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15 Οκτωβρίου 2015.

JOHN  A.  GAUCI – MAISTRE K.M.

 

‘‘Quality Shipping is the key factor which consolidated Malta Flag’s status as a leading ship registry’’

 

 

johngaucimMr. John A. Gauci-Maistre K.M. was born in Sliema in 1947, the son of the late Judge Agostino Gauci-Maistre and Winnifred Mifsud. He attended the St. Aloysius College in Malta. He eventually moved to the London during which time he became acquainted with managerial and accounting aspects of business. After a few years in the U.K. he moved back to Malta and immediately became a

business partner in the management of a local hotel. This experience further ingrained in him an entrepreneurial spirit that he soon used in the setting up of companies that are not only household names in Malta in their respective industries but are synonymous with Mr. Gauci-Maistre.

 

Mr. Gauci-Maistre is a frequent contributor to various publications such as Lloyd's, Fairplay, amongst various others.

The Economicard Group of Companies is the group that Mr. Gauci-Maistre established.The group of companies consists of GM International Services Limited, Economicard Worldwide Limited, GM Corporate and Fiduciary Services Limited and GM Conferences and Exhibitions, together with GM For You, which is the group's Corporate Social Responsibility arm.

Upon gaining independence in 1964, Malta by and large had to start anew and from then onwards it had to build an economy based on human resources including manufacturing, tourism and services.

Mr. Gauci-Maistre immediately realised the growing spending potential of the Maltese people and in 1973 he launched an innovative venture in Malta that would be a trendsetter in the Maltese economy. This innovative move resulted in the establishment of Economicard Worldwide Limited. Initially the company introduced the Cash Discount Card through which shoppers would receive discounts across shopping outlets around the island by purchasing the card. After its initial success, other services were added to the card including travel services which was becoming increasingly popular amongst Maltese especially after the establishment in 1973 of Air Malta, the national airline. The company was at the forefront of travel services and as testimony to its success the company was appointed the General Sales Agent of Olympic Airways in 1981 till 2009 when it was sold off by the Greek Government.

In 1978 Mr. Gauci-Maistre obtained representation for Commodore and immediately embarked on promoting this home computer in Malta. In 1985 he introduced Amiga to Malta, Amiga consequently becoming a household name in Malta. The company was the general sales agent of these computers on the island. The company also offered computer courses to the general public to acquaint them with this new medium.

In 1973 the Parliament of Malta enacted the Merchant Shipping Act that introduced the Malta Ship Register. Soon after GM International Services Limited was formed, more affectionately known as GMI by many in the shipping industry. This move was intended to capitalise on the introduction of the Malta Ship Register. Indeed, Mr. Gauci-Maistre believed in the benefits Malta had to offer and immediately started working to attract ship operators to Malta. The hardworking nature of his character proved useful and in 1978 he registered his first vessel the MV Elmare. Mr. Gauci-Maistre was described as the one who put Malta on the world shipping map by Shipping International 2008.

Mr. John A. Gauci-Maistre never wavered and continued his hard work to attract more companies to Malta, making Greece his second home in the process. Results started flowing in and until 1987 GM International Services Limited commanded 95% of Malta’s tonnage. Due to the acquired respect both in Malta and abroad, Gauci-Maistre is often consulted on matters relating to the maritime industry and he was instrumental in bringing about policy changes at Transport Malta (formerly Malta Maritime Authority) in particular in relation to the merchant shipping company structure, Flag State Inspections and the introduction of foreign owned vessels under the Malta Maritime Flag.

GM International Services Limited has come to be known as the flagship company of the group and has truly established itself as a company of international repute. Undoubtedly Mr. John A. Gauci-Maistre became renowned as the person who put Malta on the shipping map and the surname Gauci-Maistre became associated with Malta’s Maritime flag.

