Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 52 - 2004

 

Decidedly Greek flavour to 2004

---2004 turned out to be a great year for Greece. The Greek football team snatched the European Championships, the Athens Olympics were hailed a success and the Greeks turned out to be champions down at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
Firstly, former harbour master Efthimios Mitropoulos was voted in as secretary-general. He was instantly hailed as Man of the Year by the Greek shipping community.
Mitropoulos got off to a flying start when he persuaded member states to adopt a convention on ballast water treatment that at a time many felt was premature.
The tricky International Ship&Port Facility Security (ISPS) code also passed through the IMO with a guiding hand from Mitropoulos. And apart from Mitropoulos's successes, the Greek government's delegation also made its mark on the IMO this year.
Like footballer Angelos Charisteas's 57th minute winning goal against Portugal in the final of the European Championships, the Greeks managed in May, against impossible odds, to persuade member states to back track on a previous decision to make double hulls mandatory for bulker newbuildings.
Greece's commissioned report from the University of Strathclyde, put together in a few months, won over delegates against a formal safety assessment from the UK that took years to produce.
In a similar fashion the Greeks also managed to oppose costly proposals for permanent means of inspection access for newbuildings.
They also took the initiative in a joint proposal with the Bahamas that the IMO should change its rule making methodology to a "goal based" approach.
This has clearly been a year of strong Greek influence at the IMO but will it continue?
One key tussle is already developing between Greece and Japan and the new goal-based standards will be the battle ground.
Japan, which generally sells ships on at the age of 10 to 15 years, is not too keen on the IMO's goal for ships to have a life span of between 25 to 30 years without there being strict maintenance criteria.
Greece, on the other hand, whose shipowners tend to use ships for much longer than the Japanese and indeed often buy secondhand ships from Japanese owners would prefer to see the life span of a ship set as a "stand-alone figure".
The idea of a maintenance-free ship boarders on fantasy. There are, for example, no guarantees on the life of coatings.
Hopefully, there is room for a compromise with higher structural standards for ships being set within a reasonable maintenance regime. But in the current form, it would be difficult not to back the Greek point of view as winning the day again.
Source: www.tradewinds.no, published: 23 December 2004


Shipping maintains position as chief currency earner
---Shipping outpaced all Greek exports of goods and commodities, as well as tourism, as a currency earner in the January-October 2004 period, bringing in 10.9 billion euros, against 10.2 billion and 9.8 billion respectively, Bank of Greece data released yesterday show.
The country's current account deficit narrowed by 2,088 million, or 36 percent, over the corresponding period in 2003, and came down to 3,716 million. This development mainly reflects a substantial rise in the services surplus, an increase in the transfers surplus, as well as a small decrease in the income account deficit, which more than offset a strong rise in the trade deficit.
The trade deficit grew by 2,139 million euros, or 11.3 percent, year-on-year, to 20,700 million euros. Imports rose by 435 million due to higher oil prices.
By contrast, developments in the services account were very favorable, mainly due to shipping receipts, with the surplus growing by 3,472 million euros, or 32.3 percent.
Net transport receipts grew 2,404 million euros and net travel receipts by 704 million. Receipts from tourism in the 10 months totaled 9,870 million euros, against 9,020 million in the same period of 2003.
Transfers from the European Union totaled 5,320 million euros, against 4,250 million in January-October 2003.
The deficit in the "other" services account virtually came to zero.
Non-residents' direct investment in Greece reached 1,044 million euros, while residents' direct investment abroad came to 431 million. The most important direct investments in Greece by non-residents over the first 10 months of 2004 included the acquisition of Panafon mobile phone operator Vodafone, which had taken place partly in 2003 and was completed in January and February of the current year; the acquisition of Geniki Bank by Societe Generale in March; the acquisition of Delta Singular Outsourcing Services by the US company First Data in July; the increase in the participation of Paneuropean Oil and Industrial Holdings in the share capital of Hellenic Petroleum in August, and the acquisition of electrical goods retailer Kotsovolos by the UK's Dixons in September.
Over the same period, a substantial net inflow of 11,690 million euros was recorded under portfolio investment. Finally, a net outflow of 8,721 million euros was recorded under ''other'' investment, largely associated with the sizable outflow of domestic credit institutions' funds to deposits and repos abroad.
In October alone, the current account deficit was smaller by 39 million euros, compared with the corresponding month of 2003. This improvement is mainly accounted for by an increase in the services surplus and - to a lesser extent - by a decline in the income account deficit. No remarkable flows were recorded under direct investment.
At the end of October, Greece's reserve assets came to 3.0 billion euros.
Source: www.ekathimerini.com, 18 Dec 2004


