Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 03 - 2005

 

Shipowner derides Greek state's plea to invest onshore

---Maritime investors not used to 'begging or bribing', writes Nigel Lowry- Thursday January 20 2005
A RENEWED plea by the Greek government for shipowners to invest directly in the country's onshore economy was met with a frank riposte from one of Greece's leading maritime businessmen.
Vassilis Constantacopoulos, founder and president of containership operator Costamare Shipping Co, told a cabinet member that the shipping community was waiting for the government to get its act together before it would be likely to invest in a big way.
The exchange took place at this week's traditional New Year pie-cutting ceremony for the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' pro-business administration was represented by the minister of employment and social security, Panos Panayiotopoulos.
In a strident speech, Mr Panayiotopoulos congratulated shipowners on their success but called on them to plough capital into the country's economy in order to lift Greece out of "tail position in Europe" in terms of the rate of development and investment.
This proved too much for Capt Constantacopoulos, who spoke for many of the shipowners at the annual gathering by portraying Greece as still bedeviled by bureaucracy and delays that discouraged investment.
"We may want to invest, but we are not used to begging or bribing," said Capt Constantacopoulos after requesting the microphone.
"And there are hundreds of other examples I can give you," said Capt Constantacopoulos, who stated the problem was bi-partisan and straddled both conservative and socialist governments.
More than a 10 years ago, he had proposed an independent governmental office to ease the path of investors through Greece's notorious forest of official permits, but this had not been acted on.
Earlier at the same event, Chamber president George Gratsos had said that Greece economically had lost numerous opportunities to capitalise on its shipping strength, including the failure to properly foster the country's classification society.
"The Chamber of Shipping and shipowner organisations have been pressing the ministry of merchant marine for many years to change the legal framework... in order to allow Greek flag ships to reduce their operational costs," he said.
The greatest benefit for the Greek economy, however, would come from exploiting the Greek maritime cluster, he added.
- Ironically, in unrelated news this week, a shipping magnate's bid to make one of the largest recent investments in an onshore Greek business appears to have been thwarted.
Metrostar and Metrobulk boss Theodore Angelopoulos appeared on the brink of taking over one of Greece's leading media empires, the stocklisted Pegasus Publishing and Printing business headed by George Bobolas.
The Athens exchange on Monday temporarily suspended trading in the share after several days of steep gains, but yesterday the Bobolas family declared to the bourse that it had suspended talks with Mr Angelopoulos.
The family control some 73% of Pegasus, which publishes newspapers and magazines as well as holding a 21% stake in one of the country's most popular TV stations.
Source: www.lloydslist.com, Company News, 20 Jan 05


Greek shipping is the economy's heavy industry, minister says
---Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday met with Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and discussed the government's priorities on the shipping industry for 2005.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Kefaloyiannis said that Greek shipping topped the government's policy agenda as it was the Greek economy's heavy industry.
The Greek minister noted that policy priorities for the current year were the creation of many job positions, higher foreign exchange inflows, structural changes and solving a chronic problem with remote island sea lines.
"We have achieved many so far, including the liberation of Greek sailors jailed in foreign countries and a dynamic intervention in the European Union against proposals to penalize the seamen profession.
Merchant Marine ministry officials said that the ministry was promoting a five-year plan aimed to improve transport services with remote Greek islands. The plan will envisage subsidising fares for island inhabitants with a population less than 3,000.
The officials said that the ministry also planned to further develop and restructure the country's ports by assigning certain port services to private investors, or through cooperations between the public and the private sector.
Source: http://www.ana.gr, 22 Jan 05


