Inside the Crewing Hub at the Heart of merged OSM Thome

Very few developments have been as momentous in the shipping industry lately as the merger of OSM Maritime Group and Thome Group earlier this year.

It should come as no surprise that Cyprus — a major international ship management hub — is playing an important part in the combined juggernaut’s new set-up.

Julia Anastasiou, managing director of the OSM Thome Cyprus office and also the company’s chief crew-management officer, said: “This office is where the heart of our crewing endeavour beats.”

Combining roles comes in handy to the versatile executive, who steadily rose through the ranks to become one of three women in OSM Thome’s 12-strong executive team.

Daughter to a Maltese mother and a Cypriot father, Anastasiou was raised in Toronto, Canada, before moving to Cyprus in the early 1990s.

A former customer of OSM, she rushed to join as a crew manager when the company opened its Cyprus office in 2008, starting out with a modest fleet of five vessels.

While raising two children, Anastasiou steadily widened her responsibilities and currently oversees a giant operation of 29,000 seafarers spanning the globe.

Private and professional duties, plus the Covid-19 pandemic, did not stop her from graduating from Warwick Business School just two months ago.

In a rare, personal LinkedIn post, Anastasiou dedicated her MBA to family, colleagues and “friends who understood when I needed to skip a dinner or coffee date”.

Enhanced role

Her latest bout of personal growth came as the OSM Thome combination process was in full swing.

The merger had a significant impact on the Cyprus office, increasing its manpower and leading many team members to assume new roles to meet the heightened responsibilities.

“While role-enhancing our jobs, it has also broadened our horizons as we are now part of a larger, more formidable organisation,” she told TradeWinds.

Alongside the core crewing operations, OSM Thome’s Cyprus office is hosting several other vital company functions as well.

Chief accounting officer Constantinos Tzagotzides is based in Limassol, overseeing group-wide accounting, third-party corporate accounting and vessel-specific accounting.

The same goes for Vassilis Malikides, who in May rose to group finance director and whose budget team delivers controlling and invoicing operations.

The Cyprus office also houses Xanthos Neofytou, head of business development infrastructure and marketing, as well as OSM Thome’s executive crew claims manager, Maria Sabbagha.

Fostering a cohesive environment in such a diversified setting is one of the priorities of Anastasiou, who encourages shared lunchtime experiences to weld the team together.

“When two well-respected ship management companies like OSM and Thome merge, it requires hard work, dedication and buy-in from all employees — whether they work in our global offices or onboard our vessels,“ Anastasiou said.

Starting with change-management awareness training to onshore staff, the exercise also included surveys to ask all of the company’s 31,000 employees for input.

“The feedback we received was fantastic,” Anastasiou said. “We are now very proud to have a set of vision, mission and values that we wholeheartedly believe will represent us for what we are as a company, where we want to go and what behaviours we expect from our employees.”

Into the lion’s den

A common set of values should help as the current shipping market is not short of challenges, especially for a company that counts crewing as one of its core activities.

The war in Ukraine and other factors have stretched the commonly available pool of seafarers.

“The market is quite tough,” Anastasiou said.

However, she quickly added that one of the key outcomes of the merger was to secure access to larger crew pools.

“We have a unique setup — we employ the majority of our crew and we are utilising our own manning offices in the vast majority of our operation to ensure unparalleled quality for our customers’ vessels,” she said.

Anastasiou’s growing company role has also increased her profile within the Cyprus shipping community. In May, she was elected for a two-year term on the board of directors of the Cyprus Shipping Chamber, becoming one of three women among its 12 members.

That comes just three years after the country’s chamber of commerce and industry granted her the Young Entrepreneur in the Shipping Industry award.

“I am hopefully doing something right,” Anastasiou said at the time.

By Harry Papachristou