Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 39 - 2004
---ATHENS, Sept. 22 (Xinhuanet) -- The foreign exchange inflows of Greek shipping business totaled 7.659 billion euros (9.359 billion US dollars) in the first seven months of 2004, from 5.444 billion euros (6.6526 billion dollars) in the same period last year, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The central bank, in its regular report on shipping foreign exchange inflows, said that inflows totaled 1.146 billion euros (1.4 billion dollars) in July, up from 838 million euros (1.024 billion dollars) in the same month in 2003. Enditem
Source: www.chinaview.cn, 2004-09-22 23:17:33
Greeks urged to wake up to derivatives
---New association set up to sell the benefits of paper trading, writes Nigel Lowry in Athens- Thursday September 23 2004
THE Hellenic Shipping Derivatives Association (HSDA) has been formed in a bid to encourage greater use of freight and other derivatives by the Greek shipping community.
Initial membership, understood to number about a dozen, has been drawn from eight Greece-based firms identified as having been active in the paper market, as well as broker Anthony Ellinas of Freight Investor Services' local agency office, FIS (Hellas), which was opened last year.
Although the new association has already held three meetings, it was formally unveiled this month at a Baltic Exchange-sponsored workshop and forum on forward freight agreements (FFAs) at the Piraeus Marine Club in Greece.
Derivatives specialists concede that Greece - so powerful in terms of physical tonnage - is lagging in terms of interest in paper hedging and trading instruments.
According to FIS's own estimates, based on number of FFA trades observed in the market, Greeks are involved in a mere 1% of dry FFA trading, a far cry from their control of more than one fifth of the dry bulk fleet.
The starkest contrast appears to be with neighbouring Italy which, again according to FIS estimates, boasts roughly 2.5% of physical dry bulk capacity while Italians are estimated to trade about 19% of dry FFAs.
"There has been a shortage of interest in the Greek market and it is understandable that FFAs are not everyone's cup of tea," conceded Mr Ellinas.
He also accepted that smaller shipping firms could face a personnel problem in creating a desk to follow paper trading properly.
"Derivatives offer an additional tool to owners and I believe the market would do well to at least investigate this," Mr Ellinas said.
"On the other hand, people should know what they are doing and ought to consider carefully before coming into the market. At last, more interest is being shown," he commented.
"Greeks are so successful, but markets are dynamic and do change and the paper market is getting to the point where it is affecting the physical world as well."
In addition to promoting the use of freight derivatives, the HSDA lists among its activities sharing information on developments within the industry and supporting members in their queries or concerns.
The association also aims to provide the Greek derivatives community a voice in the international market.
It is understood that the Greeks' estimated 1% of FFA trades does not include trades by Navios Group, which is still perceived as a US player although nowadays Greek-controlled.
Since earlier this year, Navios - said to be among the top 10 traders of dry FFAs in the panamax and handysize sectors - has used Piraeus as its main freight derivatives trading location.
Mike McClure, head of Navios' derivatives business, said, "I do not think that the Greek market is wrong not to have traded much.
"It is just a more owner-mentality here than a corporate mentality of companies like Navios. But there is a lot more interest now," he added.
FIS estimates put this year's likely value for FFA trading in the dry sector at about $25bn and at about $5bn in the wet sector.
Source: www.lloydslist.com, 23 Sep 04
Greeks step warily into the future
---Greek owners are treading cautiously as they confront the inevitable ingress of derivatives into their traditional world.
Freight derivatives have sparked the interest of Greek shipowners but they remain cautious about committing to a sector they know little about.
It was this attitude that prevailed during an open forum organised by the Baltic Exchange in Piraeus focussing on forward-freight agreements (FFAs) and the Greek market.
Owners such as Vassilis Laliotis of Seaworld Management and Trading firmly believe that derivatives like FFAs will be an inevitable part of shipping in the future. However, Laliotis says that even if a conservative company decides to enter the sector, it would need at least one FFA-dedicated staff member who understands both the derivatives and shipping markets. "This sort of sophistication does not exist in the Greek shipping sector yet, mainly because Greek companies are small to medium [-size] family-run organisations," Laliotis said.