Passenger shippers complain
---Excessive ministry interference and regulations will hinder investment in new ships, they claim
The Union of Coastal Shipowners (EEA) has presented the government with a series of demands that must be solved before they can invest in new passenger ships.
EEA objects to a series of market-regulating measures imposed by the Merchant Marine Ministry and has complained to the European Commission that these measures hinder fair competition.
The measures they object to are the following:
- The imposition of mandatory shipping routes that must be maintained year-round.
- A limit on the age of seaworthy ships, which is 35 years at present and will be reduced to 30 years by 2008.
- The ministry's interference in deciding which shipper will be involved in passenger routes.
- Mandatory scheduling of routes to far-off islands which, the shippers say, are loss-makers.
- The fee required to submit a declaration of scheduled routes.
- The requirement of letters of guarantee.
- Mandatory operation of a passenger ship for a minimum of 10 months per year, irrespective of demand.
- The ministry's right to impose limits, or discounts, on economy-class fares.
- The imposition of discounts for certain groups, for reasons of welfare.
- The requirement to maintain a minimum number of employees which the shipowners find excessive and far beyond safety requirements.
- The imposition of a 3 percent surcharge on fares.
- The ministry's right to require extra scheduling for passenger routes, especially during peak periods.
- The double imposition of passenger insurance.
- Limitations of berths at ports.
- The scheduling of cargo ferries on routes where passenger ferries are also active.
- The imposition of fees in favor of third parties on fares.
"We would like to believe that the ministry will do what is necessary to settle these pending matters so that passenger shipping can be upgraded, clients offered upgraded services and companies active in the sector improve their results," an EEA spokesman told Kathimerini.
Passenger shippers say that if these contentious matters are not settled to their satisfaction, it will be very difficult for them to invest in upgrading their fleets to face the extra competition that deregulation of the market is expected to bring.
Long-haul shipping thrives
While passenger shippers are waiting to invest, oceangoing ones have invested $7 billion in upgrading their fleets, Nikos Efthymiou, head of the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) said yesterday. Greek shipowners currently own 4,000 ships with a total draught of 180 million tons, about 20 percent of the world's total, Efthymiou said in a speech commemorating the 90th anniversary of the UGS's foundation.
Last year alone, Greek oceangoing shipping contributed $17 billion to the Greek economy.
"Greek shipping gives to the country and takes nothing away from it," said Efthymiou.
More than a thousand shipping companies are active in Greece, employing a total of 11,000 on land and more than 120,000 at sea. This sector, Efthymiou said, contributes as much to the economy as the tourism sector, with its half a million employees.
Source: http://www.ekathimerini.com/, By Nikos Bardounias, 20 Jan 05


Jefferies & Marine Money bring a little bit of US Markets to Greece
---Jefferies & Co and Marine Money hosted a very well attended private seminar for about 100 shipowners in Piraeus last night. The cocktail party and presentation were held at the Piraeus Yacht Club and were intended to give owners an update on conditions in US equity markets and guidance on where their shipping companies will be valued if they go public. John Sinders and Matt McCleery participated in a very lively Q+A session after the presentation.
In many ways, structures such as Arlington are ideal for Greek owners, including those who have older vessels that are generating strong cash flows dovetailing with newbuilding deliveries in the coming years. There are about one dozen Greek companies in various stages of IPO preparation and we expect a sizable universe of publicly traded dry bulk shipping companies to form through the balance of 2005.
Additional events arranged and hosted by Marine Money Greece:
> Dubai, 2nd February 2005 - First Annual Marine Money Gulf Ship Finance Forum
> Istanbul, 7th April 2005 - Second Annual Marine Money Istanbul Ship Finance Forum
> Athens, 13th October 2005 - Seventh Annual Marine Money Greek Ship Finance Forum
For additional information, please contact Mia Jensen, mia@marine-marketing.gr
Source: Freshly Minted, www.marinemoney.com, 20 Jan 05


Ferry talks face tough odds
---THE GOVERNMENT of Cyprus is considering setting up a sea link with Greece, after a meeting between the countries' transport ministers late last year.
But experience suggests that the chances of success are slim. The Cypriot ferry companies have had their fingers burnt before, while the Greeks are occupied with domestic problems and seem unlikely to move despite the political interest. In the 1990s, the Cyprus-Greece ferry link was well served by two Cypriot companies, Poseidon Lines and Salamis Lines, which offered three departures every week from Limassol to Piraeus.
The ships on the route also called at a couple of popular Greek islands and Haifa to cater for summer vacationers and pilgrims to biblical sites in Israel. Both services have ceased operating. A constant fall in the number of passengers forced first Poseidon to withdraw, then Salamis in April 2002. The Salamis service was finally killed by the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which has discouraged tourist traffic to Israel. An agent who once sold tickets for Salamis has announced that the service has been suspended. Industry insiders tell Fairplay there is little chance of it being reinstated.
Captain George Gripeos, head of the Piraeus office of Salamis, says when the trips to Haifa stopped, the rest of the route was no longer financially viable. He also blames competition from airlines for the loss of passengers.
One idea was to operate seasonally. In the summer there is adequate demand from tourists. But the company could not find alternative employment for its ship, the 9,650gt Nissos Kypros, for the rest of the year; it was finally sold for scrap in April 2003. Salamis now operates a weekly freight ro-ro service linking Cyprus, Greece and Israel, for which demand is rising. A year ago Piraeus replaced the ro-ro Nostos on the line with the bigger Ion (formerly Aristaios). The 8,930gt vessel has a carrying capacity of 86 trailers, 486 cars and 243TEU. So passengers planning to travel with their cars now have to ship the vehicle ahead as cargo, then take a flight and collect the car before continuing.
A spokesman for the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping does not see how ferry operators could be persuaded to put ships on a line that has proved to be unprofitable. Even subsidies do not always work: three years ago, the governments of Greece and Syria sought to reinstate a ferry service from Volos to Tartus. But it proved insufficient inducement to attract interest from ferry operators.
Source: www.fairplay.com, Weekly, 20 Jan 2005


