Athens – 10 July 2023
Three of the Founder-Directors of Eletson Corporation and the Rethymnis Brothers, Nikolaos and Minas have become the latest historic industry personalities to be inducted into the Greek Shipping Hall of Fame.
The latest Inductees were unveiled and remembered at the Hall of Fame‘s annual Induction Ceremony & Dinner, held on the evening of July 5 in the Atrium of the Muses at Megaron, the Athens Concert Hall. The prestigious event was attended by more than 500 guests.
The newly-announced Inductees for 2022 – Eletson founders Apostolos B. Hadjieleftheriadis (1932-2001), John E. Karastamatis (1925-2012) and Erric B. Kertsikoff (1928-2003) and brothers Nikolaos V. Rethymnis (1886-1981) and Minas V. Rethymnis (1892-1977) – bring the Hall of Fame’s pantheon of great individuals from the history of Greek merchant shipping to 41.
It was a historic night, too, as it marked the first time that multiple Inductees were admitted to the Hall of Fame for their collective achievements. Voting for Inductees takes place annually and is open to the Greek Shipping Hall of Fame Academy, currently numbering about 300 prominent individuals in today’s Greek shipping community. Since the launch of the Hall of Fame in 2007, for 15 years all the Inductees elected had been as single individuals.
The Eletson Founder-Directors
- Apostolos B. Hadjieleftheriadis (1932 – 2001)
- John E. Karastamatis (1925 – 2012)
- Erric B. Kertsikoff (1928 – 2003)
Eletson Corporation became one of the world’s most admired tanker companies under the leadership of four ship’s masters. They included Apostolos Hadjieleftheriadis and his brothers-in-law John Karastamatis and Erric Kertsikoff, all of whom are inducted together into the Greek Shipping Hall of Fame.
Also greatly credited for the company’s progressive culture and its success was Apostolos’ younger brother Gregory Hadjieleftheriadis (born 1938), who is the last survivor among Eletson’s founders.
All four distinguished themselves as merchant marine captains and they established Eletson in 1966 with their combined savings of about $50,000 that were used to acquire a first small, 30 year-old vessel. Gradually, the company began to focus more on tankers and then began to concentrate exclusively on product tankers.
By the early 1980s the company had ordered its first product tanker newbuildings. Later that decade it came to world attention by ordering the first-ever series of modern double-hull tankers – three years before the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and the resulting US Oil Pollution Act that gave rise to the double-hull era.
Between 1989 and 1996 Eletson ordered another 24 product tankers newbuildings, including vessels with double decks and others incorporating a longitudinal bulkhead as well as double hull. By 1996 it had one of the first fleets comprising only double-hull tankers.
The co-founders insisted on the highest quality and an ‘industrial shipping’ culture for their company that differentiated it sharply from most other Greek shipping companiesy of that era.
Eletson was among the first Greek shipowners to establish a proper holding company and corporate structure. It was a leader in computerisation, transparency and human resources, with all of the founder-directors remaining life-long contributors to maritime education.
Eletson was a leader in numerous ways. In 1993 it placed the very first high-yield bond issue for a European shipping company in the US public debt market. The $140 million in capital was 100% prepaid within eight years. Despite the company’s innovations, the founders all remained life-long staunch believers in Greek seafaring knowhow and the Greek flag for their fleet.
The Rethymnis Brothers
The formation of Rethymnis & Kulukundis in London in 1921 by cousins Manuel Kulukundis and Minas Rethymnis ensured that the Rethymnis family name would be enshrined in Greek shipping legend. But Minas and older brother Nikolaos deserve acknowledgement for more than just that.
The Rethymnis brothers were born on the Aegean island of Kassos into a family of ship’s masters. The family relocated to Syros island when Nikolaos and Minas were small. Both eventually attended British marine colleges and became captains themselves.
Their grandfather, Captain Nikolaos Rethymnis started registering vessels in Kassos from the late 1850s. Their father, Vasilios, was himself a small shipowner. He partnered with Ioannis Pnevmatikos to acquire a first steamship, the Chrissopolis, and it was on this ship that his eldest son, Nikolaos, made his reputation as a ship’s master.
Minas Rethymnis and Manuel Kulukundis shared lodgings in London and both ended up working for the same firm, Eastern Shipping Agents. They set up R&K in 1921 and developed the firm as a one-stop shop to serve a wide circle of Greek owners. On the eve of the Second World War it represented about 90 vessels.
While R&K flourished, in parallel Nikolaos and Minas Rethymnis joined with cousins and fellow Kassiot sea captains Michael Pnevmatikos and Efstathios Yannaghas, together establishing Kassos Steam Navigation Company of Syros in 1927. The brothers owned 40% of the shares in Kassos.
The new business drew on R&K but the partners also created their own London management unit. Kassos Steam Navigation used the group’s extensive knowledge of secondhand tonnage and quickly established a significant fleet of Greek-flag freighters, manned by seafarers from Syros and Kassos.
The company ordered its first new ship shortly afterwards and it status was underlined by delivery in 1939 of the 9,700-ton Kassos from Sunderland shipbuilder William Doxford. The Kassos has gone down in history as the first motor vessel ever built for a Greek company and it brought the company’s fleet to eight ships on the eve of the Second World War. The brothers’ experience helped to develop successful Liberty vessel replacement designs after the war.
They were always keen to help their home islands. In 1955, they acquired Neorion Shipyards in Syros from the yard’s previous owner and expanded the yard with new installations. They routed vessels to Syros for repairs, and also ordered newbuildings of their own. They supported the yard until 1969 when it was sold to the N. J. Goulandris group.
Neither brother had children but both were generous contributors to many causes including the Greek Red Cross. A Rethymnis foundation was established in Syros and for many years after their deaths has medical care for Syros and Kassos islanders.