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BSM Hellas – Adele Crothers: “Shipping is like a woman: It has its storms and its calms”

A woman with commercial flair and solid education, a qualified manager, graduated from Brunel University of London. Cosmopolitan and charming, upholding the best English characteristics but also very much a Greek at heart.  A woman ready to dream and implement all that she had imagined when she was young – having boldness that transcends its boundaries, but also the circumspection to act appropriately, without losing hope in the face of any adversity – ready to wander the world, victorious. A very beautiful woman, with a smile to handle any situation confidently and ably, self-made and communicative, cooperative and optimistic. Adele Crothers is Customer Relations and Business Growth Manager at Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement Hellas and started her career in the field of shipping more than 10 years ago.

Adele Crothers – Customer Relations and Business Growth Manager at Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement Hellas

-Is there a particular moment in time when one decides with what one is going to occupy themselves in their lives? Did something happen with you that turned your interest to shipping? 

Throughout one’s life there is a gradual development of dreams, ideas and targets which become shaped depending on personal experiences, social influences and current trends. In many cases, the choice of profession is totally coincidental and in some instances, it just so happens that through an unintentional chain of events you are lead into a certain field, which is actually your “calling”. In my case when I moved to Greece almost 15 years ago, I was introduced to shipping through extended family and close contacts. Through this exposure and awareness of the magnitude and importance of the industry, for each person involved as well as Greece itself, I was captivated. From the point that I also became part of the Greek maritime family and increasingly over the years, my enthusiasm for shipping has grown exponentially. It is undoubtedly a very demanding and challenging industry, that compels you to self-improve and keeps you on edge however, in return it provides you with a real sense of achievement.

– Can you imagine how your life would be if you had not made the specific choice?

It is human nature to be tempted to look back and ponder how things would turn out if a different path had been selected or alternate choices made, but this is not a personal preference of mine. Decisions should be made consciously, weighing up the merits of each particular instance. Even if decisions were made just on a hunch or feeling that they were the right at a certain time, they were taken. The past cannot be changed and in that sense I would rather not to look back or feel any possible regret but instead feel satisfied with each of life’s accomplishments and use these as a motivator to try harder for the future. Now, imagining life without shipping and being involved in such a high paced, varied and influential industry or without having met the wide variety of inspirational people in this field seems inconceivable. Shipping has certainly shaped my character and life, I feel it was a destiny fulfilled and it would not be a preference by any means to change this.

– What characteristics should one have to be involved in shipping?

Shipping is a very demanding, volatile and high paced industry which requires each and every person involved to be fully committed and flexible to meet its fluctuating demands. Bearing that in mind, whatever position is held and whatever tasks a person is responsible for, they are of vital importance in a chain of team-based endeavours that requires the highest professionalism. The industry demands perseverance, drive for continuous self-improvement and evolvement, being instilled through a culture of excellence, self-awareness and utilisation of personal strengths to the maximum degree. Shipping can be daunting since it is so challenging and perhaps it is not therefore for someone that would prefer a smooth and event free business life. Nevertheless, many people are mesmerised by the industry and serve it full heartedly, receiving in the end an overwhelming sense of satisfaction that comes when one accomplishes targets with hard work and dedication.

– What are the Characteristics of Greek shipping?

Everyone knows that Greek shipping is the most accomplished worldwide and has stood the test of time through several thousand years. Greek shipping is at the global forefront, both in terms of ownership, management and through a wide variety of maritime related services. The local industry is filled with decision makers who actively shape maritime activity at all levels. Based on the importance and history of Greek shipping and bearing in mind cultural traits, then anyone can comprehend the industry’s characteristics. Greek maritime professionals remain heavily involved in running their fleet both as owners and managers, utilising their vast experience and being fully engrossed and committed to their vessels’ technical and crew management, operations and chartering. Most Greek owners and managers do not perceive their business as merely a profitable investment and chose instead to have a more personal commitment to their companies, with full participation in all decision-making processes whether it be a large or small organisation. This is uncommon elsewhere in the world, where investors do not on a whole pay attention to day to day management usually focusing more on financial monitoring instead. In terms of sale and purchase, historical facts have proven that Greeks have an uncanny ability to measure up the market based on hunches and feelings rather than being strictly guided by the analysis of financial investment factors. Likewise, for other Greek industry service providers also excelling in this market, they have combined long-term shipping tradition and expertise with cultural traits such as quick thinking, problem solving and evolvement making them global industry leaders.

– What are the milestones in your life?

Making the choice at a young age to follow my now husband to Greece, leaving my family, career and country behind to pursue a dream. This was risky but has paid off and I am now living in a beautiful place, happily married and I have been blessed with two children to guide as they grow and make their own milestones. On a professional level an important landmark was commencing employment more than 10 years ago with Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM). Prior to this current placement, I was involved with other nonmaritime industries and at one point even established my own business but was finally introduced to ship-management when I moved to Greece. It was however BSM that provided, through its diverse range of maritime services, the widespread experience that got me so “hooked” on shipping, shaping my professional pathway and allowing me to fully evolve.

-Talk to me about the importance of your job with relation to the shipping chain of services?

