WISTA AMERICAS 2018: Women’s Leadership in the Region‘s Shipping Industry

Conferences, Seminars, Forums, News, WISTA - Women in Shipping — By on June 28, 2018 at 7:00 AM

WISTAs Americas with WISTA International president Despina Panagiotou Theodosiou*

WISTA ARGENTINA was the maiden Wista Association in the American Region to host the First Reginal Wista Conference and its call was an absolute success.

The venue for Wista Americas 2018 was the luxurious and antique “Centro Naval”, situated in the blooming metropolitan center of Buenos Aires City.

During two days representatives of shipping companies, charterers, shipping agencies, traders, logistics operators, ship suppliers, insurance and ship brokers, lawyers, public administration civil servants and many other persons from the shipping related sector; gathered together to enjoy thematic panels that addressed the current challenges being faced by the maritime-port industry, from the local and a global perspective. Almost 200 people from 15 countries attended the event to discuss the challenges that the shipping industry is facing today, including industry consolidation, seafarer welfare, cyber risks, autonomous vessels, IMO CO2 emission regulations, land-side capacity and building environmentally sustainable ports.

WISTA members arrived from Greece, Cyprus, Norway, Canada, United States, Venezuela, Chile, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Uruguay, Panama, among others, accompanied by other relevant actors who support the mission and vision of Wista organization, that seeks to connect women in the maritime-port industry and foreign trade, in order to empower them in the decision making of this dynamic business.

María Belén Espiñeira, founding and current President of WISTA ARGENTINA, Partner at the Maritime Law Firm, IT&L legal Consultants, opened the Conference, welcomed the attendees and started the celebration of the 5th Anniversary of WISTA ARGENTINA, followed by the Mr. Martin Hagelstrom, Director of Ports of the Argentine Ministry of Transport.

From Cyprus, Despina Panayiotou president of WISTA INTERNATIONAL and CEO of Tototheo Maritime, accompanied by Jeanne Grasso, partner in Blank Rome LLP and member of the executive committee of the WISTA INTERNATIONAL and WISTA USA, provided overview about the projects of WISTA at the International Level.

The conference

The theme of the conference was Facing the Challenges of the Shipping industry and different issued were addressed from different perspectives under the guidance of highly qualified and speakers of international renown.

Concerning the Shipping industry, Fabiana Martins, Presiden of WISTA Brazil and Partner of Siano & Martins Advogados Associados, presented the legal framework challenges in Latin America and Brazil to achieve global competitiveness.

This panel aimed also to addressed pricing Challenges and the impact of giants, how is the region position towards them. Accordingly, Mr. Rodolfo Garcia Piñeiro, Presidente de Turner & Williams S.A. Agencia Marítima, made an interesting presentation about the Containership Market in the region and in the global market, and Pablo Chauvet, from the Infrastructure Services Unit of ECLAC, presented the situation of the container shipping industry, its main challenges and strategies deployed by the operators, the consolidation and concentration that occurs in some markets, as well as the possible impacts that these changes can result in ports and logistics chains.

Furthermore, the challenges of the port industry and the logistic operations in the region were also addressed by interesting speakers, from Argentina and Brasil.

Ms. Gabriela Heckler, Legal Advisor of the CEO and Environmental Manager at the Port of Itaqui, in São Luis – Maranhão, presented the Challenges for environmentally sustainable ports in Brazil, Mr. Luis Subizarreta, representative of the Argentina Chamber of Private Ports, referred to the efficiency of the Argentine Dry port system, Mr. Ramiro López Saubidet, Coordinador General de Obras y Servicios. Administración General de Puertos, explained the Modernization plan for the Port of Buenos Aires, The architect Ramiro López Saubidet presented the modernization project of the Port of Buenos Aires, which includes a system of digitalization and automatization of various processes, and Eng. Gustavo Anschutz, Director CEDPLA – President AIPPyC, reffered to the efficiency and challenges of the Containership market in the region.

Among the different speakers we can mention:

Ms. Claudia Botero Götz, from Gard (North America) Inc. WISTA USA, was part of a highly interesting panel about Mayor Incidents: Casualty Response, in which she provided Gard’s approach to casualty handling; emphasizing the importance of good communication between the parties when an incident occurs and stressing out that team work is fundamental. She said: “Gard´s service philosophy means to react with prudence and proactively”. Ms. Kirsten Schandy, P&I Correspondent, Director and Lloyd’s Agent, dealt with the role of Surveyors in Mayor incidents, providing interesting examples of real maritime casualties, and Flavia Melo, senior lawyer of Vieira Rezende Advogados, provided an overview of mayor incidents in Brazil from a legal perspective.

