Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 24 - 2004

 

Greek ship owners test the waters in high profile Posidonia visit

---The Board of Directors of the Union of Greek Shipowners paid the traditional visit to Posidonia at the Piraeus Port Authority Exhibition Centre (OLP) today, June 10th, 2004.
The group, which arrived at OLP at 1200 this afternoon, consisted of the President of the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping (HCS), Mr. Spyros Alexandratos, the President of the Union of Greek Shipowners, Mr. Nicos Efthymiou, the Union's former President, Mr. Ioannis Lyras, Vice President Mr. Theodore Veniamis and members Mr. George Gratsos, Mr. Elias Kouloukoudis, Mr. Nicos Pappadakis, Mr. Tassos Papagiannopoulos, Mr. Spyros Mavrikis, Mr. Stefanos Lekanides, Mr. Leonidas Demetriades-Eugenides, Mr. Jacob Peradinos, Mr. Nicos Goulandris, Mr. Dimitris Koutroubousis, Mr. Costas Hartofilis, Mr. Dimitris Bagdatopoulos and the Union's General Manager, Mr. Stratos Xynos.
During their three-hour tour, Greece's leading ship-owners visited the stands of most of the major companies present at Posidonia 2004, as well as the exhibition's national pavilions, pausing for brief discussions and posing for photo opportunities.
Meanwhile, today's Greek business press published a study on bank financing of the country's shipping industry. According to the 'Financing Greek Shipping' study, conducted by maritime affairs consultants, XRTC, in the two years between the last and the current editions of Posidonia, 53 banks and financial institutions have credited the Greek shipping industry with loans worth US$ 24.8 billion, a 31% increase.
Asked to comment on the report's findings, Mr. Efthymiou said: "This major increase in financing volumes confirms what all of us in the shipping industry know all too well, which is that over the last three years there have been significant fleet-renewal activities which have contributed to the overall growth of Greece's maritime sector. Combined with an encouraging global economic outlook, Greek shipping will continue to flourish."
More than 1,650 exhibitors from 74 countries participate in the 19th edition of Posidonia, which is expected to attract some 20,000 visitors from the Greek and international shipping industry.
Posidonia, the International Shipping Exhibition 2004 is sponsored by: The Greek Ministry of Mercantile Marine, the Greek Ministry of the Aegean, the Municipality of Piraeus, the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, the Union of Greek Shipowners, the Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee, the Union of Shipowners of Mediterranean Cargo Vessels, the Greek Association of Passenger Ship Companies and the Union of Coastal Passengership Owners.
Source: Piraeus, 10/06/2004


