By George Colgan, MSc International Shipping and Finance student.
One of the things that most intrigued me when contemplating taking the master’s program at Henley Business School, was the offer of a field trip to one of the most influential maritime cities in the world. Athens. With Greeks controlling 20% of the world’s merchant fleet in carrying capacity (DWT). This was going to be the place to learn shipping. This blog post is all about the experiences and insights I’ve gained from the trip, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
The visits varied from container shipping managers, shipbrokers, ports and workshops on the vital functions of a shipping company. As a shipping finance student, I rarely think about the Human Resource element to a shipping company! A visit to Danaos shipping company showed the various ways a company owns vessels, and then charters them out to multinational shipping companies such as Maersk and MSC, even repainting them to suit their clients!
A visit to Trafigura showed the international aspect of the companies involved, and why their presence in Greece provides vital expertise, with offices all over the world; Operations, Claims, Bunkering, Disbursements and Storage are all centralised to the Athens office, and as we were told on the day, “shipping is in the blood of Greeks!”.
For me, a definite highlight of the trip was a visit to the Port of Piraeus. As a former port worker, the size and scale of the operation there astounded me. Learning about the technological advancements, the likes of which enable huge 10,000+ TEU vessels to smoothly load and discharge their cargo. Translating into an estimated 4 million containers passing through the port each year. This global gateway benefits not only the Greek economy, but most of Europe as well.
Outside of lectures, there where opportunities to see the cultural side of Greece as well. We visited Mt Lycabettus, the Acropolis and even the Panathenaic Stadium where the first Modern Olympic games where held. Along with the slightly less cultural, but still seriously Greek, Bouzoukia! Giving us all an opportunity to let our hair down. There was also plenty of opportunity to network, with industry professionals at the heartbeat of the Greek shipping industry and our course mates studying at ALBA Graduate Business School through drinks and even some sport. With a ‘friendly’ game of football between our two schools ending in a 4-4 draw!
All in all, my Athens experience was one of the stand out moments on my MSc course, and represents the approach of the course as a whole, blending theory with practical application. Hearing from real industry players and experiencing the international nature of the shipping industry. Being afforded the opportunity to experience a whole difference culture, attitude and outlook on the industry that my MSc is preparing me for.
Find out more about the Masters in International Shipping and Finance programme here.