Polys V Hajioannou of Safety Management, who addressed the forum audience, agrees that the Greek market is far from ready to embrace the FFA sector. But he says the new generation of Greek shipowners is more open to the futures market. This new blood, he observes, is predisposed to understanding the hedging benefits of using FFAs, as they increasingly have trained in finance matters.
Hajioannou says that although Safety Management only began actively trading in the FFA market this year, it had been looking into the sector for two to three years before making a move. The company uses FFAs only as a hedging exercise tool, he adds, not speculatively. (See story, below.) Specifically, Hajioannou explains, the company attains agreements on a one-to-one ship and FFA ratio.
Nikos Nikiforos from Oceanbulk's chartering arm says the Greek market's lack of knowledge on FFAs is the main reason behind his company's caution in entering the sector. Oceanbulk has been using FFAs for at least two years, he says, as a tool to alter its position in the freight market as a way to either increase or decrease its exposure.
Laliotis counters the idea of using the FFA sector as a hedging tool, saying that an owner can hedge through a long-term charter party. What the FFA sector lacks, he feels, is a building of relationships between an owner and a charterer, even though the short-term monetary gain might not be as high. "Shipping is about relationships," Laliotis asserted.
Source: Yiota Gousas Athens, published: 24 September 2004
Storm brewing over Hellenic
A side-effect of the HDW-Ferrostaal legal action has been a new round of dispute with the neighbouring yard Elefsis. The content of lawsuits against Piraeus Bank, which were leaked to the press, seems to strengthen the old argument of the Tavoularis group - which runs Elefsis and was an unsuccessful bidder for Hellenic's acquisition - that the sale of Hellenic lacked transparency and that the Germans were scandalously favoured as suitors. In a statement, Tavoularis said the secret deals between HDW-Ferrostaal and government revealed in the lawsuits call for a court investigation into the sale. But the disgruntled yard owner also hinted he could overlook the issue if his company got a fair share of government contracts. The bad news for Elefsis and Hellenic is that no major state contracts should be expected in the foreseeable future as Athens and Ankara have agreed to mutually curtail their armament build-ups. The only good news so far for Hellenic is that part of its loss on the Strintzis ferry contract will be covered because Hellas Flying Dolphins has agreed to buy the unfinished pair of vessels.
Beware Germans bearing gifts
11 October 2001: HDW-Ferrostaal, which had earlier won the international tender to acquire Hellenic Shipyards, signs a preliminary contract with state-owned bank ETBA for the yard's ownership, subject to EU approval. Disqualified bidder Tavoularis, the group running the neighbouring yard Elefsis, questions the transparency and legality of the deal and lodges a complaint with the EU competition authority.
22 March 2002: HDW-Ferrostaal and Tavoularis declare a truce, signing a memorandum of co-operation that was never meant to come to anything. Tavoularis blames the Germans for not honouring their signature.
25 April 2002: European Commission clears the acquisition of Hellenic Shipyards by HDW-Ferrostaal.
31 May 2002: The final sale contract is signed, and HDW-Ferrostaal takes over Hellenic.
31 May 2004: HDW-Ferrostaal sues Piraeus Bank.
15 July 2004: Tavoularis re-enters the scene, eyeing gains from the German-Greek dispute.
Source: Feature, Fairplay International Shipping Weekly, 23 Sep 2004
Belgian unions target Polembros
---BELGIAN trade unions ACV Transcom and BTB (Belgische Transportarbeiders Bond) say they are taking action against the Cypriot-flag bulk carrier Amber, operated by operated by Greek owner Polembros Shipping Limited.
The two International Transport Workers' Federation affiliates say move is part of an ongoing dispute between the ITF and the Piraeus-based company. The ITF accuses the company of non-payment of wages and of denial of medical attention and sick pay to seafarers.
