The World’s Most Important Industry Has a New Captain—and She’s Piloting It Into the 21st Century

Estimated read time 3 min read

Around us at Zephyros, kids and silverware clamor and motorbikes cough, but Marina’s voice is barely above a whisper. “When the hippopotamuses quarrel, then the frogs get stepped on,” she says of geopolitical conflicts, including the war in Ukraine.

She’s sphinxlike, at times. I’m starting to think she may have the rare quality that Fitzgerald’s characters called “repose,” a kind of physical self-possession seen only in people who lack neurotic tics like face-touching. Marina never fidgets. And her soft voice is not shyness, I’m learning. She speaks in verdicts. Her straight brown-black hair, ballerina physique, and air of frankness bring to mind a Hellenic Frida Kahlo. But tactically reserved.

Also sharing from our platters of tomatoes, taramosalata, and sea bream is the man Marina unfailingly calls “Mr. Markakis.” A proud figure who can only be described as looking like a sea captain, Constantine J. Markakis runs Dorian’s Greek subsidiary. He’s talking about how nation-states behave like their icons: Russia like a bear, England like a lion, and so on.

The objects of Marina’s word of derision, this time, are the other families from Oinoussai, the island where the Hadjipateras mariners go their start. There are five original Oinoussaian clans—Hadjipateras, Kollakis, Lemos, Lyras, and Pateras—and nearly three dozen illustrious families trace their fortunes to the island. In spite of these accomplishments, several of the Oinoussaian diaspora, in Marina’s view, have become hidebound in their approach to shipping, too slow to modernize and expose their fleets and finances to public scrutiny and investment. Marina’s line of the Hadjipateras clan is, by contrast, “progressive.” Indeed, over 15 decades, it has pivoted unsentimentally from sail to steam, from steam to tankers, from private to public.

Marina’s approach to social equity and climate action is also earnestly progressive. Dorian is known among seafarers for high wages, excellent benefits, and perks for its crews, including cruise-ship amenities like gyms, karaoke, and onboard holiday celebrations. At TMV, Marina and Soraya helped create Transact Global, a network for nontraditional fund managers, mostly women, so they can trade strategies, build solidarity, and gain greater access to capital.

For the past decade, Marina has also served as vice chair of the Intertanko environmental committee—that’s the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, which was founded in Oslo in 1970 to address safety in shipping. Members of the committee, of course, are still in the “energy” sector—meaning fossil fuels. (The LPG in Dorian’s name stands for liquid petroleum gas, a natural gas that is better than coal but far from green.) But, perhaps to offset their guilt, they concentrate on emission reduction, alternative fuels, ballast water and waste management, ship recycling, anti-biofouling measures, and underwater noise reduction. The shipowners I meet later are now confident the industry will meet the UN’s demand that ship emissions, which account for some 3 percent of greenhouse gases, be reduced by 40 percent by 2030.

In spite of this collective project, I encounter several shipping executives in Greece who talk as if they are above both the climate crisis and the affairs of humankind. “Who cares about Ukraine?” asks a well-heeled exec whose business has evidently been inconvenienced by the sanctions imposed on Russia since the war started. This small-mindedness profoundly displeases Marina, who nonetheless sidesteps most third-rail subjects, including Russia, China, and Gaza.

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