The Prefectura Naval Argentina also had a strong participation, especially delivering a detailed presentation on the national system of response to incidents of environmental pollution, at the hands of the Principal Prefect Francisco Benisch, and the legal framework for the prevention of pollution of the marine environment, presented by Principal Officer María de la Cruz Basualdo. The issues of gender equity and protection of women in the workplace were not absent. Carolina Barone, director of gender and diversity policy implementation of the Argentine Ministry of Security, spoke about public security policies from a gender perspective.

In the panel about Technology Vs. Human Factor and the Environment Mr. Roger Harris, Executive Director at International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network, provided an overwiew of ISWAN’s work on mental wellbeing, stressing out that there is  an international 24 hour free and confidential helpline for seafarers and their families, in which the team speak 12 languages and he pointed out that they have already dealt with 3,000 cases involving 9,000 seafarers.

Dr. Katerina Konsta, from Seaworks (UK). WISTA Hellas, developed a panel about Technology diversion and Shipping Inclusion. She stated that: the shipping industry must include technological tools like blockchains and internet of things, for the shipping market to expand, redefined and new business models to arise.

Mona Swoboda, Project Manager of the Inter-American Committee on Ports of the OAS, representing for the first time the Organization of American States in a WISTA conference after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the OAS and WISTA INTERNATIONAL, supported the efforts WISTA makes in “recognizing the fundamental role women play in the socioeconomic development of the Western Hemisphere, the Organization of American States (OAS) encourages them to pursue leadership roles in both public institutions and the private sector. In line with its mandates, the OAS Inter-American Committee on Ports (CIP) promotes an inclusive, competitive, and socially responsible port and maritime industry. As women are essential to boosting competitiveness, the CIP aims at empowering female professionals in the port sector of the Americas,” says Swoboda.

On a great panel about Disruptive Changes within the maritime industry, Dean Croke, Chief Analytics Officer at BITA Blockchain in Transport Alliance, was honored to speak about blockchain standards and smart contracts, while Rob Collins, Partner at Clyde & Co, provided the legal perspective about them.

Ms. Birgit Marie Liodden, Board Member, Bellona Environmental Foundation, Norwegian Sea Rescue Society and WISTA Norway, talked about Sustainable business, tech & millennials as innovation drivers within the maritime industry.

At the end of the Conference, Ms. Mugé Anber-Kontakis from the American Steamship Owners Mutual Protection and Indemnity Association, Inc. WISTA USA, delivered a stunning and detailed presentation about Autonomous Vessels from the P&I perspective.

Another panel about New Technologies facing the Industry was developed by Mr. Celso de Azevedo from Thomas Cooper LLP who presented Silent Cyber Coverage in Marine Insurance,

Alexander Calmon. Partner at the Energy Global Practice Group of Tauil & Chequer Advogados. and Rodrigo García Berro, coordinator of the offshore round 1 of the Mining and Energy Ministry spoke about the exploration of oil & gas in the Argentine Atlantic coasts -the latest-, and the Brazilian experience -the former-.

A strong presence of professionals from Brazil allowed a holistic view of the Brazilian industry, ranging from the regulatory and legal aspect to the impact of the fuel industry and cabotage in local operations.


“Argentina was the first National WISTA Association to set up actively in the South American region, and WISTA Argentina has always been strong supporters of promoting the incorporation of talented women to the sector and the association, as well as, the formation of other local chapters,” says María Belén Espiñeira, President WISTA Argentina, who was responsible for coordinating the event in Buenos Aires.

The Americas regional conference initiative was first discussed at the 2016 WISTA International Conference in USA.“WISTA Argentina felt it was especially important to strengthen the presence of WISTA throughout Latin America with the support of other regional National WISTA Associations. Therefore, WISTA Argentina took the initiative to start planning the first WISTA Americas conference in celebration of their 5th anniversary. “We are thankful to the unconditional support of our members, WISTA INTERNATIONAL, and all National Wista Association of the region and from around the world, without whom the first WISTA Regional Conference in this continent would not have been possible”. And she pointed out: “We are absolutely happy to have celebrated Wista Argentina 5th Anniversary within the scope of the first Reginal Conference Wista America 2018, as it is a unique opportunity to enjoy this special moment with local friends and friends from abroad. I can kindhearted say that Wista Americas 2018 represents the perfect coronation of the work, effort, achievements, and commitment of its members during these 5 years.”

