Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 37 - 2004

 

Intertanko: Greek owners grasp the opportunity

---The Greek owners and operators have been among the clear leaders in tanker ownership as they grasp the opportunity to upgrade and modernise their fleets at a time of strong freight markets and realistic newbuilding prices.
The fleet controlled by the Greek tanker owners has increased by over 50% since 1994, while over the same period the total world tanker and combined carrier fleet has increased by just 9%. The Greek controlled tanker fleet (all types of tankers) is the biggest in the world, being some 27 m dwt bigger than the Japanese fleet (including orders) and some 51 m dwt bigger than the U.S. fleet.
As of mid-2004, Greek tanker owners controlled 777 tankers and combined carriers (above 10,000 dwt) totalling 73.8 million dwt.
The Greek tanker newbuilding orderbook is also the biggest in the world, almost twice as big (1.8 times) as the Japanese in deadweight terms and more than twice (2.2 times) as big as the Japanese in number terms, and more than 3.5 times as big as the Danish orderbook (in third place).
Is there something that the tanker industry can learn here on the image front? And what will the Chinese-owned tanker fleet be looking like by 2008?
Source: Intertanko News, 8 Sep 2004


Hellenic in push to vary workload
---A Greek shipyard is breaking away from dependency on naval contracts.
Hellenic Shipyards Skaramanga (HSY) has taken up many column-inches in recent months, not all for reasons its management would have wished.
But the message now being put across by its chairman and chief executive Dieter Goerlitz is that the shipyard is strong and making a push to win commercial jobs to supplement the naval work that is its main breadwinner.
Goerlitz reveals that HSY is hoping to win a subcontracting job that would see it restart work on two passengerships ordered at the yard but never completed.
Last month, Greek passengership operator Hellas Flying Dolphins confirmed it had bought the hulls of two ropax vessels from Hellenic. Norwegian shipbuilder Fosen Mekaniske Verksteder was reported to be in line for completion of the first hull, probably at subsidiary Bruce's Shipyard in Sweden.
The 10,000-gt ships were ordered by Strintzis Lines in 1999 when HSY was managed by Brown & Root but after the Greeks resumed management in 2002, they killed off the contract.
The first hull is finished up to deck No 5 and has two more decks to be built but the second is still in sections.
Goerlitz says HSY is working on an offer to build the second hull up to deck No 3 and he harbours hopes that the second ship can also be completed at the
Losses from the two Strintzis ships were one of the issues included in a clutch of lawsuits lodged by Hellenic's owning company, Greek Naval Shipyard Holding (GNSH), at the end of May against private Piraeus Bank. Piraeus bought out the yard's former 51% shareholder, the state-controlled Hellenic Bank for Industrial Development (ETBA).
The total claim of EUR 190m ($235m) is to offset losses, principally from a series of contracts to build rolling stock for the Greek state railway organisation, OSE, and other problems. GNSH maintains it was unaware of this at the time it purchased the yard.
Goerlitz says if the action results in any compensation, the money would be paid directly to Hellenic.
The yard could well do with an injection of funds. In 2003 it chalked up losses of EUR 83m and has accumulated losses of EUR 198m. Goerlitz suggests that this year the yard will again see losses: "Not tremendously less but at least less."
Nevertheless, he is confident that cash flow is heading in the right direction. He says that in the next fiscal year HSY will be able to include naval work that has been contracted but is not yet in the order profile.
Projects for the Hellenic Navy include the construction of three of a series of four fuel-cell submarines. The first in the series has been built at Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) in Kiel. Simultaneous building of the three, due to come out of HSY, is going on in a huge new submarine-building hall that has been constructed.
The last of a series of four gunboats is now being outfitted at the yard and is due for delivery in November.
In addition, Goerlitz says the yard is setting its hopes on winning orders for at least four more gunboats, which would be worth some EUR 180m.
HSY is also set to profit from naval repair work. The first of six frigates has just gone into the shipyard to begin a medium-life modernisation project that will run through to 2009.
"My dream is that we could do most of the repairs for the navy instead of the navy doing them," Goerlitz said.
Commercial repair work is high on the agenda at HSY. As the largest shipyard in the Eastern Mediterranean, the facility has one graving dock that can accommodate vessels of up to 500,000 dwt and a second for vessels of up to 250,000 dwt.
Goerlitz says the yard is hoping to prove its capabilities. Last year it won kudos for the major repair of Stelmar's 96,000-dwt aframax tanker Keymar (built 1993), which had to have 2,200 tonnes of steel replaced after a grounding off Algeria.
"We have to get across, especially to the Greek owners, that this is one of the largest Greek shipyards that is very capable of performing any type of repair," he said.
Goerlitz admits that repairs were down when he took over at Hellenic and that a substantial amount of his time is taken up with this sector.
Although HSY subcontracts quite a few personnel from the nearby Perama repair zone, Goerlitz feels that the competition from the centre for small repair shops is unfair and that the government needs to even the playing field between the Perama yards and the large shipyards.
Nonetheless, it seems as if already HSY's efforts on the repair side are having some effect. Currently a Norwegian-controlled suezmax is at the facility for drydocking as well as Seatrade's 270,000-cbf reefer Nova Klipper (built 1992) and Greek owner Mykonos Shipping's 71,700-dwt bulk carrier Marinchris (built 1993). The bulker was involved in a grounding at the entrance to Navarino Bay last month.
Source: www.tradewinds.no, Gillian Whittaker Athens, published: 10 September 2004


