As CEO of Cassar Marine Group, Andrea Cassar, who has been working within her family’s business for 18 years, is tasked with overseeing the operations of the enterprise, alongside her father, who today serves as Chairman. Stemming from the family’s passion for the marine industry, Andrea is keen to take the Group ever forward, exploring fresh investments and opportunities, and spearheading innovative projects.

Cassar Marine Group finds its roots in 1967, evolving, over the years, into a leading shipyard on the island. “It all began with the repair and maintenance of small yachts and boats,” says CEO Andrea Cassar. She affirms, “my family has a real passion for the industry, and my father has always had a profound love for the sea and propelled boats.”

The CEO, highlighting significant landmarks before joining the company herself, explains that the enterprise acquired its first 100-tonne floating dock very early in its history, followed by the purchase of a 900-tonne floating dock in 1989. Unfortunately, fate dealt a tragic blow when the dock sank during its voyage to Malta.

“This was quite a big setback for the company, but it didn’t deter my father. In 1996, we invested in a new, 5,000-tonne floating dock from Russia, which made it here safely. From then on, the ship repair side of the business really took off. We still have this dock today and can bring very large vessels in for repair,” she maintains.

Since then, the company has continuously invested in equipment and human resources to support its growth. It has also established an international network of foreign marine agents and diversified into various marine services including vessel charter, towing services, conveyances, waste removal, and dredging.

“We nurture a team of dedicated people and skilled shipyard workers, and they are our priority – we pride ourselves on their adaptability and expertise. We believe that much of our success is thanks to our exceptional, hardworking and dedicated workforce,” says Andrea.

True to the family business dynamic, this workforce also features some of Andrea’s relatives, including her sister and cousin. “I’m fortunate to collaborate very closely with my sister, Jeanelle, who is a marine engineer with global experience in the technical department at the shipyard, overseeing that part of the business. Additionally, my cousin Chris plays an instrumental role as Fleet and Yard Manager, supervising operations. He brings a decade of experience in the field and his skills are invaluable,” she maintains.

Sharing her pride in the group’s heritage, the CEO emphasises the importance of maintaining the personalised service the family business is known for. She says, “a significant cornerstone of our success is the mentorship we received from my father and uncle, who have half a century of experience in the industry, and we cherish it every day. It is a family business, and I feel privileged and thankful to be the CEO.”

Speaking of her leadership style and ethos, Andrea tends to align closely with the principles of servant leadership: “I prioritise supporting and assisting the team, and aim to create an environment in which they feel encouraged and challenged to grow. I believe in open communication to foster a space where everyone feels comfortable sharing their insights.”

 Since her appointment in 2005, Andrea has achieved several milestones she looks back on fondly, including the investment in a large hopper barge, marking one of her first international engagements, and the chartering of the tugboat Sea Buffalo, which she manages with passion. She also highlights the venture into catering with her sister about 12 years ago, which today has grown into the running of two outlets in Birgu – Cargo restaurant and Gourmet Boutique by Cargo – and a third in the works. Another memorable moment was overseeing the salvage operations for the ship Hephaestus when it ran aground in Buġibba. Most recently, a notable investment was made in dredging equipment, the purchase of the first jack-up barge owned by Maltese operators last year.

Yet there’s a lot more in the works moving forward, the CEO reveals. “We have recently acquired Saltwave Ltd, which represents our commitment to safeguarding the environment,” she explains, noting that, through Saltwave, the group is further specialising in oil spill prevention. Indeed, the group has invested in new skimmers and booms to improve its rapid oil spill response and recruited a professional salvage team. “Today,” Andrea observes, “we are truly at the cutting edge of this industry as the leading salvage and oil spill prevention company.”

In parallel, the group is also emphasising the importance of education. Through Saltwave, they have partnered with prominent local entities Maypole, Niumee and Saint James Hospital, to collaborate with the City of Glasgow College and inaugurate EVA, the European Vocational Academy. “This academy will offer a broad spectrum of accredited courses in a variety of sectors,” Andrea maintains. She adds, “our goal is to nurture the next generation of skilled professionals in our field and others. We are committed to investing in the younger generation.”

Looking ahead to 2024, the CEO’s plans include consolidating the group’s core services in the marine industry by further refining their ship repair operations and incorporating new technologies. “We are also expanding our workshops at the shipyard, and by 2024, we will have brand new workshops. Meanwhile, we are investing heavily in the renovation of the Saltwave factory and expect it to be fully operational with new premises in 2024. On the catering side, we are also working on our third outlet, which will be open by the end of the year.”

The main challenge Andrea foresees is an ongoing one for the company: a lack of quay space for the shipyard to grow. “Sadly, the space is what it is, and we turn down many vessels yearly simply due to lack of space. However, we are guided by the principle of serving the marine community with dedication and humility – we remain a family business at heart and we are intent on maintaining this personal, family business style in our work,” she says with a smile.

Gearing up for another successful year, the CEO concludes, “I would like to position Cassar Marine not just as a service provider, but as a trusted partner in the marine industry.”

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2024 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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