By Aphrodite Kotrotsios, Publisher
President of EMBCA, Mr. Louis Katsos, organized EMBCA’s 3rd Annual Hellenic Shipping Panel Discussion on Thursday, February 8th in Athens, Greece, in honor of the 10th Anniversary of the Hellas Liberty Maritime Museum. The museum can be found in the Port of Piraeus on board the Hellas Liberty Ship. Ten years ago, the Liberty Ship SS Arthur M. Huddle was transported to Piraeus Port from Norfolk, Virginia. At the time of entrance, it was renamed the Hellas Liberty Maritime Museum. The purpose of the event was to place emphasis on the important role the Hellenic Merchant Marines played during WWII, the loss of the 2,000 marine lives and the destruction of 70% of the Hellenic Fleet. The Hellenic Marines played a pivotal role by supplying the Allies with supplies during WWII and so were targeted by the Axis powers for destruction. “After the war, the United States sold the Liberty Ships to the Hellenic Fleet owners which became the basis of the Modern Hellenic Fleet,” shared President Katsos. There are only three Liberty ships and each one functions as a museum.
The panel discussion moderated by Mr. Louis Katsos included distinguished guest panelists such as The Honorable Geoffrey R. Pyatt, The Ambassador of the United States of America to the Hellenic Republic; Rhode Island State Senator, The Honorable Leonidas Raptakis; Vice-Admiral of the Hellenic Navy, Ioannis G. Pavlopoulos; Spyros Polemis, Founder & CEO of Remi Maritime; Aristidis Pittas, President of EuroDry Ltd.; Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, CEO of Totoheo and President of WISTA International; and Konstantine Drougas, Vice President of EMBCA and Chair of the Shipping Memorial Committee. “Over the past year, the United States, the Embassy in particular, has increased its engagement with Greece in the maritime sector. Most importantly, I want to highlight tonight that the first-ever delivery of US liquified natural gas to Greece took place last December,” said Ambassador Pyatt. He mentioned that there’s a good chance that the gas used to keep the heaters going this winter in Greece came from Texas. Ambassador Pyatt continued with, “In partnership with the Greek Shipping Fleet, the United States is helping Greece and all of South East Europe to ensure energy independence. We anticipate more American shipments coming to Greece soon and this is just one example of how the United States and Greece will continue to benefit the strong relationship between our businesses and our governments.” Senator Raptakis of Rhode Island stressed that the United States and Greece are still strong allies. “You are sitting here tonight, on a vessel that arrived in Greece ten years ago, which is part of our Hellenic Heritage and one of the greatest maritime powers of the world. Around 2,700 Liberty Ships were built and only 3 remain in existence, the SS John Brown in Baltimore, MD, the SS Jeremiah O’Brien in San Francisco, CA, and the SS Arthur M. Huddle, what we are sitting on today, which was sitting in the James River since 1983 after it was retired,” shared Senator Raptakis.
The Hellenic Shipping Memorial Committee is forming to secure government and private sector support. In honor of the Hellenic Marines’ heroic deeds, EMBCA aims to build a monument in New York City. The Monument/Memorial will serve to commemorate the WWII Hellenic Merchant Marine Sailors who fought bravely, to express gratitude to the United States for helping support the Hellenic Merchant Marine Fleet with the “Blessed” Liberty ships after the war and to celebrate the historic friendship between the Hellenic Republic and the United States. The Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, Alexis Tsipras has also recognized this honorable purpose. For more information, please visit www.embca.com