On Monday, 6 July 2020, the President of the Hellenic Republic Mrs Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the Minister of National Defence Mr Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, the Deputy Minister of National Defence Mr Alkiviadis Stefanis, the Chief of HNDGS General Konstantinos Floros, the Chief of HAFGS Lieutenant General Georgios Blioumis, the Chief of HAGS Lieutenant General Charalambos Lalousis, the Chief of HNGS Vice Admiral Stylianos Petrakis and the Secretary General of the Ministry of National Defence Mr Antonis Oikonomou attended the naming and induction ceremony of the General Support Ship “IRAKLIS” in the Hellenic Navy, which took place at the premises of Salamis Naval Base. The ceremony was also attended by the Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament Mr Konstantinos Tasoulas, representatives of the political parties, representatives of the Church and of the Regional and Local Self-Administration.
The ship is another kind donation of the President of the “Aikaterini Laskaridis” Foundation, the ship-owner Mr Panagiotis Laskaridis.
In his address, the Minister of National Defence Mr Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos stated the following:
“Your Excellency, Madam President of the Hellenic Republic,
honourable guests, the sea breeze that is blowing may cause some technical problems in delivering a printed address, but I, having a sense of perspective regarding the situation, would take it as a fair wind blowing for our Navy and I believe you will realise it too, at this point in time.
I am deeply honoured and happy today that I have the chance to attend and welcome the induction of the General Support Ship “IRAKLIS” in our Navy’s force.
Today’s induction is of special importance for the Navy, as it supplements the recent acquisition of “ATLAS-1”, thus upgrading, but also essentially increasing the capabilities of supporting our fleet’s operational actions while sailing.
It is fortunate for the Navy that in hard financial times it has the opportunity to incorporate, in short time, two main units in its force, Units that are characterised as being of high value, operationally speaking. Our times are not only characterised by austerity, but by geopolitical challenges as well, in the region of our immediate national interest. The Navy, as a basic power factor of the country’s Armed Forces and being one of the strongest in the Mediterranean, guarantees the sovereignty both in the Aegean and in the wider region. It makes the country a powerful ally for the friends, but at the same time, it causes fear to the potential opponents, making the country’s role reliable and important, regarding the international developments in the region.
The Navy immediately responded with regards to the challenge of incorporating these newly acquired units and their immediate operational use. Two weeks ago, “ATLAS-1” participated in operational training elements of our Navy. For this reason, I would like to congratulate both “ATLAS-1” and “IRAKLIS” ships’ leaders and crews and to thank them.
To “IRAKLIS” captain and crew, I would like to wish that Saint Nikolaos is always at their bow and to make us proud with the ship’s actions and presence in the Aegean, in the Mediterranean and wherever their duty calls.
May you sail in calm and serene seas, although I think ladies and gentlemen, that the great capabilities of this ship will be best proven not so much in calm seas, but this is another issue. People always wish for calm and serene seas. Of course, at this point, I must say that the opportunity of incorporating these two units in the fleet has been exclusively provided by Mr Panos Laskaridis, who actually proves his love for the country and the Navy, repeatedly fulfilling numerous needs, ranging from the financing of maintenance and upgrade works to the provision of ships, as is the case of the General Support Ship “IRAKLIS”. I know that he does not like to hear such words, but I believe that they must be said, in order to point out his contribution and work.
So, in the context of the official recognition of Panos Laskaridis contribution by the State, he received his commission today, through a Decree of Her Excellency, the Madam President of the Hellenic Republic, as a Rear Admiral with honours, a man of the sea whose love and contribution for the Navy justifies his capacity as a high-ranking member of the Navy.
As a simple Greek citizen, I thank him for his contribution and for the message conveyed regarding the selfless support to the country and the Armed Forces, a luminous example for all of us that the country and society need the contribution of all of us together and of each one independently.
Under my capacity as the Minister of National Defence, I have the pleasure to award Mr Laskaridis the “Star for Valour and Honour”, because as a co-founder and president of the “Aikaterini Laskaridis” Foundation, during the long-lasting ascertained financial hardship that the Greek state suffers, characterised by generosity and altruism, he greatly contributed to the maintenance and reinforcement of operational capabilities and the fulfilment of the Navy’s numerous needs.
The most recent proof of this valuable contribution lies exactly in front of you.
Thank you for your attention”.
The Chief of HNDGS General Konstantinos Floros stated the following in his address:
“Your Excellency, Madam President of the Hellenic Republic,
I am deeply happy and satisfied that I attend today’s naming and induction ceremony of the General Support Ship “IRAKLIS” in our Fleet’s force. Our Navy is reinforced with another multifaceted well-trained Unit, of great transport capacity and modern technological equipment, absolutely suitable for the effective support of multiple operations in the neuralgic sea region of the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.