Speech: E.G.E. Embiricos, Chairman of the Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee
Speech at the Posidonia Maritime Policy Forum
Minister, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I would like to outline some of the expectations of the European shipping industry in relation to the maritime policy of the European Union and the IMO.
First of all, let me address expectations in relation to the European Union.
I believe that we should be entitled to expect that the E.U. recognize the importance of shipping to the Union. A large fleet under E.U. control is necessary so that Europe does not have to rely on others to transport the majority of its maritime trade. This is essential since many other nations with large fleets consider that their domestic maritime sector is part and parcel of their overall national industrial strategy. This industrial strategy may not be in harmony with European interests. It would therefore, in my view, be unacceptable to have to rely on foreign fleets to service European trade. This could be particularly perilous in times of heightened tension or of conflict.
We must also recognize that a substantial European fleet is necessary so as to create the European seafarers of the future. We need these seafarers not only to man the European vessels of the future but also to man the shore based maritime cluster. The European fleet, European seafarers, and the shore based maritime cluster form a virtuous cycle which will ensure the continuation of our maritime traditions well into the future.
Furthermore, our maritime infrastructure, in of itself, is of significant importance to Europe's economy, for it is conservatively estimated that in nations with well developed maritime sectors, each job at sea gives rise to at least four jobs ashore.
Yet, recruiting the next generation of European seafarers will be a challenging task, since Europe's high standard of living renders a career at sea comparatively less attractive. We must also recognize that, because of the high cost of European seafarers, European shipping faces a serious competitive challenge from our friends in the Far East, whose efficiency and low cost operation is to be admired. Competitiveness is of prime importance in a commodity industry such as shipping.
Thus, I believe that we are entitled to expect that the E.U. should recognize both the importance of its shipping industry and the challenges faced by that industry and should therefore be supportive of its maritime sector. This was well understood by Neil Kinnock when he was transport Commissioner and this is no doubt why he introduced positive measures to enhance European shipping's competitiveness.
Unfortunately, more recently, the current Commissioner for Transport and Energy has taken a different tack. Rather than viewing it as her responsibility to promote European shipping, she has introduced misguided policies, primarily motivated by parochial considerations and perceived local political advantage. Rather than seeking to support the industry, she has deemed it more expedient to act as an over zealous policeman. The result, all too often, has been over regulation and bad regulation. When the public image of the industry has come under attack, instead of seeking to put the record straight, she has joined in the attack. The result of all this has been most detrimental to European shipping.
When I say that the current Transport Commission's policy has been a misguided policy, I do not say so lightly and I shall now outline my reasons.
1. There has been a conscious attempt by the European Commission to undermine the I.M.O. This has occurred despite the fact that shipping, being an international industry, can only effectively be regulated by the IMO.
The Commission's attempts to undermine the IMO have come both through unilateral action and through the threat of unilateral action. There can be no doubt that recent E.U. unilateral action in relation to international maritime regulation clearly undermined the IMO. The threat of unilateral action, however, is even more distasteful. Both after the loss of the "Erika" and after the loss of the "Prestige", the E.U. Commission told the IMO: "Do what we tell you to do for otherwise we shall act unilaterally." I believe that this was a most unfortunate approach, which I hope will never be repeated.
2. The Transport Directorate has sought to muzzle the maritime nations of Europe. This has been done in two ways. There has been an attempt to force Member States to accept E.U. common positions, proposed by the Commission, even when these common positions have not been agreed to by the Council of Ministers. There is also an ongoing attempt by the Commission to join the IMO, the long run intention being to deprive the European maritime nations of their voice at IMO
3. Twice, first after the loss of the "Erika" and then after the loss of the "Prestige", the European Commission has sought to introduce and to impose on IMO phase-out schemes for single hull tankers, which were both ill conceived and totally unworkable. Fortunately, on each occasion, the IMO managed to modify the proposals so as to render them workable. However, had the European Commission's phase-out proposals been accepted by the IMO, there would have been a major train wreck with insufficient tanker tonnage to transport the world's petroleum requirements.
I should add in this regard that after the loss of the "Erica" the GSCC communicated with the Transport Directorate seeking to explain the likely causes of that casualty. We drew the Commission's attention to the dangers posed by accelerated corrosion in pre-MARPOL tankers, which had been converted to MARPOL requirements, when carrying heated cargoes adjacent to converted and uncoated ballast tanks. These advices were ignored in favour of the Commission's phase out proposals which seemed more politically expedient.
Yet our advice, had it been heeded, might have prevented the loss of the Prestige".