Mr. John A. Gauci-Maistre did not limit his entrepreneurial spirit to maritime affairs. Due to his nature in being innovative and always at the forefront, he looked at ways of how he could create synergies between shipping and financial services. 1988 was the year that the financial services industry in Malta became fully regulated and GM Nominee was immediately incorporated in order to bridge the gap between these two sectors.

GM Nominee was managed with the same enthusiasm and drive as its affiliates and similar success was achieved.

As the Malta Government’s drive to make Malta a financial services hub continued new laws had to be enacted to cater for different financial services industries such as those of Remote Gaming, Trusts, Fund Management and Taxation among others. These all became sectors in which GM Corporate & Fiduciary Services Limited became active and helps promote overseas. The growth of the company is testament to the emphasise John A. Gauci-Maistre places on the design and administration of tax efficient structures under local legislation that suit the requirements of the individual international client in a timely and cost efficient manner.

GM International Conferences & Exhibitions Limited was established in order to further synergise Malta’s economic pillars into a reputable group of companies.

 

John A. Gauci-Maistre was appointed the Honorary Consul General of Panama in 1994 with jurisdiction over the Maltese territory. Immediately after his appointment as Honorary Consul, John A. Gauci-Maistre personally set up the Honorary Consular Corps and was elected Dean in 1995. He served in this capacity till 2011 when he decided to step down in order to focus on philanthropic activities. Despite, being the Honorary Consul of one of Malta’s main competitors in shipping, he thinks that through Malta he can serve both registers depending on the needs of ship owners.

John A. Gauci-Maistre served on the boards of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry formerly known as the Malta Chamber of Commerce and the Malta Trade Fairs Corporation. John A. Gauci-Maistre K.M. served also as President of the Maltese – Italian Chamber of Commerce and President of the Casino Maltese between 2009 and 2011.

In 2000 John A. Gauci-Maistre was also knighted by the Sovereign Military Order of St. John.

 

Mr. Gauci-Maistre states: «At GMI we offer a very comprehensive range of services that incorporates all aspects of ship registration. Apart from ship and yacht registration, clients can choose from various services including agency, husbandry, bunkering, candling, transshipments, secretarial, accountancy and legal services, including registration of mortgages».

economicard

Mr. Gauci-Maistre points out that: «Malta still remains a flag of choice for the major players and as the statistics indicate this year the Malta Ship Registry will see even more impressive numbers».

As he recalls the past he says: «I have travelled far across the globe to promote our firm as well as the Malta flag and this has helped GMI earn a favourable reputation in the international market».

According to Mr. Gauci-Maistre: «Establishing good channels of communication with all stakeholders in the shipping industry and committed to finding a positive solution to every situation is a continual process and the biggest task of my career».

 

gaucimaistrefoto

 

Interview to: Georgia Ermidi

 

-GM International Services Limited (GMI) has been offering consultancy services since 1977, mainly in the maritime, corporate and financial services sectors and has since been one of the largest and oldest firms registering ships under the Malta Flag. I would like you to inform me about the history of your company from the foundation until now.

 

GM INTERNATIONAL SERVICES LIMITED (GMI) was established to complement the portfolio of services which the Economicard Group of Companies offers to its clients focusing mainly on ship and yacht registration under the Malta flag. Throughout the years the company has become the largest and longest established shipping services company in Malta specialising in the registration of vessels under the Malta flag. Shortly after the Merchant Shipping Act came into force in 1973, I instantly recognized the potential of the flag and this carved out the way for developing a successful registry. Until 1987 we commanded almost 95% of Malta’s tonnage. Today, despite ever increasing competition, we remain Malta’s premier ship registration company, and we have contributed, to a large extent, in attaining Malta’s position as the sixth largest ship registry in the world.

Throughout the past years we have had a number of key moments which have helped GMI become what it is today. I remember walking up and down Akti Miaouli in the early seventies promoting the Malta flag and at that time it took a lot of hard work and dedication to convince Greek ship owners to register their vessels under the Malta flag. However, the company had started to become successful and from then on it was an ongoing process of client seeking and reaching out to ship owners and various stakeholders. It was a great achievement for me when in April of 1977 GMI incorporated its first two companies and the subsequent registration of their respective yachts. Following this, a great breakthrough for the company came about on the 23rd of December 1978 when we registered the MV Elmare, which was under the management of Thenamaris. Since then, the company has been ever-growing.

