From humble beginnings, Epsco fleet management expands to 700 vessels
Managing Director Andreas Ioannou says with growing safety concerns, shipowners are outsourcing their needs to specialist companies
By Angela Komodromou
In the 23 years since Epsco was established, the shipping industry has changed significantly. What was the most important change for the company?
There have certainly been changes and with the downturn the industry has been experiencing over the last several years, most companies have gone for bulk agreements to keep costs low. We have been very successful in changing our business model from case by case servicing to establishing fleet agreements with most of our customers to manage all their safety requirements at fixed prices which allows them to budget their annual costs effectively.
We have introduced new systems in our offices to enable us to track all services carried out and advise customers of services due. All certification is held online at our offices which our customers have secure access to, so they can view and download their own certification if required.
From humble beginnings with a pc and a fax machine, Epsco now manages fleet agreements on more than 700 vessels for several major customers through our offices in Cyprus, Germany and Singapore.
Epsco is a primarily services and safety company. How important is safety today, compared to 1995 and how much do ship-owners spend on safety?
I would not say that safety is any more or less important than it was in 1995, it has always been paramount and our customers are fully aware of the importance of safety in their spending. However, there are more and more regulations being introduced every year concerning safety, and with fewer numbers of crew on board vessels and land based support staff with I believe, less technical knowledge than say 20 years ago, there is certainly good reason for ship owners to consider outsourcing their safety needs to more specialised companies that can not only manage the service but also advise them on technical issues and keep the pricing competitive.
On the issue of the importance of safety and regulations, the Classification Societies and Flags all have their own different interpretations of the IMO rules on safety which creates confusion when it comes to servicing. Despite the fact that they are all supposed to adhere to unifying requirements, they do not so, as an isolated example, while one vessel may require its fire extinguishers to be serviced annually, another of the owners fleet may have a requirement for bi-annual service, depending on the Flag and Class. This applies to all safety equipment requiring service.
There should be one set of rules across the board for all flags and Classification Societies. There is certainly no reason that I can see for safety equipment to be serviced at different timescales just because flag and class have their own interpretations of what constitutes a safe service interval.
With offices in Germany and Singapore, what is the role of Cyprus in the company’s network?
Cyprus is the head office and is responsible for all management and policy decisions for the group. We also visit our offices on a regular basis and offer support where needed.
What is the rate of Cypriot staff in the company and is it easy or difficult to find suitably trained or educated personnel?
More than half of the staff in Cyprus are Cypriot. We have been fortunate that the majority of us have been together a long time. Cyprus has a large pool of well educated personnel, so it has never been a problem to find suitable staff.
The German and Singapore offices are staffed by local personnel.
Cyprus is trying to become an international hub for shipping. But this has been a promise by politicians for 20 years. What is needed to really put Cyprus on the international map?
As in any industry, attracting new business requires financial and tax incentives for companies to relocate. I believe there is presently a concerted effort by the Ministry of Communications and Works in concert with the Cyprus Shipping Chamber to attract more shipowners and management companies to Cyprus, which I fully support. As in any industry, attracting new business requires financial and tax incentives for companies to relocate.
A resolution to the Turkish embargo on Cyprus flagged vessels would make a huge difference to our position as an international hub, but I can’t see that happening in the near future.
For more info about EPSCO visit www.epscocy.com