Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 13 - 2004

 

EU Foreign Ministers urge Pakistan to release detained seafarers

--- The EU Council of Ministers yesterday protested at the continued unjustified detention by Pakistan of the crew of 'Tasman Spirit', an oil tanker that ran aground outside Karachi Port last July. The EU has added its full diplomatic weight to international calls for Pakistan to release the eight men immediately. The EU actions follow many months of intensive efforts by the vessel's insurers, The American Club, and diplomatic efforts by the Government of Greece (five of the seafarers are Greek, three are Filipino) the EU, the international maritime community and the United Nations International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to release these men.
The Council's 'conclusions' yesterday follow last month's in the European Parliament resolution last month calling for their release and a meeting in February between the EU and Pakistan when Chris Patten, The European Commissioner for External Affairs, also raised the plight of the men with president Musharraf.
The Council of Ministers intervention signals the EU's frustration at the lack of progress and makes it clear that the detentions are viewed in Brussels as a humanitarian issue, not just a bilateral issue for The Greek and Filipino Governments. It is a strong statement by all twenty-five Member and Accession States of the European Union, reflecting the deep concern in the shipping community and, most of all, the families of the detained men.
Michael J. Mitchell, General Counsel for The American Club, insurers of the 'Tasman Spirit' welcomed the news. Speaking in New York he said,
'The European Union have now identified the unjustified detention of these men as a clear breach of their human rights. As insurers of the ship the welfare of the crew is our highest priority. The American Club has been in direct communication with The Government of Pakistan to secure their release. We have been actively working with various Governments and international organizations to free the men. We hope that the strength of the EU Council resolution, combined with all the other voices urging the release of these innocent men, will speed this process.'
Press Brief - Council of Ministers Conclusions - 23 March 2004
Detained Greek and Filipino Seafarers of the Motor Tanker 'Tasman Spirit' Background
The seafarers are crew-members of the motor tanker 'Tasman Spirit'. The tanker went aground off Karachi, Pakistan in July last year, resulting in a spill of light crude oil in the Karachi area. The ship's Master, six members of the crew and a Greek salvage master involved in pollution prevention measures, were subsequently arrested and charged by the Pakistani authorities with criminal offences relating to pollution and endangering life. The causes of the grounding have yet to be determined but poor weather, decisions taken concerning the timing of the entry of the ship into Karachi Port, the condition of the channel and decisions made by the Master and the Karachi pilot are all relevant factors.
No evidence has ever been presented in support of the charges made against the men. The Pakistan Government enquiry presented to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations organisation responsible for maritime law, reveals no evidence that could support the criminal charges. The prosecution have ignored numerous court orders to produce evidence and are now challenging the jurisdiction of the court in which they chose to bring the prosecution.
Meanwhile, the men have been required to remain on bail at a hotel in Karachi, their physical and psychological condition is deteriorating and one of the men has already attempted suicide. The men are held as bargaining tools in an attempt to pursue claims (claims that now total US$7.7 Billion). The fact that the men will not be released until payments are made was confirmed in a letter from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry to the Greek Government.
The ship's insurer has offered seven times to pay compensation in line with the IMO's Oil Pollution Damage Civil Liability Convention, which would have avoided lengthy litigation and this is despite the fact that, regrettably, Pakistan is not a signatory to the Convention. The insurer has also issued a guarantee enforceable under English law to pay compensation agreed between the parties. None of these offers has received a formal response.
International maritime organisations, The Government of Greece and now the European Union have all called for the immediate release of the men. This is a humanitarian issue.
Yesterday's developments
All twenty-five Member and Accession States of the European Union have condemned the continued detention of the men calling on Pakistan to release them and engage in constructive negotiations.
Couched in forceful language, this is a clear statement by the Pakistan's largest trading partner that the EU is prepared to speak out to protect its citizens human rights and, in this case, those of the Philippines as well.
Source: The American Club, News Release, 23 Mar 04, 13:45 GMT