ITF says that Polembros crewmembers are employed below ITF minimum standards and conditions. It also believes that some seafarers remain on board Polembros ships for unacceptably long periods without seeing their families.
The ITF says that it has repeatedly sought meaningful dialogue with Polembros, with a view to improving terms and conditions of employment on its fleet but that all attempts to find a solution have failed.
Source: www.mgn.com, 20 Sep 2004
Greek Oil Transporter OKs Acquisition
---Stelmar Shipping Ltd., a Greece-based oil transporter, Monday said it has agreed to be acquired by affiliates of Fortress Investment Group LLC about $677 million.
Fortress, which is based in New York, is an investment firm with about $10 billion under management.
Stelmar, which operates 41 oil tankers, said the $38.55-a-share purchase price represents a 55 percent premium over the share closing price on May 14, the last trading day before tanker owner and operator OMI Corp. of Stamford, Conn., announced it was seeking to merge with Stelmar.
Stelmar's board refused to hold talks with OMI, and the bid was abandoned, despite the support of Stelmar founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou. He and his family own 27 percent of the company.
The price to be paid by Fortress also represents a premium of 8 percent over the closing price of Stelmar's stock Friday. The stock finished at $35.55 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Stelmar's shares were at $38.05 in early trading Monday, up $2.50, or 7 percent, on the Big Board.
The transaction is expected to close during the fourth quarter.
Haji-Ioannou founded Stelmar in 1992. He stepped down as chairman in 2002. He and his family founded British-based easyGroup, which operates a cut-price airline, car rentals and Internet cafes.
Source: http://www.forbes.com, Associated Press, 09.20.2004, 10:23 AM
Pericles Panagopoulos - Blue Star Ferries
---Pericles Panagopoulos is the kind of man, to whom nothing in life was offered gratis. Self-made, dynamic and indefatigable, he worked arduously all his life for everything he has until today achieved.
He was born in a nursing home in the renowned Patmou Street, in Koliatsou Square. He spent the first 14 years of his life in Kaftajoglou Street. He grew up during the war era and had a hard childhood.
In 1907 his father immigrated to America. From Platy, in Messinia, he reached Patra and from there he traveled in a boat, 90m long -like the ones that nowadays follow the itinerary from Methana to Poros- where he stayed for a whole 20 years. He returned just before the big crisis in the USA. With the money he had earned, he built hotel VETO in the center of Athens, in Lycourgou Street. However, during the war era, GESTAPO commandeered the hotel in order to accommodate its officers. "In 1942, the period of Greece's occupation, my father, who was "restless", did things the Germans did not fancy. They caught him and battered him badly. After a 5 months confinement in bed, he did not make it".
Pericles Panagopoulos, just a small kid then, felt like his whole world was collapsing. Along with his mother and his two half-brothers from his father's first marriage, they tried to put their lives in order. Those were hard years and people were bedeviled with tuberculosis. Unfortunately, in 1944 he lost his elder brother to this sickness.
His mother was from Constantinople. She studied and taught in Zappeio for 15 years, during those schools' great bloom. Then she came to Greece, where she met and married his father, who was a widower at that time. Her loss was great when he died - She pulled up all her strength and managed to survive for her children's sake. "Every time I visit Constantinople I go to Zappeio. For the only heirloom my mother has left me, is a photograph of hers standing on the building's steps".
To his good fortune, a remote kinsman of his, was our national benefactor Eugenius Eugenidis. With no offspring of his own, he took up Pericles' education, who was then 14 years old. Hence they left Greece that was then in ruins and moved to Switzerland, in an entirely different environment - In Switzerland Eugenidis had based his business. Pericles was chosen as a most promising youngster, who could become useful to society.
He did not let down his uncle as he finished the School of Leonteios with excellent marks. Even though he only had a poor command of the French language, he succeeded in finishing high school with flying colors and he was the only Greek student in the school. "I studied Economics in a Commercial School. I learnt useful things that helped me in the course of my life. In 1953 I returned to Greece and attended courses in trigonometry, physics, and chemistry, which I had not been taught there. Then I was examined by a state committee and was awarded my high school certificate with a score of 18. My daughter had it framed".