4. The European Commission has sought to criminalize accidental pollution. This was yet another most unfortunate proposal. First of all, if accidental pollution were criminalized in the E.U., the Member States would thereby be breaching their Treaty obligations under the MARPOL Convention, which makes it quite clear that accidental pollution is not a criminal matter. Secondly, criminalization of accidental pollution would constitute a huge disincentive to those young men and women thinking of joining the seafaring profession. I have sought to explain how important it is, and how hard it is, to create new European seafarers. The Commission with its proposal would seriously undermine the recruitment effort. Thirdly, the Commission's attempt to criminalize accidental pollution encouraged the Spanish Government in their unjustifiable action of keeping Captain Mangouras in detention for such a very long time.
5. The Commission has put forward proposals seeking to weaken the shipowner's right to limit his liability for oil pollution. These proposals are contrary to the provisions of the Civil Liability Convention. They are also misguided and counter productive. The supposed aim is to assist in the elimination of sub-standard vessels, but the thought process is defective. The rogue operator of sub-standard tonnage has no intention whatsoever of fulfilling his obligations and meeting his liabilities. On the contrary he seeks to operate as cheaply as possible, thus maximizing his profit, and has every intention to run for the hills if something goes wrong. Unlimited liability is no threat to him. Yet for the vast majority of shipowners, who are responsible businessmen, unlimited liability is unacceptable, since unlimited liability is uninsurable. Responsible owners would be unwilling to trade on a substantially uninsured basis. Thus the Commission's proposal would penalize the vast majority of owners who are responsible businessmen and discourage them from participating in tanker shipping, in a futile attempt to influence a handful of rogue operators. This is a clear indication that the current Commissioner for Transport cares little for the shipping industry.
There are many other examples of the failed maritime policy of the Commission, which I do not have time to deal with today. I shall give you but one example. The I.M.O. agreed to ban the use of Halons for fire fighting purposes, prospectively, on all new vessels built after 1994. This was done for environmental reasons. The European Commission sought to introduce this ban retroactively for existing European Flag vessels built prior to 1994. However, replacing the Halon fire fighting system is either not possible on certain vessels or exceedingly expensive on other vessels. Thus the European Commission's proposal would have created an uneven playing field, placing European Flag vessels at a disadvantage.
What then should be our expectations in relation to the European Union? I believe that we are entitled to expect that the Transport Commissioner and those in the Transport Directorate should work with the shipping industry rather than against it. I believe that we are entitled to expect that the European Commission should be supportive of its shipping industry in both deeds and words, and should seek to enhance its public image, rather than to sully it. I believe that the European Commission should recognize that E.U. shipping policy should largely be formulated by Europe's maritime nations, which have the necessary knowledge and expertise, which is largely lacking in the Commission. Let us hope that the new Commission will adopt such an enlightened maritime policy.
And now a few words about I.M.O. I.M.O. has been and continues to be a great success story. It is the only body which can regulate an international industry such as shipping.
I.M.O. has had great success in its work. The SOLAS and MARPOL Conventions, the Enhanced Survey Programme for Tankers and Bulk-carriers, the revision of the STCW Convention, the ISM Code and the new ISPS measures are but a few of its achievements.
It is difficult to over emphasise the great contributions of I.M.O. to tanker and bulk-carrier safety. The introduction of inert gas systems for tankers, combined with the enhanced survey programme, has resulted in a marked decrease of tanker casualties and consequently a very significant decrease in oil pollution. Inert gas has not only minimized the risk of explosion in cargo tanks, but has also significantly reduced the rate of corrosion in those tanks. This regime, when combined with the rigorous inspections of the enhanced survey programme, has made tankers some of the safest ships afloat. The MARPOL Convention, furthermore, has practically eliminated operational pollution.
The increasing incidence of bulk-carrier casualties, was largely arrested by the enhanced survey programme introduced through I.M.O. in combination, more recently, with requirements initiated through I.M.O. for higher IACS standards to apply to both existing and new building bulk carriers.
So what should we be asking of I.M.O.? Our requests should be twofold. First of all, keep up the good work. Secondly, however, when introducing new regulations please recognize the reality of the shipping industry. This reality consists of an industry in which the vast majority of owners are good, responsible and professional owners. This is only but a very small minority of sub-standard operators. This large majority of responsible owners should not be disadvantaged or penalized in an attempt to control the few sub-standard operators. Thus, there is no cause for over regulation. Unnecessary regulation should be avoided. Regulation should be based on sound technical considerations and not on political ones. The rogue operators can effectively be eliminated through the systems and regulations which are already in existence but which need to be better applied. These include proper Class surveys, proper Port State inspection, proper Flag State control, the implementation of responsible policies by charterers, the implementation of responsible policies by underwriters and, last but not least, the mandating of common high standards for the construction of robust vessels that are designed for the 25 year life span during which they can be expected to operate.
What is required is not much more new regulation, but the better enforcement of existing rules.
European shipping, thanks largely to the Greek influence, has been a tremendous success story for an affluent society. One need only compare it to the U.S. maritime sector to see what has been accomplished. I believe we can all agree that European shipping is well worthy of support.
Source: Eugenides Foundation, June 7, 2004