Greek Fleet facts
---Official Marine ministry figures most recently released reveal that in August there was a further decrease in gross tonnage, as well as in the number of vessels under the Greek flag as in the month, five ships of 125,132gt entered the home registry against 11 deletions of 358,008gt.
According to running data maintained by Newsfront, the national flag fleet [units of at least 100gt] stood end-August at 2,085 hulls of an aggregate 30,937,179 , eight vessels and 332,997gt more than at the beginning of the year.
Of the five ships raising the Greek flag, three were registered under 'Article 13', two of which were newbuildings. Newbuildings inscribed on the Piraeus registry were: the 156,000dwt tanker Olympic Future, delivered from Namura Shipbuilding, Japan into the Olympic Shipping & Management operation; and the 63,350dwt bulker Ioannis Zafirakis, delivered from Namura Shipbuilding, Japan, into the Sun Enterprises operation. The other 'Article 13' vessel raising the Greek flag in August was the 4,844dwt cement carrier, Eviacement I, built 1978, controlled by Sirios Shipmanagement.
Of the nine 'Article 13' deletions, all were declared as straight sales. These were the 28,928dwt bulker Akti built 1977, out of the Z&G Halcoussis operation; the 54,698dwt bulker Mister Michael, built 1974, out of the Navegatora Transpacifica operation; the 45,112dwt bulker Spyros B, built 1985, out of the A.B. Maritime operation; the 60,958dwt tanker Louros, built 1980, out of the Pleiades Shipping operation; the 165,293dwt and 106,209dwt tankers Aegean Eagle and Aegean Lady, respectively, built 2003, out of the Arcadia Shipmanagement operation; the 45,574dwt tanker Marieta C, built 1981, out of the Chandris (Hellas) operation; the 38,481dwt tanker Axios, built 1982, out of the Sun Enterprises operation; and the 45,507dwt tanker Fertility L, built 1987, out of the Ceres Hellenic Shipping operation.
Overall, average age of the 'Article 13' deletions was 18 years, according to the ministry, whereas arrivals on the Piraeus registry were nine years old average.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 10 Sep 04


Greek shipping stunned by sudden death of Alexandratos
---GREEK shipping has lost one of its most prominent personalities, with the sudden death on Thursday evening of Spyros Alexandratos, president of the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping.
Sources close to the shipowner said Mr Alexandratos, 57, apparently died from heart failure after collapsing at home.
Reportedly he had been in recovery from a serious heart operation earlier this year, but had kept up an active schedule.
The funeral took place at Athens' first cemetery on Saturday morning.
Besides heading the chamber, which as one of its functions officially advises the Greek government on shipping matters, Mr Alexandratos has been a board member of the Union of Greek Shipowners for the last decade.
Between 1986 and 2000, he was president of the country's shipowning association for tonnage trading in the Mediterranean.
A qualified marine engineer, Mr Alexandratos established his own shipping company in Piraeus, Apollonia Lines, that initially concentrated on general cargo vessels and smaller bulkers.
In recent years it expanded its scope to include handysize bulkers and, on one occasion, a panamax, but remained a medium sized shipping company.
Through his work at various shipping bodies, Mr Alexandratos was heavily associated with many key issues for Greek shipping, including leading a campaign for establishing a national marine insurance market in the early 1990s and more recently throwing himself into a fight against additional taxation of offshore shipping companies.
Speaking with Lloyd's List on Friday, a colleague on the board of the chamber described him as "a very well respected and extremely well liked man who was always working quietly for the industry and others, not just for himself".
A spokesman at the chamber said the body's 32-person Council will meet to elect a new president.
Mr Alexandratos leaves a wife, Ioanna, and two children, George and Katerina.
Source: www.Lloydslist.com, By Nigel Lowry in Athens- Monday September 06 2004