24 crewmembers rescued after oil tanker collision
---DUBAI - Twenty-four of the crew on board an oil tanker Everton were rescued on Monday afternoon from their 80,000 tonner vessel which caught fire reportedly after being hit by a fishing vessel some 50 nautical miles off the coast of Oman. One crewmember is missing.
According to an international shipping weekly Fairplay, some 200 tonnes of oil had been spilled in the incident, and Polembros, the Greece-based owners of the tanker are assessing the impact of the oil spill. "Because it is 50 nautical miles (off the coast) we don't know if it is going to land," David Gare, spokesman for the owner company, was quoted as saying by the weekly's on-line edition. Khaleej Times contacted the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) in London, which, according to the weekly, is assessing the environmental impact of the oil spill, but no comment was immediately available.
The crew was picked up by Hual Asia, a pure car/truck carrier, which is en route to Dubai from Jeddah. A statement issued by Leif Hoegh and Company Shipping, Oslo, which owns the Hual Asia, said that the carrier changed course late morning on Monday, after receiving a distress call on VHF radio channel 16, and proceeded to the distressed vessel.
"Twenty-four crew were picked up by the carrier, eight of whom were later transferred to an American naval vessel, which took over the command from Hual Asia," Per Dynes Jorgensen, Dubai contact for Leif Hoegh and Company Shipping told Khaleej Times. He added that all 24 survivors are reported to be in good condition.
Mr Jorgensen said that the 16 crewmembers presently on board the Hual Asia are headed to Dubai's Port Rashid, where the carrier is expected to arrive around 10 this morning.
Meanwhile, according to the weekly a limited crew will return to the Everton, which is anticipated to be able to make its way to Fujairah under its own power.
The Everton was reportedly hit by a fishing vessel called Ihco, which stayed at the accident site for a short time before leaving the scene, the weekly quoting Mr Gare as saying.
"We don't know why it left and are trying to identify the vessel," he said.
Until reports last came in, a US warship was still on stand-by in the area where the mishap occurred, but hopes for the sole missing crewmember are bleak.
Source: www.khaleejtimes.com, by Zaigham Ali Mirza, 24 Mar 04


UGS-commissioned study challenges D-H bulker assumptions
---A study commissioned by the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) will be presented at the crucial meeting of Imo's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC78) in May as the major plank on which Greece will lead the fight to get Imo to re-think the issue of double hull bulk carriers.
The May meeting is expected to hotly debate a set of revisions regarding regulations covering the mandatory introduction of double hulls for bulk carrier newbuildings. If approved the revisions will move to MSC79 for adoption, which could cause legal problems for any new requirements will supersede those set to come in at the beginning of 2005.
At the May meeting Greece intends presenting a new study by Scotland's Strathclyde University which challenges many of the assumptions on double hulls made to date. The UGS was instrumental in commissioning the 250-page study and its conclusions will be used to back arguments to persuade flag states to reverse their decision to make double hulls mandatory.
At a Design and Equipment (D&E) meeting at Imo earlier this month, the International Chamber of Shipping and the Greek delegation, backed by Greece's administration, shipowning and technical communities, argued for revisions to Imo's developing rules on double hulls and Permanent Means of Access (PMA). Imo recommended a set of bulker-safety measures last December for entry into force January 1, 2005. But both Greece and ICS contend there is not enough experience with double hull construction nor have the double hull rules that have been developed, in fact ensure safety is improved.
Greece refutes suggestions it's making a last effort to wreck Imo's effort to introduce mandatory double hulls on bulkers. "We are not opposed to any measures which make ship operation safer, more secure and better protects the environment. What does trouble us is the way regulations are being developed without any sound investigation or real evidence shipping or the community generally will be better off," said a leading member of the Marine Technical Managers Association of Greece (Martecma).
Greece believes the trend is towards expediency at the expense of transparency in the rulemaking process now being forced on the shipping industry. The view is that the "invariably politically motivated" search for a safer ship is in fact taking a course leading to a less safer ship being built.
Greece says past studies have been based on past experiences and, as a consequence, assumptions have played a big part without account being given to the performance of modern bulk carriers which are trading trouble-free. This view is said to be backed-up by the findings of the Strathclyde University researchers. The study also concludes the double side skin is certainly not a cost-effective solution to address the risk of side-shell failure. In addition, Greeks claim the loss of cargo space that double hulls will entail plus the increased fuel consumption, has been neglected in the past, a view supported by the Scottish university. There are also claims that double hulls will be more prone to fatigue and corrosion and inspection will become more difficult.
Greeks propose an increase in corrosion margins, coatings control and enhanced corrosion allowance, including early replacement of side frames.
Source: Newsfront, Week 13, 26 Mar 04


