With the introduction of steam shipping in the late 19th century, Thessaloniki’s sea trade started to soar. At the same time, because of the lack of technical infrastructure and workforce, serious problems emerged. The need to cope with these problems led to the incorporation in 1908 of the Chambre Maritime des Companies de Navigation Etrangeres Salonique (Shipping Chamber of Foreign Steamship Companies of Thessaloniki).
The nineteen (19) founding members consisted of thirteen (13) companies from Germany, Great Britain, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Holland, Italy, Russia and six (6) companies from Greece, all being represented by their agents. The initial interest and the constant increase of the Chamber’s memberships until 1912 were followed by the fall and decline of the region because of the Balkan Wars, World War I and the diminishing hinterland due to the border changes. In 1920 only six (6) shipping agencies remained, representing one French and five Greek companies.
A gradual recovery led to the reconstitution of the Chamber with a new name Chambre Maritime de Salonique (Shipping Chamber of Thessaloniki) and a new memorandum of incorporation. In the following years the very important issues required a more collective approach (formation of the Greek and Yugoslav Free Zones, labour problems, establishment of the Coast Fund etc.). Thus in 1927, the Chamber already numbered forty five (45) members. Meeting the requirements of a 1935 Compulsory Law, the Chamber had to alter its memorandum again and also the title to “Shipping Agents Association of Thessaloniki” by the 781/1939 Act.
Since the start and throughout World War II, the foreign trade and consequently the port business of the city had become practically non-existent. By order of the occupying administration, all participating Jews were deleted from the unions and associations. Hence, the Shipping Agents Association of Thessaloniki had to cross out important founding members, most of which did not survive the horrific devastation caused to the city’s Jewish community by the occupiers.
The end of the war found the city’s port totally destroyed and with tremendous problems. The shipping agents of the city felt the need to get together in order to address critical operational issues, regulations and infrastructure matters. Since the end of the war and until today, the port has been continually growing but unfortunately not to the extent imposed by the modern needs and opportunities. During all this period, our Association’s boards have struggled to contribute to the port’s development and improvement by constantly advising, proposing and putting pressure on the Coastguard, the Customs and the Thessaloniki Port Authority (in whose Board of Directors our Association had been represented by one member until the company’s conversion to a private law entity and its entry on the Athens Stock Exchange). Significant changes, as the unification of the labour unions, the second shift of the conventional port, the flat rate in the container terminal and other major issues that were our concern for a long time, were accomplished by the constant efforts of our Association’s administrations.
The Shipping Agents Association of Thessaloniki was honored by the presidencies of:
We decided to acquire our own premises in 1996 and finally in March 1998 the new offices were inaugurated at nbr 4, Venizelou Street.
In 2008, on the occasion of 100 years since its original incorporation our Association published and presented the anniversary edition “The Shipping Agents World 1908-2008”- An introduction to the shipping agents of Thessaloniki history. The book has been written after extensive and meticulous research by the distinguished historian Dr. Evangelos Hekimoglou. (Note: Extracts from the above detailed and analytical research have been used in this summary).