Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 45 - 2004
---Bulgaria, Greece and Russia have agreed to renew the long-delayed construction of Burgas-Alexandrupolis oil pipeline after intense three-way talks on the Aegean Sea.
The oil pipeline is meant to connect the Black Sea port of Burgas, Bulgaria, with Greece's northern Aegean port of Alexandroupolis. Initially developed in the mid 1990s, the pipeline is projected to transport Russian crude oil along a land route that bypasses the traffic-congested Bosphorus and Hellespont straits.
Concerns over the project's viability, ownership share, a guaranteed supply of oil and the financing parts have kept the project on the drawing boards for about a decade.
"All of us here today have made significant efforts to reach this point after 33 months, where we can discuss this project with more determination than at any other time", Greece's Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said quoted by Greek media.
He also noted that a future Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline will not be a competitor to the straits for the transport of oil, but instead will serve as an auxiliary route.
Russia has been dubious over the economic advantages of the project, as it was reiterated recently in Sofia during the official visit of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.
Sofia will host the official signature of the Memorandum by Bulgaria, Greece and Russia in the beginning of December, Bulgarian Regional Development Minister Valentin Tserovski announced.
Source: http://www.novinite.com/, Sofia News Agency, 5 November 2004, Friday.
Minister backs Greek-Swedish projects in Balkans
---Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Thursday that he favored the creation of Greek-Swedish consortiums for projects in the Balkans, an areas in which there was leeway for growth.
Addressing the Greek-Swedish Chamber, Sioufas also noted that alliances could be formed in the financial sector, including with the Black Sea Bank.
The minister asked the chamber to help identify sectors in which cooperation between firms of the two countries could be established, adding that opportunities in the Greek economy could be publicized in Sweden.
Source: http://www.hri.org, Athens 5/11/2004 (ANA)
Greek shipping grows, expects more from gov't
---The national Greek Shipping Register grew further in size and strength in the first nine months of 2004. A total of 113 ships, with a tally of 3.45 million register tons in capacity and with an average age of nine years, were registered to carry the Greek flag, while 109 vessels, totaling 3.12 register tons and with an average age of 23.5 years, were taken off the register.
The development clearly shows the current attraction of shipowners to the Greek flag, as the national register is on the so-called "White List," meaning that the vast majority of vessels carrying the Greek flag fulfill all international safety rules and regulations, as well as environmental protection standards.
According to the Merchant Marine Ministry, the trend continued from 2003, when the number of ships registering in Greece also rose steadily, with 168 new entries, totaling 7.15 million register tons, while 156, totaling 4.43 register tons, were deregistered.
Shipping circles take the view that the increase in the total tonnage registered could have been much bigger had the government sought to apply faster effective measures for the enhancement of the competitive position of the Greek flag. The industry hopes for such measures to improve its overall business environment, upgrade education and training, allow for a more flexible crew composition, improve services imperative to shipping companies and enhance the effectiveness of arbitration procedures.
Greek shipowners currently have on order 270 ships, totaling 24.7 million register tons, excluding passenger vessels. Of these, 170 are tankers and 65 bulk carriers, with a total investment of $7 billion.
"A substantial change in the philosophy of the government vis-a-vis the treatment of shipping issues could bring new vessels under the Greek flag, bolstering the country's strength internationally, fueling additional currency inflows into the national economy and creating more jobs for young Greek officers who would thus improve the skills necessary to run modern vessels with safety," said a source at the Union of Greek Shipowners (EEE) who asked not to be named.
After the recent meeting between the members of the London-based Greek Maritime Cooperation Committee, EEE and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, shipping circles expressed optimism that "there are signs of change in the way the government is prepared to treat the shipping industry." According to sources, the prime minister made it clear to the shipowners that the government is aiming at bolstering the competitive position of the Greek flag and provided assurances it will strengthen its presence in international fora in support of the industry.
"We are now waiting to see the measures that will bolster the competitiveness of the national register and will respond appropriately, as we believe that the government has the political will to help. Moreover, Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis keeps assuring us that the industry is high on the government's agenda," the same sources said.