I have travelled far across the globe to promote our firm as well as the Malta flag and this has helped GMI earn a favourable reputation in the international market.

At GMI we offer a very comprehensive range of services that incorporate all aspects of ship registration. Apart from ship and yacht registration, clients can choose from various services including agency, husbandry, bunkering, candling, transshipments, secretarial, accountancy and legal services, including registration of mortgages. This vast range of services offered by GMI has helped us acquire a prominent position in the field, as well as, a client base which is growing on a yearly basis.

Years of experience have taught us at that efficiency, speed, confidentiality and quality service are the only criteria for success in a competitive market. We pride ourselves on our ability to offer clients a very specialised service with plans tailor-made to meet individual needs. We are one of the few companies able to offer clients such a wide range of services under one roof.

 

-How many vessels are registered with Malta Ship Registry?

 

The Malta maritime flag has experienced year-on-year growth since Malta’s accession into the EU. Between 2007 and 2011 the Malta maritime registry experienced an average of some four and a half million increase in gross tons annually. In 2013 the Malta flag became the largest European maritime flag and the 7th largest in the world with vessel registrations amounting to 49,707,064 GT.

In 2014, with 57,900,000 GT the Malta maritime flag consolidated its position as the largest European flag and moved up one place internationally, becoming the sixth largest in the world. Malta still remains a flag of choice for the major players and as the statistics indicate this year the Malta Ship Registry will see even more impressive numbers.

As at August 2015, statistics indicate that some 7,109 mercantile vessels are registered under the Malta flag, with an estimated gross tonnage of 62,000,000.  Some 485 vessel more than then same period last year.

 

-What are the advantages of the Malta Ship Registry?

 

Malta is regarded as a strong and safe maritime jurisdiction which has been constantly growing throughout the years. The advantages that Malta has to offer are numerous and are of great benefit to those who choose to register their vessels under the Malta flag. Apart from offering a stable legal and fiscal regime, Malta has a flag administration which is always on the go and ready to accommodate the various needs of all stakeholders as they evolve, but always within the rules and respecting the various conventions.

The main advantage of Malta’s Ship registry, besides its strong regulation, is the listening ear of Transport Malta and the fact that Malta still remains competitive price wise, flexible with respect to legislation but nonetheless operating within the parameters that the EU Commission sets. The Malta flag guided by its policy to always ensure that ships with a poor detention or safety and marine pollution record do not operate under the Malta flag offers various incentives to younger vessels. The seriousness with which the flag administration is carrying out Flag State Inspections has contributed greatly to Malta retaining its place on the Paris MoU ‘White List’ and subsequently attracting blue chip shipping companies. Quality Shipping is the key factor which consolidated Malta Flag’s status as a leading ship registry.

In addition, Malta caters for efficient corporate and tax structures with regards to the shipping industry, as well as in other sectors due to industry demands for more sophisticated financial solutions. The extensive network of Double Tax Treaties which Malta has with some 65 countries from all corners of the world is also of great importance, while great emphasis is given to Malta’s Funds structures offering ship owners easier access to capital markets so as to raise funds.

The international shipping community and in particular the Greek shipping community has chosen the Malta Maritime flag over many others for many years and this speaks volumes about the advantages of the ship register. The Malta Maritime flag was built over decades and continues to thrive because it is viewed holistically as a part of a larger maritime and fiscal product.

 

-GM International has recently proceeded with the diversification of its services. What does your company offer more to your clients

 

The maritime industry has become enormous and embraces products and services that are extremely vast and diversified. At GMI, my team and I have always sought to expand services which complement the thorough requirements of our clients. Apart from ship and yacht agency, we also offer corporate and fiduciary services, consultancy, accountancy, residency permit applications and other ancillary services.

