A guiding star

Astra Shipmanagement Inc. was established in accordance to Greek Law 89 as a pure vessel management company with head offices located in Glyfada, Athens. The business was founded by brothers Stefanos Koropoulis and Aris Koropoulis through the management of a fleet of three dry cargo vessels in Handymax, Supramax and Kamsarmax sizes and a single Feedermax container ship. Since the formation of the business in 2014, the company has further acquired three new vessels and now manages a fleet of seven ships in total. “Our dry cargo fleet covers all vessel sizes ranging from Handymax to Kamsarmax ships and presently sails to ports worldwide. We try to trade our smaller vessels in the Atlantic, where their size seems to have an edge and we also have very close ties with cargo providers in the region,” details Director, Aris Koropoulis. “Performing short voyages in the Atlantic means that our chartering team is always on its toes and actively looking for good opportunities and cargoes that fit our ships, while our larger vessels usually carry out longer hauls such as transporting South American grains to the Far East. Occasionally we also discover niche trades in particular geographical areas that offer better returns for our ships. Our small container feeder primarily trades in the Atlantic Ocean, working with large liner companies such as Maersk Line, CMA CGM and Hamburg Sud.”

Throughout all of its operations, Astra provides end-to-end ship management to its principals including commercial, crewing, insurance, quality and safety, procurement and technical management services. The company currently employs around 20 highly skilled shore personnel and more than 150 experienced seamen across its vessels. “Our aim is to fix our vessels consistently above the Baltic Dry Index (BDI) and in order to achieve this we ensure that we maintain 100 per cent market coverage through our worldwide network of first-class brokers. We try to combine the experience of our operations department with the drive of our young chartering team in order to serve our clients in the most professional manner. We mainly trade our vessels on the spot market and try to be as flexible as possible in terms of both ports and cargoes,” Aris says.

“Our main customers are the company’s charterers and because we are highly flexible and open to the market, we are able to serve a significantly larger number of customers compared to similar sized businesses,” he adds. “We also operate a very strict counterparty risk assessment, which is important because we serve clients based all over the world. We usually prefer to fix with traders and cargo operators ‘at source’, meaning that we talk to charterers based in the country of origin or destination of the cargoes that we carry. Some of our main clients include Cargill, Bunge, Dreyfus, ADM, Oldendorff, Klaveness, Western Bulk and Transgrain to name just a few.”

As a family-owned business Astra is able to combine a long tradition of vessel management and ship owning with a desire to keep pace with the modernisation of the shipping industry. “My brother and I started our careers by working upwards through most departments within several large ship management companies, such as Thenamaris and Eastern Mediterranean Maritime. This experience enabled us to develop important skills and an understanding of team building and working collaboratively. We also learned to assess the needs and to promote the strengths of our shore and ship personnel in order to work efficiently as a team,” co-Director Stefanos Koropoulis explains. “We have a very ‘hands-on’ approach to management, meaning that we are able to check and approve even the smallest expenditure made by the business. Something that we are very proud of is the personal relationship that we maintain with all of our crew and we personally visit our ships at least twice a year, meaning that we have a first-hand view of both our ship’s condition and of our crew’s performance. Our huge appetite to always be in the ‘front line’ and to always be involved in every aspect of our work, keeps us at the forefront and creates a very pleasant working environment at Astra.”

As the company has grown Astra has continued to add new vessels to its fleets, with the latest ships coming into the business during February 2017. The MV Elpida, formally known as Anastasia C, is a conventional seven hold / seven hatch panamax vessel and arrived with Astra in extremely good condition. “The vessel was very well maintained by its previous owners, which has made our lives a lot easier in trading her directly with ‘clean’ cargoes such as grains,” Stefanos reveals. “This does not mean that we always take the easy road and in the past we have added challenging vessels to our fleet and immediately upgraded them to meet our standards. This gives us a competitive advantage since we can very easily decide on sale and purchase (SnP) deals on any type of ship.”

Although the market remains both challenging and highly competitive, Astra Shipmanagement Inc. is keen to continue to grow both in terms of its financial success and fleet size. “The main challenge ahead of us during the coming months will be to curb the appetite of ship owners for newbuild vessels. The market has shown a very positive change in recent months, with dry vessels earning profits again after more than two years. Nevertheless, we still believe that the fundamentals of the market have not changed,” Aris concludes. “The industry is still over supplied and China, which has a market that accounts for up to 33 per cent of total dry bulk demand, has been showing slowing signs of growth. This means that owners must now more than ever show abstinence and discipline so that market returns to normal by 2018-2020.”

Astra Shipmanagement Inc
Greek ship management company
Dry bulk and container vessels
Growing fleet