Source: By Nikos Bardounias - Kathimerini, 1 Nov 2004
Port investment perks, but no Piraeus Port flotation
---Port development and the cruise industry are to be included in the Greek government's planned law on investment incentives. The law will seek to attract private investors in port services, promote cruise shipping, but will not foresee a further flotation of Piraeus Port Authority shares on the Athens Stock Exchange.
"We wish for the same provision to apply to the merchant marine as for industry in general," said Marine minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis, November 3.
The minister and the ministry's port's policy overlord George Vlachos, explained that the draft law will contain a separate comprehensive chapter on port development, especially terminals whether they be for containers, bulk cargo or passenger ships. "Most of the installations around the country are of limited capacity and can not meet modern requirements," said Vlachos. An economist by training, Vlachos was critical of the high wages paid by previous port managements. He said that in the case of Piraeus some "78% of expenses went on salaries" saying that "in no company does this happen".
The minister said the coastal passenger shipping sector was generally "in good shape" but that another six vessels were required to meet demands. He said the new law will contain incentives to encourage upgrading the fleet as well as encouraging companies to form partnerships.
Meanwhile, PPA ceo Nicos Yannis says there is considerable interest on the part of private investors in leasing areas within the central port of Piraeus for the handling of mega yachts and tourist vessels. Speaking at the Seatrade Med Cruise & Ferry Convention in Genoa, Yannis confirmed the Latsis group and the tour operator TUI were among the four or so parties to inspect facilities upgraded for the Athens Olympic Games with a view to taking a 10 to 15 year lease.
Yannis said "it is early days" and that "a decision would be a political one" but Latsis is considering an area for mooring 10 to 30 mega yachts, owned by it and Arab interests. Latsis owns 10 such vessels and it building a number of luxury yachts in its shipyard near Elefsina.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 6 Nov 2004
Greenpeace accuses Greece of passing the buck on pollution
---Greenpeace, the environmental action group says that the Greek veto of proposed European Union laws to criminalise oil spills opens the door to further destruction of the maritime environment. Cyprus and Malta followed suit by joining Greece's opposition to the measures at a meeting of EU justice ministers in Luxembourg last week. The Greeks are adamant however saying, "Others, not us, are responsible for environmental disasters." (Picture: Greenpeace activist attending Greek tanker "Enias" in the Baltic Sea)
Greece said last week that it would never back down on proposals by the European Union to set minimum punishments for ship owners, operators as well as crew members accused of being responsible for oil spills. The country is home to 18% of the owners of the world's merchant fleet.
Greek government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told Reuters last Tuesday that "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." However, the stance taken by Greece, which has by far the biggest merchant shipping fleet of any EU nation, opens the door to further destruction of the maritime environment Greenpeace said in a statement
The proposed EU laws would set a series of minimum punishments of up to 10 years imprisonment and fines of Euro0 1.5 million (US$1.9 million) for major pollution at sea resulting from deliberate acts or assumed gross negligence. According to Reuters, 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 which, getting insurance cover for Greek, Cypriot and Maltese registered vessels would prove difficult.
Greenpeace called on Greek Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis to stop defending "a few polluting shipowners, and to end its alliance with Cyprus and Malta, which a major providers of flags of convenience to shipping companies around the world."
The response from deputy government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros was defensive. "Greece has no intention, and no interest, in cooperating in the criminalization of seafarers," he told the Agence France Press, adding: "Others, not us, are responsible for environmental disasters."
The proposals need unanimous approval from all 25 governments before they can become EU law.
Source: http://www.tankerworld.com, By Oscar Jacobsen in Oslo, Published: 03.11.2004 | Last updated: 03.11.2004
Tsao urges Greece to hold line and save the industry
---Dry cargo chairman says transparency is vital, writes Nigel Lowry in Athens- Thursday November 04 2004
Dry cargo shipowners' association chairman Frederick Chavalit Tsao has called on Greek shipowners to take the lead in the fight for a better future and a more positive image at what he says is an "important turning point" for the industry.
Mr Tsao hailed Greece as the industry's most likely saviour, its "last defence", being the last of the traditional shipping communities to hold on to its former strength.
By contrast he described Norway and Hong Kong as "dying dinosaurs" while saying that traditional maritime giants such as the UK and Germany had hopped from the ranks of flag states to the port state camp.
