Confessions of a Posidonia Veteran
What’s it really like at the world’s most high-octane shipping event? Thousands of shipping executives from around the globe are about to converge on Athens once again for Posidonia – that biennial whirlwind of lavish parties by the sea, elite sporting events, power networking and top-level think-tanks.
Posidonia 2016 officially sets sail from June 6-10 … but the parties and receptions have already begun. While the high-profile forum is mostly a closed shop, members of the public can attend the Posidonia 5km running event (June 4) and also the vast shipping exhibition held throughout the week at the Metropolitan Expo Centre.
With the industry facing some of its most daunting conditions ever, some are predicting a more subdued affair this year; while for others, it’s a chance to let their hair down and put their worries on ice (along with the champagne) for a few short days.
Amanda Dardanis spoke to one Posidonia veteran to find out exactly what the big deal is (and where the biggest deals get done!)
‘This will be my 7th Posidonia Week. It’s hard work but I love it. My preparations for Posidonia usually start a couple of weeks before. I get all my best frocks out. Get them all lined up, along with all my best heels and handbags!
The whole international shipping community descends on Athens – in particular the Athenian Riviera and the prices in all the hotels soar (Posidonia Prices, we call them!). It’s a time for people to re-connect with their clients; to really network; to hand out a lot of business cards and to meet new people with the potential in future to do business. You lay the groundwork here, but the real deals are done later on – after you get back from the golf courses and the yacht parties.
There’s the huge Posidonia Exhibition, which is like an absolutely vast “show and tell” of all the latest shipping happenings and technology, out near the airport. There are exhibits from everyone from shipyards to brokers to banks to engine makers to ship registers to rope makers to oil traders! But the thing that really makes Posidonia are the parties.
In the past, the receptions were extremely extravagant. If you go back 4 years ago, celebrations went on for about 3 weeks. But some owners have become a bit more sensible and said, “Okay, maybe we shouldn’t really be spending one million euros on a party.”
Some of the functions are still very lavish, like the Clarksons event, usually held out by the Astir Palace pool for about 600-700 people. My first Posidonia event 14 years ago was Clarksons. They staged the most incredible laser show over the water and the champagne flowed all night. At the last Clarkson’s party, they ran out of booze when about 2000 gatecrashers turned up.
Aegean Petroleum are also known for putting on one of the best Posidonia bashes in town. Last time, they had synchronized swimmers and Antonio Remos singing.
There’s a lot going on every night. Parties in Piraeus, at the Yacht Club; loads going on at Island in Varkiza; at Asteras in Glyfada. You can spend the night hopping from one party to the next. But you do have to pick and choose what you’re going to go to or you’ll be exhausted halfway through the week.
Marinakis (the shipping tycoon Evangelos Marinakis of Capital Ship Management) is another of the really hot tickets to get hold of. Last time, there were dancing girls and Gloria Gaynor belting out the classics at Balux Prive.
Lots of companies hold Open Houses as well. Some of the shipping offices are very impressive; really beautiful, and they open them up for the day.
But actually, the best networking is done at the smaller parties. Restaurants like Rafale (in Vouliagmeni). Or exclusive sushi fests at Nobu. At some of those smaller, more intimate gatherings of a dozen or so, you can sit down and eat, or have a cocktail, with some of the world’s top ship owners. So if you get a ticket to one of those, you may actually meet a real shipping tycoon. Or at least have a chance to sit next to someone very senior.
People do jockey for the best tickets during Posidonia. Everyone’s trying to get to these parties. This week, I’m suddenly very popular! Friends are calling me out of the blue.
A lot of parties do seem to be on lock down this year. Aegean sent a ‘gold bar’ where you had to scan in a code that then told you how to RSVP. Capital is strictly barcoded, and Clarksons say they will release a secret code just before the event to stop party crashers.
In recent years, there’s definitely been a paring back of the scale of events. There’s been some very bad press. Which to me was unjustified. People in shipping work extremely hard. And so they throw a party every two years for all the people who help them.
Posidonia is a big deal because everybody comes. International visitors love it here. They have a lot of goodwill towards Greece and they really appreciate the Athens Riviera. And because it’s only held every second year, it doesn’t feel like “same old, same old”, like it might if it was an annual event.
The lucky people stay down in Vouliagmeni (at hotels like Astir and the Margi) because they booked two years before! All the Riviera hotels are packed.
The whole sporting calendar aspect of Posidonia has also become more of a “thing”. There’s the Golfing and Soccer Tournaments; the Racing Event. The Yachting Cup is always extremely competitive. Some of the big owners decide “we will win this year” and hire professionals to crew for them. People get very excited about the yacht race.
Most people feel that the situation facing the shipping markets is not going to change anytime soon. We all know what the markets are. There’s no point talking about it. And everyone’s given up on trying to crystal ball gaze about when they might recover. For the past four years, people were saying, “Oh in 2 years, it’s going to get better”. But in reality, nobody knows.
However, Posidonia can be a cost-effective way of seeing all your clients in the one place. They come to us so we don’t have to travel to the Middle East or Asia to do business.
It is exhausting sometimes going to 3 parties in the one night and then having to go to the office the next morning. And you do see a lot of the same people everywhere. But at the same time, it’s really nice to feel part of a community – and really fun to be on the inside of it all.
Posidonia International Shipping Exhibition 2016 officially runs from June 6-10. For more information on Posidonia events such as the Metropolitan Expo Centre and the Posidonia Run, visit www.posidonia-events.com