The official takeover of ownership of Syros island's Neorion shipyard by ONEX Syros Shipyards was marked by an official inauguration event held there on Wednesday, in the presence of Greek state officials, regional clergy, shipping industry magnates, shipyard workers, Onex Shipyards LLC Founder and CEO Panos Xenokostas and US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt.
Greek-American businessman Xenokostas said he was happy to complete "a difficult transfer of ownership which took time and laborious procedures."
At the event, Development and Investments Minister Adonis Georgiadis said the shipyard was in complete decline about 20 months ago and he mentioned that hundreds of workers were in despair and no one expected its transformation. He pointed out that Greek shipowners "now trust Neorio," as 6 ships are in line to be repaired there.
Georgiadis noted that the process of ONEX's acquisition began under the previous government and that all of Neorion's repair docks are occupied at this time. He thanked the shipyards workers and said that he looked forward to a similar event in Elefsina shipyards.
In his speech, Geoffrey Pyatt said that when he visited Syros 2.5 years ago, "this place was literally rusting away. Workers and suppliers had not been paid, and more than 75,000 tons of sandblast waste had accumulated at the port. Today, this strategic investment is in the hands of an American company, and the shipyard has entered a whole new era."
The benefits to this community are clear, the ambasador said. "Onex has so far invested 18 million euros in Neorion, which includes backpay of more than 8 million euros for hundreds of long-time employees and local suppliers that had built up over many years. Onex plans to invest another 12 million euros to upgrade the shipyard by the end of 2021," which does not include over 20 million euros already invested in the island's economy through salaries and local contracts, he noted.
"These investments have created close to 600 jobs, nearly tripling the workforce from five years ago," Pyatt added and revealed American investors' interests concerning the ports of Volos, following interest in the ports of Alexandoupolis and Kavala. Shipowners "no longer have to travel to Turkey, Malta, or further afield for maintenance and repairs," he said.
Also at the event, Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said that the cooperation between the Neorio shipyards' owners and its workers is "exemplary", while in an emotional tone Metropolitan Dorotheos said that he would not like to ever again witness scenes of 2017 where "local children were crying in front of toy shops because their unemployed parents, who once worked at Neorio, could not afford them."
Besides Dorotheos, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syros Petros Stefanou also attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony following the national anthems of Greece and the US.
Neorio workers told Athens-News Agency (ANA-MPA) that they had earlier received seventy percent of what was owed to them and received the rest on Wednesday. They also said that another 70 ships are in line to be repaired at Neorio beyond the current 6.
It was also noted by sources at the Syros event that a similar agreement is in the pipeline for Elefsina shipyard between ONEX and the Elefsina shipyard's current owner Nikos Tavoularis.
ONEX Technologies Group was established in New York.