Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 34 - 2004
---The Olympic Games may be all about sport but shipping happens to be featuring prominently in the mosaic of Athens 2004.
Ships, shipowners and the sea have been highlighted everywhere. It began with the arrival last week of the Olympic flame in Piraeus on board the famous Olympias, a replica of an ancient Greek trireme. Then came the theme of water in the opening ceremony, and of course the Queen Mary 2 and her retinue of smaller cruiseships lying in Piraeus, as well as the yachts and cabin cruisers that are discreetly hosting the rich and famous.
As we all know, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who heads up the Athens 2004 organising committee, is the wife of entrepreneur and shipowner Theodore Angelopoulos of Metrostar. On the opening night she must undoubtedly have been floating on waves of happiness as everything went swimmingly but the next day water was to play a rather different role in her life.
The couple hosted a party at their fancy Athens villa in Filothei, accompanied by an almost-mandatory firework display. Unfortunately, a stray pyrotechnic set fire to a neighbouring pine-clad hill, necessitating the immediate intervention of a fleet of fire engines and engendering the wrath of local residents. Greek daily Kathimerini writes that Filothei mayor Theofrastos Economidis accused Angelopoulos-Daskalaki of endangering the woodland with a "Roman-style fiesta".
Other big names in the shipping world that have cropped up include the Latsis family, whose yachts are accommodating some high-profile guests. Former US president George Bush together with wife Barbara and granddaughters Barbara and Jenna, daughters of present incumbent George W Bush, are staying on board the latest Latsis acquisition, the Turama, while Russian president Vladimir Putin is enjoying himself on the family's luxury mega-yacht, Alexandros.
The Haji-Ioannou family's Clelia II is hosting unnamed VIPs, while Hollywood magnets Julia Roberts, Jack Nicholson and George Clooney are all said to have been guests on private craft in Piraeus.
The Tsakos family has also attracted attention (see adjacent story). Nikolas Tsakos, president and chief executive of Tsakos Energy Navigation (TEN), also did a stint as a flame-bearer prior to the games. And on the opening day, the consul-general of Greece in New York accompanied TEN finance director Paul Durham onto the podium of the New York Stock Exchange to ring the closing bell in celebration of the Olympics kick-off in the Greek capital.
Source: www.tradewinds.no, Gillian Whittaker Athens, published: 20 August 2004
Shipping bolsters receipts, first-half C/A deficit narrows
---Greece's current account deficit narrowed considerably (by 1,047 million euros) in the first half of 2004, year-on-year, to 4,744 million euros, the Bank of Greece said a statement yesterday.
The improvement mainly reflects a substantial rise in the services surplus, and, secondarily, an increase in the transfers surplus, which together more than offset the widening of the trade deficit. The income account deficit remained virtually unchanged.
The trade deficit grew by 862 million euros, year-on-year, the result of a 1,636-million-euro, or 11.8 percent, increase in the non-oil import bill, which more than offset both a 655-million-euro, or 13.9 percent, rise in non-oil export receipts and a decrease of 119 million in the net oil import bill.
The services surplus grew by 1,682 million euros owing to a big rise (1,464 million) in net transport (mainly shipping) receipts and, to a much lesser extent, an increase in net travel receipts, in spite of a climate of general gloom in the tourism industry.
The 212-million-euro growth of the transfers surplus during the first half of 2004 is accounted for by a 176-million-euro increase in net EU transfers to the general government, largely stemming from the February inflows.
There was a net inflow of 346 million euros in the direct investment account in the January-June period, mainly reflecting the acquisition of mobile operator Panafon by parent company Vodafone in January and the acquisition of General Bank by France's Societe Generale in March.
Over the same period, there was a substantial net inflow of 5,571 million euros in the portfolio investment account, mainly reflecting foreign purchases of Greek government bonds which more than offset residents' outflows to foreign bonds. Finally, a net outflow of 1,838 million euros under "other investment" is mainly attributed to banks' sizable outflows to deposits and repos abroad.
