Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 04 - 2005

 

No repeat performance is likely

---Wet and dry bulk owners must be wondering if 2005 will present anything like the earnings opportunities which prevailed last year, when the market was better than even the most optimistic operators had hoped for. We are unlikely to get a repeat performance this year, not least because new tonnage supply in both wet and dry will exceed expected demand by a good margin. Questions are now asked if the shipping markets for wet and dry bulk have changed materially from the latter half of 2003, or if trading patterns have altered and shipping is just catching up. Apparent geographical changes in the export/import patterns for both wet and dry bulk commodities, some more freight sensitive than others, have added another dimension to any analysis. However, demand for wet tonnage will largely depend on OPEC's share of oil exports and several new producers, while dry bulk remains reliant on China at least for the time being.
The snag is that these parameters are difficult to convert into tonnage demand in tonnes miles, especially if demand patterns continue to change, particularly for oil products.
A consensus opinion among analysts seems to be that freight will not fall much further until the second half of this year. But is it only guesswork or is it based on the assumption that a sufficient number of commodities, both wet and dry, are sufficiently freight sensitive to affect demand? Oil demand has certainly not suffered by high prices and Chinese hunger for iron ore appears insatiable for the foreseeable future.
Tanker demand good, for now
A few weeks into the New Year tanker demand remains good, but hardly sufficient to make good the downturn since November/December last year. Fundamentals are beginning to change, and above all in the estimates for economic growth. For, while the world saw the highest rate of economic growth for twenty years since mid-2003, the pace is now slowing. This is what OPEC calls "convergence towards fundamentals".
The weaker dollar, while not sufficient on its own to bring back equilibrium in the world economy, is an important component in the set of developments in the past four months to bring back balance. With lower economic growth comes lower incremental demand for oil, perhaps by just over 3.0 per cent.
This is a sort of growth oil producers can cope with, even though OPEC has cut back by 1.0 million barrels per day. The growth is 1.5 per cent lower that those used by most analysts when assessing the 2005 oil imports. Easing oil prices will not necessarily increase demand, as stock levels are well above the five-year running average. The result could be lower overall tanker demand.
Steady increase in supply
When owners order new tonnage they have to assess the prospect. At least that is what they should do. Current tanker orders stand at nearly 90.0 million DWT, against the prospects of lower demand. Around 32.0 million DWT is for delivery this year and will increase the available fleet by nearly 10 per cent. The rest of the orderbook is scheduled for 2006 and onwards.
However, these numbers must be regarded on the basis of our notes in the introduction. Physical demand for tankers could be higher than economic growth might imply.
What is certain is that there will be some sort of fallout when economic growth eases off after a strong period.
Dry bulk hinges on China
In 2003 China surpassed Japan as the world's biggest importer of iron ore, and the development continued last year to reach over 200 million tonnes, up 57 million tonnes from 2003.
By the end of this year imports may reach 250 million tonnes. Australia and Brazil were equally big in iron ore exports last year with between 220 and 230 million tonnes each.
The forecast for thermal coal is also good with imports up a good 25 million tonnes, or around 5.0 per cent. Grain, which are important for panamax vessels and smaller, is not likely to add much to demand, except for soybeans, where crops are good for the 2004/2005 season.
In all respects, sustained dry bulk demand depends on China maintaining growth. Perhaps not at the rate seen in 2003 and into 2004 when crude steel production increased by around 20 per cent per year, but very close.
With increased steel production come higher steel exports, which will generate demand for panamax and downwards. All in all, Asia will remain the main mover in the dry bulk freight market.
China could change tack
The Chinese government has already reigned in the economy and slowed down investments in infrastructure. As a result Chinese steel demand is down.
Production must follow down unless the surplus production can be exported.
At today's prices it is a tempting proposition, but a more likely scenario is that imports of iron ore is cut.
There are already indications that crude steel production is down to adjust for demand. If so, dry bulk owners are in for a rough ride this year.
New deliveries may spoil it
The total dry bulk fleet increased by nearly 6.0 per cent from 2003 to 2004 to 322 million DWT of which 106 million DWT were capsize vessels. However, the current orderbook may spoil the market for dry bulk owners. It stands at 66.8 million DWT, or 21 per cent of the current fleet. 22.1 million DWT is for delivery this year. No amount of congestion, which is likely to increase with heavier iron ore shipments, can make up for this fleet increase. A worst-case scenario with less congestion and lower Chinese import of iron ore, could see owners queuing at the shipyards to cancel orders or, alternatively, we may see lay-up to reduce supply or older bulkers could be sold for demolition at good prices.
Source: The Scandinavian Shipping Gazette, January 28, //Petter Arentz, Latest update 26-01-2005 9:08