Five IPOs from Greek shipowners
---A small group of Greek shipping companies are set to tap the public equity market. Exciting news for the Athens Stock Exchange and Greek investors? Hardly. These companies have their sights set on the United States' capital market where shipping stocks are hot these days. In all, there are five companies now looking at a listing in the US - whether it be on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Exchange or the Nasdaq is not yet clear.
Those that finally do find themselves in a position to take the plunge will join five Greek companies, which already have shares trading on the US stock market: the tanker companies, General Maritime, Stelmar Shipping and Tsakos Energy Navigation which are listed on the New York Stock Exchange; the Nasdaq-listed TOP Tankers; and the American Exchange-listed bulker carrier operator, Excel Maritime. All five have raised well in excess of $100 million through their initial public offering (IPO) and secondary offerings.
Of the potential newcomers, all five have a well-known industry name behind them which is seeking funds to underwrite ongoing fleet expansion and modernisation programmes. And four of the five companies plan to woo investors interested in dry shipping, as opposed to wet, and use the funds raised to bolster their dry cargo ship operations. They are taking something of a chance as tanker tonnage is proving the big attraction for most US investors interested in shipping stocks.
One of the newcomers, Piraeus-based bulk shipper International Shipping Enterprises (ISE), has just floated an IPO on Nasdaq in which it raised just under $200 million, floating 28.5 million shares. The shares were priced at 6 dollars each, but exceeded this target. ISE's chairperson is Angeliki Frangou, who is the daughter of well-known shipowner Nikolas Frangos, who founded Good Faith Shipping already runs a company operating more than a dozen bulk carriers. She helped plan a $280 million high-yield bond offering on Good Faith's behalf in 1998. The company ultimately backed away when it could not reach the desired interest-rate pricing.
Frangou joins Athens-based Pacific & Atlantic, run by Nicos Pateras, who confirmed some weeks back that the company will push ahead with a long-mulled IPO. The US stock market is also buzzing with reports that Maroussi-based Drytank's George Economou is planning an IPO to underwrite its huge ongoing fleet expansion programme of newbuildings and secondhand ship purchases.
The Restis Group is considering an IPO at a time when it is linked to two separate tenders to buy entire fleets. A decision on whether the Glyfada-based company floats an offering could come soon following its successful $740 million bid to purchase the Malaysia International Shipping Corp's 32-ship fleet of dry cargo vessels. The group has also expressed a strong interest in bidding for Stelmar Tankers, which would probably require at least another $750 million. George Procopiou, who is behind Dynacom Tankers, also confirms he is "seriously considering" an IPO.
Dynacom is one of Greece's biggest shipping companies with assets estimated to be worth $2.5 billion, and rising. The Glyfada-based company is presently operating 32 tankers of around 5.5 million dwt and has 14 ships under construction in a massive $1 billion fleet renewal programme, including three large LNG carriers valued at $150 million each. If the Dynacom listing goes ahead, it will be one of the largest tanker companies ever interested in capitalising on hot tanker stocks.
Procopiou says a listing may be the only way the company can keep pace with other major tanker operators, many of which are already in the capital market. No other exchange, he said, "can compete or offer the same support and volume as the New York Stock Exchange". Tanker companies General Maritime, Stelmar Shipping and Tsakos Energy Navigation (TEN) are already listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
The most recent successful IPO saw Neo Psychiko-based TOP Tankers turn to the Nasdaq to raise $144 million to underwrite a $220 million purchase of 10 tankers. In a secondary offering some $144.6 million was netted to support the immediate purchase for $256 million of five early 1990s-built double-hull 143,000dwt tankers.
TOP sold a total of 23 million shares in the two visits to the equity market. Since the IPO on July 23, at just over $11 a share, TOP's stock has been changing hands at nearly $22 a share. A number of Greek shipping companies that used the international capital market are no longer players, including Anangel-American Shipholings, London & Overeas Freighters and the troubled Royal Olympic Cruises.
Source: www.athensnews.gr, 17/12/2004, DAVID GLASS