Managers unite over Karahasan
---Two shipmanagers are joining forces to fight attempts by a Turkish operator to claw back three of its vessels.
Shipmanagement companies in Greece and the Netherlands say they will not tolerate the behaviour of Turkey's Karahasan group, which has been arresting ships it formerly controlled but lost through judicial sales.
Eurocarriers of Greece and Orient Shipping of Rotterdam are joining forces to confront what they believe to be an unprecedented refusal to accept the principles of international law concerning auctioned ships.
The two companies are hoping, with the backing of their protection-and-indemnity (P&I) clubs, to forestall action by the Turkish group affecting the operation of the vessels. Both companies have already had ships arrested.
Eurocarriers operates the 49,000-dwt Katerina (ex-Hidir Selek, built 1983) which was purchased at auction in Tianjin, China, in October last year, and the sistership Orfeas (ex-Baha Karahasan, also built 1983), which it bought at auction in Durban, South Africa.
The Katerina was arrested in Singapore last month by Karahasan but released five days later. Earlier this month the Singapore court ordered the writ to be set aside and damages and costs to be paid to the owners of the vessel.
Orient Shipping manages the 21,300-dwt Pacific Trust (ex-Ahmet Bey, built 1983), which went under the auctioneer's hammer in the US in November.
Karahasan arrested the Pacific Trust in Barcelona earlier this month. It is still there, although Orient hopes it will be released this week.
Orient's Diederik Legger confirms the co-operation. "We are planning to join forces to try to make this comes to an end," he said. He adds that the shipmanagers determined to stop the arrests. "It is quite unheard of that an owner does not accept international processes all over the world," he said.
Karahasan seems to be trying to take advantage of a loophole in Turkish law that leaves the registration status of a ship auctioned outside Turkey unclear.
Turkish legal and shipping circles have been working towards getting an amendment made to the legislation since last year.
Eurocarriers in-house lawyer Mary Stefanou points out that when a ship is sold at auction, it is sold free of encumbrances. Public-auction bills of sale serve as a document showing payment has been made in full, transferring ownership and serving as a deletion certificate for the ship, she says.
Local legal opinion was sought in both South Africa and China before Eurocarriers' principals bid for the Katerina and Orfeas.
Two other Karahasan vessels were also sold at auction. The 43,600-dwt Edip Karahasan (built 1989) went up for sale in Singapore and is now listed as the Ulla R under the management of Roth Reederei of Hamburg. The 26,000-dwt Fortuna Australia (built 1985) was sold after having been arrested by its crew in Sweden and is now managed by Starmarine Management of Greece as the Sailor. Neither appears to have been targeted by Karahasan.
A representative of Gard P&I club, in which the Katerina is entered for freight, demurrage and defence, declines to comment on the shipmanagers' efforts.
In addition to the interruption in trading suffered by the Katerina because of its arrest, Eurocarriers says it is now aware that Karahasan has apparently sent a circular to brokers in London and Piraeus and telling them to warn prospective buyers of the ex-Karahasan ships under Eurocarriers' management about "serious and complicated problems they will inevitably face on legal grounds".
Eurocarriers managing director Leon Korbetis says the company has no personal animosity towards the Karahasan group. But he says Karahasan had a dispute with its bank and he thinks that if the Turkish company has a problem, it should thrash the matter out with the lenders.
Eurocarriers says that neither the managers nor the vessels' owners had anything to do with the Karahasan group "until they unjustifiably started harassing the Katerina and Orfeas".
Eurocarriers seems set to go the distance, saying "every possible lawful action will be taken worldwide to defend the vessels' interests including necessary injunctions to recover losses/damages suffered due to their [Karahasan's] actions and prevent further defamatory messages being sent to the market".
Meanwhile, a Karahasan representative let it be understood that the company will continue its own legal fight to regain control of the ships. "We still own these ships legally," said chartering manager Serkan Aral.
He declines to make any other comments, saying the group will only provide its views to TradeWinds in writing with a guarantee from the newspaper that they would be published unedited because Karahasan believes TradeWinds is prejudiced against it.
Source: www.tradewinds.no, Gillian Whittaker Athens 26 Mar 04


ROC cruise ships to be auctioned this week
---Royal Olympia Cruises, which filed for bankruptcy in Hawaii, will sell two of its ships that cruise Hawaii's waters this week.
Olympia Explorer, docked in Los Angeles, will be auctioned on Wednesday and the Olympia Voyager will be auctioned, anchored off of Miami, will be auctioned on Friday, March 26.
The ships, the newest in Royal Olympia's fleet -- and the only two that really targeted U.S.-based passengers -- were launched in 2000 and 2002; each of the 25,000-ton, 836-passenger ships cost about $175 million.
The two vessels offered a couple of Hawaii cruises on alternate years.
The company's German creditors seized the ships when the Greek cruise line couldn't make its payments on the $250 million loan owed on the ships.
The Greek Maritime Court of Appeal has given the company six months to work out a deal with creditors for its other ships operated by subsidiaries..
Royal Olympia's subsidiaries that own the ships Odysseus, Triton, World Renaissance and Olympia I were included in the reorganization proceedings.
If the company can secure working capital, these vessels may be operated for six months with a possible extension of three further months.
Source: http://pacific.bizjournals.com , 22 Mar 04


