It has been a year like no other for much of the shipping world, but even more so for Optima International Shipbroking Services.

Putting a coronavirus-imposed shutdown behind it, the Athens chartering outfit celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.

Reaching that signpost means much more to the firm than a conventional jubilee.

Optima International went through a rough patch in the years leading up to the dry bulk market crisis of 2016. To make matters even more difficult, its founder, Antony Roussos, died in November that year.

(From left) Konstantinos Kassaris and Christos Nikolopoulos of Imerys and Dimitris Inglessis of Optima International. Photo: Optima International

“It was very tough, as we had to actually reinvent the company,” said managing director Drossos Skottis.

Fortunes, however, have turned around since 2017. Members of Roussos’ family and brokers of the firm gathered forces to breathe new life in the company.

Optima International is now back in expansion mode. It has 30 dry bulk and tanker chartering brokers in Athens, eight in Shanghai headed by Bill Wang, three in Dubai and one in Zug, Switzerland, and is considering further growth opportunities.

George Procopiou (left) with Drossos Skottis of Optima International. Photo: Optima International

The revival has come with a new structure and cultural changes that moved the company away from the old Greek model of family-owned, acquaintance-driven broking.

Specialisation plays an important role, with desks dedicated to particular ship types, trades and regions.

“Personal relations are always important but we invest in added value,” Skottis explained. “Only very few brokerages in Greece can instantly provide clients with a full picture of what’s going on in markets, and if one wants to be competitive with them, one needs to specialise.”