Scholars' Association News
Issue 19
August 2011


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Pavlos Ioannidis receives award from Seatrade International
Interviewed by Leda Bouzali

Mr. Pavlos Ioannidis, Honourable Vice President of the Onassis Foundation, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Seatrade International. This important award was presented by Princess Anna at the official dinner on April 4th, 2011, at the grand Guildhall of London in the presence of former King of Greece Constantinos and his wife Anna-Maria, the UK Secretary of State for Transport, the General Secretary of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Chairman of the Seatrade Awards Committee, Mr. Efthimios Mitropoulos, and over 350 other figures from the international maritime industry.

The Global Seatrade Awards were established in 1989 and are one of the most renowned institutions for awards in the international shipping industry, acknowledging achievements and pioneering ideas. Pavlos Ioannidis was awarded for his overall contribution to shipping and, in particular, for his initiative to introduce in maritime training the philosophy, working approach and strict procedures governing aviation so as to eliminate the weakness of the so-called "human factor". These procedures were then adopted globally acquiring the status of internationally recognized safety rules. Pavlos Ioannidis was also honoured for his work at the Onassis Foundation, receiving the title of a lifelong member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

"With the opportunity given to me with this very important award," stated the Honourable Vice President of the Onassis Foundation, "I would like to highlight the importance of conservation of the environment and that the international community should realize the severity of the situation before we reach the point of no return. We must act immediately and decisively. We owe it to our grandchildren, to society and to the generations to follow."

At the beginning of 1943, Pavlos Ioannidis, aged 18, joined the Resistance movement. First, he joined the Nikiforos team in the Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS) and then FORCE 133, an allied military unit operating in the Greek mountains against the German occupation. In June 1944, following orders by the Middle Eastern Allied Command, he and two British officers escaped from Greece and reached Cairo via Turkey.

He was honoured for his bravery during the War by King George VI with the King’s Medal for Courage (KMC) of the British Empire. He was also awarded with an honorary diploma by the British Field Marshall Lord Alexander. In an action of protest he returned these distinctions to Charles Peake, the British Ambassador in Athens, on May 10th1956, the day that the Cypriot fighters of EOKA, Karaolis and Dimitriou were hung in Cyprus. He stated that these awards no longer meant anything to him as the Cypriots were executed for fighting to liberate their country, just like he himself had fought for Greece.

Pavlos Ioannidis received his training as a fighter pilot at the then South Rhodesia RAF Training Center and later on he served in the Royal Hellenic Air Force until 1947. Once discharged, he was employed by the Greek national carrier TAE, which consequently became Olympic Airways (OA) when Aristotle Onassis acquired the company in 1957. At OA he offered his services as Instructor, Chief Flight Instructor, Chief Pilot, Flight Operation Director and finally as Director General till December 1974 when Onassis denounced the contract and handed the company over to the Greek State. He continued to fly with OA as Captain of Boeing 747 aircraft till February 1984 when he retired, having logged approximately 24,000 hrs of flight as Captain and Instructor.

In his will Aristotle Onassis appointed Pavlos Ioannidis a lifetime member of the Onassis Foundation Board of Directors. Pavlos Ioannidis was also involved in the business activities of the Onassis Foundation where he ultimately undertook the duties of Director General of Springfield Shipping Co. Panama SA and Chief Executive Officer of Shipping and Commercial Operations of the Onassis Group.

"Since the mid-50s it has been recognized within the Airline Industry that the main factor contributing to an accident is the ‘weakness’ of the ‘human factor’," explained Pavlos Ioannidis in an interview given to AΩ magazine. "This serious "human weakness" cannot be eliminated altogether but it can definitely be reduced to a minimum by means of reiterative training, standardization of procedure, strict compliance with procedure at all stages, discipline and teamwork."

Having acquired a thorough knowledge of aviation philosophy and extensive experience as an instructor, Pavlos Ioannidis decided to implement these principles to the ships of the Onassis Group. This was not initially an easy task, as he himself points out; it required considerable effort to change entrenched attitudes whilst also the cost was high. However, the absolute imperative was collaboration by all. With persistence and perseverance he finally managed to convince of the necessity of implementing a new way of working. As he writes in his book And if you are not, you will become… (A.A. Livanis Publications 2007): "We all started working intensively in order to achieve an innovation: to apply the philosophy and the working practices of aviation to shipping – which after many years became dubbed the ‘Airline Concept’."

As of 1979, he organized four-day training seminars on various issues, mainly related to safety, which were eventually increased to ten days in 1982, for deck and engine officers. For this purpose a training room with the most sophisticated equipment was created at the company offices in Pireaus and the training of crew was gradually expanded to on board the ships as well. At the same time, a new Ship Operation Manual was issued to cover in detail the philosophy and idea behind the "Airline Concept".

According to Pavlos Ioannidis, "We aspired to compile a contemporary ship manual which would describe in detail all the specific duties and procedures to be followed by the officers and the crew during the different stages of their work. The manual was created taking into account all the latest requirements of international organizations.

In April 1979 he visited Southampton College of Nautical Studies in England, which provided the highest level of training for Cadet Officers in the Merchant Navy and possessed and used a navy simulator, so as to be suitably informed about their training programme. Six months later, he initiated the Bridge Simulator Training for Captains and Chief Officers of the Onassis Group. Some time later, the simulator training was performed at Pireaus at regular intervals and is still conducted to this date.

There were also many additional measures aiming to further improve the ships’ safety: establishment of incident logs, arrangement with a British company for the automatic dispatching and timely receipt of all maps, announcements to seafarers, books and navy publications amongst other things, including any amendments and additions.

Pavlos Ioannidis says "It was not an easy task, but it was one that ought to have been done. Preparation and adaptation lasted more than four years and as of October 1982, the Airline Concept was fully integrated in the dry and wet cargo Onassis fleet. This was a worldwide pioneering step taken by the Group, in an effort to increase safety aboard vessels and protect the marine environment."

The impact of the weakness of the "human factor" on naval safety was not studied by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other organizations until the early ‘90s. Fifteen years after the Onassis Group’s initiative, in 1998, the IMO implemented the International Ship Management (ISM) Code and the 1995 amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for seafarers (STCW). The aforementioned measures have significantly enhanced safety aboard vessels and the protection of the marine environment.

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