Wrongly jailed captain given standing ovation at Maritime Cyprus


Highlight of the final day of the Maritime Cyprus 2022 conference was a personal appearance by the Polish captain who spent nearly two years imprisoned in Mexico over false suspicions of his involvement in drug smuggling. Employed by Cyprus-based Intership Navigation, Capt. Andrzej Lasota (pictured) was finally released without charge in April 2021 after 592 days’ captivity in a high-security jail, his conference account of the ordeal drawing a standing ovation.

Earlier in the day, Mr Anders Hvid, Co-founder, DareDisrupt explored the topic “Leveraging digital transformation and innovation for a brighter future in shipping.” He noted an accelerating level of innovation in the fields of both energy and shipping that would result in a complete transformation of certain sectors over the next decade. One example he cited was the rise of solar energy, and its ever-decreasing cost which will cement renewables as reliable, affordable, and sustainable sources of energy.

Discussions continued with a session on automated and autonomous shipping moderated by Ms Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, President, WISTA International and CEO, Tototheo Maritime. Panellists were Ms Maja Markovčić Kostelac, Executive Director, European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA); Mr Yi Han Ng, Director of Innovation, Technology & Talent Development, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA); Mr Mark O’Neil, President, InterManager and CEO, Columbia Shipmanagement; and Dr Evangelos Ouzounis, Head of Policy Development and Implementation Unit, European Union Agency for Cybersecurity.

The panel agreed that use of automation in shipping is showing much promise, with development accelerating in areas such as artificial intelligence. Participants discussed the potential of technology but warned that human error was a risk factor that the industry needs to consider. Mr O’Neil explained automation would always require people power either onboard or onshore and semi-automation is the future. He continued to highlight how regulatory progress needed to support automation.

The following session tackled seafarers’ welfare and rights, featured the aforementioned talk by Capt. Lasota. The session went on to discuss the various ways such injustices could be prevented in future and was moderated by legal and academic expert Dr Iliana Christodoulou-Varotsi. Panellists included Mr Stephen Cotton, General Secretary, International Transport Workers’ Federation; Mr Jan Meyering, Joint Managing Director, Marlow Navigation Co. Ltd; and Mr Guy Platten, Secretary General, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

The final session of the day explored the industry’s ‘Communication Challenge’ and was moderated by Ms Liana Charalambous Tanos, Conference Chairwoman and Permanent Secretary, Shipping Deputy Ministry. Panellists were Mr Stuart Neil, Director of Strategy and Communications, ICS; Ms Anna Vourgos, President, WISTA Cyprus; Mr Sean Treacy, SVP Hotel Operations, Royal Caribbean International; and Ms Michelle Wiese Bockmann, Markets Editor/Analyst, Lloyd’s List.

Cyprus Shipping Deputy Minister to the President, Mr Vassilios Demetriades, jthen oined the stage to add his support to the panel’s recommendation that shipping should try to improve its image and profile with the public at large. He ended by thanking the Cyprus Shipping Chamber and Cyprus Union of Shipowners for their work in helping organise Maritime Cyprus, and all attendees for their participation