Christos “Chris” Kritikos, hailed as a pioneer from the golden era of containerization, died Jan. 31. He was 95 years old.
“Our industry has lost one of its most memorable and unique individuals,” said Thomas J. Simmers, past president and CEO of Ceres Terminals Inc. “He was a colorful soul full of ambition and drive and the nerve to pull his vision off.
“Using his progressive vision and outsized personality, Chris built a small Chicago-based startup company into one of the leading stevedoring and terminal operators in North America. His is a true American success story. The industry will miss him,” Simmers said.
Kritikos was born on the Greek island of Andros and raised in Athens. He moved to the United States in 1947 after serving in World War II as a merchant marine. He began working for an East Coast stevedore in 1954. Four years later, he moved to Chicago to launch his own stevedoring company.
“The late 1950s was a time when the St. Lawrence Seaway was opening up and it presented a very lucrative business opportunity,” the announcement of Kritikos’ death said. “Chicago was predicted to be the largest general cargo port in the Great Lakes and the influx of cargo ships coming into the port needed professional stevedores and terminal operators to handle them. Chris recognized the potential and this is where he founded his passion, Ceres Terminals Inc.”
From 1959 through 1962, Ceres expanded to Milwaukee; Duluth, Minnesota; Toledo, Ohio; and Montreal, Canada. Ceres opened at the Port of Baltimore in 1979 and then expanded to Hampton Roads, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; New Orleans; and Houston.
“In 1982, Ceres became a container operator in Montreal with Atlantic Container Line as its first container customer,” Kritikos’ obituary information said. “That same year, Ceres signed a 20-year lease with the Halifax Port Authority and secured 55% of the port’s volume in the first year of operation.”
In 1988, Kritikos moved Ceres’ corporate headquarters from Chicago to Weehawken, New Jersey, to be “closer to his customers and maintain the personal service that was his trademark,” the biographical overview said.
Ceres expanded internationally and handled containers in Odessa, Ukraine, from 1995 to 2000 before the company was acquired by NYK in 2002.
Kritikos was called “one of the true icons of the shipping industry, whose impact on containerization was measurable. Those who had the opportunity to work with Chris would never forget him. He was the type of person that the waterfront reveres. He was a tough negotiator but never let the deal get away. Right at the point when a customer would pack their bag to leave with nothing, Chris would drop a new idea on the table that led to a contract signature.
“His word was sacred and quality came before anything else,” the announcement said. “Chris never referred to contract language but rather to the spirit of the agreement. As a result, his customers always stuck with him as he expanded to new locations.”