Even though Eugenidis had a few ships of his own he also managed many more foreign ones. He sent young Pericles to his business' department in London and threw him in deep water. He worked in the morning and went to school in the evening. His programme was exhausting. In the summer he embarked on the ships and traveled beside the mariners, so as to learn the job first hand. He first visited South America when he was 15 years old as a member of the crew. "Imagine that at that times people did not travel by ships on vacation, but as immigrants. So I found myself in Middle East in times of war and I was in Jerusalem, when King Abdullah of Jordan was assassinated. It was unbelievable! My life is full of such adventures".
Eugenidis' death, on April 1954, was an important point in his life. It was then that he felt he did not fit in with the environment. Nothing was binding him any more with his uncle's company. He had to take some decisions concerning his life and his career. He needn't think. He gave up school and dedicated himself to his work.
Those were hard years, for his mother depended on him and his half brother was managing the hotel, one part of which they had inherited. Therefore he had to engage, professionally and in order to earn his livelihood, in what he had learnt to do. In the beginning of 1955 the department in England shuts down and he goes for a three months training to Geneva, where he ends up staying for 10 whole years. There, he meets a beautiful young girl, Bruna, who in a few years becomes his wife. He has tow children with her.
In 1960 he returns to Greece to serve in the army. That period is important, since he is alone and his has plenty of time to himself. He sees it as an opportunity to catch a breath away from work and to redefine his priorities. "I thought I would be on vacation, since I never had such a luxury. The reality in the army made me see the truth. So I found myself in Grevena and Vermio serving my country. That was a very important experience for me then".
In 1962 he marries Bruna and moves in London. There he becomes head of the sales and reservations department in Eugenidis' Company for the transatlantic ships that follow the itinerary: France - England - Canada - Quebec - Montreal. In 1963 this line closes down. He moves back to Geneva with the three women of his life - his mother, his wife and his newborn daughter. There he engages in the superintendence of a transatlantic ship that was being built at the time in a shipyard near Tergesti. His contribution proved essential, since the ups and down in the shipyard's ownership status quo - it went from state ownership to private ownership - threatened the construction with delays.
In 1965 he resigns from the company because he feels that nothing suits his interests. He does not feel welcome there anymore. He makes this decision rapidly. He comes to Athens and starts looking for a job. He goes from door to door and seeks for friends promising co-operation. What he finds is doors shut and filled positions - "Come back later", "leave us CV", "a friend of mine is looking for someone like you to work for him" and likewise; that is what he heard in a daily basis. What is more, one of them told him once to go back again the next day, because he wanted to impress some foreigners. In the end, and fortunately not much later, he found a promising and well-paid job in the company sun line (;). His next step was to bring his family with him.
The big outset of his career
Since he is a restless spirit, he seeks for new challenges. Pericles Panagopoulos is not the kind of person, who will stay in a job because he is well paid. He researches the market and waits for the right moment to do his own transgression. So in 1971 he finds those who will finance him and establishes a cruise ship company, Royal Cruise Line, on the condition that in the future he will buy out their share. He managed to do this soon, since his business went rather well. He obtained the majority of the shares by loaning from banks. Royal Cruise Line soon reached the top and was ranked among the best cruise companies in the world. Meanwhile, he expands his fleet buying a transatlantic ship from Eugenidis' company and reshaping it into a cruise ship. The works at Perama and Shipyard last for three months, a record at that time, and reach a cost of 25 million dollars! The company's employers at Piraeus exceed the number of 1500, while the office he holds in San Francisco occupies 234 people. It is the only Greek Company and the 32nd best in the area.
His children, after completing their studies in America, also work there. With cruises all over the world he wins the lion's share and his company becomes greatly reputed. Being a man of great insight into the future, after a series of events he perceives that the market is not lucrative and on the 30th of November 1989 he sells the company to Norwegians closing a very good deal.
