&I Club’s Centennial Event at the Grand Bretagne in Athens Greece in December of 2017.

TNH: How has the war in Ukraine affected the maritime and marine insurance industry?

DI: Whenever there is War and sanctions, maritime trade is immediately affected. Ship operators must always be mindful of the risks involved with the trade routes, the contracting partners, and the cargoes they carry. The War has caused both physical risks in the region for ships and their crew and legal risk in terms of the contractual trade.

Regarding P&I cover, it is essential to note that the standard P&I rules generally exclude liabilities caused by acts of war, as they are insured under the vessel’s War Risks insurance policy. This, of course, does not mean that the current invasion does not cause concern and disruption, nor that there aren’t certain circumstances of exposure.

So far, there has not been any exposure to American Club vessels. The most significant disruption to date has been managing the increased compliance and contractual inquiries from our members due to the United States, EU, and UK sanctions that are continuously evolving.

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