Trinity Partners and Adventure Holdings, S.A. Announce Letter of Intent for Business Combination
---NEW YORK & PIRAEUS, Greece--Business Combination to Provide Adventure Holdings with Capital to Expand Drybulk Fleet
Trinity Partners Acquisition Company Inc. (OTCBB: TPQCA; TPQCB) and Adventure Holdings, S.A. jointly announce today that they have entered into a Letter of Intent for the business combination of Trinity Partners and Adventure Holdings. Adventure Holdings, through wholly-owned subsidiaries, owns and operates two bulk carriers, the M/V "Free Destiny" and the M/V "Free Envoy". Trinity Partners is a publicly-traded acquisition company which completed its IPO in August 2004.
Adventure Holdings is a privately-held Marshall Islands corporation headquartered in Piraeus, Greece which was organized in April 2004 and acquired the M/V "Free Destiny" in August 2004 and the M/V "Free Envoy" in September 2004. These Handysize drybulk vessels have cargo capacities of 25,240 and 26,318 deadweight tons (dwt), respectively. Drybulk carriers are employed for seaborne transportation of key commodities and raw materials such as iron and steel, fertilizers, minerals, forest/agricultural products (soybeans, wheat, corn), sugar, salt, ores, bauxite, alumina, cement and other construction materials transported in bulk. Strong raw materials demand in recent years by developing countries, particularly China, has resulted in robust growth for drybulk shipping as well as increased charter rates, attributable in part to industrywide capacity constraints. As a result, the drybulk shipping sector has been attracting growing investor interest, with a number of drybulk and other seaborne shipping companies recently completing or planning public financings in the U.S. and other financial markets.
George and Stathis Gourdomichalis and Ion Varouxakis, Managing Directors of Adventure Holdings, commented in their joint statement that, "We expect the access to capital provided by Trinity Partners will enable Adventure Holdings to expand its drybulk fleet. It is our plan to acquire additional carriers which would permit us to diversify our capabilities."
Lawrence Burstein, President of Trinity, stated, "The opportunities in drybulk seaborne transport are noteworthy. Demand for raw materials by China and other developing economies, such as India, is anticipated to continue to drive the drybulk shipping sector and vessel charter rates. Adventure Holdings has an experienced, highly regarded management team which we believe is ideally suited to pursue a strategy of acquiring and operating drybulk vessels."
Adventure Holdings anticipates that revenues and EBITDA for the eight-month period from inception in April 2004 through December 31, 2004 will be approximately $2,600,000 and $1,800,000, respectively. For the quarter ended December 31, 2004, the first operating period during which the M/V "Free Destiny" and the M/V "Free Envoy" were both operated by Adventure Holdings throughout an entire three-month period, revenues and EBITDA were approximately $2,100,000 and $1,425,000, respectively. The consolidated financial results of Adventure Holdings are being audited by a major international accounting firm. Adventure Holdings' two vessels are deployed under Time Period Charter arrangements. Messrs. Gourdomichalis and Varouxakis stated, "Time Period Charter of drybulk vessels creates predictable cash flows. As we seek to expand our fleet, we intend to continue to deploy our assets to create reliable cash flows through long-term, high-quality time charters while strategically using shorter-term charters in the spot market as appropriate to maximize vessel utilization."
The Letter of Intent for the business combination contemplates the issuance by Trinity Partners of 4,500,000 shares of its common stock to the current shareholders of Adventure Holdings, representing an approximately 71.6% of the equity ownership of Trinity Partners after giving effect to such issuance, in exchange for all of the issued and outstanding capital shares of Adventure Holdings. In addition, the management of Adventure Holdings will receive options and warrants to acquire an additional 950,000 shares of Trinity's common stock, exercisable at $5.00 per share over terms ranging from three to five years. The business combination is subject to, among other things, execution of a definitive exchange agreement and approval by Trinity Partners' shareholders. There can be no assurance that the proposed transaction will be consummated.
Safe Harbor Statement
This press release contains statements that are forward looking as that term is defined by the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based on current expectations that are subject to risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ due to factors such as material adverse events affecting either company or the ability of either company to satisfy the conditions to completion of the business combination. Readers are referred to Trinity's most recent periodic and other reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Contacts: Trinity Partners Acquisition Company Inc.: Lawrence Burstein, 212/696-4282, lburstein@unitycapital.com
Source: http://home.businesswire.com, January 18, 2005 11:45 AM US Eastern Timezone,