European visions
Source: Newswatch, Fairplay International Shipping Weekly, 25 Mar 2004


The Board of Directors of Stelmar Shipping announces board change
---The Board of Stelmar Shipping Ltd. today announced that George Karageorgiou has retired from the Board and will not stand for re-election at the Company's upcoming annual shareholder's meeting.
Nick Hartley, Chairman of Stelmar Shipping Ltd., commented "George has been a valued member of the Board for several years and we have appreciated his counsel. We wish George all the best in his future endeavors."
Following Mr. Karageorgiou's departure, Stelmar Shipping will have seven directors, consisting of two executive officers and five independent directors.
About Stelmar Shipping Ltd.
Stelmar Shipping Ltd. is an international provider of petroleum product and crude oil transportation services. Headquartered in Athens, Greece, Stelmar operates one of the world's largest and most modern Handymax and Panamax tanker fleets with an average age of approximately seven years, excluding the newbuildings. With the delivery of five vessels expected by July 2004, and assuming no disposals, the Company's fleet of 36 tankers will expand to 41, which includes two leased Aframax vessels. Following the delivery of all the newbuildings, the average age of Stelmar's total fleet will be reduced to six years. The Company, through its maintenance of a modern fleet and commitment to safety, has earned an excellent reputation for providing transportation services to major oil companies, oil traders and state-owned oil companies.
Forward-Looking Statements
This release contains forward-looking statements (as defined in Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended) concerning future events and the Company's operations, performance and financial conditions, including, in particular, statements regarding:
TCE rates in the near term; net operating days; tanker supply and demand; supply and demand for oil; expectations as to funding the Company's future capital requirements; future capital expenditures; the Company's growth strategy and measures to implement such strategy; environmental changes in regulation; cost savings and other benefits. Words such as "expects," "intends," "plans," "believes," "anticipates," "estimates," and variations of such words and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements.
These statements involve known and unknown risks and are based upon a number of assumptions and estimates, which are inherently subject to significant uncertainties and contingencies, many of which are beyond the control of the Company. Actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially include, but are not limited to: changes in production of or demand for oil and petroleum products, either generally or in particular regions; the cyclical nature of the tanker industry and its dependence on oil markets; the supply of tankers available to meet the demand for transportation of petroleum products; greater than anticipated levels of tanker newbuilding orders or less than anticipated rates of tanker scrapping; changes in trading patterns significantly impacting overall tanker tonnage requirements; competitive factors in the market in which the Company operates; risks associated with operations outside the United States; and other factors listed from time to time in the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Company expressly disclaims any obligations or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Company's expectations with respect thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any statement is based.
Source: Stelmar Shipping, ATHENS, Greece, 23 Mar 04


