Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 44 - 2004

 

Diamonds are a girl's best friend

---On the Watch has discovered what Greek owners aim to do with the surplus liquidity generated by their ships and you can bet your bottom dollar not all will be ploughed back into the business.
An array of Greek shipowners' wives and daughters were spotted by OTW previewing some of the most exquisite and expensive diamonds and pearls put on display in Athens last week by exclusive UK auction house Christies.
Eugenia Chandris, Karen Logothetis, Dolla Nomikos, Lita Livanos and Evanthia Angelopoulos, accompanied by her husband Constantine, were just some of the well-heeled ladies who attended the gala event held at the prestigious Grande Bretagne Hotel.
The star attraction was a 10,39-carat, yellow-diamond ring with an estimated price tag of between $700,000 and $900,000.
The ring and some of the finest pieces produced by the likes of Cartier, Belperron, Lacloche and Van Cleef & Arpels are set for auction in Geneva in mid-November.
With inspection of the prospective assets over, company accountants can barely argue at the value of such an investment - depreciation in value is virtually nil.
It obviously takes a woman to know where her husband's money will be best invested!
Source: www.tradewinds.no, published: 29 October 2004


Shipowners call for upping global shipbuilding norms
---EEE says wanting standards are largely responsible for accidents .
The Greek Shipowners' Union wants seaworthiness certifying agencies to set higher standards in the shipbuilding industry, so as to promote the notion of joint responsibility for safety in navigation by all sides involved.
The Union of Greek Shipowners (EEE) has appealed to all international maritime organizations for the application of stricter standards of safety and quality by the global shipbuilding industry, emphasizing that safety in navigation begins in the construction of the vessels itself.
"The human factor and natural hazards at sea are the main causes of maritime accidents and cannot, therefore, be eliminated. But in all cases what can be avoided is accidents caused by defects in the construction of vessels due to inadequate design and building, or due to deficient maintenance and repair work," EEE said in a statement.
A maritime company official in Piraeus told Kathimerini that Greek shipowners are willing to pay more for higher-quality and safer ships.
"Shipowners the world over today buy ships without being able to influence their quality," he argued.
EEE members point out it is not the first time the association has called for improved specifications in shipbuilding. In the early 1990s the association advocated the adoption of the notion of "joint responsibility" by all those involved in the shipping industry for the attainment of higher quality standards. The notion was adopted by both the European Commission, in its statement on Safe Seas in 1993, and by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in a series of moves, such as the adoption of the International Safety Management (ISM) code, which came into force on July 1, 1998, initiatives regarding the safety of bulk carriers and measures concerning the compliance of countries in relation to ships that bear their flag. The same approach has been adopted by the Maritime Transport Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Nevertheless, it remains unclear why none of these initiatives by international organizations addresses the setting of the necessary standards that would make the shipbuilding industry a jointly responsible partner.
EEE points out in the statement that it fully backs the proposals by the governments of Greece and the Bahamas, also advocated by the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), for the adoption by IMO of goal-based standards for stronger vessels.
It said it is in favor of the IACS formulating common structural rules for the construction of stronger, traditional-type, bulk carriers.
"We believe that this process will restrict unhealthy competition among shipbuilders as well as among seaworthiness certification agencies in the building of new ships, and will put an end to the prevailing trend in recent years toward the so-called "optimization" of shipbuilding, which the shipping industry neither needs nor desires.
"The wider public, led by the media and the politicians, has adopted a "zero-tolerance" stand toward maritime accidents, particularly those that cause extensive oil slicks. This stand is obviously unrealistic and is, moreover, based on the erroneous view that only substandard vessels cause accidents."
Finally, the EEE statement notes that to date no convincing argument has been put forward to refute its position that "the adoption of goal-based standards and common rules by the IACS is fully necessary to ensure the building of stronger and more durable ships."
"This can be achieved with relatively low additional costs in shipbuilding, while the benefits in increasing ship safety and protection of the environment will be substantial," said EEE.
Source: www.ekathimerini.com/, NIKOS BARDOUNIAS, 29 Oct 04


