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Small fry, big success.

Only a boost in international competitiveness can help Greece to overcome the economic crisis. A good example of this is fish farming for overseas markets – a sector that has been growing for years.

Seven o’clock in the morning. By this time, Kostis Achladitis has normally long since been sitting at his desk, communicating with his colleagues in Japan. Being an ‘early bird’ is the only way he can compensate in day-to-day business for the time difference in Asia. Today, he’s taking breakfast on the Greek island of Chios, laptop at the ready. Here, where others go on vacation, there’s not much sign of any Greek debt crisis.

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Achladitis is Managing Director at Golden Cargo. The company based in the port of Piraeus is a subsidiary of the Golden Union Shipping Group and thus ranks in terms of tonnage as one of the five biggest forwarding and logistics companies in Greece.

In addition to the transportation of ship spare parts, Golden Cargo specializes in the fresh fish business. As the Greek economy as a whole struggles, the company’s export business is flourishing. In 2010 and 2011, it achieved a growth figure of 25 percent, and 2012 was a successful year too. “This is partly attributable to the fact that the goods produced here are not selling in our home ­market,” explains Achladitis.

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What is more, the weak exchange rate of the euro against the U.S. dollar pays off for fish exports to the U.S.: more favorable terms and conditions for American fish buyers lead to a growing demand among fish producers here.

One of the biggest fish farms in Greece is located on the island of Chios, approximately 300 kilometres from Athens. Achladitis regularly visits his business partners to check that everything is in order. That is typically Greek. “Personal contact with our customers has top priority at Golden Cargo,” the Managing Director explains on the trip along the coast. “Our partners appreciate direct communication. They know that they can rely on and trust us. And vice versa.”

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The local fresh fish supplier operates a total of eight fish farms in Greece, five of them in the open sea off the east Aegean island. Experts there take the greatest care that fish production runs smoothly. Up to 70 metric tons of sea bass and gilt-head bream are sold per week.

The fish are farmed two to three years before being killed and sold. Clearly defined processes are absolutely essential. Depending on the age and size of the fish, they are given different amounts and mixtures of fish feed. Every kilogram of farmed fish requires twice the amount of feed. As it has special quality requirements, the latter is mainly imported from Spain. Twenty tons per day are needed on Chios alone.

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During his visit, Achladitis also takes a personal look at the fish farms. The nets used here extend to a depth of up to 80 meters. The underwater pens are regularly checked for breaches by divers.

The quality of the water is also continuously monitored. The quality of the farmed fish can only be ensured through the right mixture of nutrients. “I find the origins of the business and the logistical processes before the goods are shipped fascinating!” explains Achladitis. “It’s important for me to have an in-depth understanding of the production processes. Only then can I focus on the individual requirements of our customers.”

Precise knowledge of the processes and procedures is very important for all parties involved. The producer also wants to know, of course, who Golden Cargo cooperates with when shipping the goods and how a seamless refrigeration chain through to the final destination is guaranteed. Ninety percent of the fish produced here is exported.

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About 30 percent is ­transported as airfreight primarily to the USA, but also to Canada and Japan. For ten years now, Achladitis has been relying on the service and quality of Lufthansa Cargo when exporting fish. “Due to the long-standing collaboration, a great basis of trust exists between us and the Lufthansa Cargo team in Athens. As we depend on this service and quality, we send over 60 percent of our airfreight with Lufthansa Cargo.” Achladitis particularly appreciates the fact that he can rely on the requirements of perishable cargo being taken into account at all times when he books Fresh/td. “With the Perishable Center in Frankfurt, Lufthansa Cargo enables the smooth handling of our cargo to the USA and to Asia,” says Achladitis. “Transportation is planned right down to the last detail and protected storage with optimal packaging is guaranteed.

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It gives our customers a good feeling to know that their products are treated with the utmost care and that specially trained personnel ensures that the sensitive cargo reaches its destination with the best possible quality.”

Fish now accounts for more than half of Lufthansa Cargo’s total tonnage in the Greek airfreight market.

For Kostis Achladitis, a normal working day ends the way it began – on the phone. Apart from calls to the USA, meeting customers for dinner in the evening is frequently on the agenda. Achladitis loves his job. “If you want to achieve something in this business, you must have perseverance and passion,” he explains with a smile.

But he knows how to enjoy life too. In his spare time the Greek enjoys angling and grasps the opportunity in Chios to talk about the subject with professionals. “The tranquility when you’re angling is wonderful. It clears my mind and gives me new strength to do business.”


Ralf Kreuels

planet 1/2013