John N. Faraclas comes from Chios’ traditional shipping and seafaring families which have been involved in the shipping adventure for almost 700 years, in Russia, Greece, the UK, Bermuda, and the United States. Per family custom, he sailed aboard ocean-going cargo ships and has managed dry cargo tonnage for both his family and clients in the UK and Greece.
Faraclas has presented a significant number of lectures after being invited by universities and professional shipping associations, particularly in the UK, Panama, Denmark, Singapore, and Cyprus, and he has participated in more than 500 maritime exhibitions and 1,500 conferences.
His work in the industry has included involvement with the privatization of shipyards in Greece and the UK and he has lived in the UK since 1985, where he is now writing his memoirs.
He has also been involved with shipping journalism for thirteen years as an International editor of SHIPPING International Monthly Review, and since June 2011 with allaboutshipping.co.uk – where he is co-founder, and has also appeared on TV, 20 months with SBC TV as a Shipping Market Analyst as well as on Maritime Politics (CNBC).
The National Herald: Being a shipbroker demands highly skilled negotiation capabilities, given the immense value of the ships and charters involved, not to mention the responsibility to always reach a square deal.
John Faraclas: Privatization, proper privatization is the name of the game. I reiterate the view that privatization means that the state-owned company becomes a private company and not a public corporation. Greece is a self-sustaining country, blessed by nature and its Twelve Gods, yet it imports even Greeks, just to put you in the context of what is really happening today.
From an exporting nation, we import now everything. Shame! We have the best working industrial climate, very favorable for, say, heavy industry and shipyards. Four seasons to make 50 billion Euros from tourism and maritime tourism in particular. Tourism and shipping are our biggest earners. We thrive through our connections abroad.
The Hellenic fleet is the world's most valuable at $106 billion. However, while Greek ship owners flourish, the Greek economy sinks.
TNH: How can the shipping industry serve Greece best as a country?
JF: There is envy within Greece and envy outside Greece against the country's ship owners, so I am pleased that you put forward that question at this stage.
The value of the Hellenic merchant fleet is triple your figure as there are also the beneficially owned ships by Greek interests under flags of necessity. Add the new buildings, and you will verify this.
Greece's success and development after the Second World War, needless to say even before this, rests with shipping. With seafarers employed on Greek ships – but the unions, governed from unions abroad, destroy day by day the seafarers' position and well-being.
I will begin with maritime education and training: we do not have a single training ship, yet we are the world's superpower in shipping. For this I blame both the UGS/GSCC unions and to a larger extent the Greek state. Since the ship is financed/donated by the owners, then they, I mean the unions and the government, must find something else to blame them for!
We are the champions of the shipping industry, the best clients of the world's major shipyards, in the past, now, and for the foreseeable future. It is an oxymoron, thanks to lousy unionism and the Greek politicians, that Greeks build ships abroad and not in Greece's ailing shipyards. The same applies to ship repairs and conversions thanks to the unions' attitude.
Let us hope the latest ONEX investment in Syros, the Neorion Shipyard, and now, as we read, in Eleusis, thrives more.
TNH: How did the Greek shipbuilding industry flourish from 1967 onwards?
JF: Greek shipowners are the best ambassadors for Greece with their ships, principally flying the Greek flag, but with other flags too, as all know who those interests represent.
Greek ship owners' offshore investments, too, in Greece and abroad are well known and respected.
Greek ship owners' charitable stand for nearly 200 years, is globally known. Hospitals, libraries, museums, scholarships, infrastructure projects, you name it, come from shipowners.
Greek shipping companies, over a thousand of them, offer from 1967 onwards with Law 89 and other favorable laws, jobs, employment to thousands of Greeks. See also their presence in other shipping centers, London, New York, Singapore.
Valuable foreign currency comes from both shipowners and seafarers.
TNH: What relationship should Greece have with China?
JF: Now, this is an interesting question and let me elaborate a bit so all understand what must be done and maintained, as, at the international political level, Greece's great asset is its geographical location, at the south-eastern end of Europe, facing Asia and North Africa. Another is its democratic tradition and relative democratic stability, against the odds of economic recession.
Geopolitics, as I have always stated in my articles and analysis in the shipping markets, is the name of the game as far as Greece is concerned. It is on this that the European Union and NATO should count, with Greece as the bastion of stability in this region of instability – I am referring to western Balkans, turbulent Turkey, and further south, Libya and Egypt, and of course to the southeast of Greece is the Middle East question, with Israel as defiant as ever, and the Kurdish issue, straddling four states.
It has often been said that Turkey is in an even more excellent position geopolitically, and it is on Turkey that the US, NATO, and the EU should rely upon. This may have been true at other times, say for example when Turkey was under Ozal or perhaps in the early years of Erdogan when he seemed moderate, mildly Muslim and relatively democratic, but this is no longer the case with Turkey, under the increasingly autocratic and erratic Erdogan. He now also threatens secularism in Turkey and is pursuing his hidden agenda which is no more mild Islam, but short-sighted, almost fundamentalist Islam. The only hope in the case of Turkey is that Erdogan's power will erode in the next elections. This would be a great gift to the West and to Turkey itself.
The current despicable actions of Turkey in the Central and East Med, and the Aegean must end forthwith as these violations rock peace in the region, and some will have incalculable repercussions.
Now, given the above let me narrow my reply in saying that it is Greece's geostrategic position that prompted the Chinese with its major shipping company Cosco to invest in Piraeus, the best transport and logistics intermodal hub following a successful 60-plus years of cooperation in the shipping field, headed by Greece's shipowners who owned 1,000 ships in 1963, half of them transporting goods to Mao Zedong's China, an issue that all Chinese regimes have acknowledged, as well as during the new shipbuilding spree, from the '90s until recently in Chinese shipyards. They have calculated that if their goods reach Piraeus, they save time and money entering the European markets, and they will be more competitive. No other port in the region, except Kavala in the future, can ensure Chinese competitiveness. This Greek-Chinese relationship has never jeopardized the U.S.-Greek relationship; on the contrary…