Sales outweigh purchases as limited berth space curtails new orders
---PAYMENT by Diana Shipping Agencies of a bonus to Jiangnan Shipyard workers for early delivery of a 73,700 dwt panamax recently was indicative of the demand among Greek owners for getting their hands on more bulk capacity as soon as possible to take advantage of a roaring freight market.
Diana's Protefs, the first of a series of four panamaxes to be completed next year, is the most recent of 32 newly-built bulkers delivered to Greek operators in the first three quarters of this year, according to Clarkson Research Studies statistics.
A third of the deliveries have been capesizes, while there have been 14 panamaxes joining the fleet and a flurry of handymaxes.
Recipients have included some of the most prominent names in bulk shipping, such as Golden Union, Navios Corporation, Safety Management, Marmaras Navigation, Anangel Maritime Services, Chandris, Samos Steamship, Metrostar Management and Target Marine.
As ships have been coming off the production line in the Far East, Greeks have been busy adding fresh contracts to the orderbook - albeit at a slightly slower pace than before.
Brokers have identified new Greek orders for 17 bulkers worth about $500m during the first six months of 2004.
Diana can be counted among the operators that have been fortunate with the timing of their orders.
It had its other six panamaxes built in Korea in 2001, at far cheaper prices than those pertaining today, ready to benefit from the boom in freights.
Altogether in 1999, the only year in the past six that dry bulk ordering by Greeks has exceeded contracting of tankers, 82 new bulkers of 5.7m dwt were contracted.
Although that could suggest a degree of foresight with regard to market prospects, brokers are generally adamant that no-one predicted the present boom.
"If anyone had come near to predicting this, the Greeks would have ordered a lot more ships.
"It is as simple as that," says Ted Dicks, a director of dry cargo at London shipbroking house Braemar Seascope.
"Some of the large, traditional owners have remained virtually non-players," adds Mr Dicks.
"They have not taken advantage and have not played as big as they would surely have done if this had been forecast."
According to his colleague, sale and purchase director Philip Upcraft, certain Greek owners had "decided by 1999 that prices had bottomed" and placed orders on that basis.
Overall, though, traditional Greek companies had been "cautious" in newbuildings, he agrees.
One factor that has put a brake on ordering has been a lack of available berths and the ever-lengthening lead-time, now well into 2008 for most customers of the yards.
However, Mr Upcraft also says that the sheer good health of most bulk shipping operations has taken the edge off some owners' appetites.
"A good many Greek owners ordered at prices that currently seem extremely cheap. Bulkers built then are now worth about double the contract price," he says.
"There is a certain feeling of safety and not much downside risk. For some, it will feel like the easiest thing is to do nothing."
This has also been felt in the S&P market, where brokers have reported a slackening off in activity as the year has progressed.
"There is so much comfort that some owners need more and more inducement to decide to do something," says Mr Upcraft.
"A lot of established Greeks are saying they would like more ships, but not at these prices. They will come back in but it may not be for a while."
Despite the fact that 2004 may not have been a vintage year in terms of Greek purchasing activity, the nation's owners have been involved in about 170 secondhand deals so far this year. But the dominant trend has been Greek selling.
Collectively, Greeks are poised to crack the $2bn barrier in terms of amounts raised from bulk carrier sales in the year.
By last week, they had sold 128 bulkers, yielding a total of $1.93bn, according to Clarksons' figures. These included reported newbuilding resales.
Sellers have included Astron Maritime, Barclay Shipping, Brave Maritime, Eastern Mediterranean, Gourdomichalis, the Oceanbulk group, Petrobulk and Transmed.
Some brokers judge that, with a resurgence of interest in acquisitions from Asia, more Greeks may be looking to sell tonnage in the months ahead in order to reinvest more cheaply later.
At the same time, at least 62 bulkers have been purchased this year by Greek owners, for an apparent outlay of $1.22bn.
Although many of the acquisitions were for modern tonnage, an interesting en bloc deal in May saw Piraeus- based Stamford Navigation reportedly acquiring five early-1980s built handysizes from Chinese owners for some $42m.
At the other end of the market, Alpha Shipping is said to have acquired the four year-old capesize Mineral Marvel from Bocimar for $53m, with a time charter at $18,050 a day attached.
At the end of last month, Elmira Shipping & Trading purchased a brand-new Oshima-built handymax, Sibulk Tradition, from Eitzen Bulk, reportedly paying $35.7m for the 55,000-tonner.
Elmira has the reputation of being one of the fastest-growing shipping companies in Greece and lately has had an interest in almost any modern handymax bulker that comes on the market, according to one broker.
Earlier last month it purchased another Oshima-built bulker, the 48,225 dwt Bay Bulker. Elmira reportedly paid Lauritzen Bulkers $28.5m for the 2000-built ship.
"Greek owners seem to take decisions much quicker [than most shipowners]," says Howard Bright, another senior dry cargo specialist at Braemar Seascope.
Mr Bright observes "increasing sophistication" in the Greek shipping community, layered on top of traditional strengths.
"They have discovered hedging and in a high market like this are thinking about locking themselves in.
"The Greek market has become more worldly-wise."
On the newbuilding front, Greek owners signed contracts for bulk carriers last year worth in excess of $1bn.
At present, the order book contains 86 bulkers for delivery to Greek owners between now and 2008.
Most of the vessels are handymaxes and panamaxes, with investment in capesizes being mainly represented in series ordered by Anangel and Transmed, as well as one cape on order for NS Lemos at Daewoo.
Greek activity in the dry bulk market is keeping big broking houses in London busy as well as numerous brokers in Greece itself, confirms Clarksons' sale & purchase division.
Sale and purchase division managing director Toby Broke-Smith says: "We have a network of international offices but Greek shipowners are the basis of our business much of the time."
Clarksons' own office in Greece, Clarkson Hellas, is a reflection of this.
Opened three and a half years ago, initially with three senior brokers seconded from the London operation, Clarkson Hellas now has 10 brokers -seven in the dry cargo department and three S&P brokers, and is set for further expansion.
"We do business with all the major shipowners in Greece," says Mr Broke-Smith. "overall they are a remarkably dynamic community."
Source: www.lloydslist.com, Friday October 29 2004


