George P. Livanos

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The Independent Online
If there is ever a place on earth where the genetic blueprint for a successful shipowner remains in potent circulation it must be the village of Kardamyla on the north-eastern tip of Chios.

Dug into rocky slopes, perched between the roughest waves of the Aegean and the thinnest strip of citrus groves, Kardamyla has been, since the 1750s, a cradle for merchant seamen of all sorts: captains, pirates, traders, mercenaries, shipowners, merchant bankers, independence fighters, all in the service of the Ottomans, of Catherine the Great, of Napoleon, of Italian or British venture capitalists and finally, from 1821 onwards, of themselves. The family names are legion and Livanos has been one of the first and most well-known.

George P. Livanos lived up to the family tradition in an exceptionally successful way, encompassing in his career most aspects of shipping and social service. His acumen, industry and authority will be missed on the international shipping scene.

Born in New Orleans in 1926, while his father captained a Livanos freighter, he assumed US citizenship and later served in the US Army during the Second World War (mostly in Japan) and also during the Korean War. Both his parents died while he was an infant and he grew up in the care of his paternal uncle Pantazis and aunt Irene. He attended Athens College, the prestigious Greek-American private school, which he supported throughout his life and served later as a member of its board of trustees.

For Livanos Shipping was a family business with a long tradition of entrepreneurism and of national and social service. In Livanos's mind the two went hand in hand. He began his career in New York in the late 1940s with the Liberty ships which the US government sold to shipowners in reparation for casualties suffered during the Second World War. The Livanos family firm were the recipients of several Liberties and traded them profitably until the late 1950s. They branched into tanker tonnage and within a decade reached the status of a multinational shipping company with wet and dry tonnage, offices in New York, London, Piraeus and Monte Carlo and new building contracts in Japan. The crews remained Greek nationals throughout and all vessels flew the Greek flag. The company's single-handed contribution to the Greek economy, at times when Greece was rebuilding itself after a disastrous civil war, was incalculable.

Livanos married Fotini Carras, daughter of John M. Carras, another Kardamylian shipowner of status. He and Fotini started their life together in the United States and later moved to Greece, where they built a beautiful home on the outskirts of Athens, spending some time every summer on their native island.

In the early 1970s Livanos met the challenge of Third World trade and food supplies. Many African and Asian ports located on or up rivers required shallow-drafted tonnage which could reach them effectively and without trans- shipment. The concept of the mini-bulker was conceived and successfully executed by Livanos. These were 1,800 to 3,500 dead-weight ships suited for coastal navigation, run with minimal crew and at small cost. The United Nations used them to great advantage in Bangladesh and India and a few of them are still in operation in China and the Far East.

Being a tanker operator and a member of the board of the International Tanker Owners' Pollution Federation, Livanos became active in the protection of the environment, in terms of improved designs of tankers, safe methods of discharge and loading and protective measures on shore. As Chairman of the Environmental Committee of the Union of Greek Shipowners he was instru- mental in the creation of the Hellenic Marine Environmental Protection Association (Helmepa).

In 1982 Helmepa was established under Greek and EU law with the voluntary participation of a large number of Greek-flag ships. This initiative created an international precedent for tanker owners to clean up after themselves. Sister organisations such as Turmepa (Turkey) and Cymepa (Cyprus) have been established and the Helmepa model has been used world-wide for shipping anti- pollution organisations. In 1991 Livanos was named Helmepa's chairman for life.

Livanos's chief maritime concern was Seres Shipping and Ceres Hellenic Enterprises. The former is a large shipping company; the latter manages the hydrofoil passenger ships known in Greece as "flying dolphins" which offer fast efficient transportation from Piraeus to several Aegean islands. Livanos bought these from the Soviet Union and pioneered their use in the Greek waters where they have proved a great success. Both companies are now controlled by his son, Peter.

Livanos served the shipping industry in many important capacities, including the American Bureau of Shipping (as Member Emeritus), Det Norske Veritas (Chairman, Greek Committee), Hellenic Mutual War Risks Insurance Association (Director), Baltic and International Maritime Council (President), among others.

He was particularly active in Greek-American relations and greatly contributed to the organisation of the Greek community in New York and to the creation of cultural and political institutions that safeguard the identity of Greeks as an ethnic minority in the United States.

Michael Moschos

George Panayiotis Livanos, shipowner: born New Orleans 8 August 1926; married Fotini Carras (one son, one daughter); died Athens 1 June 1997.

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