Quiet confidence amid soft panamax rates
---WHILE the panamax index continued softening into this week, owners will not be too unhappy if, as many profess to believe, the bulk markets in general stabilise during the next few days, writes Nigel Lowry in Athens.
Recent fixtures show that good money is still being achieved in the Atlantic, with several cases of panamaxes being taken for grain trips to the Far East at daily rates of about $40,000, give or take.
Business attractive for panamax owners has also been sourced from the eastern side of the basin, with the 1999-built Ever Shining reportedly getting about $43,500 daily for loading in the Black Sea for a trip to the Far East.
Egyptian charterers meanwhile have taken a modern Cargill re-let, Altair, for a first-half February voyage via northern France and Egypt with redelivery at Cape Passero at $36,000 per day.
"The market in the Atlantic has been slow but we feel it can firm this week, especially if the capesizes bounce back as many people are expecting," comments one Greece-based dry broker.
Brokers cite various reasons for maintaining optimism, including bullish new steel production figures worldwide and expected Chinese demand for coal and other raw materials.
The continuing buoyancy of period rates for panamaxes also suggests that a revival of the market's higher levels is expected.
Source: www.lloydslist.com, Company News, Wednesday January 26 2005


BSEC transport ministers agree to cultivate closer transport links with EU
---Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) pact transport ministers meeting in Thessaloniki on Friday unanimously adopted a joint declaration calling for closer cooperation between the BSEC and the European Union for the extension of the InterEuropean Transport Network into the Black Sea region.
They also agreed on developing maritime routes in the Black Sea in order to improve combined transport, with emphasis on facilitating border crossings and reducing administrative hurdles in order to improve commerce-linked transport.
The private sector is called on to play a key role in this procedure by funding the necessary projects.
Commenting on the outcome of the meeting, Greek Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis described it as a success and stressed that developing transport links with the Black Sea was a priority for Greece, which would help develop economic, commercial and cultural ties with countries in the region.
Deputy Foreign Minister Evripides Stylianidis said the ministerial meeting had been organised in Thessaloniki through a joint initiative by the Greek foreign ministry, in collaboration with the Greek transport and merchant marine ministries.
"Our aim was to provide a new boost to links between the countries of Southeast Europe and the Black Sea in the transport sector, ultimately aiming at the creation of a single transport area in the wider region that will give rise to new special interest sectors," Stylianidis said.
Source: http://www.ana.gr, Saturday 29, January 2005


Minister Oh and Greek Minister of Mercantile Marine discuss ways to forge partnership
---H.E. Keo-don Oh, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries received a courtesy call on January 14, 2004 by H.E. Manolis K. Kefalogiannis, Minister of Mercantile Marine of the Republic of Greece, and H.E. Constantin Drakakis, the Greek Ambassador in Seoul.
During the visit, Minister Oh discussed ways to promote bilateral shipping cooperation and asked them for support, in order that Korea's shipyards may continue to win shipbuilding contracts from Greece and that more Greek ships may enjoy services from the internationally-trusted Korea Register of Shipping.
Minister Oh and the two Greek dignitaries also shared the view that a Korea-Greece shipping agreement, which has been pending since 1994, should be concluded within this year, by resuming working-level meetings as soon as possible.
Greece, which occupies a strategic region in the Eastern Mediterranean and the mouth of the Black Sea, serves as a stronghold in the regions of Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia. MOMAF hopes that the conclusion of a bilateral shipping agreement would benefit Korea's shipping lines that operate in the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, Minister Kefalogiannis showed deep interest in Korea's private investment-based port construction, and explained Greece's plan for financing port construction through private funds, hoping that Korea's port construction industry would be actively involved in Greece's port infrastructure projects.
Source: http://www.ktpress.co.kr/, Jan 25 2005 1:44PM