Mediterranean trio block EU deal on polluting ships
---(Reuters) - Three Mediterranean shipping nations blocked agreement on Tuesday on tough new measures against ships polluting European Union waters, including jail terms of up to 10 years and fines, diplomats said.
Spurred into action by the Prestige disaster that caused one of Europe's worst oil slicks off the Spanish coast in 2002, the EU's executive Commission had proposed the measures to prevent future environmental disasters.
But Greece, Malta and Cyprus rejected the proposals at a meeting of the bloc's justice ministers in Luxembourg, arguing they went too far beyond already agreed international rules on marine pollution.
"There is no agreement on ship pollution. Greece, Malta and Cyprus blocked," one EU diplomat said.
The issue may now have to be debated by EU leaders at a Nov. 5 summit in Brussels, also due to discuss a strategy for policy on security, asylum and immigration.
The Netherlands, which holds the EU presidency, had hoped ministers would agree on the measures including the possibility of jailing offending ship captains for five to 10 years.
As national leaders have instructed ministers to respond to the Prestige disaster, the Netherlands is considering putting the issue on the summit agenda, another diplomat said.
JAIL AND FINES
Under the proposals, EU states could fine shipowners up to 1.5 million euros ($1.90 million) in cases where pollution caused "significant and widespread damage to water quality", harmed animals and plants, or caused serious injury to people.
Lesser offences could lead to one to three years in jail and fines of 150,000 to 300,000 euros as well as loss of any public aid or the right to conduct business.
A Cypriot diplomat said Nicosia was concerned that the difference between careless and deliberate pollution in the proposals seemed very small.
Denmark, one of the world's largest seafaring nations, accused the three Mediterranean countries of protecting their own interests. Greek companies own 19 percent of the world's shipping fleet. Malta and Cyprus are much smaller players.
"It is very clear that those countries who are opposed have large national interests at stake," Danish Justice Minister Lene Espersen told reporters.
"We want to do what we can to avoid environmental disasters and we believe that this could have a preventive effect and improve the safety of fleets," she said. Diplomats said France, Germany and Spain and others shared the Danish position.
In November 2002, the tanker Prestige, carrying more than 75,000 tonnes of fuel oil, snapped in two after battling rough seas for six days. It left a series of oil slicks which ravaged wildlife in Galicia, a prime fishing region in Spain.
The EU has already banned single-hull tankers carrying oil or certain other products from entering its ports in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the disaster.
Source: www.alertnet.org, 26 Oct 2004 15:25:39 GMT, AlertNet news is provided by Reuters, By Marie-Louise Moller, Brussels.