The ship that we honourably incorporate today in the Fleet is named after the ancient mythical hero Hercules, the greatest of the Greek mythology heroes, who in the minds both of our people and the world corresponds to unequalled courage and invincible power. The choice of the name obviously was not random, since the donated ship has, among other things, the ability to transport a great load of heavy materials, to tow, to cast and refloat items with precision, while its system of “being stabilised without moving” provides the opportunity to support, under all weather conditions, the logistics operations of the Fleet. The wide range of the missions’ spectrum that it can undertake, demonstrates the great value and importance of the donation. Given that the conduct of naval operations depends on the presence of suitable assets that will undertake the multifaceted role of supporting the Navy’s combatant Units, the addition of the General Support Ship “ATLAS-1” last December and of “IRAKLIS” now, is of great importance.
Honourable Mr Laskaridis,
You have actually and often proven that you stand by the Armed Forces. Your national benefactions to our Navy and your interest for the Country’s defensive armouring show a man of a great soul, generosity, but also a man who fully understands the sacred debt towards the Country, in a single word, a Nobleman. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your contribution and I promise you that our personnel will capably serve the ship, with a spirit of both altruism and self-sacrifice if required, using its operational capabilities to their full extent.
Addressing now the Captain, the officers and the crew, I look into your eyes and I remind you that you belong in our selected and unique military personnel, this force multiplier, that through its determination and effectiveness make our Armed Forces well-trained and capable of fully protecting the first and basic principle of National Security for the Country. Perform your duty in the extreme, across the seas, where you will be called to operate, being ready to sail with unrestrained momentum when and wherever needed, in accordance with the values and traditions of the Navy and of our Armed Forces!
I wish you safe journeys and may Saint Nikolaos always be a protector at your bow”.
The Chief of the HNGS Vice Admiral Stylianos Petrakis stated the following in his address:
“Your Excellency, Madam President of the Hellenic Republic, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today is a special landmark in the continuous effort of the Navy to upgrade and renew the Fleet’s units and the mechanism of their support as well. The effort is undoubtedly difficult and sometimes it faces unsurpassed obstacles, especially during these times that the country struggles to surpass both a financial and medical crisis.
Greece is a naval country and the Navy lies at no other place than the core of the national power factors, to defend the national interests, to protect our sea region and to promote our wider geopolitical goals as well. The success of the upgrade efforts of the Fleet’s units is a necessary prerequisite, so that the Navy maintains its capability of successfully dealing with the increasing in numbers and tension challenges, arising from our geopolitical surroundings. The fact that today we maintain a good fighting condition and we are capable of effectively deterring any malicious and offensive act, does not mean that this capability can be maintained forever, without renewal, upgrade and acquisition of new modern units.
Your Excellency, Madam President,
Due to patriotism, due to the ever lasting characteristics of the contribution implanted in the soul of a Greek, Hellenism has survived so far. As a genuine patriot, Mr Laskaridis, after donating the training vessel “KYKNOS I”, the financing of the programmes of two Frigates’ electric engines’ replacement and the donation of the General Support Ship “ATLAS-1” last year, makes another generous contribution, the sponsorship of the General Support Ship “IRAKLIS”.
The extraordinary capabilities of the new ship provide the Navy with many options and advantages, to support the Fleet’s units and their work. So, the selection of the ship’s name is not random, referring to antiquity, and as the mythical hero was expected to face a difficult and especially demanding task, the same expectation applies to the new ship. With the two, recently constructed, ships holding multiple roles, sponsored by Mr Laskaridis, we are ready to both upgrade and enrich the projects that have been so far undertaken by respective old and technologically obsolete support units. The Navy finally acquires a platform, which provides the possibility of undertaking, apart from other things, the essential Submarines’ search and rescue mission.
With regards to your contribution to the Navy and the Country, I owe you a big thanks and I would like to assure you that the new Fleet unit will be used in the best way possible. Your generosity demonstrates the required fellowship, with regard to the national effort of renewing the Fleet. You constitute a guiding beacon of contribution to the Navy and our Country. You set an example for all of us, who, within our capabilities, will have to stand up against the challenges of our time.
Your Excellency, Madam President,
The members of the Navy, with high morale and dignity, work patiently, respecting the hard financial sacrifices of our people. They outdo themselves to keep the Navy capable of facing the challenges in process, which relate directly to the sea environment. In the extremely crucial period that the Country witnesses, it is required more than ever, to maintain the good fighting condition and to reinforce the Fleet.