At the end of June, Greece's reserve assets came to 3.3 billion euros. In the first months of 2003, the Bank of Greece diversified its portfolio, reducing its non-euro area currency holdings, which are included in reserve assets, and increasing its higher-yield or euro-denominated assets (mainly bonds issued by euro area member states, which are not included in reserve assets). Given that there is less of a need to maintain high foreign currency reserves, by the above diversification the Bank of Greece improved the return on its investments, said the statement.
In June 2004, the current account deficit decreased slightly year-on-year. The chief factor underlying this improvement was the widening of the services surplus and, secondarily, the narrowing of the income account deficit, whereas the trade deficit grew and the transfers surplus declined.
Source: http://www.ekathimerini.com/, 19 Aug 04
EU launches green paper on pre-trial detention measures
---BRUSSELS has launched a review of pre-trial supervision measures aimed at preventing injustices such as the extended detention in Spain of Prestige master Apostoulos Mangouras.
The European Commission yesterday adopted a green paper on mutual recognition of non-custodial alternatives to pre-trial detention with the aim of "making it possible for a suspect arrested in an EU member state in which he is not resident to be subject to a non-custodial supervision measure in his or her state of residence until the trial takes place".
At present, non-resident suspects are often remanded in custody while residents benefit from alternative measures such as reporting to police authorities, the commission said. The green paper, designed to encourage debate, is expected to be followed by legislative proposals allowing suspects such as Captain Mangouras to await trial under supervision in their own country.
"Mutual recognition of non-custodial pre-trial supervision would reduce the excessive use and length of pre-trial detention, which is one of the main causes of prison overpopulation," the commission said in a statement.
"It would also reinforce the right to freedom and presumption of innocence throughout the EU and decrease the risk of discriminatory treatment."
In April the European Parliament called for Capt Mangouras to be allowed home to Greece pending his trial. Dirk Sterck's committee on safety at sea called on Spain's judges to release the 69-year-old master of the Prestige and relax his bail conditions in Barcelona.
The captain is not in jail but has had to report to police in Spain since his ill-fated tanker broke up off the coast of Galicia more than two years ago.
The green paper launch was not inspired by Capt Mangouras' case, though it is a good example of why legislation is needed, a commission spokesman said yesterday. Last year's pre-trial detention of French rock star Bertrand Cantat in Lithuania provides a similar high profile example, the spokesman said.
Source: www.lloydslist.com, By Justin Stares in Brussels- Friday August 20 2004
London's shipping status on the rocks
---LONDON risks losing its crown as the world's biggest shipping centre in the face of aggressive overseas competition, according to a hardhitting new report.
Shanghai, Singapore and Athens are all actively building maritime services hubs. For the time being London remains the world's most important centre for ship broking, legal services and insurance. But it could cede its pre-eminent position in as little as ten years.
Threats to London include possible reforms to nondomicile tax status, under which wealthy foreigners living in the UK do not have to pay tax on their overseas income. A change would encourage Greek ship owners, the backbone of the UK shipping community, to desert London.
New York lost its foreign ship-owning community after abolishing favourable tax status. The British Government has yet to end uncertainty over the non-domicile tax issue.
Richard Sayer, chairman of Maritime London, urged the Goverment to do more to support British maritime services. He said: "A number of foreign countries are putting a lot of weight behind promoting their own maritime centres and we would be foolish if we ignored that."
A Maritime London spokesman said: "Something like 40 per cent of the world's ships are owned in the Far East. London is still at the centre of things but people inevitably go nearer their clients."
He added: "It's a changing world and London has to get out there and actively market itself, not just complacently expect the situation to remain the same."
In Europe, competitors include Piraeus at Athens, which has made huge improvements to its communications infrastructure. London's Greek shipping community is increasingly relocating technical and ship management activities there.
Nearly 60 per cent of those surveyed said London would no longer be the world's pre-eminent maritime services centre in 10 to 20 years. Many cite the development of regional centres similar to London located where physical demand is growing and where the public sector is creating the right conditions.
London benefits from a cluster of maritime services, which includes the Baltic Exchange. Pressures include high property and high salary costs.
