HISTORY OF METROFIN LTD ZURICH

      

Metrofin Ltd. in the hearth of Zurich, Switzerland was owned by the Greek family Angelopoulos, which earned their fortune in the steel business. Theodore Angelopolous (1875 - 1953) founded in 1925 together with his sons Dimitris, Panagiotis und Yiannis a steel trading company in Athens. Later manufacturing was added. After the World War II the Halyvourgiki steel works were founded. The work site, located in the harbour of Eleusis, came into operation in 1951. The family owned many companies abroad, mainly in Great Britain, but also some well known Swiss companies were controlled by them.

Theodore Angelopolous had also a fourth son, however he had to leave Greece due to political reasons and took up residence in Geneva. He was called the "Professor".

Dimitris Angelopoulos, born 1908 was occupied mainly with trading, finance and shipping, his brother Panagiotis looked after the steel works.

The company Metrofin Ltd. was founded in Geneva in the early 1960ties as a real estate company and in 1965 was relocated to Zürich. At this occasion the business activities were extended to include maritime shipping. An office was opened at Pelikanstrasse 37 in the centre of Zürich's business district.

The first ships of the Angelopoulos family, 3 Liberty freighters, were purchased in 1961 and were first managed by Keller Shipping AG, Basel, however only little is known about this. They transported steel products in the Mediterranean Sea, but also brought coal from the ports of West Germany (FRG, Federal Republic of Germany) to the steel works in Eleusis. The crews were most likely from Greece.

At the same time new Panamax bulk carriers were ordered from Japan, the first vessel, the NEPTUNIA was delivered to the company in February 1965. In total 8 vessels of the same type were built, each about 58,500 metric tonnes DWT, the last one, the LOUSSIOS was delivered in July 1971. These vessels were managed from the beginning by Metrofin.

1972 the son of the "Professor", Dimitri Angelopoulos purchased the small bulk carrier UNIMAR, later also the slightly larger ORION. 1975 he founded his own company in London, the Davlus Ltd. The director was the late William V. Packard, a broker accredited at the Baltic Exchange and author of various books about chartering and the shipping business in general. Already in 1977 the London office was closed down and the two ships went back to Metrofin in Zürich.

In summer 1978 three cape size bulk carriers (about 130,000 mt DWT each), AKRON, LOUSSIOS and THEODORE A. were purchased, apparently at a very good price.

The office staff, including all nautical and engineering superintendents, were Swiss nationals and in the 70ties and 80ties approximately 15 persons were employed in the office in Zürich. In this office a chartering department employed vessels in time and voyage charter for the transport needs of the family's steel business.

At the begin the crews for the new bulk carriers were engaged through the crewing agent Theodor & F. Eimbcke, Hamburg and the crews were mainly Germans, paid according to German conditions. Later personnel were partly engaged directly by the office in Zürich.

In the early 1970ties the ratings were changed to Hong Kong Chinese, this following the practise in Norwegian shipping companies, such as Lorentzens Rederi, Berge Bergesen etc. Crewing agent was the Norwegian controlled Wallem Shipping in Hong Kong. Unfortunately the Chinese became a big problem, when they commenced to jump ship in large numbers, when in the USA. For this reason the ratings were changed to Filipinos, agent was again Wallem, Manila. In the same time on some ships Pakistani crew was employed, but with very moderate success and the project was abandoned again.

The officers were mainly from Germany, Yugoslavia, Great Britain, but always some Swiss were on board, usually as engineers, electricians, radiooperators. A few Swiss sailed also as mates and one, Captain Bachmann sailed as master. For some time Metrofin employed also Swiss junior engineers, all with a completed apprenticeship and one man achieved the rank of chief engineer.

In 1980 Metrofin purchased its first crude oil tanker, the ARKAS. Unfortunately she had only a short spell under the flag of Metrofin, after a collision on the Mississippi in March 1982 the tanker was sold again. As a replacement the SOLVA was acquired shortly afterwards. On these tankers Spanish crew and officers were engaged at some stage.

From 1984 until 1986 the first generation of Panamax bulk carriers were sold to Chinese demolition companies, except for the OCEANICA which was sold for further trading. She continued sailing for a short while, and then she was also scrapped in China.

In the 80ies and 90ies various second-hand Panamax and handy-size bulk carriers and a few crude tankers were purchased to renew the fleet.

On April 8, 1986 Dimitris Angelopoulos was killed in Athens by the terrorist group "17th. November" when he left his house in Kolonaki. As Dimitris Angelopoulos had no descendants, the two sons of his brother Panagiotis had to take over the business, these were Theodore (born 1943) and Konstantinos. Both studied in Switzerland, Theodore at the ETH of Zürich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) and Konstantinos at the University of Geneva.

As from 1997 the shipping business of the Angelopoulos family was rearranged, a process, which took several years. The two brothers moved the activities by and by to Greece. The ships of the fleet were transferred to their newly founded companies in Athens, Metrostar of Theodore and to Arcadia Shipmanagement of Konstantinos, or alternatively sold to other ship owners. In 1998 the office staff was reduced and the company moved to a smaller office at Holzgasse 3 in Zürich.

In 1997 the first 3 tankers CRUDESKY, CRUDESTAR and CRUDESUN were transferred to Metrostar and in December 1998 the ships AKROP, ALFIOS, ALFATANK, BETATANK and KONSTANTINOS A. were moved to Arcadia Shipmanagement. All other ships were sold and on March 19, 2002 the last ship, the ARKAS was handed over to her new owners in a Chinese port.

The office at Holzgasse 3, Zürich was closed end of June 2002 and the last personnel made redundant, but fortunately all employees found a new job again. The company Metrofin had an address at Talstrasse 62 in Zürich, until the company was deleted from the commercial register in Zürich (Registery No: CH-020.3.916.980-8) in June 2007. Therefore a Swiss shipping company disappeared, which enjoyed an excellent reputation with the seafarers, but also in all shipping circles.

As per our information the two companies Metrostar and Arcadia Shipmanagement doing well and are still in business. Also a sad affair for the employees in Switzerland, but the Greek ship owners has moved back to their home country.

SwissShips-HPS, April 2012

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