For one and a half-year he was unemployed and he did not like that at all. Even though the amount of money he gained by the sell was not at all negligible, he felt that all the things he had taken great pains for and achieved with many hardships did not exist. And what is more, he wouldn't have a family business to leave as heritage to his children.
He could not escape his fate of being a businessman and an indefatigable sea worker. The dynamic businessman returns this time with commercial cargo ships - of dry cargo, something familiar from his past, since he retained stocks in companies managing such ships. He was soon found having his own cargo ships and his company was one of the best in the sector.
Pericles Panagopoulos invests in the Cylinder Mills of Attica buying out the company's shares. In this way he enters dynamically the stock market. Later on this company is renamed in Attica Enterprises, in which he is also president. Meanwhile he buys the first ships, Super fast 1 and 2. He succeeds in reducing the time needed for the itinerary between Greece and Italy in less than 24 hours. Their future is brightly outlined. The one ship follows the other and his company is one of the most powerful in the navigation sector. Superfast Ferries, which manages ships of Attica Enterprises - the company has entered Athens Stock Market - owns the younger and faster and moreover rapidly expanding fleet! Since its foundation, he constantly fixes in the programme new, super modern ships and expands his activities not only in Greece, but also in Europe thus succeeding in becoming the first Greek company in passenger shipping that is expanding in the whole of Europe. He activates exclusively in international markets, mainly in Adriatic and the Baltic Sea. "Our objective was and still is to establish Attica Enterprises as a European Association in passenger shipping with a modern fleet and services of high standards for the passenger."
In 1999 he buys out an important percentage of STRINZIS company and enters dynamically the market in Aegean with 5 brand new Blue Star Ferries. The new dynamic fleet of Blue Star Ferries achieves huge commercial success in the line of Cyclades and is considered ideal for the Aegean. "The Blue Star Ferries objective is continuing the renewal of its fleet and establishing a new situation in sea transportation and the standard of offered services. The success, which so far all newly-built Bleu Star Ferries have achieved, is very encouraging for our whole effort".
His children stand by him and follow in their father's steps, each of them undertaking a different sector. Their co-operation is excellent, which is essential for the good and successful process of the companies they are managing.
"Spare Time? I am not used to having spare time. I have been working all my life. I come daily in the office and this is a habit I will never give up. What pleases me is when we go to Miconos in the summer and we enjoy our time by the sea. We have a traditional house above the port, with no pools, grass and superfluous luxuries".
As for his relationship with money? "Money is the means of business making. It is not an end in itself. It is a product by which objectives are achieved. It helps you improve your life with things that unfortunately you yourself do not have time to enjoy. However, the people close to you enjoy them".
Pericles Panagopoulos is President of Attica Enterprises and President in the Association of Passenger Ships' Owners. "My election in the office of President of the Association of Passenger Ships" Owners gives me great honor. The responsibilities I have undertaken are many and I hope I will be worthy of them. My goal is to pursue -if possible- the creation of the necessary conditions and prerequisites for an upgrading of the quality of our navigable material and the offered services, because I believe that poor quality damages severely the image of passenger shipping and so forth Greek tourism. This upgrading is not our only aim, since for the improvement of the ships and the offered services right and safe ports, modern reception and passenger serving facilities are also required".
Thanks to his long-lived and continual progress he paved a new way in the travel world. His main characteristics are responsibility and credibility. His life philosophy: "Keep your mind working day and night and always be in continual restlessness and vigilance".
Was enterprising in his nature or did it grow within the years? One way or the other Pericles Panagopoulos manifestly proved that he is a dynamic and indefatigable sea worker.
Source: Article published 23/9/2004, http://www.europeanbusiness.gr
UPDATE 1-Stelios angry at buyout of shipping firm Stelmar
---LONDON, Sept 21 (Reuters) - The founder of Greek shipping firm Stelmar (SJH.N: Quote, Profile, Research) , Stelios Haji-Ioannou, has spoken to other shareholders to express his opposition to its takeover by Fortress Investment Group, and is considering legal action.