Preserving Mediterranean biodiversity
---The crucial biological balance of our seas and coastlines is under threat from both man and nature, UN agency tells Nicosia summit
Major disasters at sea, such as the sinking of the Prestige oil tanker in November 2002, attract our attention to the threats faced by our environment and spur us into action. But our seas and coasts are under constant threat by a host of menaces which are becoming increasingly difficult to stave off, experts say.
Nicosia - The state of the environment does not feature very highly on the political agenda of most European Union and Mediterranean countries and generally receives little media coverage (unless there is a major power station explosion or fuel leak at sea), but the damage being sustained by our seas and coasts - due to pollution and natural menaces - is irreversible and must be stopped, reporters were told during a recent press briefing in Nicosia by the United Nations Environment Program Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP MAP).
The constant threat of a possible terrorist attack has shifted attention away from long-term threats to our environment, reporters from 10 different countries in the region agreed. But, in 20 years, global warming could constitute a greater security threat than terrorism if the world is thrown into turmoil by unmanageable weather conditions and scant natural resources, according to a Pentagon report which came to light last month and was discussed during the Nicosia briefing. And climate change is just one of a host of menaces upsetting the crucial natural balance of our environment which UNEP aims to preserve.
UNEP MAP has achieved much since the 1976 "Barcelona Convention," when EU and Mediterranean countries agreed to establish the legal framework for a plan to reduce pollution in the Mediterranean region - a plan developed over two decades with a series of protocols including one drawn up in 1995 which aims to protect the Mediterranean's biodiversity (the crucial interrelationship of living organisms, aquatic life and the ecosystems of which they form a part).
Multiple threats
But despite the efforts of the plan, the threats to this critical biological balance are now greater than ever, due to the unchecked pace of trade and development, marine biologist and director of a UNEP MAP regional activity center in Tunisia, Zeineb Belkhir, told reporters.
These threats include climate change; eutrophication (the green mossy algae that forms on coastline rocks); industrial and urban pollution; trade and shipping traffic (as well as maritime accidents and illegal discharges from ships); population increases; tourism and uncontrolled coastal urbanization; overfishing; and "invasion" by non-indigenous species (which change the natural dynamics of ecosystems).
Climate change and eutrophication were highlighted as the most significant threats by Belkhir, who conceded that there was little we can do about the first. The second is caused by agriculture and the discharge of sewage and can be reduced by advising governments on cost-efficient, environmentally friendly waste-dumping techniques, she said.
Currently, nearly half (48 percent) of urban centers in the Mediterranean region do not have sewage treatment facilities - implying that waste gets dumped directly into the sea, according to Chedly Rais, a marine biodiversity conservation expert also based in Tunisia. Further, 70-85 percent of waste waters are disposed of untreated, and petrol refineries dump 20,000 tons of petrol into the sea every year, Rais added.
Chemical pollution is another serious concern. Compounds including DDTs and PCBs (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethanes and polychlorinated biphenyls) can provoke reproductive anomalies in fish, according to Rais, who claimed that tests on the central Mediterranean male swordfish show a 14 percent sex inversion, a trend which would result in the eventual extinction of male fish were it to continue. (In human beings, PCBs can produce changes in the immune system, impaired reproduction, but the most common symptoms are skin irritations.)
Maritime traffic is another constant threat to biodiversity, Rais said, stressing that 50 percent of all goods carried at sea are dangerous to some degree, and noting that 28 percent of the world's seaborne oil traffic crosses the Mediterranean (some 200,000 ships cross the Mediterranean every year). Good work is being done by the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Center for the Mediterranean (REMPEC) - which was set up in 1976 following a series of massive oil spills in the late 1960s and early 1970s - but much more needs to be done to ensure that major disasters are avoided, Rais said.
The destructive role played by tourism and uncontrolled coastal urbanization in the Mediterranean is well known. "We should not stop tourism, as it is a main source of income for Mediterranean countries, but the way in which tourism has been developed has been damaging," Baher Kamal, information officer of UNEP MAP's Athens office, remarked. The sprawling development of the tourism sector - along with the population increase - has resulted in more non-biodegradable garbage ending up in the sea, Kamal noted.
To give us an idea of the pollution in the Mediterranean, Kamal cited an example involving the daily use of plastic bags. "If the average Egyptian disposes of three plastic bags every day, the amount of plastic disposed of daily by 70 million Egyptians - and which generally ends up in the sea - would form a 30-centimeter-thick layer of pure plastic across the Mediterranean seabed," he remarked.
The Mediterranean Sea
All the abovementioned threats form a compound menace to the Mediterranean Sea, whose natural characteristics alone (such as a low concentration of nutrients like phosphates and nitrates) suggest that it is fragile and that we should protect it, Rais said.
Compared to the Atlantic, Mediterranean marine communities are rich in species, accommodating smaller individuals with shorter life cycles, Rais said. The Mediterranean is also known for its high proportion of endemic species, he added, noting that we must protect these species and the ecosystems on which they depend if the natural balance in the Mediterranean is to be preserved.
The Posidonia Meadow, a species of marine vegetation, constitutes the most important Mediterranean marine ecosystem. It is a reservoir of biodiversity, providing a habitat for several species and stabilizing the seabed. But it is extremely endangered in the Mediterranean where trawling scrapes it from the seabed, Rais noted.
The Mediterranean also accommodates several endangered species - such as turtles (Caretta-caretta, loggerhead and green turtles) and the Mediterranean monk seal - whose existence is threatened by overfishing and the occupation of sandy shores, Myroula Hadjichristoforou, senior fisheries and marine research officer at the Cypriot Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, told reporters.
Turtles need to come to the beach to reproduce but the availability of turtle nesting sites is steadily decreasing due to tourism development, as can be witnessed in popular resorts such as the Ionian island of Zakynthos, she noted.
And it is not only the well-known species such as turtles that are at risk. Experts say there are more than 100 endangered marine species in the Mediterranean alone.
The health of the world's seas and oceans - and the species and ecosystems they accommodate - is to be the focus of World Environment Day on June 5, when international experts will convene in Mauritius to discuss preservation strategies.
Source: By Niki Kitsantonis - Kathimerini English Edition, 27 Mar 04