Due to our experience and expertise, we successfully manage to provide a one stop shop where the ship owner can rest assured that every effort is made to facilitate and bring to fruition any request that is conducive to the very nature of the business. Nonetheless, our services go beyond. We have acted as consultants to different Flag State Administrations and this is testament to our depth of experience and reputation within the maritime industry.

Our team consists of a personnel qualified in their respective areas of expertise. So we have a good mix of lawyers, accountants, auditors as well as persons specifically qualified in ship and yacht management as well as ship and yacht agency. Furthermore, we have international desks set up to service our clients from around the world. Of most importance to our Greek shipping clients is our team of Greek lawyers that work out of our Malta office.

To further compliment the group of companies, my son has established a fully-fledged law firm together with Despoina Xynou, a Greek lawyer.  The firm has already brought in more lawyers to assist with the growing workload and I see great potential for the firm to grow and achieve great things.

maltaf

 

-Will there be any new service introduced?

 

The group of companies has been in operation for over 40 years now and we’ve learned a good deal throughout. We are constantly looking to improve our current services as well as provide new services which we deem necessary for the benefit of our clients, guided by my belief that a leading company always has to be proactive.

Our commitment to provide efficient, quality and innovative services is continuous. My team at GMI gives attention to detail and always goes by the company’s mantra that “efficiency, speed, confidentiality and quality services” are the only criteria for success.

 

-About GMI’s presence in Greece. Can you refer to GM International Services Limited main priorities and core business in Greece?

 

GMI’s presence in Greece dates back to the 70’s when I personally began to promote the Malta flag to Greek ship-owners and managers. I was mostly based in Greece to promote the Malta flag to the various stakeholders and always present in various conferences and seminars. Since then the Greek shipping cluster has been a significant contributor to Malta’s Ship Registry, and a large portion of Greek-owned tonnage registered under the Malta maritime flag is represented by GMI.

Our ties with Greece throughout the years only got stronger and it is natural that we have closely monitored the latest developments.  In the last six to seven months, we’ve witnessed the “Grexit” crisis, the “Greekment”, capital control introduced, a referendum called and a snap election come and gone.  Tspiras was elected Prime Minister of Greece twice in 7 months, and Greece also had its first female Prime Minister, Vasiliki Thanou, albeit for a temporary period.

The truth of the matter is that the one constant in Greece over the last years has been the state of doubt. The uncertainty has been palpable and this has led many Greek stakeholders to re-evaluate the way their affairs are managed.  The ongoing legislative changes in Greece, the uncertainty as to how the legislation will be interpreted and implemented together with the overall economic instability has done little to instil confidence in, or stimulate the Greek economy.  Greece has maintained its rightful position as a member of the Eurozone and hopefully the instability of the last few months will soon become a thing of the past.

Greece has long maintained its prominent standing as a leader in the maritime industry and its success speaks volumes. We read in the annual report for the year 2014, published by the Union of Greek ship-owners, that Greek owned tonnage increased and that the Greek ship-owners now control some 17% of the global fleet. Despite the recession and the unstable Greek economy, the Greek-owned tonnage maintained its position as first internationally. It gives us great pride that a substantial amount of this Greek-owned tonnage has chosen to be represented by GMI. Shipping is part of the Greek heritage and I firmly believe that the Greek shipping industry can play a leading role and further support the Greek economy to overcome the current financial difficulties through investments and employment. However the Greek government has to be extremely cautious in its actions so as not to alienate the ship owners to the extent that they will start operating from outside Greece. The shipping industry should be viewed holistically and action is required from both the State, to provide an attractive environment for the clusters to work harmoniously, and the shipping industry itself, in order to attract new investors.

At GMI, our commitment to professional and high-quality services is of paramount importance and to this extent our physical presence in Greece is very active and ongoing. The Malta flag continues to be a flag of choice for Greek ship owners and managers and we are extremely grateful for the confidence the Greek ship owners have shown in both our firm and the Malta flag.