Beltest Shipping Company Ltd - new style shipping in the 21st century
---Beltest Shipping Company Limited of Cyprus is a new breed of shipping investment companies.
The company loves shipping and follows the shipping markets with enthusiasm but owns no ships and has no immediate plans to do so.
Nonetheless, the assets of the company are valued at close to $300 million and its liabilities are nil.
The owner of Beltest comes from a Greek shipping family, and the sea runs in his blood. But he is young and brings with him new ideas from his finance and management studies in the US. He admires his father's achievements in shipping, but at the same time he admits that the traditional shipping company is not for him. He sees his future in the finance and business of his training.
Beltest, then, is being blended into a modern shipping company, short on ships but long on shipping investments. You will not find port captains talking to the ships or engineers planning the next dry dock in the office of Beltest. Rather, you will find few, select analysts glued to their computer screens watching the global markets, proving that shipping can be a good investment even without a logo on the funnel.
Those Torm Shares
Beltest Shipping Company Limited was established in Cyprus in 2002 as an investment holding company with a specialization in shipping. The company got off to a great start by acquiring a sizeable block of shares in Copenhagen listed company D/S Torm.
Beltest is wholly owned by Alexandros Panagiotidis, who spells his name somewhat differently than his father, Greek shipowner Villy Panayotides. Villy Panayotides is on the Board of Directors of Torm, representing Beltest's interests and those of the other shareholders. However, there has been some erroneous information in the press about the association of Villy Panayotides and Beltest. The fact is he has no shareholding whatsoever in Beltest, which now holds 30.8% of the shareholding of Torm, but he does represent Beltest on the BOD.
The ownership of Beltest lies with Alexandros Panagiotidis, and a management team runs the day-today operation of the company.
Beltest - business model
The new business model of shipping investment essentially builds around alternative ship ownership and management. It is ideal for the person who wants to be involved in shipping, involved in the market, play the cycles, and make good money; but who does not want the headache of management or to be tied in to vessels which are difficult to sell in a falling market. The corresponding strategy is paper investments in shipping.
Portfolio management and hedging of assets may also permit investments in other stocks - banks, etc. - that are essentially blue chip.
The objective of Beltest is to own significant and strategic shareholdings in listed and private shipping companies.
To do so, the preferred option would be to acquire blocks of shares from existing key shareholders looking to exit or cash out. Beltest would also consider acquiring a fleet of vessels, although such a move would be cautious and timing would be key. What is certain is that Beltest would not get involved in the day-to-day management of those vessels; this job would be given to a well-established and reputable ship management company. In the same way that Beltest wants to become an investor in shipping stocks, it would also consider being an investor in ships. Not a manager, just an investor.
The list of tools available to Beltest to achieve it's objectives is short but encompasses exactly what is required for a streamlined operation such as it is. The first of these is a very healthy asset base. The shareholding in Torm alone is valued at about $260 million (as at 12th July 2004).
The company also has minor stakes in other listed shipping companies and holds cash, a portion of which stems from the dividend paid by Torm earlier this year. In addition, liabilities of the company are zero. The company could therefore generate considerable cash for investment through efficient use of its assets, and indeed currently Beltest is considering ways to optimize the raising of loans against these.
Secondly, the team at Beltest undertakes its own stock analysis and project analysis. Finally, well-established contacts in the market mean that support is available to Beltest from a number of the leading investment banks involved in shipping and analysts and consultants alike. In other words, Beltest has the financial muscle to make substantial strategic investments in shipping as well as the expertise in-house and at hand to identify projects with potential.
New blood - new ideas
There is no doubt that a large part of Beltest's strategy reflects the personal preferences and business thinking of the owner, Alexandros Panagiotidis. Alexandros P. with his business education in the US, clearly differs from many of his Greek peers who maintain a close association with the traditional style of shipowner - that is buying, managing and selling ships.
Alexandros P. has earmarked his future in the financial markets, perhaps as a trader or as a Wall Street banker, glued to a screen and making instantaneous decisions about buying, selling and hedging. This is his view of shipping investments also.
Why go through the hassle of employing 20 staff onshore and 120 staff onboard? Why have sleepless nights about repaying your mortgage in a low market or about your spotless, well-maintained vessel entering a US port but still being stopped by the Coast Guard? Why be on call 24 hours per day, 365 days per year as the responsible head of a shipping company with vessels afloat all over the world?
This is not to say that Alexandros P. does not want excitement or the thrill of making the deal or seizing the opportunity. Of course he does. But his philosophy is that there are others who are experts at being "traditional" shipowners. He and his team follow the market as the "traditionals" do, following the trends of supply and demand, interest rate movements, trade growth, the China syndrome and so on. And then they choose to make paper investments in the "traditionals" they think best able to take advantage of future market conditions and return either a solid dividend or capital gains to Beltest. The advantage is that the buy and sell decisions can be made instantaneously and, to put it simply, "at the press of a button." Investments can be short term - a day or days - or longer term. The market is very liquid allowing prompt and efficient entry and exit.
What of Torm
Currently Beltest has no plans to dispose of its shareholding in Torm. The Torm investment is seen as a long-term strategic holding that can be the backbone for other investments by Beltest in shipping stocks and securities.
What next for Beltest
As indicated above, the company is currently investigating the most efficient way to raise cash against its existing assets. With cash in hand, the company can be ready to identify investment opportunities. These are likely to be shipping related, and, since shipping remains bullish, it may be assumed that timely shipping investments are not abundant at the moment. But Beltest has plenty of time and is not in a hurry. The Torm dividend alone will grow the assets on an annual basis and, when opportunities do arise, you may be sure that Beltest will have all the tools and research required to pounce first and to score high.
Source: www.marineoney.com, September issue, 2004