Signing of Balkan Oil Pipeline Construction Fixed
---Bulgaria, Greece and Russia are to sign an intergovernmental memorandum on the construction of the Burgas-Alexandrupolis oil pipeline by March 15.
This was announced by Greece' Deputy Minister of Energy Georgios Salagudis at a press conference in Moscow, quoted by Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
The three officials appealed to their governments to sign the memorandum by March 15 after viewing the results of trilateral working comission.
Representatives of the three countries met in the Russian capital to negotiate over the oil pipeline construction upon the invitation of Russia's Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko.
Bulgaria, Greece and Russia agreed to resume the long-delayed project of Burgas-Alexandrupolis oil pipeline in November 2004.
The oil pipeline is meant to connect the Black Sea port of Burgas, Bulgaria, with Greece's northern Aegean port of Alexandrupolis.
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, as well as the financing parts have kept the project on the drawing boards for about a decade.
Source: http://www.novinite.com, Business: 28 January 2005, Friday.


Piraeus Port Authority is heading for an interesting A G M
---An impressive increase in productivity in the second half of 2004 is being credited as responsible for the higher earnings registered by the Piraeus container terminal in 2004 despite a decline in actual container movements. Announcing preliminary results for 2004, the Piraeus Port Authority says income of Euro 103.5m from the container terminal is 6.9% up on 2003, though boxes handled at 1.5m were down 4.1% on the 1.6m teu handled in the previous 12 months.
Noting earning of the container terminal account for 66% of the PPA's income, the announcement said the better financial performance "is due to re-organisation in the terminal" which was "achieved at no cost". The PPA says the result came after "a 22% improvement in productivity in the second six months of 2004" plus a reduction in the surcharge to lorry drivers "to a third of what they wanted".
Still the PPA says the situation can be further improved. Admitting there are delays in handling containers and there is a lack of storage area, the PPA says it plans to invest in extending dock 1 and building a third dock. However, the PPA says the problems facing Piraeus are common to most container ports grappling with the growing use of containers, especially from Asia to the West.
Commercial and organisational issues facing the port and its managers will likely see an interesting agm this coming January 29. More details are to be presented about the port's overall performance in 2004, along investment plans and the financing of them. Presentation of investment programmes for 2005 and for the 2005/2009 period are keenly awaited as their extent will hinge on the finance available and will give a clear pointer as to the government's determination to upgrade Greece's leading port as well as reveal the approach to privatising port services, especially the question of longterm leasing of waterfront areas to port users for the establishment of terminals and the upgrading of the shiprepair zone. Some interested parties are advocating leases of between 30 and 40 years.
However, the organisational plan to be presented will really hold the key to the immediate future. It is well known there is a power struggle going on at top board level.
Prime minister Costas Karamanlis has told Marine minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis he is unhappy at the slow decision making of the PPA, which the PM says still functions as a state agency although the PPA is listed on the Athens Stock Exchange. Port watchers say the clarification of duties within the authority's board must be clearly defined for the organisation to function as it should.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, -- Filed: 2005-01-24