Outstanding loans to Greek shipping firms rise to $24.8 billion
---The outstanding loans of Greek-owned shipping companies rose to $24.8 billion in May 2004, a 31 percent rise from May 2002, according to a report by XRTC, a subsidiary of bank Credit Lyonnais.
This loan portfolio is held by a total of 53 banks, from Greece and Cyprus (13), Germany (11), France (seven), the United States (five), Great Britain (four), the Netherlands (three), two each from Ireland, Italy, Norway and Switzerland, and one each from Luxembourg and South Korea. German banks actually hold the biggest share of the loans (32 percent), compared to 21 percent for Greek and Cypriot banks.
Of these loans, 91 percent go to ocean-going shipping firms and only 9 percent to passenger shippers.
The 13 Greek and Cypriot banks active in lending to the shipping sector are the National Bank of Greece, Alpha Credit Bank, EFG Eurobank Ergasias, Aegean Baltic Bank, First Business Bank, Piraeus Bank, Emporiki, General, Laiki, Egnatia, Agricultural, Omega and Bank of Cyprus. Of these, by far the most important are National Bank and Piraeus Bank. While National Bank has traditionally been the largest Greek lender to shipping firms, Piraeus Bank has arrived in second place through its recent takeovers of Xiosbank, Macedonia Thrace Bank, the Hellenic Industrial Development Bank (ETBA), as well as the Greek operations of Credit Lyonnais and National Westminster. Emporiki is in third place, slowly increasing its portfolio.
According to the report, it was British banks that showed the greatest increase in their portfolio of loans to Greek shipping firms (61 percent), although this is mostly due to one bank, the rapidly expanding Royal Bank of Scotland, whose loan portfolio to Greek shippers has nearly doubled since 2002. German and Greek banks' portfolios have increased by 43 percent and 42 percent, respectively, while French and Dutch banks also increased their portfolios significantly. On the opposite end, US banks, mainly the Bank of New York and JP Morgan Chase,have seen their portfolios shrink 22 percent over the past two years.
"During the past two years, profit margins in the financing of the shipping industry declined significantly as the result of increased competition among the banks dealing with Greek shipping firms and improved market conditions that led shippers to raise the number of orders," XRTC Managing Director Giorgos Xiradakis told Kathimerini. "As a result, the banks introduced a greater range of products and services, such as, for example, lease financing, tonnage tax and off-balance-sheet financing in order to make up for the lower profit margins. It is worth noting that profit margins on loans taken by Greek-owned shipping companies are significantly lower than in the global market," he added.
Source: www.eKathimerini.com, By Nikos Bardounias - 12 Jun 04