Greece, Cyprus and Malta vote against reinforcing maritime penal framework
---Greece, Cyprus and Malta voted against reinforcing the penal framework regarding pollution caused by ocean-going vessels and tankers during an EU Ministers' Council meeting here on Tuesday, thus indefinitely postponing approval of the relevant directive which needed unanimous support in order to pass.
According to Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyannis who, escorted by Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras, represented Greece at the two-day meeting on Justice and Internal Affairs, the Directive goes against merchant sailors who would be penalized in case of sea pollution, while ship-owners could easily avoid repercussions by changing flags.
Speaking during the meeting, Kefaloyannis said that "the proposed changes would be disastrous for the European shipping sector since they will cause a decline in the sector, a sector of vital importance for the EU, by removing EU flags from our ships and preventing us from finding European sailors to keep Europe's shipping know-how alive."
He said that excessive penalization of the merchant shipping profession would discourage more ships from joining EU shipping registers, and would serve as a disincentive for businessmen to engage in shipping activity and for young professionals to join the shipping sector, thus jeopardizing established EU policies.
"Therefore, it is imperative that the EU support shipping actively and effectively and that it contributes towards reinforcing the sector's competitiveness as well as protecting the environment," Kefaloyannis said. He emphasized that he is not convinced that penalizing shipping accidents due to negligence will result in better protection of Europe's seas and shores. "And this because we believe that penalizing accidents will reduce the sense of responsibility of both ship-owners and sailors, who will no longer have an incentive to contain the damage of an accident since they will be punished nonetheless," he explained.
After the meeting, Kefaloyannis told reporters that a battle had been fought in Luxembourg to protect the interests of Greek shipping. "We refused the unequal treatment of Greek sailors and the penalizing of the shipping profession. Greece, which is based on two pillars - shipping and tourism - is certainly sensitive to environmental issues. This is also why our country has one of the strictest legal frameworks regarding ocean pollution in place. However, this does not justify the attitude of certain member-states that merchant shipping should commit 'financial suicide'."
According to Kefaloyannis, this is European 'masochism' since any ship owner can abandon the European flag at any time while merchant sailors will be subject to criminal charges.
Source: LUXEMBOURG 27/10/2004 (ANA/G.Zitouniati)


Greece insists on decision to block E.U. plans penalizing polluters
---ATHENS, Greece - Greece said on Wednesday it would never retreat from its decision to block European Union proposals setting minimum punishments for shipping companies and captains responsible for oil slicks.
At a meeting of European justice ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday, Greece, Cyprus, and Malta said the proposed new rules would penalize their merchant fleets by going further than international agreements applicable to competitors from outside the E.U.
"The merchant marine is a national treasure that has been defended by our constitution for 60 years. This would have placed Greek seamen at great danger, and no Greek government would ever allow it," said government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros.
Greece has the largest merchant shipping fleet in the E.U., with Greek-registered ships making up about 50 percent of its tonnage. The rest of the Greek-owned fleet - which does not fly the Greek flag - is far larger and controls more than 18 percent of the worldwide capacity in tonnage.
The issue could be discussed at next week's E.U. summit in Brussels.
"If French wine was under threat, does anyone doubt they would fight until the bitter end?" Antonaros questioned, setting the tone for any future discussion.
The proposed E.U. rules set a series of minimum punishments of up to 10 years imprisonment and fines of euro1.5 million (US$1.9 million) for major pollution at sea resulting from deliberate acts or gross negligence.
The E.U. has been pushing for stronger rules to prevent more accidents like 2002 Prestige oil tanker disaster in northwestern Spain. The Prestige was operated by a company in Athens but flew a Bahamian flag, and its operator was registered in Liberia. Its captain was Greek.
The three countries also want to revise the package to impose a ceiling on the liability that shipping companies can face if there is a pollution disaster. Without that, they say, it will become impossible for shippers to get insurance cover.
Greece's opposition Socialist party criticized the decision to block the E.U. proposals, accusing the government of bowing to pressure from "ship-owning interests."
"It is a service that was offered to ship-owning interests that want to remain without control and to pollute the marine environment," said former Merchant Marine Minister Christos Papoutsis.
Greece should have negotiated a better proposal on pollution rather than just blocking it, he said.
Proposals setting the minimum levels of sanctions need unanimous approval from all 25 governments before they can become E.U. law.
Source: www.enn.com, October 28, 2004 - By Patrick Quinn, Associated Press


