Seajets’ Head to Launch Non-profit Foundation to Support Needs of Greek Islands
Marios Iliopoulos, the head of Greek high-speed coastal shipping company Seajets, on Thursday announced the launch of a non-profit foundation to honor the memory of his father, Takis Iliopoulos.
Speaking to journalists during a press conference in Athens, Iliopoulos said the “Iliopoulos Foundation” will support the needs of the islands that Seajets serves in the areas of health, education, sports-culture and the environment.
“My father had a great love for the Cyclades and for all the islands of the Aegean… He always said that paradise is there,” said an emotional Marios Iliopoulos when announcing the creation of the foundation. Takis Iliopoulos passed away last November.
The Iliopoulos Foundation, which is expected to open within the year, will operate under the initial capital of 2 million euros that will be channeled into the first actions which will mainly focus on the health sector.
According to Iliopoulos, contacts with the authorities on various islands have been already made in order to ascertain the immediate needs, such as the lack of an ambulance on Andros and reinforcing the artificial kidney unit on Naxos.
He added that the foundation will see to improve and develop education (provision of school equipment where necessary), support sports and culture activities and focus on protecting the environment.
“There are also thoughts of helping the islands that do not have an airport with airlifts (air transport by helicopters) for the faster transfer of patients to hospitals in Athens,” he said, adding that such a service will be in addition to the transfers of patients and seriously injured citizens already carried out by Seajets’ vessels, completely free of charge.
Moreover, Iliopoulos said plans also may include efforts to promote green energy on many islands of the Cyclades by installing charging stations for electric vehicles in port areas.
As far as environmental issues are concerned, Iliopoulos said priority will be given to waste management, a rather “problematic issue” for many islands.
“Our islands, especially the smaller ones, face many problems from November to April and that’s why our company, along with the progress and profits it will have, will also try to improve the living conditions of the people there with love and selflessness,” Iliopoulos said, adding that Seajets has a loving connection with the Aegean islands.
“We have been here for 33 years and we have a vision for these islands,” he said.
Iliopoulos’ philanthropic actions are under the radar
From time to time Seajets has carried out various charitable and philanthropic actions but Iliopoulos prefers to remain quite about them.
It should be noted that in recent years Iliopoulos made a donation to the General Hospital of Athens “Georgios Gennimatas” for the creation of 12 intensive care units, including equipment.
In 2018, during the deadly fire in Mati in Eastern Attica, Seajets was the first company to rush into the area with vessels and help rescue over 600 people.
The company’s latest donation was to those affected by the earthquake disaster in Turkey. Iliopoulos donated one million euros and personally visited Ankara and met with Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s former Prime Minister, Binali Yıldırım and Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan.
During the press conference Iliopoulos said he is currently looking into assisting the victims of the earthquake in Syria and offering significant aid in basic necessities and pharmaceutical material.
Summer 2023 season
During the press conference, Iliopoulos also referred to a number of other issues with regard to the Greek sea tourism sector.
When asked to give a forecast for this summer’s tourism season, which until now is expected to be the busiest since 2019, Iliopoulos said he is “cautious” and prefers not to go ahead with any estimate at the moment.
“I consider the summer season a challenge due to the ongoing war and the energy crisis… I am optimistic but cautious at the same time…. Now is not the time for forecasts,” he told journalists.
Iliopoulos also left open the possibility of beginning activity in the cruise industry, considering that Seajets also has a fleet of cruise ships laid-up in Greece. Without going into detail, Iliopoulos told journalists that he does in fact have a “vision” with regards to cruise tourism. It should be noted that Seajets recently acquired the 102,700-gt Costa Magica (built 2004) ship from Carnival Corp.
The Greek ferry operator, which today has the biggest fleet of cruise ships in Greece, began buying secondhand cruise vessels since the Covid-19 pandemic and today has a fleet of five laid-up cruise ships.
When asked to comment on efforts being made for the launch of a seaplane network in Greece, Iliopoulos raised eyebrows with his reply:
“When I go to space, seaplanes will succeed in Greece. I’m saying this, having been in the Aegean for 33 years,” he said sarcastically, declining to further comment on the issue.
In addition, when asked on whether there is a thought of launching cooperation with Turkey in the field of transport and coastal shipping in the Aegean, Iliopoulos said that such a venture would take a long time to materialize and surely depends on if the tension in Greek-Turkish relations will decrease.
“There were discussions about the Aegean being connected (through coastal shipping) to Turkey. Financially, such a cooperation would not be of such great interest,” he said, adding that if any business decides to enter into such an agreement “must be ready to take risks”.
Active in the field of shipping since 1989 and officially launching as a passenger line in 2002, Seajets operates the largest network of high speed vessels worldwide that covers more than 250 connections from Piraeus, Rafina and Crete for the islands of Cyclades. The company has 17 ships and serves 33 islands (including Crete).