INTERVIEW: New IBIA Chairman Seeks Wider Engagement With Shipping Industry

by Jack Jordan, Managing Editor, Ship & Bunker
Tuesday April 2, 2024

Constantinos Capetanakis, the new chairman of IBIA, is setting the industry body’s sights on engaging with a wider range of stakeholders connected to marine fuels as he starts his two-year term.

Capetanakis was formally announced as the next IBIA chairman at the organisation’s annual dinner in February, and took over the role from Tim Cosulich as of April 1.

Capetanakis has been bunker director of shipping firm Starbulk since 2019, and first joined IBIA's board in 2020. He set up and subsequently chaired its working group on future fuels.

“For me, the past four and a half years have carried heavy involvement with IBIA, both in terms of decarbonisation developments and also about changing the way the organisation is perceived, so that it can reach out to all stakeholders of the shipping industry,” Capetanakis said in an interview with Ship & Bunker.

“Focusing on the marine energy issues – this is what IBIA does, it’s marine energy now, not only bunkers in the traditional sense. It’s a bit constrictive to say we’re focused only on that.”

A Bunker Buyer's Perspective

Capetanakis is the first chairman in IBIA’s recent history to come to the role from the point of view of a buyer rather than a seller of bunker fuels, and certainly the first Greek representative of a shipping company to hold this position, at a time when the organisation is seeking to deepen its engagement with bunker buyers.

“My focus for my term as chair will be to expand IBIA’s base even more, and we’re already doing that," he said.

“I’m optimistic that with a buyer at the helm of the association, other bunker buyers, whether in Greece or elsewhere, will listen to the real benefits that IBIA membership and involvement carries.

“The IBIA membership is so wide; IBIA is not a bunker supplier association, it of course has a substantial part of its members as bunker suppliers – rightly so, and it represents them – but it embraces all stakeholders, bunker buyers, service providers, new fuel producers are coming in, classification societies, refiners, and hopefully banks are going down this road.

“This creates a huge network opportunity for bunker buyers to be able to speak to all of these stakeholders, to confer directly and bypass the always faceless contract facade.

"But not only that; all members have the ability to speak out, participate in our working groups, provide and receive feedback, which in turn will be hugely beneficial so that IBIA will continue playing a vital role in influencing policy.”

Improving Supplier-Buyer Relationships

Capetanakis has a legal background, as an English solicitor and a Greek lawyer and has been involved with the shipping industry for more than 25 years.

During this period he has seen the relationship between the bunker and shipping industries improve over that period.

“We have definitely seen a development towards an improved relationship between the two sides,” he said.

“But skepticism still exists.

“IBIA says we want to embrace all sides, and the same principles should apply between the two sides.

"Transparency, professionalism, quality and a view to long-term co-operations.

“It is not infrequent to see mutual suspicion – the bunker supplier thinks that the buyer is only interested in price, and in trying to lodge a claim.

"The buyer, conversely, sometimes is suspicious that things will not be done in a transparent way both in terms of quality and quantity.

“For both suspicions, there have been instances that have kindled these suspicions.

“However, the transparency which we advocate, and repeat quite often, is for parties to communicate openly with each other, and not be confined to a contract alone.

"I think overall, it’s moving in the right direction and IBIA is certainly here to bring all sides of the equation closer to each other.”

Increased Revenues

IBIA is now on a much stronger financial footing after experiencing a sharp hit to its revenues at the start of the 2020s, Capetanakis said. In late 2020 the organisation said it expected to lose at least £100,000 in revenues in that financial year because of the COVID-19 pandemic causing the cancellation of its 2021 annual dinner, as well as other factors.

“We faced hard times; COVID was the main reason, stopping us from doing any events for approximately two years, and some companies decided to stay away, the market was bad in all aspects.

“At this point in time, we were fortunate enough that some of our members – and we have thanked them repeatedly, both in public and privately – stood by IBIA and supported it in these hard times.

“These are now over.

“Not only because COVID went away, and we resumed our activities.

“But also because we see an uptick in members coming in, something that will be my focus, going forward.”

The industry body now has just short of 500 members in total.

“That does not mean that we are relaxed, because we want to make IBIA totally self-sustained,” Capetanakis said.

“We don’t want to rely too heavily on events, or membership, we want to have the best of both worlds and never be one-sided in our focus.

“Overall, I’m optimistic. IBIA is looking ahead for expansion both in substance and in numbers and will become more relevant than ever.

"This is my core aim and mission.”