Shipping clan opens restored Piraeus office
---Piraeus recently welcomed a jewel on 'shipowners mile', the Akti Miaouli, with the formal inauguration of a lovingly restored neo-classical building belonging to the Callimanopulos group.
Gregory Callimanopulos, his wife Tatiana and son Pericles (Peri) were on hand for the prestigious blessing ceremony, which was carried out by His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Christodoulos. Also present were the Metropolitan of Piraeus, Kallinikos and the Metropolitan of Kalavryta and Aigialiea, Ambrose.
Kalavryta, which is in Greece's Peloponnese area, is where Callimanopulos donated generously towards the completion of a retirement home under the auspices of a church called the Callimanopulos Ecclesiastical and Parochial Centre, just one of his philanthropic deeds praised warmly by the Archbishop.
The Piraeus building, originally constructed in 1912 by a famous Greek architect, was virtually destroyed during World War II. It was rebuilt as a waterfront hotel.
Callimanopulos acquired the building in 1981 in a very dilapidated state. It was declared a historically-listed building shortly thereafter.
Callimanopoulos poured money into the structure and in 2002 offered it to the Greek state as the home for a maritime museum but withdrew his offer when the authorities failed to act.
The remodelled block has been named the Pericles G Callimanopulos Building in honour of Callimanopulos's father, who founded the once-powerful Hellenic Lines.
It will house the group's shipping companies - Marine Management Services, Trade and Transport Inc and Toisa Limited - on its upper two floors, while the lower floors have been leased to the Royal Bank of Scotland.
As guests, including bankers, politicians and many of the group's employees, streamed in from the blessing on the portico, they were treated to a glimpse of the penthouse suite reserved for Callimanopulos's visits to Piraeus. The huge open-plan area includes a comfortable seating area, a dining area and even a free-standing fireplace.
"The building reflects the history of Piraeus and evokes a gentler and more civilised time," mused Callimanopulos.
But for the owner, who is based in New York, the visit to Piraeus was just a brief stop on a much longer trip.
This week, together with Metropolitan Ambrose, he will be heading to China for the naming of three platform-support vessels, the Toisa Valiant, Toisa Vigilant and Toisa Voyager.
Source: www.tradwinds.no, published: 28 January 2005


Superfast keeps its market position
In the Mediterranean, the group has strengthened its position in the market by acquiring 11.6 per cent of the shares in the shipping company Hellas Flying Dolphins. The ferry services in the Attica group transpoprted a total of five million passengers and 1.5 million vehicles and freight units in 2004.
Source: www.shipgaz.com, (26.01.05)


Cosmoship has ordered four 1,040 TEU container ships
---Cosmoship, owned by Greek ship owner Nikos Savvas, has ordered four 1,040 TEU container ships from South Korean yard Dae Sun Shipbuilding. The contract is worth US$20 million per ship. The 12,400 dwt ships will be delivered in February and October 2007 and in January and April 2008. It is possible the order could be extended by the addition of two more ships. Contact: Dae Sun Shipbuilding & Engineering Co Ltd, 4-ga Bongnae-dong, Yongdo-ku, Busan 606-064, South Korea. Tel. ++82 51 419 50 91.Fax. ++82 51 412 79 82. Internet www.daesuns.co.kr
Source: New Ships Newsletter, No 4/24 January 2005


Excel Maritime takes delivery of the second of five vessels purchased recently
---PIRAEUS, Greece, Jan. 27 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd (Amex: EXM - News), a shipping company specializing in the seaborne transportation of dry bulk cargoes such as iron ore, coal and grains, announced today that it has taken delivery of a handymax bulk vessel, MV Swift. The vessel was delivered on January 24, 2005, and was immediately entered into a one-year time-charter contract with a European charterer at a trade variable daily rate ranging from US$ 21,500 to US$ 22,000 per day. MV Swift, a handymax bulk carrier of approximately 38,000 dwt, is the second vessel to be delivered to Excel from a total of five recently acquired vessels, and the second one-year time charter of a newly acquired vessel signed during the month of January.
The Company agreed to acquire MV Swift on October 27, 2004, for a purchase price of US$ 11.85 million.
Following delivery of MV Swift, the Company is expecting to take delivery of the remaining three recently acquired vessels during the first quarter of 2005.
CEO Christopher Georgakis commented, "Following our fleet deployment strategy for new acquisitions, we have secured a twelve-month time charter for MV Swift. At the agreed rate, we expect that EBITDA generated from the charter will be equivalent to approximately 45 percent of the purchase price within twelve months. The Company anticipates that this charter will further enhance visibility of earnings for our shareholders and will be accretive to earnings."
About Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd
The Company is an owner and operator of dry bulk carriers and a provider of worldwide seaborne transportation services for dry bulk cargo. This includes commodities such as iron ore, coal, grains, as well as bauxite, fertilizers and steel products. The Company currently owns and operates a fleet of two cape-size bulk carriers, four handymax bulk carriers and one handysize bulk carrier. An additional handymax bulk carrier and two panamax bulk carriers are expected to be delivered within the next 60 days, and upon delivery the Company's fleet size will increase to ten ships representing a total carrying capacity of 621,571 dwt. The Company was incorporated in 1988 under the laws of Liberia.
Forward Looking Statement
This press release contains forward-looking statements (as defined in Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended) concerning future events and the Company's growth strategy and measures to implement such strategy; including expected vessel acquisitions and entering into further time charters. Words such as "expects," "intends," "plans," "believes," "anticipates," "hopes," "estimates," and variations of such words and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, no assurance can be given that such expectations will prove to have been correct. These statements involve known and unknown risks and are based upon a number of assumptions and estimates which are inherently subject to significant uncertainties and contingencies, many of which are beyond the control of the Company. Actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially include, but are not limited to changes in the demand for dry bulk vessels, competitive factors in the market in which the Company operates; risks associated with operations outside the United States; and other factors listed from time to time in the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Company expressly disclaims any obligations or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Company's expectations with respect thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any statement is based.
Contact: Allen & Caron Inc, Joe Allen (investors), joe@allencaron.com, Brian Kennedy (media), brian@allencaron.com, 212 691 8087
Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd Christopher Georgakis, CEO +30 210 45 98 692 excel@otenet.gr
Source: Press Release Source: Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd, Thursday January 27, 7:35 am ET