The head of Intercargo and the association's general secretary Roger Holt were speaking yesterday in Athens after the body's annual meeting and other events, including a meeting with Greece's minister of merchant marine, Manolis Kefaloyiannis, and the Union of Greek Shipowners.
Said Mr Holt: "Our relationship with the UGS is a very close one. Although we have always had a strong Greek membership the relationship was not always as close as it is today."
Mr Tsao was clearly hoping for even more action from yesterday's host country.
"We are more and more aligned with the UGS," he told Lloyd's List, but added that he hoped Greek owners would take more action to "understand the dynamics of playing politics and of implementing policies. It is not just about policy but how the policies play out in the international arena and having the people to follow it through".
According to Mr Tsao, "This is not just a dry cargo issue. Port states do not see how shipping benefits the whole economy. It is taken for granted - and shipping is losing clout."
In addition to lobbying, the industry had to "unite and speak with one voice" and had to "think a little longer term", he said.
It also needed to build what Mr Tsao called "social capital", improving its image through more transparency and attracting new people to the business.
The Singapore-based shipowner believed that there was an opportunity for shipping in the remarkable revitalization of industrial production led by Asia.
"This is on a scale never seen before and here shipping is the pipeline to ensure it continues. All the new mines, factories and steel mills - every one of them needs to ensure shipping is working.
"We think shipowners should be the driving force as we carry the baby, but being proactive is important," said Mr Tsao.
"Who will be the shipowners in the future if not the traditional shipowners?" he asked, speculating that owners faced being replaced by state corporations, funds and general investors.
But these were "people who don't know anything about shipping" and this would do nothing for maintaining high standards, he suggested.
Mr Tsao welcomed legislation and criticised the European Union's approach, saying it raised "not an issue of toughness but an issue of fairness".
Source: www.lloydslist.com, Thursday November 04 2004
TOP acquires 5 suezmaxes from Essar, issues more equity
---Top Tankers is doing exactly what they should be doing; using premium valued stock to buy ships. And the public-money fueled acquisition spree continues at Top Tankers. This week the company announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire five double-hulled suezmax tankers from Essar Shipping for a total purchaser price of $256.5 million. The deal lifts Top's fleet to 21 tanker and 1.9 million tons. Three of the tankers were formerly owned by Sovcomflot and are sister ships with the Company's newly acquired M/T Timeless and M/T Flawless. The other two vessels are ice-class tankers and sister ships.
At $51 million each, the acquisition of these 1991-1993 built ships is reliant on two critical factors: the current strong cash flow generation they provide and the fact that the company's stock is trading at a meaningful premium to NAV. Top said that it expects the ships to be delivered between January 1st and April 15th, 2005 and for those tankers that are not delivered by January 31st, 2005, Essar will be levied with a $29,000 per day penalty.
In order to finance the purchase, Top amended the Registration Statement it filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission two weeks ago and increased the number of shares in its proposed offering to 7,515,528 shares of its common stock plus a 1,127,329 share green shoe. If the green shoe is sold and the deal goes off at $15, the company will generate gross proceeds of $130 million, or about 50% of the purchase price of the assets. At this leverage level, we would not be surprised to see Top's house lender RBS step up and backfill the balance with LIBOR + debt.
Top's major investors include small capitalization momentum energy players like Nat City Small Cap Equity, Rainier Small Cap, Icon Small Cap Energy. Race Deprice has been a large seller since the offering.
Source: www.marinemoney.com, 5 Nov 04
Tsavliris reports busy summer for salvage and towage services
---Leading international salvor Tsavliris has been highly active over the summer with a series of groundings and other maritime casualties spanning the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
In spite of a general reduction in maritime accidents to sustain the salvage profession, the Tsavliris Salvage Group undertook no less than six salvage services under Lloyd's Open Form during the months of June, July and August, underlining the group's status as the world's busiest emergency contractor.
Heralding the busy period, the Greek based salvor responded at the start of June to the plight of the 18,000 dwt general cargo vessel Laine which had run aground in the River Plate on a voyage from Brazil with a cargo of 13,000 t of steel products. Tsavliris hired two local tugs and dispatched salvage personnel to the scene where, with additional help from a lightering barge that removed more than 2,000 t of cargo from the casualty, the vessel was successfully refloated one week later.
