Greece’s Stelma takes on EiffelTower project, eyes new deals

Greece’s Stelma, a company that provides anti-corrosive protection for industrial surfaces, has been awarded the painting contract for one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, beating competitors from all over the globe. The use of specially trained alpinist-painters, swinging from the 320-meter tower, and the installation of a weather station to forecast work conditions are among the innovations the Thessaloniki-based company has come up with to get the job done in Paris. Kathimerini English Edition spoke to Dimitris Mamantzis, vice president and managing director of Stelma, who commented on how the French feel about a foreign company painting their national symbol and other projects Stelma is contemplating. You have been awarded the contract to paint one of the world’s most visited monuments, the Eiffel Tower. What do you believe gave you the edge in winning this contract? Stelma is considered among the most qualified companies in Europe in the field of anti-corrosion works. Its founder, Eleftherios Mamantzis, has 40 years of expertise in the field and this provided a big advantage in terms of know-how and technical experience in comparison with our competitors. Moreover, Stelma did not suddenly appear in the French market. We have been active for more than three years at one of the largest shipyards in Europe, STX Europe in St Nazaire, France. We have also participated in the painting of the Queen Mary II and many vessels of Mediterranean cruise ship firms. Our specialization in the treatment of steel structure buildings and complex constructions was also greatly appreciated by the officials responsible for the Eiffel Tower. Stelma is a company that specializes in providing anti-corrosive protection, but the Eiffel Tower contract has its own peculiarities. What are some of the innovative steps you came up with to meet the challenges of the contract? Among the innovative steps we have followed and plan to continue following is the utilization of environmentally friendly alkyd-based paints which have no lead-based substances. At the same time we are using only a small quantity of scaffolding and the entire project will be mostly executed by specially trained alpinist-painters tied to the tower in order to save time from installing-dismantling scaffolding, giving workers greater flexibility. Finally, a weather forecasting station has been installed in the tower so as to be able to predict the weather locally and manage to avoid «dead time.» What would you say is the main challenge of this project? The challenge is to decorate this landmark in the best possible way, on time and without any injuries. I am aware that many people have a «big brother» eye on us so we must be very careful and efficient at the same time. Some facts and figures about the painting of the tower? As an average figure I would say that 40 people will be occupied in this project, including 25 alpinist-painters and five safety net-installation workers. Normally, 60 tons of paint will be used, along with 50,000 m2 of safety nets, 50 km of ligne de vie [cord], 1,500 brushes, 1,000 pairs of painting overalls, 1,000 safety goggles etc. The initial budget of the project is nearly 6 million euros but it is certain that in the end we will exceed this figure because of the extra work that will be needed. Some news reports covering the press conference announcing the painting of the French landmark made mention of the nationalities of those involved in the project. What have you felt regarding the attitude of the French toward a foreign company handling the facelift of their national symbol? So far in France we have had no complaints at all regarding nationality issues. Since we first started working in St Nazaire, I have to admit that their behavior toward Stelma and its personnel has been more than excellent. Maybe one reason is that we are a Greek company and traditionally French and Greeks are bound together. What are your plans for future expansion abroad? Except for the French market, which we have taken the strategic decision to penetrate even further in the future, one market that interests us greatly is the Gulf region. At the moment, Stelma maintains a very active branch office in Kuwait and is seeking expansion in neighboring countries such as Oman, Bahrain and Qatar. Currently, the biggest refinery in the world is being tendered in Kuwait, a project with a budget of approximately $20 billion. Furthermore, Poland and Bulgaria, where we have already set up subsidiary companies, are also markets where we plan to preserve and expand our share in the near future. [email protected]