Curtain call close in Dane Sea Lines story
With the intervention of Greek shipping minister Manolis Kefaloyannis, the Seamen's Pension Fund last week paid off Dane's 400 seafarers and obtained a court order to auction the company's assets. Ferry operator Anek Lines of Crete, which bailed out Dane in 1999 by buying 42% of its stock, said it was unwilling to put more money into the ailing operator. "The story has its roots in the late 1990s, when a faction in the board managed to get the then-chairman out and eventually in prison for a year," explains Dennis Vernardakis, MD of Masters Shipping, a shipbroker in Athens. However, the new board was unable to run the company effectively either, and eventually had to accept a 'semi-hostile bid' from Anek for the 42% of Dane stock, making it the biggest shareholder. However, Anek did not turn out not to be the white knight that the Dane board had hoped for: instead, it seemed to regard Dane as a second-rate operator and did not provide financial support, Vernardakis tells Fairplay.
COMPANY PROFILE:
Full company name: Dane Sea Line SA
Headquarters: Rhodes, Greece
Founded: 1979
Principal shareholder: Anek Lines (42%)
Source: Fairplay International Shipping Weekly, 09 Sep 2004


City's maritime rebirth
---GLASGOW is outperforming London in the shipping services sector as the two maritime centres face contrasting fortunes in the face of aggressive overseas competition.
Shanghai, Singapore and Athens are all actively building maritime services hubs while there are calls in Britain to create a similar UK hub, taking in the expertise available in London, Glasgow, Southampton and Liverpool.
While London remains the world's most important centre for ship broking, legal services and insurance - although it could cede its pre-eminent position in as little as ten years - Glasgow has arguably become the western world's ship management capital.
Companies like Glasgow-based Seascot and Denholm's have thrived while their reputations for providing first-class ship management services to owner/operators has grown.
These services include ship agency, logistics, sale and purchase and superintendancy as well insurance and crews.
Allan Stewart, managing director of Seascot, said yesterday Glasgow-based shipping companies, including Denholm's, Harrisons (Clyde), Hapag and Maersk Sealand, now manage some 400 ships.
"Glasgow has flourished in the shipping management sector while London has suffered from many companies moving out of the metropolis because of high property and wage costs and stiff competition from New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, among others. Ship ownership and trade is shifting to the Far East, strengthening ports such as Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong," he said.
"The reasons for Glasgow's success lies in the city being well endowed with experienced and qualified shipmasters and marine engineers and a flourishing shipping community that provides a stimulating maritime forum.
"Glasgow has built on its reputation for ship management and also on personnel recruitment, which is a big section of the business here. The biggest supplier of UK personnel is in Glasgow and the biggest trainer of UK cadets is also in Glasgow.
"London is still the biggest centre for maritime law and insurance companies but in all other areas Glasgow is doing very well."
Stewart said the Scottish Parliament could aid the renaissance of the country's shipping business by emulating the Irish government's initiative of introducing low tax zones, like at the banking centre in the former dockland area of Dublin, where, for a certain period, companies pay corporation tax of only 10 per cent.
Another threat to London is possible reforms to non-domicile 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. The British government has yet to end uncertainty over the issue.
Richard Sayer, chairman of Maritime London, has urged the government 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."
Source: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/, Graeme Stewart , 6 Sep 04


