Patitsas poised to reap benefits of ‘perfectly timed’ tanker orders

Counterintuitive Greek owner Atlas Maritime reveals details of Daehan Shipbuilding newbuildings

Shipbuilding orders can hardly get more symbolic.

Amid the deepest coronavirus gloom and just one day after US pharma giant Pfizer unveiled an effective Covid-19 vaccine last November, Atlas Maritime moved swiftly to sign its first tanker newbuilding order in more than a decade.

“The announcement of the vaccine reinforced our conviction that the market will eventually turn and the world economy will start growing again,” chief executive Leon Patitsas told TradeWinds in an interview at his Athens headquarters.

He struck again in the months that followed, upsizing Atlas’ original order for a 115,100-dwt aframax crude carrier at Daehan Shipbuilding with a quartet of high-specification sisterships.

The South Korean shipyard is set to deliver the five newbuildings between March 2022 and April 2023. Patitsas believes they will arrive just in time to benefit from a strong market recovery.

“We think that the market will come back in a big way,” he said. “Oil inventories have fallen to multi-year low levels and at some point everybody will want to restock.”

Patitsas, 45 — a grandson of legendary Greek owner Leon C Lemos — expects this point to come sooner rather than later.

He and other oil tanker executives and analysts predict that as the world gradually comes to grips with the pandemic, global travel, work and leisure patterns will be re-established, leading to higher oil demand and production.

“Once the fleet utilisation reaches 90%, this is when the market becomes tight and you see spikes in the tanker market. We believe this will happen in the first half of 2022,” he said.

Hitting the low-point

In anticipation of such spikes, Atlas has not arranged any employment for its newbuildings yet.

The market, however, is already working in Patitsas’ favour.

The first couple of vessels he ordered last year cost between $45m and $46m each — the lowest prices for such ships in two decades.

“It was perfect timing,” he said. “Shipyards were eager to take newbuilding orders.”

Talks with Daehan and other yards began as early as September 2020, when, according to Clarksons, the crude carrier orderbook stood at 8% of the active fleet — its lowest level since 1997.

The orderbook ratio has barely moved upward since.

“Most yards are booked until 2024 or 2025 with containers, dry bulk, LNG and other sectors,” Patitsas said.

As expectations of a tanker recovery firm up and several players in the segment seek to position themselves for it, the value of Atlas’ newbuildings has shot up.

According to various London brokers, the vessels are worth more than $60m apiece now, said Patitsas, giving his entire newbuilding fleet a value of more than $300m.

He does not rule out selling one of the newbuildings to cash in on its value appreciation: “We will look at the different alternatives and decide whether we want to fix period or possibly consider selling one of the vessels, since we have five. If we had just one vessel, it would have been a more difficult decision.”

It would be far from the first successful asset play in the history of the company, which Patitsas set up in 2003 after studying shipping finance and mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University in the US.

The company, whose name is inspired by the statue of an ancient Greek deity in front of New York’s Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue, where Patitsas was working for UBP Bank in the late 1990s, started with bulkers, which it sold at the peak of the market between 2005 and 2008.

Another string of well-timed sale-and-purchase moves early in 2020 put the company in the position to go on a shipbuilding spree.

Atlas benefited from a spike in tanker markets then to lock in lucrative medium to long-term charter rates for its ships and raise nearly $50m from the sale of three 17-year-old aframaxes, which might have found it hard to remain profitable amid tougher future environmental standards.

Fleet renewal continued last month with the sale of the 105,200-dwt Aspasia Lemos (built 2009) and an asset play with the company’s only bulker, the 83,000-dwt Atlas Strength (built 2006).

“We always want to take a view of being counterintuitive and countercyclical,” Patitsas said.

Read on

Mirannia Petrocheilou


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


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


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


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


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


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


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​


Leon Patitsas is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Atlas Maritime. Leon founded Atlas Maritime in 2004 and under his leadership, the company has grown to over $2 billion in Shipping Assets. Atlas’ fleet of Assets is well diversified in Crude oil tankers, product tankers, PCTC’s (Pure Car and Track Carriers) and Gas Carriers. With over two decades of experience in the maritime industry, Leon has built a track record of exceptional returns. Atlas has bought assets at distressed prices and after operating them for an average of 3 to 5 years, had the discipline to sell them and realize profits. The vessels have been fixed on medium to long term contracts producing steady cash flows that repaid debt, distributed dividends and created solid returns. The contracts have been with top tier counter parties like Phillips 66, Shell and BP.

Leon began his career in New York with an investment bank focused on hedge funds and private equity investments, which laid the foundation for his expertise in finance and equity raising. Leon accumulated substantial expertise in buying and selling assets, securing cash flows, and obtaining financing across global shipping capitals including New York, London, and Athens. This experience facilitated successful joint ventures with prominent private equity firms and Asset managers in New York, London, Copenhagen and Switzerland.
Leon was born in London and studied in the United States. Leon earned a Master of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Tufts University. Leon is married and the proud father of three children.