EC slams Greece shipyard policy
---LONDON [MENL] -- In a decision that could affect the company's health, the European Commission has ruled against the granting of subsidies to Hellenic Shipyards.
The EC decision could affect the terms of a Defense Ministry agreement that facilitated the sale of the former government-owned facility. In 2002, the shipyard was sold to Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft as part of the German firm's effort to enter the market for small vessels.
The commission determined that the government provided illegal subsidies to Hellenic Shipyards. The EC said Greece must change its policies and demand the return of the subsidies.
"The European Commission concluded that Greek authorities must repeal certain legal provisions, which allow the state to cover future retirement costs at Hellenic Shipyards and to relieve Hellenic Shipyards from any tax or other duties with respect to reserves and amounts for the increase of share capital, which are used to offset losses of previous years," the commission said.
Source: http://www.menewsline.com, 22 Dec 04


Safety dispute stirs EU court case
---ONCE AN 'urgent need', stronger maritime safety legislation appears to have fallen down the list of political priorities for more than a half-dozen European governments. The European Commission announced last week that it was taking eight member countries to the European Court of Justice over failure to implement key legislation on vessel traffic monitoring - which was passed more than two years ago.
Government officials in at least three of the offending countries told Fairplay that the laws have not been implemented because of a backlog of legislative work, adding that it is only a matter of time before they comply.
'Appalled' by delays
This excuse, however, has done little appease the new European Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot. "Five years after the wreck of the Erika and three years after that of the Prestige, I am appalled that member states delay the implementation of key measures to improve maritime safety," he declared on15 December.
"Countries need to define places of refuge in case of emergency and ensure the installation of black boxes on all ships," he added. The shipping ministry of Greece, one of the accused countries, blamed the previous government. Greek elections were held back on 7 March and the legislation was passed on 27 June 2002, but a ministry spokesman told Fairplay that partly to blame was a protracted pre-election period, during which law production "traditionally" comes to a standstill.
The new political guard at the Greek shipping ministry has drafted a presidential decree to implement the directive.
In the UK, another nation accused, officials explained that UK regulations entered into force (eight months late) only on 20 September this year.
Why the delayed legislation is causing problems remains unclear. It sets out the obligation to notify maritime authorities, particularly in cases where a ship is carrying dangerous or polluting cargo, and establishes monitoring rules. Perhaps more controversially, the law obliges a government to draw up plans to accommodate ships in distress.
If the member states refuse to comply with the EC directive, they could face financial penalties. But such procedures generally take several years, by which time the laws will inevitably have been passed.
A Dutch ministry of transport spokesman said its government "has quite a job to implement the required safety regulations, but the job is expected to be done mid-January 2005, which apparently is too late".
Source: Fairplay International Shipping Weekly, 23 Dec 2004


Greek cargo ship crew safe after fire
---A Greek cargo ship caught fire off Sri Lanka, but the 30-member crew extinguished the blaze and all aboard were safe, a rescue and salvage company said today.
The company, Master Divers, said it sent a rescue vessel to the Loyd Diana after it reported that it was on fire 575 miles south of Colombo, while carrying 4,000 containers from Singapore to Europe.
"The crew managed to knock off the fire before we could reach the ship," said company chairman Ariyaseela Wickremanayake.
"The engine room has suffered damage and the ship will have be towed either to Dubai or to any other port for repair," Wickremanayake said.
It was not immediately clear what started the blaze.
The crew members, all Greeks, were safe, Wickremanayake said. The vessel is registered in Greece.
Source: http://news.scotsman.com, Fri 24 Dec 2004