GauciMaistre

 

-It is said about you that your success in the maritime scene is impressive. You have helped Malta amass a giant shipping register from scratch. How is this achieved?

 

Primarily, Malta’s geographical location itself, as well as the fact that today we form part of the European Union, could well make it one of the best registration options for ship owners the world over. As I always say, there is no one perfect flag. If this were the case, all other flags would die a natural death. However, I do believe that Malta has made itself one of the leaders in this industry. At GMI we believe that Malta offers an optimum location for ship management. The Island’s strategic location makes it an important base for trade and telecommunications between North Africa and Europe and the rest of the world.

My team at GMI has worked very hard over the past years to establish a successful and efficient registration process for ship owners as well as providing effective services to all its clients. I believe that GMI has helped in establishing a successful shipping register in Malta from its initiation. The company has been in contact with foreign ship owners for over thirty years and this has led to increase the number of ship registrations under the Malta flag.

The fact that at GMI we take interest in every client’s individual needs, I believe, has helped us to attract clients from all over the world. A number of ship owners choose to register their vessels in Malta due to the registry’s great advantages and also due to their relationship with GMI and its highly positive reputation the world-over.

 

-What is it that keeps on attracting ship-owners and managers to Malta?

 

Malta continues to be regarded as a strong and safe maritime jurisdiction and I must admit that it’s very satisfying to speak to various industry stakeholders and hear them say that they’re actively looking at Malta for various opportunities. The country’s presence is almost tangible and this is thanks to the efforts of many in the private sector and also in the public sector, particularly Transport Malta’s Merchant Shipping Directorate.

The largest maritime flags all offer similar key attributes which any ship owner and manager worth their salt demand as the absolute minimum. These include: being on the white list of the respective MoUs, successful IMO VIMSAS audit, ratification of the predominant IMO and ILO conventions and a stable legal and fiscal regime. In my opinion, what has begun to distinguish one flag from another are other factors such as the wider financial industry elements.

Recently, we have seen a shift in the requirements which both ship owners/managers and banks need satisfied. We are seeing more and more interest in Malta’s Collective Investment Schemes/Funds structures and the benefits they have to offer. The range of services one can avail themselves of means that as stakeholders familiarize themselves with Malta, they begin to diversify their portfolio in Malta.

Generally, Malta offers an efficient and a successful registry service which is acclaimed by many ship owners, both those who have registered vessels under the Malta flag, and also those who don’t. This, along with the various advantages that the Maltese registry provides, has proven successful enough to keep attracting ship owners to the Maltese registry. The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) is also very efficiently run and setting up a shipping organisation is extremely swift.

 

-What strategy do you follow?

 

GMI has always been, and looks to remain, a dynamic firm which is constantly seeking to strengthen client relationships. We seek to offer alternatives to the ever changing market demands that emerge from time to time, keeping in mind that the shipping industry is a highly demanding and volatile one. Our strategy is to take into consideration our clients’ needs and their expectations, ensuring that our team works conscientiously to accommodate each individual client. We pride ourselves on building strong relationships with our clients and becoming a long-term resource and partner. Our commitment to every client is strong and my team and I work tirelessly to guarantee the expected level of service we are nowadays renowned for.

johngmaistre1

 

-How easy is to perform the service to your clients in a high level prospect?

 

At GMI we have always offered our clients such a high level of service that our reputation has grown through word of mouth and we are proud to have reached that level of success where our clients are among the top players in the shipping industry. To that extent our mission is to always be prepared to adapt our services according to our clients’ needs.  To understand each client's goals and priorities and the importance or value they place on them. We can assure our clients that we will continue working hard to suit their needs by providing them not only with high quality and tailor-made products, but also with the most reliable and cost-efficient services.

 

-One of the major concerns of the global shipping industry has also been piracy in various areas around the world. Which are the guidelines you follow when a ship is hijacked or attacked and what type of support do you offer to the ship owners?