"There've been telephone conversations with the other shareholders. They would like to call for a meeting. Stelios has said he's spoken to over 60 percent of the shareholders," James Rothnie, a spokesman for Haji-Ioannou, who is best known for founding discount airline EasyJet (EZJ.L: Quote, Profile, Research) , told Reuters on Tuesday.
"A legal challenge is also an option of his," added the spokesman.
On Monday, U.S. private equity firm Fortress Investment Group LLC agreed to buy Stelmar Shipping Ltd, based in Athens, for $677 million in cash, only a few months after Stelmar fended off a hostile all-share bid from rival shipping group OMI Corp (OMM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) .
However, Haji-Ioannou has voiced his objection to the takeover. He and other investors have pointed out that OMI's original all-share offer, which he backed, is currently worth more than Fortress's bid.
Haji-Ioannou owns about 27 percent of Stelmar along with his family. He said he had concerns over corporate governance procedures regarding the Stelmar transaction.
"I remain concerned about the process undertaken to date, and I continue to review all options as I await meaningful information from the company on these important issues," the entrepreneur said in a statement.
Analysts have said that even without Haji-Ioannou's approval, the takeover could still go through. The purchase is expected to close in the fourth quarter, subject to shareholder approval.
A trader familiar with the matter said he expected that Haji-Ioannou would eventually sell his stake, but only at the right price.
"I do think he wants to monetise his stake," he said.
Source: www.reuters.com, Tue Sep 21, 2004 12:14 PM ET (Adds latest statement from Stelios, trader comment)
Diamantides lifts newbuilding investment to over $1bn
---Diamantis Diamantides has lifted his investment in newbuildings to over $1bn with an order for eight uniquely designed 94,000dwt bulk carriers. Valued at around $33.4m each the eight ships bring to 29 wet and dry newbuilding contracts placed by Diamantides since the millennium. In addition there are four options held on the latest order which could seen investment in new tonnage topping $1.15bn.
The latest contract has been placed with Sungdong Shipbuilding in what is believed to be the first direct order for ships to go to this South Korean yard which in the past has been a subcontractor for, among others, Samsung. The ships will begin delivering in 2006 and run into 2007 if the options are taken up.
The largest post-panamax bulkers on order, the ships are a design worked on jointly by the and the yard. Among its features is a relatively shallow draught enabling the vessels to be employed in niche trades where the additional capacity will be utilised.
Under the Marmaras Navigation banner, the Piraeus-based owner has in recent years become Greece's largest operator of dry cargo ships on the back of a flow of newbuildings comprising four 172,000dwt units commissioned from Hyundai Samho, South Korea, two panamaxes from Japan's Namura Shipbuilding and four 52,000-tonners from STX, South Korea.
Traditionally an operator of dry ships, the group has recently committed $480m to two projects involving 11 tanker newbuildings at Hyundai Samho - six aframaxes and five suezmaxes - which will deliver in 2005/2006 and will be operated separately from the dry ships.
Another big spender on newbuildings, John Angelicoussis is close to placing an order for two 170,000dwt bulk carriers at Daewoo S&ME in South Korea. Though Anangel Maritime Services says it is not a believer in the double hull concept for bulkers, it has confirmed an order is immiment for two double hull capers to deliver in the first half of 2007. The cost is likely to be about $61m for each ship and they will bring to 34 the number of ships built for the Athens-based company by Daewoo. Currently the group (Anangel/Kristen Navigation/Maran Gas) now has three capers, three VLCCs and four 76,500dwt LNG carriers on order at the yard.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 24 Sep 04
Stalled ferry still able to teach a lesson
---The Port of Rochester had a busy morning Thursday: More than 80 students from Greece's Parkland-Brookside Elementary School toured the high-speed ferry.
"Let's take advantage of this ship being in dock," said Nick Garbowski, a teacher on special assignment at the school's Parkland Campus.
Canadian American Transportation Systems abruptly and indefinitely suspended service two weeks ago, blaming financial problems.