Tsakos Energy Navigation listed in Europe's Top 500 Companies
---Tsakos Energy Navigation Limited (TEN) (NYSE: TNP - News), a leading owner and operator of a fleet of modern tankers providing marine transportation services for national, major and other independent oil companies and refiners, announced today that it has ranked 128 on Europe's 500 listing of fast growing businesses in Europe.
"With its ranking on the prestigious Europe's 500, TEN has proven its vision and commitment to provide value through growth for its shareholders," said George V. Saroglou, Chief Operating Officer of TEN. "This accomplishment is a direct reflection of our dedication to our strategies for growth, the high quality maritime training of our employees, and to providing our customers safe, punctual and superior service."
Europe's 500 annual rankings are based on corporate performance criteria, requiring companies to demonstrate entrepreneurial involvement, growth in turnover, employment and organic growth, over three fiscal years. The Company's market capitalization grew over 500% since January 1st, 2001 and its profitability over 850% in the comparable period.
Mr. D. John Stavropoulos, Chairman of TEN, has accepted the award on behalf of the Company during an awards ceremony held in Paris, France by Europe's 500 on December 7, 2004.
Additionally, TEN announced the completion of the sale of the Aframax Toula Z, built in 1997, to a third party on December 16th. The Company will recognize a net gain of over $11 million from the sale of this vessel in the fourth quarter. TEN has placed two additional N/B orders for Aframaxes to replace the Toula Z in Japan, with deliveries in June 2005 and June 2007 respectively. Including these two Aframaxes, TEN will take delivery of five newbuildings in 2005, four in 2006 and six in 2007.
Out of a fleet of 41 vessels (including the 15 newbuildings), TEN has 26 in operation, with 22 vessels operating under medium or long-term engagement contracts with the remaining 4 vessels performing in the spot market. Employment has now been secured for all remaining operating days in 2004. Employment has also been arranged for 72% of the operating days of 2005, which will generate minimum revenue of approximately $150 million next year.
Source: Press Release, Tsakos Energy Navigation Limited, Monday December 20, 8:31 am ET


GAC's new boss goes to Europe in search of more business
---Earlier this year, Preethilal Fernando, a long-serving and experienced shipping professional, switched allegiance from Mackinnons Shipping to the McLarens Shipping group, taking over as director and chief executive of constituent company GAC Shipping.
One of his first tasks was to undertake a familiarisation tour of Europe, visiting several of the 24 P&I clubs that GAC represents in Sri Lanka.
"Part of the reason for the tour was to promote our agency business and also our ship's supply services business in Britain," says Mr Fernando. "Strangely, when we visited Athens many shipowners were not even aware that such a service existed.
"Actually more than 70% of our market constitutes Singaporean shipowners. All the Greeks we met said they would be very keen to use the service in the future. I think we could promote this service to Japan and India as well."
Mr Fernando still has a long way to go before he can consider himself totally on top of all the multifarious GAC operations in Sri Lanka.
There are numerous areas to cover as GAC has several marketing centres in Britain, Greece, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.
The company operates in three different sectors, GAC Marine Division, GAC Logistics and GAC Shipping.
"Each sector has different operations," says Mr Fernando. "Under Logistics we handle supply chain management for Unilever and a US company, A&E. We have a staff of 110 for that operation.
"Under Logistics, we also have freight forwarding, air freight, NVOCC operations, and clearing and forwarding.
"In addition, in the Marine Division we have the contract for Shell, and handle all of its CBM operations. We have four master mariners working exclusively on berthing and offshore operations."
The company has seven or eight Shell vessels calling every month, carrying about 2,500 tonnes of gas.
It also handles liquefied petroleum gas for a smaller operator, Laugfs Gas, inside the port. "We handle various other agencies, for example bulk discharge of petroleum products for Reliance Industries of India," says Mr Fernando.
"In addition, we handle whatever Ceylon Petroleum Corporation brings in."
It is, therefore, not surprising that the annual turnover of GAC in Sri Lanka is around Rs 300m ($2.9m). The company handles around 650 ships annually, including 40 a month off Galle and 15 from Colombo.
"In 2005, we are looking at expanding bunkering operations," says Mr Fernando. "When we do the ship's supply service and crew changes, we could easily do bunkering side by side.
"We unfortunately cannot do this off Galle because of the limited facilities that Lanka Marine Services has at its disposal there."
However, it is understood that LMS is considering increasing both the size and number of vessels for floating storage, so the operations off Galle could well strengthen in the near future.
"We are also looking at passenger cruising," says Mr Fernando. "Some shipowners were interested in running a service that took in Goa, Cochin, Colombo and Male in a single attractive package.
"All these places have excellent hotels and tourist infrastructure and it could be a great success."
Source: www.lloydslist.com, Monday December 20 2004