New head for Hellas Flying Dolphins

Passenger shipping company Hellas Flying Dolphins said yesterday it has appointed a new man at the helm, slightly more than a month after it sacked Managing Director Giorgos Patakos without any official explanation. Hellas Flying Dolphins, which came under the spotlight after one of its vessels, the Express Samina, hit an islet off Paros with the loss of 80 lives two years ago, will be hoping that the new managing director, Vassilis Zacharioudakis, will be able to turn the company around in terms of results and image. The announcement of a new managing director came as prosecutors said yesterday they intend to charge the crew of the ill-fated vessel with misdemeanors. They also plan to launch an investigation into Hellas Flying Dolphins’ management for possibly issuing false statements regarding safety certificates for the Express Samina. Referring to the developments, the shipping company said yesterday it has «absolute confidence in Greek justice.» Since the tragic sinking, Hellas Flying Dolphins, formerly known as Minoan Flying Dolphins, has tried to get its act together but with little success. The dent to its reputation, together with the slowdown in tourist arrivals in the last two years, dragged the company into the red in 2001. It reported a hefty earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization loss of 10.7 million euros for last year. An aggressive acquisition policy initiated by the late Pantelis Sfinias, the vice president who leapt to his death after the Express Samina tragedy, in the meantime has saddled the company with a mountain of debts. Liabilities to December 2001 exceeded more than 105 million euros, part of which is also due to higher reinsurance costs associated with the tragic developments of September 11 and rising fuel costs. The management change marked another turbulent chapter in Hellas Flying Dolphins’ history. Patakos was given the boot last month, without any official explanation. Zacharioudakis, 39, was previously general manager at the company from October 1999 to February 2000. He then moved to GA Ferries, later joining accounting firm Ernst & Young as senior manager. He has also advised Crete-based passenger shipping company ANEK.

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