Before concluding, I would like to refer to the selection of the ship’s godmother, the Petty Officer 1st Class Maria Kokaraki, who graduated first from the Navy’s NCO School in 2016. This symbolism aims at projecting and rewarding the noble competition and excellence on behalf of the Navy’s members.
Finally, I invite the Captain and crew to fully exploit the ship’s capabilities and do their duty, capably maintaining the Navy’s tradition, which the Greek people look forward to with trust, both in peacetime and in hard conditions. May Saint Nikolaos always be at your bow. Thank you”.
Mr Panagiotis Laskaridis stated the following in his address:
“Madam President, Chiefs of Staffs, ladies and gentlemen,
I had prepared a short speech for the occasion, but after the address of the Minister and the extremely great honour from Madam President, I forgot my words, I muddled the speech up, and so, allow me to say a few words from the bottom of my heart.
First, I would like to express my big thanks for these two great honours today, which supplement other honours awarded to me in the past by the Armed Forces and the Country, usually with great and sometimes excessive generosity.
Second, I would like to reciprocate this honour to its origin, that is the Navy, because when the citizens are honoured by the Country, they, in turn, must reciprocate the honour to the Country and the State.
Third, I would like to thank my family, my children, my brother, who were by my side all these years and they have been supporting me.
Fourth, I would like to promise you that with the little strength in me, to the extent possible, I will help the Navy in the future as well.
Today is a great day for me and my family, because the Navy allows me one more time after a few months to be here and attend another induction ceremony of a new ship to our Fleet, which along with the previous one - “ATLAS” – “IRAKLIS”, according to my opinion and the Navy’s as well, will provide our Fleet with more opportunities to do its job, more effectively and in the best way possible.
We are talking about our Fleet, of which we are all proud and admire, because it is a fleet, madam President, that for a hundred centuries has never abandoned the naval battlefields, never lowered its Flag and never departed defeated. When we were young we were writing every day “I will not forget my notebook”. In the same way our Fleet’s members are daily reminded of Herodotus’ text stating: “When Xerxes wrote again “Hand over your arms” he wrote in reply “come and take them” and the other modern text of Georgios Sachtouris reporting to Hydra’s Elders, the day after the Battle of Gerontas, “early in the morning we set sail, at the soonest possible, against Topalin”, meaning of course Topal Pasha, vice admiral of the Ottoman Fleet at the time.
Our Fleet of Warships has been unfortunately neglected for many years by Greek governments and leaders through time. It has been seriously neglected and this neglect must quickly, immediately and drastically be reversed, the soonest possible.
This neglect consists of two elements:
- First, the especially low financing that makes it difficult for it to fulfil even its ordinary naval obligations.
- Second, it should be released from an awful bureaucracy, which leads ensconced bureaucrats, inspectors, civil servants to condemn warships to suspension and immobility, at a time when these ships should be operationally active and be in the seas of the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, protecting the sanctities of the nation.
The Country currently undergoes a difficult situation. It has to face an aggressive, challenging and revisionist neighbouring country. We must think whether all of us do what we must, what is needed to reverse this challenge. Because our leaders, our governments, ourselves, all together, will not be judged by our success of defeating the coronavirus or restoring Economy. We will be judged by our success in defending our National Rights in an absolute way.
Despite the problems, we Greeks, have absolute faith in that our Navy and our Fleet will do their job well, if necessary. I would also like to remind those who are not navy men - and to conclude - of a historic anecdote: The conversation between Eleftherios Venizelos and Pavlos Kountouriotis on the deck of the “Averof” Battleship, in an afternoon of October 1912.
Venizelos says to Kountouriotis: “Admiral, I could not imagine any better thing than to follow the Fleet as a simple sailor. But the Government’s affairs do not permit it. You should know though Admiral, that Greece requests of you not just to die for it. It requests of you to win”. The head-strong Arvanite Kountouriotis replied: “Mr Prime Minister, I do not know much about parallax and so on. But I know one thing, that ships without a heartened crew are heavy lead, sunk into the sea! We will do our job well with the ships we own”. The brave Admiral departed after that and his ships brought about the two major victories of “Elli” and “Lemnos”, an event that helped Greece win the First Balkan War and double its size.
Concluding, I would like to remind you that for us, the people who deal with the sea, all start and end with Saint Nikolaos. We lay our hopes on Him, we ask Him for help and so I would like to wish to “IRAKLIS” Captain, Officers and crew safe journeys, calm seas and may the Saint always be at your bow.