Aristos Philis, a Limassol native, stands at the helm of Lemissoler Navigation Company’s Strategic Development department while simultaneously holding the positions of CEO and co-founder at KeelX.
Philis is deeply committed to fostering innovation, drawing from his tenure at Barclays Investment Bank to steer KeelX and Lemissoler towards a future where innovation and sustainability intertwine within the maritime industry.
His exposure to Agile Methodology at Barclays has instilled in him the value of collaboration and continual enhancement, shaping his maritime strategy to embody agility and adaptability.
In this exclusive interview with the Cyprus Mail, Philis explains how he blends leadership qualities with a fusion of local insight and global acumen.
Navigating the seas of maritime innovation: KeelX’s journey revealed
KeelX, initiated in 2020 under the Lemissoler Group’s wing, emerged with a mission encapsulated by the powerful motto “Shipping 4.0.” This initiative aligns seamlessly with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, outlining a transformative journey marked by simplicity and tangible impact.
Aristos’ commitment to simplicity is evident in KeelX’s integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with Software as a Service (SaaS), fleet performance monitoring tools, on-demand crew training, and robotics. The AI-driven KeelX Analytics suite not only enhances profits but actively contributes to reducing ships’ carbon emissions, showcasing dedication to sustainability and innovation.
In the realm of operational excellence, KeelX’s Pro Suite, blending cutting-edge technology with human expertise, prioritises operational excellence for maritime stakeholders. Education is a cornerstone for KeelX, with KeelX Education offering advanced e-learning courses through its Learning Management System (LMS), fostering shared knowledge and experiences.
Addressing the crucial role of seafarers, KeelX introduced KeelX Talk, a mobile app, at the App Store and Google Play, serving as a direct communication channel between seafarers and ship management offices. Prioritising confidentiality and crew well-being, this app tackles mental health challenges faced by those at sea.
In the innovative realm of KeelX Robotics, the focus is on developing a wireless Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). This ongoing project aims to create an autonomous robot capable of efficiently scanning a ship’s hull in under 3 hours.
“The maritime industry must embrace technological advancements for operational efficiency, environmental conservation, and resilience,” says Aristos.
Awards and Recognition: Honours in Entrepreneurship and Leadership
The Young Entrepreneurship Awards, held October 3, 2023, marked a significant milestone in Cyprus. Organised by Keve and Thessalonicis Dromena magazine and supported by the Ministry of Energy, Trade and Industry, Hellenic Bank, and Coneq company, the event celebrated the achievements of young entrepreneurs. Annita Demetriou, the President of the Parliament, highlighted the pivotal role of young entrepreneurs in driving economic development.
Aristos, also the recipient of the YoungShip Cyprus Young Leader Award in 2021, expressed gratitude during the ceremony. Reflecting on KeelX’s achievements, he emphasised their resilience during challenging times. Motivated by the global call for action, he highlighted KeelX’s accelerated projects, delivering sustainable solutions to maritime technology challenges.
Evolution and Vision of the Industry: A Maritime Renaissance
Navigating the maritime industry’s evolution, Aristos sheds light on significant shifts witnessed throughout his career. From technological advancements, such as real-time vessel performance monitoring and route optimisation, to improved connectivity with innovations like Starlink, he says, “We’ve seen remarkable progress.” This tech-driven wave is complemented by a positive change in diversity and inclusion practices within the sector.
Crucially, there’s a worthy emphasis on seafarer well-being, representing a positive shift in industry culture. “Seafarer well-being is now prioritised,” says Aristos, providing a holistic perspective on the maritime sector’s dynamic evolution.
Startups and the Youth Reshaping the Maritime Industry
Navigating the maritime industry’s evolution, Aristos highlights the importance of younger generations engaging with and contributing to the evolving sector. He says, “The industry’s embrace of automation, digitalisation, and data analytics creates a ripe environment for innovation, where the inherent tech-savviness of the youth becomes a driving force.”
Further delving into the impact of youthful involvement, Aristos stresses, “Their participation not only enhances collaboration on an international scale but also challenges age-old stereotypes, aligning the maritime industry with its more modern counterparts.”
Aristos advocates for the younger generation’s role in proposing fresh perspectives and innovative solutions, stating, “Sustainable practices highlight a pivotal shift, wherein the industry not only adapts to technological changes but also commits to environmental responsibility and improved conditions for seafarers.”
To actively shape the maritime landscape, Aristos says that “engaging in organisations and initiatives focused on marine conservation, waste reduction, and sustainable shipping practices” is one way young individuals can contribute, according to Aristos. He encourages their involvement in research and innovation, collaborating with research institutions, universities, and industry partners, and putting forward the availability of “large funding opportunities” at local and European levels.
Educational and training programmes take centre stage in Aristos’ vision for industry support. He recommends the development of specific scholarships aimed at attracting young talent, collaborating with schools, universities, and maritime academies is crucial, raising awareness about the industry and creating innovative and accessible training pathways. Aristos remarks, “These initiatives are crucial in nurturing the next generation of maritime leaders.”
Diversifying the narrative, Aristos stresses the importance of showcasing the industry’s dynamism to younger generations. According to him, “Establishing office open days for high school students, maintaining a strong social media presence, and leveraging technology and innovation become crucial steps in dispelling stereotypes and connecting with the youth.”
Transitioning to the realm of technology and innovation, Aristos proposes a strategic approach. He suggests, “Be ‘patient’ as the maritime industry is often considered ‘old-school’ with a high resistance to change.” Additionally, he emphasises the importance of conducting a comprehensive market analysis, ensuring a genuine and unequivocal product-market fit.
Aristos envisions the transformative potential lying in the fusion of digitalisation and data analytics. The maritime sector, according to him, “Not only addresses current challenges but also unveils vast opportunities for optimisation, making it an enticing realm for innovation, sustainability, and heightened profitability—marking a promising chapter for the industry’s future.”
Navigating Unexpected Setbacks in the Innovation Journey: Lessons from Challenges
In Aristos’ innovation journey in the maritime sector, he faced industry resistance, emphasising, “Overcoming resistance demanded focused communication and tangible demonstrations of benefits.” To quantify digital tools’ advantages, he established clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), stating, “The difficulty prompted the establishment of clear KPIs for better measurement.”
Moreover, this strategic approach not only addressed challenges head-on but also provided a structured means of evaluating the efficacy of innovative initiatives. Customer feedback plays a crucial role in aligning the innovation strategy with stakeholders’ needs.
Aristos underscores the value of adaptability, noting, “The need for swift, emotionless decision-making underscored the importance of adaptability.” His diverse background infuses agility and customer-centricity into his maritime innovation, fostering a resilient problem-solving mindset.
Shaping the Future of Maritime Excellence
Aristos’ journey shows a harmonious blend of local roots, global vision, and an unwavering commitment to shaping the maritime industry’s future. From his roles in strategic development at Lemissoler to the innovative steps made with KeelX, Aristos has driven the industry into a new era.
KeelX’s commitment to sustainability, technological innovation, and the well-being of seafarers stands as a testament to Aristos’ leadership. As he navigates the maritime sector towards a greener, more inclusive future, his resilience, strategic mindset, and dedication to progress promise a transformative legacy for generations to come.