Ship's owners agree to $500,000 fine
By ERIK ROBINSON, Columbian staff writer
---A Greek shipping company accused of illegally dumping waste oil overboard promptly agreed to a $500,000 fine earlier this month in Portland.
The indictment and conviction after federal authorities boarded the 473-foot freighter John G. Lemos is the latest in a crackdown on a practice the U.S. Justice Department has characterized as rampant within the shipping industry: bypassing shipboard incinerators and dumping waste oil directly overboard.
"Cases like this are a critical part of our efforts to ensure environmental compliance," U.S. Attorney for Oregon Karin Immergut said in a prepared statement.
Greece-based Pacific & Atlantic Corp. agreed to have its Philippines-based crew of 22 cooperate with U.S. Coast Guard investigators who initially boarded the ship for a routine inspection on Jan. 3 in Portland. At that point, inspectors discovered a pipe they believe was configured to bypass the ship's oily-water separator.
On Wednesday, the company agreed that it had maintained a faulty oil record book a felony violation of federal law.
Dean DeChaine, a Portland attorney representing the company, said Pacific & Atlantic agreed to plead guilty to the record-keeping violation in order to get its ship and crew back in service.
"We didn't believe we were intentionally doing things we shouldn't have been doing," DeChaine said.
Even so, the company has agreed to develop an environmental management compliance plan for all 10 ships in its fleet. Pacific & Atlantic agreed to be placed on "organizational probation" for the next four years. And the ship's chief engineer, Joey Lebuna, received two years of probation for his role in the violation.
In addition, the company will funnel half of its fine toward a new fund administered by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.
The Columbia River Estuarian Coastal Fund, created out of fines levied against shipping companies in three similar cases since 2003, now includes $1.55 million to be used to improve the environment. Projects could include research, on-the-ground habitat restoration, landowner incentives for natural restoration, or projects benefiting national wildlife refuges.
The projects must be along the coast from Willapa Bay to Tillamook Bay and as far up the Columbia River as Bonneville Dam.
The speedy resolution of the case against Pacific & Atlantic is the result of the company's interest in releasing its ship and crew as well as Coast Guard inspectors' efficient handling of the investigation, said Dwight Holton, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case.
"There's no sense to dillydally," he said.
Source: http://www.columbian.com, Friday, January 21, 2005


Talks on Pegasus sale fail; 'money was not the issue'
---ATHENS Talks to sell Pegasus Publishing to the family of the Greek shipowner Theodore Angelopoulos have collapsed, executives of the media company said Tuesday.
In a terse statement, Pegasus said talks had been "suspended" with Angelopoulos, the steel-and-shipping magnate whose wife, Gianna, led Greece's organization of the 2004 Summer Games. No explanation was given.
Pegasus executives said Angelopoulos, one of the richest businessmen in Greece, had called off the talks early Tuesday.
"Money was not the issue," one said. "His attorneys cited personal reasons in calling off the talks."
There was no immediate reaction from the government or the Angelopoulos family.
The collapse of the deal comes as the conservative government prepares to crack down on the involvement of media moguls in public procurement deals.
Pegasus is controlled by the Bobolas family through a nearly 73 percent shareholding.
George Bobolas and his two children, Fotios and Maria, own more than a dozen publications and a 21 percent state in a leading private television station, Mega.
The family also controls Aktor and Hellenic Technodomiki, construction companies that were heavily involved in state-financed infrastructure projects in preparations for the 2004 Games.
Pegasus said Monday that changes in media ownership rules had forced it to seek a buyer.
Pegasus executives said they expected the stock to resume trading on Wednesday.
By Anthee Carassava The New York Times Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Source: http://www.iht.com, International Herald Tribune, France - Jan 19, 2005,