Greek ordering spree continues
---SSG-PIRAEUS: During the period 1999-2006, the total number of Greek orders of large container carriers, tankers and bulk carriers could reach 570 vessels, according to a study made by Rolf S. Olsson of Severin Marine Tech. The forecast was however done before IMO took the somewhat unexpected decision to not require double-hull for bulk carriers.
"This about/turn will probably mean fewer orders, maybe down towards a total of 540 vessels", says Rolf S. Olsson to SSG. The study includes container carriers between 2,400-7,000 TEU, bulk carriers of 40,000-180,000 DWT and tankers of 60,000-450,000 DWT. This year Greek owners are expected to order the same amount of new vessels in these segments as last year, about 80. For 2005 and 2006 ordering is expected to decrease.
Source: www.shipgaz.com, Published: 08.06.04 14.55


Primal Tankers rumored to be mulling US ipo
Source: Freshly Minted, www.marinemoney.com, 10 Jun 04


Golden Energy mulls New York tanker listing
---Freight rates offer opportunity for debut on key location for quoted tanker companies, write Tony Gray and Christopher Mayer in Athens- Friday
GOLDEN Energy Management, the tanker arm of Greece's Restis Group, is considering a New York listing for the $600m tanker fleet under its control.
Against the background of historically strong freight rates, Golden Energy sees a window of opportunity for a listing in the next six to 12 months.
Golden Energy commercially manages a fleet of 12 existing and newbuilding tankers in the crude and products trades.
A major attraction for investors could prove to be the company's very young fleet, which will have been built between 2003 and 2005 by South Korean shipyards.
Restis group finance director Kostas Koutsoubelis said the two methods of securing a listing would both be evaluated - buying a company with an established stock market quotation or an initial public offering.
Mr Koutsoubelis, who stressed that the plan was still on the drawing board, said the market value of the fleet was between $550m and $600m.
"If you assume there are loans of $250m or $300m, this leaves equity of about $300m," he pointed out.
First option for a listing would be the New York Stock Exchange, Mr Koutsoubelis said.
The 'big board' has become the key location for quoted tanker companies and in recent years Stelmar Shipping, General Maritime and Tsakos Energy Navigation have undertaken IPOs.
Mr Koutsoubelis believes the group's experience in the high yield bond market through Enterprises Shipholding, although it ended unhappily, will stand it in good stead.
"It was a very positive experience to have gained and we now know the capital markets better," he explained.
"We are used to doing roadshows and presentations."
Mr Koutsoubelis said the group had maintained the discipline of compiling quarterly financial figures and making presentations to its bankers.
Golden Energy's fleet, including vessels under construction, comprises six panamax product carriers (70,000 dwt each), four medium range product carriers (51,000 dwt), and two suezmax tankers (160,000 dwt).
The Restis Group, best known for its dry bulk and reefer operations, established Golden Energy Management as the 'wet' arm of the company in 2001.
The intention, which is on schedule to be fulfilled, was to build a 'model' tanker fleet of 12 vessels by 2005.
Enterprises Shipping and Trading, the rest of the businesses forming the group, generated revenue in excess of $1bn in operating revenue in 2003. It ranks among the five largest shipping groups in Greece.
Source: Lloyds List, Front Page News, June 11 2004,


Strintzis resignation has Greek ferry market in a spin
---While international shipping focussed on the happenings at Posidonia, many in the Greek shipping community were discussing the implications of the sudden resignation of Gerassimos Strintzis from Athens Stock Exchange-listed Blue Star Maritime, until a few weeks ago known as Strintzis Lines Shipping.
Citing "personal reasons", Strintzis has also resigned his seat on the board of the listed Attica Enterprises, the group controlled by Pericles Panagopulos which holds a 48.6% stake in Blue Star. Michalis Sakellis, Blue Star's md and a close associate of Strintzis, has been elected to Blue Star's board.
The abrupt resignation of Strintzis, a leading personality on Greece's passenger ship scene, has added even more spice to a fast developing situation in the vast ferry network. The sector is undergoing a major reorganisation as it struggles to come to grips with the liberalised marketplace and a growing interest on the part of other European operators in Greece.
The resignation by Strintzis is seen as the first move in the restructuring of the sector and Newsfront has been told by those in the sector that Strintzis is about to lead an initiative of shareholders and banks to take control of Hellas Flying Dolphins by outbidding Minoan Lines at HFD's agm. Strintzis has been replaced as chairman by Charalambos Paschalis and as ceo by Michael Sakellis, a close associate. He has now also resigned from the board of Attica group which recently said it was considering "innovative initiatives" in passenger services.
Cabotage officially ended December 31, 2003, and while post-cabotage legislation had been introduced November 2002, the administration, owners and officials in Brussels are still squabbling over some key elements of the legislation.
Though there have been under-currents of disharmony within the ranks of the leading owners, the resignation of Strintzis, was a surprise. It's understood he is not going to be replaced on the now eight-member Attica board which was confirmed at the group's recent annual meeting of shareholders. Anthony Strintzis, a brother of Gerassimos, remains a director of Blue Star. The move has led to increased outside interest in the upcoming agms of HFD, Greece's largest ferry operator, on June 17 and that of Minoan, June 20. Minoan owns 31.6% of HFD.
Panagopulos, Costas Klironomos, Minoan's chairman, John Vardinoyannis, chairman of Anek Lines and Strintzis are the strongest personalities in the Greek ferry sector and there are rumours that representatives of shareholders in HFD and the company's bankers have approached Strintzis about joining the HFD board.
At the same time, there are now 10 candidates for four seats on the Minoan board, and leading Italian investor/ferry operator Romano Artioli is not one of them, though he has increased his holding to around 10%.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 8 Jun 04


