A major owner active across the entire shipping gamut is looking into newbuilding orders to keep his fleet diversified.

Lou Kollakis, a leading member of the Chartworld group of companies that is controlled by his family, admits some reluctance to book vessels amid high newbuilding prices and interest rates.

About this series

This article is part of our Greece business focus, which includes articles on future fuels, tonnage tax wobbles and how the nation’s shipowners are seeking ways to reassert their dominance.

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However, regulatory requirements make newbuildings a one-way street for owners wishing to stay engaged in the business, he told TradeWinds in an interview.

“Environmental issues are steering us towards newbuildings,” the veteran owner said.

Kollakis companies Chartworld Maritime, Chartworld Shipping and Charterwell Maritime are listed with about 70 ships between them, from bulkers to tankers to container ships to reefers.

With the exception of the group’s fading reefer fleet, of which Chartworld Shipping has six vessels left, newbuilding orders are possible in tankers, bulkers or container ships.

“We intend to enter the market on all sectors, even though we are semi-reluctant due to high prices and high interest levels,” Kollakis said.

Not unlike other major Greek owners, Chartworld’s principals have not made up their mind yet as to which propulsion alternative they will ultimately go for.

“We keep our options open,” Kollakis said.

“On the basis of current technology, there is unfortunately no solid and proven carbon-free solution to invest in and adopt in order to meet long-term emission reduction targets.”

According to Kollakis, LNG is just a short-term solution and the same is the case with biofuels, which he sees as additionally dogged by vague legislation and potential operational problems.

He is more upbeat about methanol, green ammonia and green hydrogen, which in his view combine several potential benefits in terms of emission reduction, cost and energy density.

However, things are not sufficiently clear there as well.

“There are still many considerations like safety, production and supply chain, as well as technology readiness ... thus, we keep our options open,” he said.

First moves

Chartworld has already made a cautious bet on future fuels. In September, the company took delivery of the 13,000-teu Lima Express (built 2023) — a methanol-ready and scrubber-fitted container ship newbuilding.

The sister ship Posorja Express is due to follow next year. They were both part of a four-ship newbuilding order that Chartworld placed two years ago at New Times Shipbuilding, as TradeWinds already reported.

Kollakis transferred two of these ships to Hapag-Lloyd — the German shipping liner giant, which has also agreed to employ the Lima Express and the Posorja Express on long-term charters.

No matter what green fuel or combination thereof will ultimately prevail, Kollakis believes decarbonisation will hinge on maritime companies obtaining access guarantees.

“A percentage allocation of green fuels production to shipping will be a decisive factor towards emission reduction in the future,” he said.

Until shipping gets there, the maritime industry has plenty of scope to reduce emissions via operational measures, Kollakis said — in line with other major Greek shipowners interviewed for this business focus.

“Slow-steaming, frequent dry-docking with application of low friction paint and voyage optimisation are currently the most efficient measures for emissions reduction,” he said.

Lou Kollakis and brother George have been a fixture on the Greek shipping scene for decades.

Under their leadership, the company has firmly stayed in private hands.

“Personally, I enjoy making my own decisions — even mistakes — with my brother,” Lou Kollakis said.

Any decision to change that status will be up to the next generation of the Kollakis family, which is already involved in company affairs.

Talking more generally about the future, Kollakis is not concerned about Greece losing its shipping edge, despite evidence that China is catching up and may have even conquered the top spot on the world’s shipowning tables, in terms of sheer fleet numbers.

“I think China has in fact already probably overtaken Greece but I feel they will never be able to take over our entrepreneurial spirit, family traditions and love of the sea, which is in our blood,” he said.