Women in shipping – Lois Zabrocky, president and CEO, International Seaways

Lois Zabrocky. Credit: Chris Preovolos/CMA
Lois Zabrocky. Credit: Chris Preovolos/CMA

Shipping executives generally come from one of three backgrounds: seafaring, family ownership, or banking. In the case of the seafaring-to-management career path, most graduates of maritime academies are men.

However, Lois Zabrocky, chief executive officer (CEO) of New York-listed tanker owner International Seaways, has shown how successful that route can be for women who choose to begin as seafarers.

“When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to see the world,” she recalled during a panel discussion at the Connecticut Maritime Association conference in March. “There’s nothing like getting to go out to see the world as a cadet. Seeing all the countries – it’s just fascinating. With shipping, you actually get to do things. You don’t just sit and push paper. The ships are moving. They are delivering cargo. It’s very industrial, very interesting.”

Zabrocky graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York with a Bachelor of Science degree and obtained a third mate’s license. She served at sea aboard a US-flag chemical tanker.

She was hired by Overseas Shipholding Group (OSG) in 1992, with a focus on spot chartering. She had two key appointments in 2005: vice-president responsible for the commercial operations of the OSG-managed Aframax International pool and head of OSG’s international product carrier and gas strategic business unit.

She was promoted to senior vice-president of OSG in June 2008 and chief commercial officer of the international-flag strategic business unit in 2011.

What followed was a tumultuous period for the management of OSG. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2012 and its then-CEO, Morten Arntzen, left in February 2013. Zabrocky played a central role in keeping the company afloat as the court case played out. She was named president of the international-flag unit in February 2013, and served as co-interim president and co-principal executive officer of OSG from August 2014 (the month OSG emerged from bankruptcy protection) to January 2015.

OSG was then split into two companies: a Jones Act tanker and barge company called OSG and an international tanker company called International Seaways, which was spun off into a separate NYSE listing in December 2016. As part of that process, Zabrocky was named president and CEO of International Seaways.

During her tenure since the company’s flotation, International Seaways has continued to grow. In a major step forward, it recently agreed to purchase six very large crude carriers (VLCCs) for USD434 million from Euronav, as part of Euronav’s deal to acquire the Gener8 Maritime fleet.

Assuming that deal goes forward, International Seaways would own one ultra-large crude carrier, 15 VLCCs, two Suezmaxes, eight Aframaxes/LR2s, 12 Panamaxes/ LR1s, and 15 MRs.