George A. Embiricos

George Embiricos, son of Aristides G. Embiricos (1879-1945) from the island of Andros and Maria, neé Saliaris (1891-1971) from Chios, was born in Athens in 1920. His father was the younger brother of the renowned Greek shipowner Stamatios G. Embiricos (1868-1934), founder in 1896 of the UK-based S.G. Embiricos Ltd., which contributed decisively to the evolution of Greek steam shipping in the first decades of the 20th century. His maternal grandfather, master mariner Christoforos C. Saliaris (1844-1898), from the town of Vrontados on Chios, was one of the founders of his birthplace’s great maritime legacy. His sons were active in steam shipping until the early 1930s.

Aristides Embiricos followed a seafaring career following the completion of his secondary education. He eventually became a master mariner and served on family ships in which he had a shareholding. Since 1910 he was mainly involved in the management of the Piraeus-based coal importing company S.G. Embiricos, which he co-founded with his brother Stamatios. The company evolved into one of the largest in Greece during the interwar years.

After finishing secondary school in Athens, George Embiricos enrolled in St. Catharine’s College at the University of Cambridge. He later obtained a Law degree from the University of Athens. After his father’s passing in 1945, he decided to move to New York, which at the time was the hub of post-war activity for most Greek shipowners. His objective was his independent entry into shipowning.

In November 1946, he made his first investment by acquiring the US-flagged, 1920-built cargo steamer ROBIN ADAIR, which was renamed BONAVENTURE under the Panamanian flag. His next steps were bold and he was able to quickly broaden his knowledge of the shipping industry thanks to his passion for learning, a trait he carried throughout his life.

In 1947, he acquired a 1944-built, Liberty-type vessel, which was renamed ENTERPRISE under the Panamanian flag. At the same time, he established Western Shipping Corporation in New York. Its representation in London was assigned to S.G. Embiricos Ltd., headed by his cousin George S. Embiricos.

Continuing his successful career, he acquired two more ships in 1949. The first was a 1942-built Liberty-type ship, renamed RESOLUTE and placed under the Panamanian flag. The second was a war-built Canadian tanker, which was immediately converted into a general dry cargo ship and renamed BUCCANEER, also under the Panamanian flag. In 1950, two more war-built Canadian dry cargo ships joined his fleet as the Liberian-flagged CORSAIR and the British-flagged SEA CREST respectively. That year, a 1944-built, American-flagged Liberty ship was also acquired and renamed GREEN WAVE.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War, in 1951, George Embiricos acquired two more Liberty ships built in 1943 and 1944. Renamed CHALLENGER and WANDERER and both placed under the Panamanian flag, they significantly boosted his group’s profits at a time when the Korean War had resulted in a booming ship’s market. At the same time, a 1943-built British general cargo ship was acquired and sailed as the FAUSTUS under the Panamanian flag. In 1952, a 1944-built Liberty joined the fleet as the TURMOIL. During the same year, George Embiricos reached a significant milestone in his career by acquiring and operating his first tanker: a 1945-built T2-type renamed FURY under the Liberian flag; it was renamed SUNBEAM a year later. Previously, in 1952, he had sold three vessels – the SEA CREST, the GREEN WAVE, and the BONAVENTURE. The FAUSTUS sank during a gale off the port of Rotterdam, fortunately without human losses. In 1953, he acquired yet another Liberty-type vessel, the 1943-built ENDEAVOUR, which was placed under the Costa Rican flag. A year later he sold the ENTERPRISE and the CORSAIR.

George Embiricos sold one more vessel in 1955, the Liberty-type RESOLUTE, before reaching another milestone in his career: the delivery of his first newly-built vessel in September 1955. It was the 32,500-dwt tanker HYDROUSSA, built at Japan’s Harima shipyards and placed under the Liberian flag. A few months later, in May 1956, he got delivery of a sister ship, the Liberian-flagged OPPORTUNITY, built at the same facility. A third ship, the 14,900-dwt cargo vessel PAN, was delivered by the same builders in August 1956. Lowering his fleet’s age profile even further, that year he also sold the Liberty CHALLENGER.

In May 1958, he got delivery from Ansaldo S.p.A. in Genoa of the 31,500-dwt tanker MIRADOR, which was placed under the Panamanian flag. However, the vessel was lost a few months later, after being destroyed by a fire following an explosion during oil transfer operations to another ship. In the same year, Embiricos sold four of his older cargo ships – the BUCCANEER, the WANDERER, the TURMOIL and the ENDEAVOUR.

George Embiricos was one of the first Greeks to place orders for the construction of bulk carriers. In August 1959, the 21,554-dwt RESOLUTE was delivered from Belgium’s Cockerill shipyard, followed by the 22,038-dwt DEFIANT delivered in July 1960 from Japanese shipbuilders Mitsui Zosen.

The newly built ships he acquired in the 1960s were also bulk carriers. The 25,300-dwt CORSAIR was delivered by Mitsui in January 1962, while the 50,500-dwt ARISTEIDES was delivered from the same facility in October 1963, both placed under the Liberian flag. Previously, in 1962, he had sold the general cargo ship PAN, disposing of the last ageing vessel in his fleet, the SUNBEAM, in 1964. Over the next decade and until 1974, George Embiricos, by now one of the most informed shipping entrepreneurs, earned significant profits through the operation of a fleet comprising of four bulk carriers and two tankers, all built to his order. He placed his next newbuilding orders again with Mitsui in the early 1970s, taking delivery in July 1974 of the 138,600-dwt Liberian-flagged tanker TIFOSO, followed by its sister ship, the MINOTAVROS, in March 1975. He had earlier sold the ARISTEIDES and the RESOLUTE, while another two ships of his fleet – the OPPORTUNITY and the HYDROUSSA – were sold in 1975 and 1976 respectively. He opted to operate a small fleet of four ships until 1981, when the CORSAIR was sold, followed by the DEFIANT a year later. In 1983, the TIFOSO was declared a total loss after running aground in heavy weather. That year, George Embiricos decided to sell his last vessel, the MINOTAVROS, ending his successful era in shipping that had started from scratch and lasted for almost four decades.

Besides establishing the New York-based Western Shipping Corporation, in 1961 Embiricos had also founded the Piraeus-based Andros Steamship Co. Ltd., which operated until 1983. In 1974, he established Compania Mojo, S.A. in Monaco at the same time ending his association with S.G. Embiricos Ltd. in London.

After the sale of his last ship, George Embiricos focused solely on his great passion for art, having already been acknowledged as one of the world’s leading art collectors. He also spent a lot of time broadening his knowledge on a number of various subjects, thanks to the continuous study of a large private library he had created over the years.

George A. Embiricos passed away in 2011. Throughout his life he offered support to various people, particularly from the island of Andros. From his first marriage to Maria (Doda) P. Goulandris he had two sons, Aristides and Petros. He later married Daphne S. Costopoulos. With his third wife, Maria neé Gaitanos, he shared for nearly 30 years his many interests in world culture and the arts.