Commission considers Greek legislation incompatible with Capital Duty Directive
---The European Commission has decided to send a formal request to Greece to amend its tax legislation applicable to the raising of capital. Greece applies capital duty when a company transfers its registered office or place of effective management to Greece and applies a general exemption from capital duty to agricultural and maritime companies. The Commission considers that these rules are contrary to the Directive concerning indirect taxes on the raising of capital (69/335/EEC) which allows Member States to subject only the formation of companies, not their transfer, to capital duty and does not allow Greece to exempt specific economic sectors from the tax. The request is in the form of a reasoned opinion, the second stage of the infringement procedure under Article 226 of the Treaty. If Greece does not amend its legislation within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice.
Under Greek rules, provided for by law 1676/86, companies that transfer their registered office or their effective centre of management from another Member State or a third country to Greece are subject to capital duty when this transfer is not subject to capital duty in another EU Member State. Moreover, Greece exempts all types of agricultural and maritime companies from this tax.
The Commission is of the opinion that these two provisions of the Greek legislation are incompatible with Directive 69/335/EEC, under which Member States have the right to impose capital duty on a company that is formed within that Member State at a maximum rate of 1%. The Commission considers that the Directive does not allow the charging of capital duty on the transfer to Greece of the effective centre of management or of the registered office of a company that was formed in another Member State or in a third country. In addition, while Greece is allowed, under a 1985 amendment to the Capital Duty Directive, to exempt certain transactions from capital duty, it does not have the right to exempt completely certain sectors. In particular, the competition that exists in the maritime sector makes it even more important for Member States not to adopt provisions that are incompatible with EU law, especially when guidelines exist on state aids in the maritime sector.
The latest information on infringement procedures concerning all Member States can be found at:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/secretariat_general/sgb/droit_com/index_en.htm
Source: www.noticias.info / Jan 22, 2005


Hellenic American Bankers Association will honor Stelios Haji-Ioannou
---The Hellenic American Bankers Association will honor Stelios Haji-Ioannou on February 3, 2004 at the Sky Club in New York City. Mr. John Metaxas of WCBS Newsradio 880 will be the Master of Ceremonies. There will be a cocktail reception from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. followed by a dinner where Mr. Haji-Ioannou will be honored.
Stelios, at 37 years of age has made a deep impression on the international business community. Ambitious and energetic, in 1992 Stelios established Stelmar Tankers, a shipping company boasting a fleet of 41 tankers which listed on the NYSE in 2001 and was sold recently to OSG Shipping Group for approximately $1.3 Billion. As a young man Stelios recognized and understood the importance of the Internet to the world, both on a business basis and a personal level. He is the founder and chairman of the easyGroup Companies. These companies offer consumers services and products in 12 different sectors at a low price. The most famous of the companies is easyJet PLC that is Europe's largest low cost airline by revenues. It has a fleet of about 100 and growing, and is expected to carry 30 million passengers this year. The company listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2000 and Stelios remains its largest single shareholder. Some of the other easyGroup Companies offer low cost "online" cafes, car rental services, online shopping, financial services, cinemas, and pizza delivery. Presently in 2005, Stelios is about to launch a new cruiseline, a new budget hotel chain and a mobile telephone service provider in the UK, all under the easy.com brand.
Stelios was born in Greece, the middle child of Loucas and Nedi Haji-Ioannou. In 1984 Stelios continued his education at the London School of Economics. He also graduated from the City University Business School with an MSC in Shipping Trade and Economics.
The Hellenic American Bankers Association is pleased to honor the dynamic young businessman, Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who is destined to become one of the most prominent businessmen of the 21st century.
For further information, please call Popi Zavakopoulou at 212-421-1057, or visit our website at www.HABA.org
Source: http://www.hellenicnews.com, Jan 19, 2005