The same week, it was the turn of Eleftheria, a Panamax bulk carrier, laden with 57,500 tons of soya beans, which sustained collision damages on the starboard hold No 1 in a position north of Algeria. Tsavliris carried out temporary repairs and the vessel was then escorted to Ancona, where the service came to an end after sufficient cargo was discharged.
Completing a hectic few days, on June 9 Tsavliris was contracted under LOF to provide assistance to another bulker, this time on a voyage from Brazil to Rotterdam laden with a soya cargo. The salvors dispatched super-tug Fotiy Krylov together with a subcontracted salvage unit to the scene, 14 miles northwest of El Ferrol, Spain, where the Conger was immobilized with engine problems. But by the time of arrival, the Spanish authorities had already taken the casualty under tow.
Other substantial salvage operations conducted by Tsavliris recently included a challenging operation to refloat and then tow the container ship Lucy Borchard, loaded with 200 containers, which suffered propeller, hull and rudder damage when she ran aground in the Aegean Sea in July. Tsavliris' owned Megas Alexandros together with a chartered tug were mobilized for this operation.
A more complex operation involved the successful refloating of the Panamax bulk carrier Olympic Galaxy. The bulk carrier, on the way to delivering a cargo of 61.000 tonnes of wheat from Australia, grounded in Sri Lanka on July 10. Tsavliris tug SB-408, a sub-contacted tug Mahanuwara and a smaller bunker ware mobilized to assist the casualty. The vessel was refloated and safely delivered to Triconmalee Roads, after a lightening operation where approximately 4300 tonnes of cargo was removed.
Most recently, the salvor has been engaged on a major operation to lighten and refloat the handymax bulk carrier Ken Explorer, fully laden with copper concentrate, which ran aground in the Gulf of Khambat while on a voyage from Chile to India.
For more information, contact: Tsavliris Group of Companies, Worldwide Salvage & Towage, 10 Akti Poseidonos, Piraeus, GR-185 31, Greece Phone: +30 210 42 21 000 Fax: +30 210 42 21 008
Source: www.mgn.com, 2 Nov 04
Horizon and Louis bid to buy cruise line debt
---Two companies have bid to buy off Royal Olympic Cruises (ROC)'s debt to Fortis Bank at a fraction of its value but the bank and a court-appointed mediator are pushing for the liquidation of the cruise operator's subsidiaries in a court hearing this week.
Elias Chaliakopoulos, a legal representative for ROC, says US investment company Horizon Highbridge and the Louis group of Cyprus have made offers of around EUR 6m ($7.6m) to buy the debt.
In February ROC won court protection from its creditors under Article 45, which is similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US. Piraeus lawyer Gregory Timagenis has been appointed as mediator between the company and its creditors, the main one being Fortis Bank.
ROC has debts said to total around EUR 80m, of which EUR 55m is owed to Fortis Bank.
The protection order covers five companies, three of which are the owning companies of three cruiseships controlled by ROC.
The cruise company applied to have the period of protection, which ends later this month, renewed but Timagenis says the bank has applied to the court to revoke and not to renew its decision.
The mediator himself also appears to be in favour of letting go and says that since negotiations have failed to find a solution to ROC's financial woes, "the next step under the law is for the companies to go into liquidation".
Chaliakopoulos, however, says he still hopes the company can be saved and argues that liquidation is not in the bank's best interests since the mortgagees claims are subsidiary to those of crew and their insurance funds.
He would like to see the companies go under the provisions of another article in the Greek civil code that would allow an extended period of time for reduced debt to be paid off.
"Of course it's difficult but in any case the bank has made up its mind to significantly reduce its demands," said Chaliakopoulos.
In the case of the US company, the lawyer says the procedure would be simple. "In the place of the bank there will be an investor," he said.
Regarding Louis, he says the proposal is different and that the Cypriot group would want to take over management of the ships.
Louis recently announced it is planning to operate two of its ships on cruises out of Piraeus starting in the spring. If Louis's bid is accepted but ROC ships stay under its control, they would apparently be competing with the Louis ships.
ROC's application to the court was heard this week but a decision is not expected for two or three weeks.
ROC is now trading under the name Royal Olympia.
Source: www.tradewinds.no, Gillian Whittaker Athens, published: 05 November 2004