Rather than let the ship sit idle, CATS officials have offered tours to groups that link it to their school's curriculum. In recent weeks, some elementary and high school students studying tourism and technology have toured the vessel.
"They aren't just coming on the vessel with big eyes; the students are learning about the types of jobs there are on the ferry and how to have some goals," said Linda Miller director of school programs for CATS. They also learn how the computer systems and business operate, Garbowski said.
Thursday's lessons also help students link what they learn in class to how technology applies to the real world, Garbowski said.
Parkland students have kept tabs on the ferry during the year.
In the spring, they tracked the ferry as it traveled from Australia to Rochester, Garbowski said.
When the ship arrived, a news crew of second-graders reported the story for the school, which is a signature school for math, science and technology.
After the onboard lesson, Atakan Yurdakul, 7, of Greece said he wants to be a captain, especially now that he knows the ins and outs of the vessel.
Alexis LaValley, 7, of Greece also plans to work on the ferry, to walk around on the boat and help people as needed.
In the meantime, though, Alexis said she's happy just to visit.
Lessons and tours will be available as long as the ferry is in port. Interested school groups can call (585) 509-4129. Canadian American Transportations Systems said it will provide information to integrate into a school's curriculum.
Source: DemocratandChronicle.com, Victoria E. Freile, Staff writer, (September 24, 2004) -
Innumerable wrecks in Greek seas
---The Ephorate of Marine Antiquities has found 25 wrecks in the last five years, using a combination of traditional exploration methods and modern technology.
At the conference, Ballard urged Greeks to "guard your wrecks."
All the foreign participants agreed that Greece's coastal archaeology was on an equal par with anywhere else - even at the levels of equipment, technology and methodology.
Katerina Delaporta, head of the ephorate, talked to Kathimerini about achievements in the past five years, which include 25 wrecks discovered within the framework of cooperation with the Hellenic Center for Marine Research.
Ten of these are Roman, four are Byzantine, three are from the Late Classical period, and seven are from the 19th century. Just one dates from the post-Byzantine period.
"Every exploration with the Aegaio oceanographic research vessel lasts two weeks. We map the country's maritime regions and groups of islands, which we try to cover completely," she said.
The first stop was the island of Kalymnos, the other Dodecanese islands and then Halkidiki. The work is difficult, time-consuming and expensive to do using conventional exploration methods, but with the aid of technology, mapping, retrieval of samples and photography was completed quickly.
The area around the island of Astypalaia was explored using a combination of traditional methods and technology. (Most foreign researchers use remote-controlled equipment.) The findings included a sarcophagus holding the wages (50,000 coins) of a Roman army. In the strait between Inousses and Chios, undamaged commercial amphorae were found at a depth of 70 meters.
"It is rare these days to find an ancient wreck that has not been tampered with," said Delaporta.
The ephorate has created a database of ancient wrecks, with statistical analyses, the number of wrecks and their categories.
A major problem is how to preserve these findings. Delaporta said there are robots that act as underwater "guards," linked to satellites. Surprisingly, these are not as expensive as they sound.
"The ephorate could develop such a network in cooperation with another state organization, such as the Merchant Marine Ministry and the navy," she said.
Greece's seabed is rocky and irregular, and its legal status is another factor.
"All these issues should be examined by the relevant authorities, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and even the Agriculture Ministry, which is responsible for fishing zones," said Delaporta.
The greatest hazards to underwater archaeology are the antiquities smugglers, illegal diving in general and fishing boats.
Ballard talked about creating underwater museums, but the question is whether Greek legislation permits this.
"There are ways to highlight wrecks in innovative ways, but this comes at a later stage. First you have to explore and know your subject very well, find ways to protect it and then present it to the public," explained Delaporta.
In 2002, the Ephorate of Marine Antiquities proposed that a museum, or even an exhibition space, be set up to house findings and multimedia.
Delaporta says that a great deal could be done, either at one of the Olympic venues or even in an old factory in a neglected area, such as Drapetsona, giving it a much-needed boost.
Source: Kathimerini Daily, 22 Sep 04