“Regional conferences are developed and organized by the National WISTA Associations to further the mission.  We are excited by the response WISTA Argentina has received from the regional maritime community and the support it has received from other National WISTA Associations,” adds Grasso.

“We devotedly promote the development of business, professional relations and friendships all over the world. Almost 200 talented women from around the region have registered for the WISTA Americas conference,” says Dafne Anghelidis, Secretary of WISTA Association and General Manager of Agencia Maritima International.


Plans are hatching for the creation of another local WISTA chapter, this time in Chile. Jeanne Grasso says the South American Maritime sector has shown great interest in forming part of the WISTA community. “Female decision makers and executives in the industry are becoming more and more active and looking for the global networking and professional development opportunities joining WISTA offers. We expect to announce the formation of additional National WISTA Associations in South America by the end of the year,” adds the executive.

During the development of Wista Americas 2018 Conference, Wista Panama, Uruguay, Peru and Venezuela fully activated and joined their associations. Wista Chile is on its way to be formed as well.

We are glad and can proudly announce that all the aims of Wista Americas 2018, among others, to increase the presence of WISTA in the region, were all successfully accomplished, pronounces happily María Belén Espiñeira.


Gender diversity is a hot topic right now, and the shipping industry is no exception. “The port and maritime community of the Americas has been taking significant steps to promote gender equality and manage their business in a more inclusive manner than ever before.  WISTA without a doubt increases the force and effectiveness of these efforts,” comments Mona Swoboda.

We’re proud to be working with our National WISTA Associations worldwide, as well as other maritime industry trade associations, to help move the industry forward toward diversity and inclusion. Global WISTA members have asked WISTA International to create opportunities for them to be catalyst for change on the international level. We’re proud to do so through our recent partnerships and agreements with Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, IMO, the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network, and the European Commission’s Platform for Change,” says Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou, President WISTA International.

Swoboda adds that it is vital to develop strategies that focus on bringing together female professionals in the port and maritime industry to deepen their integration in the sector. The expert comments that IMO studies have shown that female maritime professionals seek opportunities to share knowledge on related issues, develop networking opportunities, and establish permanent communication channels among each other.  In this sense, for the OAS executive WISTA’s mission falls in line with a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which has found that an increase in the number of women in management positions results in significantly faster growing economies.  Promoting greater participation of women in senior leadership positions allows them to break the so-called “glass ceiling”through their active and essential involvement in decision-making processes.

According to the specialist, the historically male-dominated industry now enjoys a strategic advantage for the promotion of gender equality.  “Due to its multidimensional character, it provides an attractive yet challenging workplace for female professionals.  Improved working conditions and the elimination of barriers that prevented women from fully participating in the sector contribute to a more equal access to decision-making positions, which results in a notable boost in the industry’s efficiency,” says the executive


Verónica Valenzuela, president of WISTA PANAMA and member of the board of the Panama Maritime Chamber, left the invitation for the second regional conference of WISTA AMÉRICAS in Panama City for July 2019.

In addition to the large presentations, the conference also offered instances of entertainment, networking and amusement, including a welcome cocktail, a tango dinner-show and even a tour of the city of Buenos Aires. During the social events, the WISTA members as well as the other attendees had the opportunity to get to know each other, strengthen their contact networks and generate new business instances, providing opportunities for networking, as WISTA understand the importance of building up business relationships, sharing knowledge, experiences and mentoring

Please find in this website the complete programme of Wista Amercias 2018:



*l to r: Ms. Fabiana Simões Martins (Lawyer. Siano & Martins Advogados Associados. President of Wista Brazil), Ms. Lludelis Espinal (E&M International Consulting, S.R.L. President WISTA Rep. Dominicana), Ms. Débora Valera (Venezuelan Maritime Chamber. President of VSV Marine & Port Group and WISTA Venezuela), Ms Vanessa Rochester (Norton Rose Fullbright, President of WISTA CANADA), Ms. Despina Panayiotou (CEO at Tototheo Maritime. President of WISTA International), Ms. Jeanne Grasso (Wista International Exco. Member, Partner, Blank Rome LLP, WISTA USA). Ms. Kirsten Schandy (P&I Correspondent. Director. Lloyd’s Agent, President WISTA URUGUAY), Ms. María Belén Espiñeira (Lawyer, IT&L Legal Consultants, President of WISTA ARGENTINA) and Ms. Verónica Valenzuela (President of WISTA Panama).

Leave a Reply

IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)

What is 7 + 13 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:


Leave a Trackback