Still a lot to do for 'Doing Business' [in Greece]
---Greece remains a laggard among developed nations as regards its business environment, said the World Bank's relevant annual report which was released this week. In general, according to the report, developed countries further improved their good institutional business provisions.
The study, titled "Doing Business in 2005" and appearing for the second year in a row, explores seven areas in the business environment: setting up shop; flexibility in hirings and layoffs; protection and transfer of property; the legal framework regarding borrowing; the protection of investors (corporate governance); the implementation of contracts and the winding up of a business (bankruptcy). The study covers 145 economies - almost all countries with a population of more than 1.5 million. Greece belongs to the group of the 22 most wealthy nations and its performance is compared within this group.
In Greece, setting up a business takes 38 days and 15 different procedures, when in Australia, Canada, Denmark and the US only two to five days are required. However, the situation is much worse in Spain (108 days), Portugal (78) and Germany (45).
Employment
Regarding employment, Greece, France and Spain appear to have the most inflexible regulations (ranking in the 66-69 bracket of the relevant index which also takes into account work hour arrangements); while Hong Kong, the US, Canada and New Zealand rank in the 0-7 bracket. The cost of dismissing an employee with 20 years of service in Greece equals the wages of 133 weeks and is the highest among the 22 developed economies and the ninth highest in the world. It is also high in Portugal, South Korea, Germany and Spain, while in New Zealand it is zero. In the US and Belgium, it equals the wages of eight weeks.
The transfer of property takes 23 days in Greece and costs 13.7 percent of the value of the real estate unit. In Norway, Sweden and New Zealand it takes just one to two days, but in France 193, in Belgium 132 and in Portugal 83. The cost in Greece is highest, approached only by Belgium (12.8 percent) and Portugal (10.3 percent). In most countries, it is between 4 percent and 7 percent, but in several it falls below 3 percent. In Saudi Arabia, it is zero and is negligible in New Zealand, the US and Denmark (0.2-0.6 percent).
Low creditor protection
Greece ranks very low as regards creditor protection, graded with 1 out of 10 in a composite index of 10 parameters. Britain ranks top, with a 10 grade, followed by New Zealand, the Netherlands and Australia with 9. Greece is graded with 4 out of 6 on the index regarding access to credit information, and 5 out of 7 in corporate governance. It is in about mid-rank as regards the time required for implementation of a contract (for instance, resolution of a dispute between supplier and client), with 151 days between the filing of a suit and the court ruling or payment of the disputed amount, compared with 1,390 days in Italy, 374 in Austria, 346 in Canada and 320 in Portugal. Tunisia appears to be the fastest on this criterion, with just 27 days required, which is 10 times faster than in the UK and the US. Greece is also in mid-rank as regards the legal costs involved in the resolution of business disputes.
Finally, bankruptcy procedures last about two years in Greece, three in the US, 3.4 years in Denmark and 4.6 in Switzerland. In Greece, creditors and other claimants receive on average 45.6 percent of their claims.
Solutions in removing obstacles to business are often simple and cost little, according to the World Bank report. Small changes in the institutional framework can make a big difference in the business environment and economic growth, it argues. These include electronic property registers, the restriction of appeal rights in disputes, public access to shareholders' registers and the financial data of enterprises and specialized judicial staff, which have proved particularly effective in some countries, the report notes.
Source: By Costis Papadimitriou - Kathimerini Daily, 11 Sep 04