Options for London include developing a wider perception of itself as a national maritime services cluster, calling on expertise from Southampton, Glasgow and Liverpool. Their lower cost bases could help to see off the threat from cheaper overseas competitors.
Source: http://business.timesonline.co.uk, By Jon Ashworth, 16 Aug 04
Another notch up for the price bar
---ALTHOUGH the S&P lists are thinning as attention turns both to the Olympic Games and annual holidays, a range of recent deals indicate that prices continue to firm in many sectors - and that many individuals and companies continue to make small fortunes. Following up on last week's announcement by Stealth Martime that it had sold VL Chios (239,783dwt, 1986), Stealth's Harry Vafias tells Fairplay that the tanker was sold for $24M, after having acquired it for $15.5M a year and a half ago. Selling the vessel with a "low TC" presumably called for some discount on market rates for the single-hull tanker, but trading the vessel in the tremendous spot market since its acquisition has meant another $2M in profits, says Vafias. That brings total profits on the ship to about $11M. At the same time, Vafias says Stealth "will be looking to acquire newbuilding contracts and/or resales when prices return to reasonable levels". These, he tells Fairplay, are about $40M for Aframax and $70M (instead of today's $90M) for VLCCs. Stealth might have a long wait, given further signs of market firming.
New Wisdom (298,033dwt, 1993) and New Vision (279,864dwt, 1994) were reported sold for an en-bloc $119M by broker EA Gibson. As the broker points out, these vessels were acquired in January for a mere $90M. At the same time, the price probably reflects a discount, given the relatively low timecharter rate attached. OSG has reportedly sold its VLCC Dundee for $56M, in a deal so far not confirmed. The 1993-built tanker is large at 300,000dwt, so would attract a premium anyway, broking sources tell Fairplay. But the sale - believed to be to Dynacom, which is said to be very active in its pursuit of yet more tonnage - would suggest yet another mark-up in values for the sector. HSBC Shipping Services says: "This represents a marked increase from the last similar sale at the end of July [$48.5M for Apollo Ohshima (269,605dwt, 1993)] although the difference in size and single/single configuration of [the latter] may go some way to explaining the difference in price." Indeed, as Clarkson observes, the double-sided Dundee would face compulsory phase-out five years after a single-skinned vessel of the same age.
Not to be outdone, bulker values continue to command attention, and similarly eye-popping profits for the astute investor. This week's gold medal probably goes to clients of Transmed, reported by Clarkson to be "very close to committing" two double-hull, 170,00dwt Capesizes on order for June and December 2005 from their Chinese yard, for $57M each to German owners. By the broker's calculation that would mean collective profits of $28M on the $114M investment, although other sources put the premium over contract at as much as $38M. Less spectacular but still highly profitable, Arrow Chartering reports the sale of the Panamax Anina (73,000dwt, 1996) for $28.7M. As the broker observes, owner Arne Blystad has made good profits on the deal, buying the vessel for $26.5M late last year and fixing it for 12 months for $49,000/day. On the face of it, a timecharter rate well above today's market might have done much to improve the selling price. But for HSBC Shipping Services, the lack of saleable candidates on the market makes it "unsurprising that the buyers had to pay a $2M increment over the last-sold, same-age Pacific Carrier."
Chinese buyers are said to have picked up Anina, and China also remains active at the ageing end of the spectrum: the 20-year-old Free Beta (60,201dwt) is reported as having been sold to Chinese interests for $13.25M. This is close to last month's average price for the type, according to Clarkson data. Free Beta was sold en bloc with similar vintage Free Atlas (39,365dwt), which achieved $9.5M. This also suggests that prices at the smaller end remain relatively unmoved over last done, although still very firm. However, it remains difficult to satiate the desire for ships among investors. Up to 18 parties are reported by EA Gibson to have inspected the Capesize Heng Shan (169,168dwt, 1999). There remains an appetite for ships across all ranges. Given that freight markets in both wet and dry are usually boosted in the last quarter, the bar will probably be raised yet again.
Source: Fairplay International Shipping Weekly 19 Aug 2004