 

There is no doubt that piracy remains a veritable threat to the industry and is a constant concern of all those involved in the maritime sector. The decision by Transport Malta back in 2011, in line with many other flag state administration, to start allowing the carriage of arms on board Maltese-registered vessels on a case-by-case basis, has proven to be the proper protocol to apply.

At GMI we take pride in putting our client’s interest first and the issue of piracy is no different. My team is always ready to answer any queries from ship owners/managers or provide assistance as to what procedures should be taken in order to prevent a case of piracy. Today, we process applications on behalf of ship owners and managers who wish to avail themselves of the option of having privately armed guards on their vessels. The threat of piracy has been significant and measures beyond those which were implemented in the past needed to be enforced.

Statistically speaking, the international decision to allow privately armed guards on board vessels, coupled with measures already undertaken, seems to be bearing fruits and has been generally successful. In accordance with IMB, this has been achieved thanks to a combination of factors, inter alia, the key role of international navies, the use of private armed security teams, and the stabilizing influence of Somalia’s central government.

 

-We see an economic turndown. What is your opinion about the financial and maritime crisis?

 

Yes, it is true that the maritime industry has been through rough waters in the past few years but there are signs of recovery. However, we all know how volatile and complex the shipping markets are and one would practically need a crystal ball to precisely forecast when the markets will well and truly pick up. There are too many uncertainties in the global economy which will undoubtedly give rise to various different conclusions. Geopolitical forces, environmental regulations, new technologies, greener ships, alternative fuels, lower emissions, faster ships, new buildings, new regulations for financing and other similar situations do not make forecasting any easier.

Too much is happening at the same time but whenever it is said that we will never have those good times again, something new develops and an unexpected boom arises. As always, market forces will push the amateurs out while they will strengthen the professionals in the game.

On a personal level, at GMI, as a leading company in the field, we have had to be proactive and always prepared for crises; thus, always having the resources and the flexibility to weather the storms. We are constantly re-investing in staff training and new technologies and even when the economy is in question we never pull back. We consolidate and build for the future. In this respect together with my son Dr. Jean-Pie Gauci-Maistre the legal advisor of GMI we have undertaken significant internal reforms, restructuring and audit procedures to guarantee the high level of quality with which our services are performed. Having on board a carefully selected group of reputable companies is the only way to succeed in times of crisis. At GMI it gives us great satisfaction that our collective efforts and attention to detail have always proven to be the reward by the better clients in the less affluent times.

 

-What is your biggest challenge?

 

I would say that my biggest challenge is to always stay positive in an all too often negative world; and why is that difficult? Because I am a positive thinker and it is not always easy to overlook the negativism in aspects of everyday life. Learning how to remain optimistic and motivated despite any setbacks is the greatest skill for all market leaders.

 

-What’s your greatest accomplishment?

 

Being involved in the shipping industry for more than 40 years it makes it difficult to name one. I remember when I started promoting the Malta flag my greatest success was that I managed to successfully convince the major players in the shipping industry that placing a vessel under the Malta flag was safe enough and that it was actually a better alternative to accommodate the difficulties that the industry was facing at the time. But if I had to name my greatest accomplishment I would say it is the fact that I have always maintained, irrespective of the commercial circumstances, a high level of standard for the services my company offers throughout the years. Establishing good channels of communication with all stakeholders in the shipping industry and committed to finding a positive solution to every situation is a continual process and the biggest task of my career.

 

-What is your philosophy of life and work?

 

I believe that work is a right and a must and that every man was born to work, but work should always be a pleasure and something to look forward to and of course it should be mentally and physically stimulating and to quote Aristotle “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work”. My philosophy of life and work is that above all, the satisfaction of knowing that in the pursuit of one’s achievements not only one does not hurt, at least intentionally, anyone else in the process, but also derives fulfillment in the knowledge that one is leaving the business world better than he has found it.

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