Atlas Maritime picks up dry bulk thread

Greek owner returns to its roots after 10-year hiatus by setting up bulker arm

Atlas Maritime has returned to the dry bulk market after a 10-year hiatus, with company chief Leon Patitsas hoping this will turn out to be yet another well-timed strategic move in his family’s long shipping history.

In an interview with Trade-Winds, Atlas Maritime’s co-founder and chief executive confirms the outfit has bought the 83,000-dwt Navios Altair (built 2016).

The Tsuneishi Shipbuilding-constructed vessel will be renamed Atlas Strength and become the first unit in the fleet of Atlas Bulk, a new company that will be set up exclusively for the purpose of acquiring and managing dry bulk vessels.

“We want to focus on kamsarmaxes and capes,” Patitsas said in his seaside Athens office, speaking before a backdrop of Bloomberg screens, old pictures of family members and ships, and his shipping and engineering degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University.

London-born Patitsas, 41, was cagey about revealing how many more ships Atlas Bulk might buy in the immediate future.

“We want to grow opportunistically,” Patitsas said. “It always depends on the deal, the price and how the fundamentals play out. But we’re on the lookout.”

The Atlas Strength will be employed on spot or short-term period charters, on the expectation that dry bulk freight rates will increase further. Patitsas is confident his new company is well placed to win business from dry bulk commodity trading houses, emulating its success in attracting high-powered clients such as Phillips 66 and Shell on the tanker side.

“We have long-standing relationships with large grain houses and traders like Cargill, Bunge, Dreyfus and ADM,” Patitsas said. “Our aim is to provide flexible and reliable transportation services to them and further develop our strong industry relationships with our partners and customers.”

TradeWinds has reported in recent months about a string of shipping players joining or re-entering the dry bulk market.

Patitsas can claim to be one of the first to have predicted bulkers were a “screaming buy”, as he said in early 2016 when the market looked its most bleakest. However, an actual move into the sector was delayed by talks to potentially do this through joint ventures with trading houses, which would then also go on to employ the purchased vessels.

“In the end, we couldn’t waste our time any longer and acted on our own, pouncing on this opportunity,” Patitsas said.

The wait was probably worthwhile. Dry bulk market conditions have improved over the period, while secondhand prices remain low, by historical standards.

“We’re still below the 20-year historical average and we’re seeing a market that has improved substantially and is much stronger,” Patitsas said.

He points out that a lot of scrapping has taken place over the past three years. The orderbook for panamaxes and kamsarmaxes is at 6% of the active fleet, spread out over the next three years and that demand for seaborne transportation grows at 4%.

“Hopefully, people will not over-order and be prudent,” he said. “I want to urge shipowners not to order newbuildings but to try to buy secondhand. This will be better for all of us.”

This is the reason why Atlas Bulk will focus on secondhand vessels.

“I’m against ordering,” he said. “I think there’s more value in five to 10-year-old ships.”

The supply side is much more strained in the tanker sector, where Atlas Maritime manages, owns or operates five aframaxes and one VLCC. This, as well as Opec production cuts, led Patitsas to the expectation that tanker values would decline even further. The company plans to capitalise on this by renewing its fleet.

“Now would be a good time to renew and modernise the fleet with secondhand vessels, between five and 10 years old,” he said.

Atlas Maritime’s three oldest aframaxes were built in 2003.

Founding Fathers: (From left) A 1905 picture of CI Hadjipateras, Xenophon Siderides, PM Lemos and CD Pateras, the owners of the Marietta Ralli, which was the first ship co-owned by Patitsas’s great-grandfather, Christos M Lemos Photo: Atlas Maritime

Patitsas has displayed shrewd asset-play skills in the past and such deals are becoming a trademark of his family. Atlas Maritime, whose name is inspired by the statue of Atlas in front of New York’s Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue, where Patitsas was working for UBP Bank in the 1990s, actually started with bulkers when he set up the company in 2003 alongside parents Spyros and Marigo and brother Philimon. They sold them at the peak of the market between 2005 and 2008.

“We bought them cheaply and we tripled our money,” he said.

His maternal grandfather, renowned owner Leon C Lemos, achieved the same feat twice, disposing of his entire fleet just before the 1980s shipping crash.

Lemos re-entered the market in the middle of the downturn by ordering 10 bulkers, which he then sold at a fat profit to Soviet buyers in 1989, just before he died.

Hailing from the shipping cradle of Oinousses, the family’s modern shipping history harks back to 1905, when Patitsas’ great-grandfather, founder Christos M Lemos, became a captain, and then a partner, in a joint venture of the Hadjipateras, Pateras and Lyras families.

Leon C Lemos and his brothers lost their single ship when it was torpedoed in the English Channel in World War Two. However, George C Lemos, one of the brothers, was one of the committee members who convinced the US post-war government to sell 100 Liberty ships to the Greek shipping community, as part of their and Greece’s war efforts on the side of the Allies.

“These ships gave the Greek shipping community the ability to flourish, expand and achieve the successes they have achieved,” Patitsas said. “We got one of the first ones called the Hellas.

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Mirannia Petrocheilou

PURCHASING MANAGER

Mirannia joined Atlas in July 2014 as Purchasing Manager. Prior to joining the company she held various positions of increasing responsibility giving her the qualifications and skills of leading and executing purchasing strategies She holds an MBA from University of Leicester, UK and she is a graduate of Maritime Studies at the University of Piraeus. She is responsible for sourcing, negotiating and purchasing of goods, materials and services to meet the ship’s and company’s budget and operational requirements. As a purchasing Manager she has to create sustainable supply chains having efficient suppliers with consistent steady business that secures highest quality of products and services. Her professional approach ensures that value for money is maximized and cost savings are generated.

