The Greek shipping community’s reputation for hospitality is unrivalled. Bei Hong offers an insight into how to get the best out of the gathering, and avoid some of the pitfalls. Let’s just say if a Norwegian broker invites you on a boat ride, look out!
For nigh on 50 years, Posidonia has been the benchmark for shipping events around the globe. With an ever increasing number of gatherings, award ceremonies and conferences to choose from, the bi-annual gathering in Greece continues to be the one ‘must attend’ event for many, but the sight of exhausted shipping people making their departure from Athens at the end of the first week of June shows that it is also an endurance event which requires military planning to get the most out of.
For years, there were plenty of attendees who boasted that they never left the tranquil confines of the Astir Palace Hotel, the Vouliagmeni resort where several of the biggest parties were held and where demand for hotel rooms from the shipping community was so great that a ‘grey market’ always developed in the run up to the event. This year, there is no grey market in Astir rooms and those ageing Posidonia veterans are going to have to find a new playground – the Astir is closed for renovation. Hopes that a last minute completion of building work in the same style Athens managed for the 2004 Olympics proved unfounded and the hosts of many of the traditional parties held there were left scurrying to find alternative locations for their events. It also means that one of the centres of ‘unofficial’ Posidonia will also not be evident this year. For years, the siren call of the Arion Bar at the Astir Palace lured many a well meaning shipbroker from the sensible option of a reasonably early night to ‘one for the road’ with colleagues and rivals, which seemed to magically morph into watching the sun rise and facing another gruelling day in the heat with a major hangover.
There seems little chance that the closure of one much loved Posidonia watering hole will see any let up in the partying of the hundreds who descend on Athens each Posidonia and the hot tip for ‘party central’ this year is currently the Hilton – the rooftop bar claims to close at 3.00am, but expect guest pressure to seek an extension of closing hours during Posidonia week.
Planning your schedule in Posidonia week means being realistic and taking into account the notorious traffic jams and scarce availability of taxis. Reserving a car and driver for the week might be pricey, but if you are trying to pack in as much as possible, it is perhaps the only option. You will get envious looks from the lengthy taxi queues and if you do end up sharing a taxi, make sure it’s with someone you get on with; it could be a long journey.
Of course Posidonia is what it is because it attracts so many of the top names in shipping, not just from the Greek market but from all over the globe. The conference element of the event attracts an increasingly stellar line up each year and everyone goes with a healthy stash of invitations to the many private parties held during the event, but getting a bit of quality time with any of the big players is always tricky, especially if they are one of the ‘celebrities’ who everyone wants to talk to. One Norwegian broker once pulled a masterstroke by inviting all his rivals on a boat trip and having welcomed them onboard, hopped off, sent them on their way and got a quality day alone with the client they were all desperately trying to impress.
Amongst the crowds, spare a thought for the various government delegations from nations and cities trying desperately to establish themselves as the next ‘global maritime centre’. Jet lagged, bemused and not quite getting what it is all about, they will ask ‘why can’t we do an event like this in our city?’ The answer is ‘they can’t’. Posidonia is unique, and you can never beat the Greeks when they are playing with home advantage. Enjoy.
Splash reporters will be bringing unrivalled coverage of all the major events in and around Posidonia next week.