Despina Theodosiou, CEO Tototheo Maritime © Tototheo Maritime
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»Working in silos is long gone« – Despina Theodosiou, CEO of Cyprus-based digital solutions provider Tototheo Maritime talks about their new office in Bremen plans in Germany, more investments of shipowners and her concern about losing young talents as an industry[ds_preview]

You have opened a new office in Bremen. Why did you choose to come to Germany at all?

Despina Theodosiou: As everybody knows, there is a big shipping community in Cyprus that comes from Germany. And for decades we had a very good relationship with them. Because of these relationships we decided to open an office here so we could be closer to their German offices but also closer to the German market. We feel it is a very big and interesting market for us coming from the connectivity and technology side of things, and we aim to get to know the market here better and the market to get to know us better. With all these changes happening in the industry right now, we felt it was the right time to have a base here as well.

So, you do see potential to get more German clients?

Theodosiou: Yes, of course. We have a lot of German clients already, but we always like to open up new doors.

Do you have growth plans here?

Theodosiou: It has only been a few months but we are really pleased with how it started. We are thinking of bringing more people here. What is most important for us now is to have our name be known better to those that doesn’t know us already. Our group of companies has a long tradition, it has been there for 40 years, and we feel that we have a lot to offer.

Do you have any portfolio enhancement in progress?

Theodosiou: We are looking at different things, innovation is at the heart of what we do. We have many clients that are shipmanagers for example and we keep looking for new solutions to optimise their operations. Many of our ideas we develop together with partners. For example, we have been very interested in ports digitalization. It is one of the project that we currently have.

For the operation of ports and shipping companies?

Theodosiou: For the operations between all the stakeholders of the ports: Port-to-port or port-to-pilot or port-to-ship. Making all this digital and making sure that there is a very good communication between all stakeholders for port dues, DA’s etc. is what we are looking for..

One could argue that there is quite a big need for that, especially the port-to-ship-connection has a bis need for digitalization …

Theodosiou: Yes, I agree. But you know, the problem with that is: There is no standard for it yet. I think once that happens it will be much easier. Because, like our company, other ports have developed a platform it as well or other companies are trying to do it. But all these platforms need to be able to communicate to each other to have a good solution.

On the occasion of the new office opening, Tototheo said »We are ever more convinced that the future of shipping lies in collaboration and synergies with valued partners.« What does that mean?

Theodosiou: We feel that the time of shipping working in silos is long gone. We need to cooperate, especially with digitalization projects. For example when it comes to data: To be efficient it needs to be shared in a way. You cannot just say this is mine and that is yours. It is never going to work.

At the same time, cyber security is getting more and more important. So an increasing digitalization could open doors for cyber criminals, some may argue… Do you think there is sufficient awareness in the shipping community for that?

Theodosiou: It wasn’t the case before, but I think especially after Covid where we had so many digitalization projects in the industry the awareness increased and is high in the meantime. I think what we really need to keep our pace on and be better at is how we train our people about cyber security. People at the office but also on board. Such big ships costs millions of dollars, we need to be able to train the people to use these new tools that we give them to make their life easier.

These days are characterized by huge improvements for shipowners and managers. Do you see more or a better willingness to pay a good price for good solutions?

Theodosiou: Yes, not only to invest in new solutions but also in faster connectivity on board. Because obviously having faster connectivity is an enabler for all these new digital solutions that they have. Sometimes people say the shipping industry is too conservative or to traditional. It is traditional, it can be conservative, but I think it is not as much as we say that it is. The shipping industry went to major changes through the years. Shipowners and managers were a little bit more careful with how they were spending their money – as any business would. And now that things are better, we see them better investing. I do think they are open for these solutions, it is just that the timing needs to be right. What we see is, that there is investment not only for cost reduction or optimization, but also for having solutions for safety or crew welfare.

You need to attract people to go to sea…

Theodosiou: Yes, especially after Covid.

In Cyprus, shipping has a big share of the general economy…

Theodosiou: It is quite big for us. Shipping is around 7 % of our GDP, which is huge. However, and that we find very strange, because we are an island, there hasn’t been a very long tradition of youngsters going to sea. Things changed now, because there were great efforts made from the government to promote seafaring jobs. But what I think we will face in Europe especially, but increasingly worldwide, is that we will have to deal with when people are saying: Why should I go to shipping? There are so many industries now that are competing with us. This is what I am afraid of, that we will lose a lot of talent, that could be very beneficial for shipping. That’s why I think we need to start promoting how forward shipping is becoming, how technology is coming into it, how things are changing on board.

Interview: Michael Meyer

About Tototheo

Tototheo Maritime, headquartered in Cyprus and founded 40 years ago, has recently inaugurated its new office in Bremen, Germany. Head of Sales for Germany is Teodor Jelev. Tototheo is a provider of satellite connectivity solutions, including L-band, Ku-band and Ka-band for a number of well known satellite operators. It provides communications, navigation and general bridge equipment, cyber security infrastructure, IoT solutions, compliance and reporting services and efficiency and optimization solutions – both with new installations, retrofits, annual maintenance contracts and vessel IT support.