Katerina Chrisovergis

ACCOUNTING MANAGER

Katerina joined Atlas in July 2014 as Accounting Manager. She was introduced to the shipping industry in 2000 when she moved to Greece from Canada. She held the position of D/A controller for clients like Chevron, Exmar and Tankers Int’l at Gulf Agency Company, a leading global provider of shipping & marine services. When GAC relocated its headquarters to Dubai in 2003, she worked as Chief Accountant for a shipowning company with 6 vessels. For the last five years, she worked for the Bernhard Schulte Group as Chief Accountant at Bernhard Schulte-Hellas, manager of the Hanseatic Tankers Pool with a fleet of 12 chemical tankers and at Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement Greece manager of 40 vessels. She holds a BCom in Accounting from Concordia University in Montreal and has completed post graduate studies in Accountancy at McGill University.

Aris Mavris

CREW MANAGER

Capt. Aris joined Atlas Maritime Ltd in September 2007. He holds a Class B’ Captain license and has obtained a Certificate in Shipping & International Trade and Sea Transport from B.C.A. College (1993) as well as holds an MBA, Master of Shipping, Trade and Transport from the University of Aegean (2002). From 1993 to 1999, he worked for Celebrity Cruises Inc., Miami, Florida. He has held several Marine positions at various shipping companies prior joining Atlas Maritime.

Penelope Kallidoni

HQE MANAGER

Penny joined Atlas in 2009 as ISM/ISO Coordinator. Prior to joining Atlas, she has served as the Operations & Commercial Assistant in a NASDAQ listed shipping company for four years. Experienced in ISO, ISM, and ISPS, MLC & TMSA audits, responsible for Collecting and analyzing HSEQ performance and reporting progress on the implementation of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Monitors safety on a daily basis through past and projected indicators, ensuring that all regulations are being followed in the company. She holds a BSc in Sociology from Panteion University of Athens.

Chris Ioannou

TECHNICAL MANAGER

Chris joined Atlas Maritime Ltd in 2020 as Technical Manager. He holds a Mechanical Engineering degree from University of Houston in Texas. Prior to joining the company he has held various senior engineering positions in the technical department of shipping companies. He was also the project & site manager of the owners’ supervision teams for numerous new-building projects in Europe & Asia including high technology, high efficiency, ECO design product & chemical tankers. He is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers [ASME].

Basil Dimakakos

COMMERCIAL / OPERATIONS MANAGER

Capt. Basil joined Atlas Maritime Ltd in December 2012 and on 2016 he assumed the responsibility to run Atlas’ Commercial Operations. He is the company’s primary contact, and reports directly to the CEO, for all matters related to S&P and time charter and spot fixtures, while he also monitors the daily vessels’ movement and expenditures. Prior to joining the Company, he worked in Singapore as the General Manager for a commodities trading company and before that, he worked in senior positions in Ship Management companies, mainly in the tanker and and dry cargo sectors, for 20 years. He is a qualified Captain Class A for all type of commercial vessels of unlimited size. His has sea-going experience of more than 12 years, onboard oil tankers, mainly ULCC, VLCC and Aframaxes. He holds MSc degree for Maritime Operations from John Moores University of Liverpool and MBA from Phoenix (Arizona) University

Christos Zenios

CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Christos Zenios joined Atlas as the Financial Manager in 2007; he stepped up to the VP-Finance position in 2011 which he held until the end of 2013, when he was entrusted with the CFO role. Since joining Atlas, he has been responsible for modeling and analyzing financial deals for the company, mitigating financial risks, as well as developing and maintaining relationships with Credit and Investment Banks in relation to the capital structure of the company. Additionally, he oversees the Accounting team and works closely with our auditors to ensure the company meets its reporting requirements in a timely and accurate manner. Prior to joining Atlas, he worked for over 5 years in the Banking Sector, where he served as a Senior Credit Officer in the Corporate Banking & Leasing divisions of well established financial institutions in Greece (Piraeus Bank and Bank of Cyprus). He holds an M.Sc. in Finance from the University of Strathclyde (2005), and a BSc degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Wales, Cardiff (1997).

Leon Patitsas​

FOUNDER & CEO

Leon founded the company in 2004 and is the Chief Executive officer of Atlas Maritime. He has concluded over $ 1 billion in total transactions (acquisitions and sales) throughout his career. With over 20 years of experience in shipping, he has focused on buying assets at attractive entry points/distressed levels. He has a strong track record in profitably employing the assets and has secured time charter contracts (revenues) of over $500 million, with oil companies (oil majors) and traders. 

He subsequently sold the assets profitably, at the peak of the cycle and successfully produced stellar returns. Prior to founding Atlas Maritime, he gained extensive experience in sales and purchase (acquisitions), chartering, and ship financing, working for renowned Ship-owners in New York, London and Athens.

Leon began his career in New York, working for an investment bank that invested in Hedge Funds and Private Equity. Having extensive knowledge in the capital markets has enabled Atlas to successfully conclude JV’s with major Private Equity firms, in NY and London. Leon is on the board of directors of Concord Maritime, a Commercial Manager, based in Stamford, CT, operating crude tanker pools. He also serves on the Board of directors of the American Club (P&I Club) and is a Council member of the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO). 

Leon was born in London and studied in the United States. He graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a Master’s of Science and earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Tufts University.