General Bulk: Peter G teams up with Oaktree again
---Peter G has teamed up with U.S. private equity fund Oak Tree, an early back of his tanker company General Maritime, to buy the Top Glory fleet of bulkers for circa $400 million. We understand from market sources that General Bulk is in pursuit of the MISC bulker fleet, which would be a good fit with the handysize, handymax and panamax bulkers they are buying from Top Glory. The two deals together would total over $1 billion. Although the deal(s) will be financed privately at inception, it would be consistent with history for the duo to list the dry cargo company on the stock exchange in the future and capture a possible re-rating of the valuation.
Source: www.marinemoney.com, 28 Oct 04


Eleven highspeed Flying Dolphins and five conventional ferries are to be withdrawn. Already three new vessels, two catamarans and a Highspeed ship will be added to the fleet in the coming months. The 810-passenger Highspeed 5 is being built in Australia by Austal and will be in service next summer on the Piraeus-Chania (Crete) run. This unit was 75% financed by ABNAmro bank through a loan guaranteed by Australian export-finance organisation EFIC.
The unfinished hulls of two 10,000gt ropax ferries ordered by Blue Star Ferries, and lying at Hellenic Shipyards, have been purchased with the first set to be delivered in July 2005 and the second in 2006.
Speaking at a press conference held in HFD's Piraeus offices October 26, Strintzis attacked the government's inertia and indecision in matters to do with Greece's coastal shipping. He said that unless the legal framework under which the passenger ship sector currently works is overhauled the companies "will continue to move back in time". He said the present government-imposed restrictions created a negative investment climate which discouraged investors and the shipfinance sector.
He said the increase in the price of bunkers "has turned the market upside-down and created holes in all budgets". He also maintained the government's insistence on imposing third-party levies on fares and tariffs meant an added burden for the paying passenger.
Source: www.newsfront.no, 29 Oct 04


Festival fraud investigation
---A summons has been issued to two former managers at Festival Cruises suspected of being responsible in the bankruptcy of the Italian cruise line in May 2004. Former MD Roberto Costaguta, 55, and his right-hand man Alessandro Miglio, 42, are being investigated by a Genoa court over some unusual payments made by the cruise line.
However, the committee's unanimous assumption is that much of the money was spirited abroad from the management. To find the "hidden treasure", it has appointed a research team in Luxembourg, where Festival was formally incorporated, to investigate movements between Festival's bank accounts. At the moment Poulides enjoys diplomatic immunity as the Cyprus ambassador to the Vatican, so he is able to keep the investigating prosecutors at a distance.
Certainly Poulides has always kept the long-term view in sight in his business dealings.
Not by chance he has cultivated world leaders - including Blair, Putin, Berlusconi and Chirac - whom he hosted aboard his European Vision during the G8 summit in Genoa in July 2001. On the opposite political barricade, he has been seen shaking hands with Fidel Castro in Cuba. Of course, he achieved the best protection when he received his diplomatic commission from Pope John Paul II in Rome.
Source: www.fairplay.com, Newswatch, 28 Oct 2004