Shipyard lawsuit revealing
---Legal action by Germany's HDW over the Skaramangas shipyard sale have shed light on sideline talks held with Greek officials.
A lawsuit filed against Piraeus Bank by German shipyard HDW over the purchase of the Skaramangas shipyard from the Greek bank shines light on a series of sideline negotiations that also took place between the Germans and the country's previous finance and development ministers.
As part of the lawsuit, HDW is disclosing detailed information regarding meetings, promises and agreements it had made with ETBA, the formerly state-owned bank from whom it bought the shipyards.
ETBA has since been purchased by Piraeus Bank, a publicly traded bank and one of the country's largest.
By disclosing this information, HDW is effectively confirming that it was aware of its role in an illegal deal, which failed to meet any transparency standards.
Two years after the completion of the sale, the new shareholders are essentially turning against the Greek State, from whom it bought the shipyards and which happens to be the Skaramangas shipyard's only customer.
Greece is one of HDW's largest customers, contributing about 25 percent to its annual turnover.
Recent contracts between the navy and the Skaramangas shipyard amount to 3 billion euros, 1.5 billion euros of which was awarded the day the privatization deal was signed.
Defense Ministry sources say that the costs of these projects are about 30 percent above market value.
The latest revelations regarding the sale of the Greek shipyard and the content of the seven lawsuits filed on June 1 include information which confirms that the contract awarded to HDW was a foregone conclusion and not the result of a tender process involving another six candidates, one of which was HDW's main competitor in Europe.
The special relationship between the Greek State and HDW goes back to 1996, when it was awarded contracts to build four submarines for a cost far higher than any other estimates given.
Another noteworthy point is that the lack of information surrounding the building of these four submarines put off other European shipyards from participating in the second stage of the Skaramangas shipyard sale, therefore limiting interested companies to HDW and the Tavoularis group.
The next stage aimed at deciding how the second bidder would be ruled out of the tender process, leaving the Germans to hold the only viable offer.
The lawsuit also shows that HDW demanded clarification from ETBA in relation to the Skaramangas shipyard's contractual obligations to the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) and the passenger shipping company Strintzis Lines, on a Greek state investment program aimed at upgrading the shipyards west of Athens, environmental and tax issues and the accuracy of some of its balance sheets.
HDW claims in its lawsuit that ETBA recommended the Germans drop the claims accompanying its offer in order to keep the company alive in the tender process.
"As a means of offsetting this request, ETBA promised that it will draw up a separate agreement which would guarantee a number of these claims... this would act as a way for HDW to present a bid without any accompanying terms or conditions," according to the lawsuit.
HDW accepted this recommendation, and was therefore awarded the sale.
In the period which immediately followed and until the deal was initially signed, talks were then held mostly over the Skaramangas shipyard's obligations to OSE, regarding a 120-million-euro contract.
This issue was raised after HDW went through the Skaramangas shipyard's financial records.
HDW had also suggested a new time frame for the sale process; however, ETBA appeared to want to close the issue.
The lawsuit goes on to say that then-Chairman Giorgos Kasmas of ETBA, along with the finance, development and transport ministers from the previous Socialist government, jointly signed a letter promising to meet the Germans' demands but did not respect their commitments, resulting in the saga continuing in court.
Source: By Chryssa Liaggou - Kathimerini, 7 Jun 04


New hope for Mangouras
---PROSPECTS of a change in the judicial situation of Prestige captain Apostolos Mangouras have altered, according to lawyers close to his case, after they issued a new appeal to allow him to return home. "The difference this time is that the judge in Concorbion is taking much longer than usual to comment on the appeal. In previous cases, we have received swift negative responses to our appeals," a lawyer in Bilbao, close to the case told Fairplay today. Lawyers acting for Mangouras filed a new appeal two months ago following Spain's 14 March general election. Since then they have not received word on their appeal from judicial authorities. "It makes no sense that a European citizen should not be allowed home prior to the trial especially when Greece has said it would make sure that Mangouras would return for the eventual trial," he said. "For this reason we believe it may be the case that the judge has not taken a quick decision on the matter," he said.
Source: Fairplay Daily News, 10 Jun 2004