Semiramis Paliou has several goals as Diana Shipping's new chief executive. Most of them, of course, are connected with ensuring the Greek bulker owner thrives amid the rising challenges of the 21st century.

But one goal is a little more personal: it is to help women everywhere.

The former chief operating officer succeeded her father, company founder Simeon Palios, as chief executive on 1 March.

Soon after the announcement of her appointment, a friend who also holds a prominent role in shipping told Paliou that she is a role model for his two young daughters.

"To be honest, I had never thought of it that way, but it did put a smile on my face and it made me think that maybe I am also contributing positively to a more inclusive, diverse and equal future for all," Paliou told TradeWinds.

"I am a strong believer that irrespective of gender, everyone can achieve the goals he or she has set, with commitment, passion, hard work, support, patience and a bit of luck.

Diana Shipping by the numbers

Diana Shipping owned 37 bulkers as of last month — four newcastlemaxes, 12 capesizes, five post-panamaxes, five kamsarmaxes and 11 panamaxes.

It also has a panamax that has been sold and is expected to be delivered to its new owner by 16 April.

The combined carrying capacity of the company's fleet, including the panamax to be sold, is 4.8m dwt, with an average age of 10.18 years.

The ships are managed by subsidiary Diana Shipping Services and a 50:50 joint venture with Wilhelmsen Ship Management, named Diana Wilhelmsen Management Ltd, in Cyprus.

Source: Diana Shipping

"From my very early years at school, I remember being asked, 'What would you like to be when you grow up?' and to that I would always reply without hesitation, 'A marine engineer'.

"You see, my father spoke so passionately about his profession as a naval architect, his life as a student in England and his love for ships and the sea that it came naturally to me that I would follow in his footsteps."

Paliou said the industry has many women like herself in high-echelon roles, but 98% of seafarers are men.

"The shipping industry is indeed dominated by men at sea, not only because it has always been considered a man’s job, but also because it’s a demanding job both mentally and physically, requiring a lot of time spent away from family and friends," she said.

"A lot of women do not want a career away from their families."

Paliou is proud of her female seafarers because of the passion they show for a career in maritime.

"As a company, we have always supported the employment of women seafarers by providing them an inclusive and equal-opportunities environment to work and grow."

Paliou began as a trainee ship surveyor for Lloyd's Register in 1996 after earning a master's of science in naval architecture from University College London.

Between 1998 and 2016, she held managerial positions in the technical and operations departments of ship-management companies related to Diana Shipping.

At Diana Shipping Services, she rose to become vice president, and she was managing director of Unitized Ocean Transport for nearly two years.

Executive moves

A director of Diana Shipping since 2015, she became chief operating officer in 2018, before taking on the additional role of deputy chief executive the following year.

She also served as chief operating officer of sister boxship owner Performance Shipping for 15 months.

Paliou noted that dry bulk shipping offers plenty of reasons for hope, with unusually high spot rates and tight supply as more Covid-19 vaccines roll out, but whether the market rally will continue is anyone's guess.

"An increase in iron-ore and coal demand in the People’s Republic of China, along with an increase in the demand for grain cargoes, as well as some congestion in Asian ports, have propelled the freight markets to levels that haven’t been seen for a long time," she said.

"For this reason, we will continue our hedged chartering strategy, leading to what we consider to be the optimum risk-reward ratio for our shareholders."

Paliou knows she has her work cut out in guiding the company as it faces transformative disruptions such as artificial intelligence and decarbonisation.

"It is without doubt ripe time to adapt to the new standards and needs of our time," she said.

"I am a strong believer in promoting the principles of sustainability in the shipping industry, and this can only succeed through collective effort and discipline across the whole maritime industry."