Maritime Executive published the below article on September 1, 2023. Please see the article from Maritime Executive here.
When Alexandra Anagnostis-Irons founded Total Marine Solutions (TMS) in 2000, she knew she wanted to change how the industry addressed its impact on the environment. Twenty-three years on, that focus on MARPOL-compliant solutions and service has ballooned to a larger scope – an interest in not only environmental compliance but also in the people and communities the industry serves.
“We think of ourselves as a global economic engine, but the maritime industry is really about the people. Even with automation and autonomous vessels, we are an industry of people,” said Anagnostis-Irons. “From the seafarers to the cadets, onboard and offshore, we will always be a people-based industry.”
TMS provides MARPOL-compliant environmental solutions and services to vessels worldwide, but early in the company’s history Alex and TMS Managing Director Caroline Medich noticed that personal connections were driving the bottom line.
“We had close working relationships with chief engineers, deck officers, captains, and with our manufacturers and vendors,” said Anagnostis-Irons. “That drove the success of our company early on.”
That focus on people has helped TMS build a reputation for excellent customer service, but also strong for community involvement. A native of Miami, Anagnostis-Irons joined the board of Seafarers’ House at Port Everglades in 2013, hoping to support local services for seafarers. Seafarers’ House, which hosts nearly 150,000 seafarer visits annually, provides visiting seafarers with practical support and pastoral care – from religious and spiritual services to free wifi, hot food, and an international convenience store.
“The nature of a seafarer’s employment – long periods at sea, often without communication from home- makes it challenging. Seafarers’ centers like Seafarers’ House of Port Everglades are a real community center for the entire industry, a place to connect those at sea with their loved ones, but also to relax and recharge,” said Anagnostis-Irons.
Anagnostis-Irons joined the Executive Committee of Seafarers’ House in 2017 and participated in guiding the organization through a capital campaign and the building of a new facility, which will open in time for the 2023 cruise season. Other members of the TMS team, including Environmental Regulatory Manager Valerie Cannon, have volunteered at local maritime events, such as the organizing committee for Seafarers’ House Golden Compass Gala.
Her work with seafarers brought Alex in touch with a variety of other local associations and initiatives, including Broward Navy Days, which sponsors Fleet Week at Port Everglades, and the Coast Guard Foundation. Anagnostis-Irons, a long-time supporter of activities at Fleet Week, including the Salute to Women in the Military Luncheon, stepped into the role as Chair of Broward Navy Days in 2022. She’s chaired the Coast Guard Foundation District 7 Dinner since 2016 and stepped into the role as a Coast Guard Foundation Director in 2021. Working with Broward Navy days and the Coast Guard Foundation is deeply personal to Anagnostis-Irons, whose family has a long history of public service and community involvement.
TMS also engages with organizations to address one of the largest challenges the industry is facing – the lack of seafarers and maritime professionals. Anagnostis-Irons, who has been an active member and leader of the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) USA for more than a decade, is an outspoken proponent of career opportunities in the industry, especially to women and other non-traditional demographics. She worked closely with Captain Kuba Szymanski and the board of the TK Foundation to support scholarships for SUNY Maritime cadets to attend the WISTA USA Annual General Meeting last May.
“Like so many people, I joined this industry by accident,” said Anagnostis-Irons, who started her career with Bahamas Shipping Lines while she was still in school. “We need to change the conversation so that young people are aware of the diversity of careers and opportunities in our industry.”
Anagnostis-Irons joined the board of SUNY Maritime Foundation in 2023. Closer to home, TMS partners with Bridge2Life South Florida, supporting events and activities throughout Broward County, Florida to engage high school students in awareness of career opportunities in the industry. In 2021, Chad Jordan, then a junior at Fort Lauderdale High School won the Grand Prize in a TMS-sponsored YouTube competition. His video, which explored the maritime industry, led to a collaboration between Jordan and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). His industry awareness videos have been widely shared on social media by international maritime organizations and associations such as BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping. Jordan continues to intern at TMS while on break from his studies at the University of Central Florida.
“When we sponsored the Grand Prize, I was hoping we would engage a few students in researching and exploring this economic engine of Broward County. The collaboration did more than we could have ever hoped, and showed how much opportunity there is for the industry to partner with local groups to share the career opportunities available in maritime,” said Anagnostis-Irons.
Balance is a word bantered about at TMS, but one that the company has really come to understand as it has grown. The company hosts quarterly blood drives at its Fort Lauderdale headquarters and pre-COVID Technical Director Boris Medich spearheaded an informal TMS running team to participate in local charity runs around the region.
“We have an excellent team at TMS, and we work together not only to serve our customers, but to really be a part of our community. That means finding ways to give back, to serve, and to support each other,” noted Anagnostis-Irons.