Dorothea Ioannou – Breaking down a 167-year-old maritime barrier

In the 167 year history of the P&I industry (of the 13 P&I Clubs), there has never been a female CEO until now. Dorothea Ioannou is the very first woman to lead a P&I Club in the history of all P&I Clubs.

Also, there has never been anyone of Greek descent until now. The two main leaders of the American Club (Dorothea Ioannou – incoming CEO and Dan Tadros – incoming COO) will now be Greek Americans from August this year.
Dorothea was born, raised and educated in New York. A graduate of the City University of New York and St. John’s University School of Law, she moved to Greece in 1997.

Here are Daniel Tadros (incoming COO) on the left and Dorothea Ioannou (incoming CEO) on the right, in the boardroom of the American P&I Club at One Battery Park Plaza in New York City.

TNH: What is a P&I club, what does it do and what does it cover?

DI: A P&I Club, which means “protection and indemnification”, is a non-profit maritime insurance mutual covering ship operators in civil liability. This includes things like oil pollution, collisions, damage to docks, bodily injury to crew and/or passengers, and damage to cargo carried, to name a few. This is necessary insurance for ships to trade, as maritime regulations will not allow ships to enter ports around the world without acceptable proof of financial responsibility for damage to third parties. These requirements are met by the mutual P&I insurance mechanism. These liabilities, over the years, have grown to extraordinary levels reaching billions in some cases. P&I Clubs provide peace of mind to stakeholders around the world, which is essential to supporting global trade.

There are 13 Mutual P&I Clubs around the world, members of the International Group of P&I Clubs. These 13 members of the Group account for more than 90% of the world’s ocean tonnage. Through the Group’s mechanism, the 13 members retain and insure for their own account the first 10 million in liability, then pool and reinsure together the liabilities that exceed this level. The Group’s reinsurance structure is extraordinary and covers amounts in excess of 3 billion dollars. The American P&I Club, founded in 1917, is a member of the Group and the only one domiciled in the United States.

From left to right: her brother, Dr. John Ioannou, her brother Evan Ioannou, her mother Marina Ioannou, Dorothea Ioannou, her sister Niki Ioannou.

The National Herald: Tell us about yourself and your family.

Dorothea Ioannou: I was born and raised in New York, the eldest of four children of Greek Cypriot parents, Dr George and Marina Ioannou. My father was a well-known pediatrician who served the community for over 35 years. My parents had high expectations, but they also taught us that how we take our steps in life is just as important as achieving our goals.

Working at my father’s clinic, I witnessed the respect he garnered by the precise way he administered his practice and the excellent care and generosity with which he treated his patients. I have done my best to set the same example for my daughter, who is now about to embark on the next stage of her life as she graduates from college.

I am a lawyer from New York, having received my BA from Queens College CUNY and my JD from St. John’s University School of Law. My Greek Cypriot roots in terms of nationality and cultural and religious perspectives were essential for my family.

Growing up, I attended afternoon school at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Whitestone. As a child, I did not fully appreciate the value of this education, complaining that I would never need to know the language so deeply since I was living in America! Ironically, I moved to Greece in 1997, where I lived for 20 years to raise my daughter. Being in Greece, I made sure she learned the English language and understood and valued the principles, history, and founding of the United States.

At the American Club’s Posidonia reception in Greece in 2018, left to right: American Club President George Gourdomichalis, Board Member George Vakirtzis, Board Member Markos Marinakis, current CEO and Member board member Joseph Hughes, Dorothea Ioannou, board member Angelos Kostakos, current chief operating officer Vincent Solarin.

TNH: How has your outlook on life changed with the pandemic?

DI: The pandemic has reaffirmed my existing outlook and philosophy of life and strengthened my faith in God. Take each day one day at a time, focus on what’s happening now, and don’t look too far ahead. Be grateful for every day given to us and be generous to others, whatever it means to you, be it time or some other contribution.

Dorothea Ioannou with her late father Dr George Ioannou at the awards ceremony in Nicosia, Cyprus in 2016 when Dorothea was nominated for the Businesswoman of the Year award.

TNH: Is being Greek more than a birthright?

DI: Absolutely. Being Greek is more than just a heritage. It’s a feeling, a love, really, for all that it represents and a deep understanding and appreciation for all that comes with it.

TNH: From a business perspective, you’ve accomplished the impossible. How did you handle this?

DI: I’ve always looked at things in small steps, taking each step very seriously. I never look too far ahead, convinced that everything on my plate must be done very well before looking ahead. This ensures a steady and robust progression, with the ability to adapt, even in the most difficult circumstances. Each step builds the foundation for the next. The key to this is making sure I respect those who came before me and be mindful of those who come after me. The principles I live by are patience, empathy and generosity.

When I moved to Greece, I adapted to a whole new world, both personally and professionally. Having no professional contacts or connections, I encountered many difficulties and initially taught English while working at a local law firm.

Dorothea Ioannou in attendance for the American P&I Club’s Centennial Celebration at Cipriani’s in New York City, June 2017, onstage with American Club Manager Leaders.

While researching options in Greece, I concluded that the best industry was maritime and landed a job with a marine insurance brokerage firm in 1998, taking over the claims department and developing a name in management maritime accidents.

In 2005, I joined SCB (Hellas) Inc., the Piraeus office for New York managers of the American P&I Club, as a claims manager, and became known for fast claims resolutions balancing insurance and customer needs. This ability to balance cultivated business and market confidence, and I assumed general management of the office in 2009.

In 2013, I was appointed Regional Business Development Manager. The model put in place yielded impressive results, and the regional strategy became the management model for global implementation, and in 2015 I was appointed Global Business Development Director.

Later, I was identified as a candidate for leadership, and I was fortunate that my mentors, CEO Joe Hughes and COO Vince Solarino, were ahead of their time, recognizing that advancing talent and leadership need a suitable environment. As a single mother, traveling and meeting the demands of a leadership role could only be possible with the right support, and they provided it. They allowed me to maximize the value they saw I could bring. I integrated a succession plan leading to the functions of Commercial Director, Deputy General Manager and appointment as Secretary of the Board of Directors before this final appointment as General Manager. I am honored by the trust that management and the board have placed in me and I am very aware of the responsibility that comes with it.

Dorothea Ioannou right with her daughter Chrysanthi Podaras at the American P&I Club Centenary Event at Great Britain in Athens Greece in December 2017.

TNH: How has the war in Ukraine affected the marine and marine insurance industry?

DI: Whenever there is war and sanctions, maritime trade is immediately affected. Ship operators should always be aware of the risks associated with trade routes, contract partners and the cargoes they carry. The war caused both physical risks in the region for ships and their crew and legal risks in terms of contractual trade.

With regard to P&I cover, it is essential to note that the standard P&I rules generally exclude liabilities caused by acts of war, as these are insured by the ship’s War Risks insurance policy. This, of course, does not mean that the current invasion does not cause concern and disturbance, nor that there are not certain exposure circumstances.

So far, there has been no exposure to American Club ships. The most significant disruption to date has been dealing with increased compliance and contractual demands from our members due to ever-evolving US, EU and UK sanctions.

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