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) is an integrated maritime solutions leader, with a heritage spanning more than 135 years in the shipping industry.  BSM are in the fortunate position to be able to draw upon a strong foundation as ship owners, as well as the reach of its worldwide office network and human resources, to ensure that whatever the challenge there is the capability to deliver optimum service provision for clients. BSM Hellas, one of the ten BSM ship management centres, was established back in 2005 and provides crew and ship management services to a number of first-class Greek and international owners. As previously stressed, Greek owners are very knowledgeable and experienced which requires a chosen partner to be understanding of the unique requirements of each client. BSM Hellas prides itself on utilising their vast expertise and global network to offer the necessary custom-made affordable solutions but personalised to a degree that matches the Greek market demands. As Customer Relations and Business Growth Manager at BSM Hellas, my role is to work closely with the Managing Director, Mr. Theophanis Theophanous in building positive long-term relationships with clients, addressing their each and every need. Every association, being unique, requires open communication and transparency to be able to exchange ideas, gather feedback and tailor service provisions to meet clients present and future goals. Productive service delivery can only be achieved when the right solutions are provided timely and any potential concerns effectively communicated and dealt with promptly. This is also vital because it upholds our philosophy, to achieve a culture of excellence at all levels. Business development and marketing are also fundamental aspects of this job, since client management starts right from day one and before any contractual agreement is even signed. Business to business collaborations have to be effective and constructed to ensure a smooth, trustworthy partnership between client representatives and BSM. Ultimately therefore, the task of a Customer Relations and Business Growth Manager is knowing, guiding, balancing and safeguarding the interest of both parties working in tandem so as to make the most of service provisions in a mutually beneficial environment. The work variety of this position definitely provides a very interesting and may I dare to say thrilling experience each day. Admirably, it is also worth mentioning that the BSM group encourages all BSM employees, both sea and shore based, with a variety of programmes, to come forward with innovative ideas to help improve the way things are done. Under this capacity everyone is free to voice their ideas, with regards to any aspect of our business and be involved in the future evolution of the company.

– The demands of women employees are different from these of men inside the shipping office?

As a rule of thumb shipping has predominately been a male dominated industry. Up to a few years ago, save but a few instances, women were not often seen in predominant, senior or decision-making roles compared to their male peers. Traditionally, female employees have known to be occupied with a more supportive roles which perhaps did not provide the challenge or responsibility that was sort or could be successfully achieved. Thankfully, this is changing at a fast pace with industry wide backing and organisations adopting equal opportunity working practices. At BSM for example, there is full commitment to a policy of diversity and equal opportunities advocating the right of all employees to work in an environment which is free of any discrimination be it gender, racial or of bias related to any disability. Any inequity between male and female peers is slowly but steadily being eradicated, with women holding an increasing number of demanding and important jobs. With the example of the women professionals that are already achieved, being an inspiration to all, surely there will come the time when there will be equal job demands, roles and responsibilities irrespective of gender or any other possible discriminations.

– What is a woman’s profile in shipping?

Although there have been recent leaps towards gender equality as mentioned, shipping is still a predominately male industry. In this era of change there are two distinct women’s profiles at totally different ends of the spectrum; there are the women in supportive roles and women who have achieved a substantial business status holding highly responsible positions and forging ahead as decision makers. The women in the supportive roles have utilised years of experience to be very capable and professional, dealing proficiently with their assigned duties, offering strategic assistance in the smooth function of their companies. Then there are ladies whom have reached higher industry positions but just like their male counterparts, they will have had to strive hard to prove their worth and address possible prejudice along the way. Since in many cases the climb up the professional ladder
proves a challenge in turn it develops strong, decisive characters, keen on self-improvement and with an inherent drive for excellence, generating top field specific experts who contribute extensively throughout the industry.

– How can woman nature be connected with the management of shipping?

– Whilst rallying for gender equality one has to stay away from generalisations and be careful not to promote female characteristics over male ones. Both men’s and women’s natural charismas can be utilised to the maximum degree so as to benefit their company of employment and the industry which they serve. However, perhaps it is fair to say that women are known for paying attention to detail, measuring risks in a calculative way and generally being organised, these traits aid towards a culture of excellence. Furthermore, it is more inherent for women to try and avoid conflict or unhealthy antagonism, which assists in developing teamwork that is proven to achieve the greatest of results. Finally, the female character, sociable skills and empathy can also prove useful managerial tools especially in such a diverse and global industry. It is important though not to focus on one gender alone because in the end to achieve a positive and productive work place, what is needed is the correct balance of skills, experience and characters no matter whether this is a male or female employee.

– If for some reason you had amnesia what wouldn’t you want to forget from what you know?

This is a very intriguing but challenging question since experience and knowledge shapes your character, to make you who you are and define you as an individual. Therefore, if you were to forget anything you would inevitably be a different person. Consequently, it would be feelings in general that would be the most important to retain. Knowledge you can re-acquire should you have to but feelings stay inked at a subconscious level. Feelings for family, friends, colleagues and life events are very important to me and it would be these that I would not wish to be parted with. On the other hand with no hesitation would I forget historical atrocities, global starvation, war, crimes, disease and events that are shameful to our history and nature as human beings.

– What is the tool for man to change his fate?

We are in control of our own fate and once this is fully appreciated and accepted, then the important first step has been made on destiny’s path. However, to change or improve your own fate many more important steps will have to follow. As the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates taught, knowing one’s self is of paramount importance and one has to start from there. Through self-awareness you are able to pinpoint strengths and be aware of your weaknesses so that you may then strive for self-improvement and continuous evolvement. It is essential to set goals, targets and have dreams otherwise you will not be able to work towards attaining them. Whatever the goals are, one needs to be prepared for a challenging path ahead and must never submit to despair. On a personal or professional level perseverance, determination and hard work combined with a little luck and good timing are the factors that are responsible for shaping our fate. We should be focused at least on endorsing those that we can control and being thankful when they positively coincide with those we cannot.

Interview by Theano Kalapotharakou
Source: ELNAVI Sept. 2019