Union of Greek Shippers Award Ceremony
7:30 p.m, May 29, 2018
Good evening, everybody. I am not going to do acknowledgements because I will overlook somebody, but I do want to acknowledge the Propeller Club for all the work that you do to capture how important the relationship between our shipping and maritime communities is to the strength of our bilateral ties and the officers from the Coast Guard here for the critical work they do.
I want to start from my recent travels, first to Santorini to visit the USS Normandy on a port visit as part of the USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier strike group and then we spent the weekend in Naxos, which was very windy, for the record, but also beautiful, and a great place to be reminded of all the important maritime traditions that all of the speakers have spoken about this evening. You can’t visit a site like Akrotiri without realizing that Greeks invented global shipping, long before container ships, long before financial consortiums were managing the industry.
I especially want to thank the Propeller Club for the work that all of you do to highlight the important relationship between our shipping and maritime communities and the tremendous contributions that Greek shipping has made to the U.S.-Greece relationship.
Today, Greek shipping helps to keep the world economy open, dynamic, and free. The Greek shipping community has played a central role in the global economy and it adds to Greece’s own stability and thereby helps bring peace and prosperity to Greece’s neighborhood.
I also want to underline how proud I am about the strong state of the friendship between Greece and the United States today. We have reached a special moment in our bilateral relationship, and we all must continue to build on this momentum. I am personally very proud of the role the US Embassy has played in building this partnership, and I want to emphasize today my respect and appreciation for the vital partnership that the Embassy enjoys with the Greek shipping industry and the work that we have done together to build this relationship.
This has been a very, very busy spring for our two governments. Building on the Prime Minister Tsipras’ successful trip to the United States last fall, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias just met last week in Washington with Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. Secretary Pompeo and Minister Kotzias agreed to the establishment of a high level US-Greek strategic dialogue that will address key areas of cooperation between us, from energy, to regional security, to trade and investment. This visit by Foreign Minister Kotzias followed closely on Admiral Apostolakis’ visit to Washington for meetings with Chairman Dunford and Secretary of Defense Mattis that reaffirm our deepening defense and security ties.
These official bilateral meetings are important. But just as important are the strong connections between our business communities and our people-to-people ties, which have been deepened by the strong support the U.S. has given to Greece during its years of economic crisis.
And this is an area where the shipping sector, and the Shipowners Union in particular, has been critical. I would point, for instance, to the recent high-level delegation from the Union of Greek Ship-owners to Washington, which was headed by tonight’s honoree, President Veniamis.
I understand that you effectively presented the strategic role of Greek shipping for international trade to officials throughout Washington, including at the US Coast Guard, the White House, and the State Department. The strength of this visit clearly demonstrated the importance of Greece as a shipping nation. I want to thank you, Mr. Veniamis, for your leadership in organizing and carrying out that visit, and for your ongoing dedication to the shipping community.
And we want to see the economic ties between our two countries continue to gain strength and take advantage of the momentum from your visit, as I know American companies are finding opportunities here. For example, the ONEX Company is now in the final stages of assuming full ownership of the Neorion Shipyard, which is again operational and bringing jobs back to Syros. In Santorini last week, I had the opportunity to meet with Ioannis Roussos, the President of the Chamber of the Cyclades, and heard directly from him how the Syros shipyard is coming back to life.
I also hope that U.S. companies will have upcoming opportunities to invest in ports like Alexandroupolis and its related FSRU, as well as the upcoming privatization of Hellenic Petroleum.
Next week, of course, we will have Posidonia, where I’m sure I’ll see many of you. And in the spirit of George’s characterization of tonight, as the kickoff of the Posidonian marathon, my goal will not be to end up like Pheidippides and pass away at the end of the exercise, but rather use it as an opportunity to showcase U.S. companies, which will be in Posidonia exhibiting products and services with maritime applications. The large US commercial presence at Posidonia highlights the strong interest that our firms have in bringing the latest technology to aid the growth and modernization of Greek shipping. And I certainly encourage all of you to visit these companies and the American Pavilion at Posidonia.
Posidonia is also an opportunity for the Greek private sector, especially in the shipping industry, to present to the world Greece’s dynamic human capital and economic potential.
And then, in September, the United States will be the honored country at the Thessaloniki International Fair. Thessaloniki is an opportunity for us to highlight, on the world stage, American entrepreneurship, innovation and enterprise. Demonstrating America’s commitment to Greek economic recovery, a high-level U.S. delegation, headed by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross will be present at the fair.
Our Embassy team, in cooperation with our partners at the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, is working on a series of events built around our year at TIF, especially in northern Greece, and to ensure the participation of the broadest range of business delegations. I hope to see all of you there demonstrating the importance of Greek shipowners to Greece’s economic recovery. And I warmly congratulate George on your campaign to relaunch the Propeller Club in Thessaloniki, which I hope the board is fine with.
So in conclusion, I want to reiterate how proud I am of our maritime ties and how much I look forward to continuing along this path in the year ahead.
I hope to see you all at the U.S. pavilion at Posidonia and of course at Thessaloniki. And so with that, I think we can move on to the presentation of tonight’s award.