Ship officers plead guilty of federal charge
---LOS ANGELES - The two accused Filipino officers of the Greek-owned ship M/V Katerina, whose breach of U.S. environmental laws has resulted to its 13 Filipino crewmen being indefinitely stranded in the country, have entered into plea agreements with the U.S. government.
The vessel was investigated for allegations of dumping oil-tainted water and sewage into the Pacific Ocean by authorities shortly after it docked at the Port of Long Beach in September 2004.
Its chief engineer, Edgardo Guinto, 49, pleaded guilty on January 14 to federal charges of obstruction of justice for concealing equipment that bypassed a water pollution device from Coast Guard inspectors.
He also admitted instructing crewmembers to lie to inspectors during the investigation.
His co-accused, second engineer Rolan Sullesta, 42, has also entered into a plea agreement last week and is scheduled to come before United States District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper on January 28, said Thom Mrozek, U.S. Attorney spokesman.
he obstruction charge carries a maximum possible penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
Prior to entering into a plea agreement, Kenley Kiya Kato, the court-appointed lawyer of Sullesta, expressed hope that the judge would consider her client's circumstances during sentencing proceedings.
"My client certainly felt that he was in the same situation with the material witnesses. He believed that he was only following orders, and should not have been charged," Kiya Kato said. "He was certainly subjected to the same horrible conditions in the ship like the other members of the crew."
The cargo ship, which carried steel products, was also found to have filthy and barely habitable living conditions when it underwent inspection.
The crewmembers told dockworkers that they had been directed to throw trash, sewage and oil into the ocean, according to court documents. A transport workers union representative contacted the Coast Guard and asked for an inspection of the Katerina.
The ensuing investigation and lawsuit against the two Filipino officers and Ioannis Kallikis, the ship's captain and the lone non-Filipino on the vessel, resulted to a series of misfortunes for the 13 crewmembers.
Because they were named as material witnesses by the U.S. Attorney's office, they were detained in the country pending the resolution of the case.
When the ship stopped paying for their hotel bill in November, they were forced to stay at the Seafarer Center in Long Beach, Calif. where some of them had to sleep on the floor of the cramped facility.
Since they had to leave the ship, their families in the Philippines only got a portion of their salaries, which rarely came on time.
The sailors also had to resign themselves to the possibility that they might not be able to get hired by seaman agencies in Manila ever again since being tagged as "whistleblowers".
The crewmen, no stranger to hardship, found themselves in worse circumstances as they also had to endure being led in court in handcuffs and leg shackles at a November hearing. The incident was explained away by the U.S. Attorney's office as standard procedure for material witnesses.
A few weeks before Christmas, the seafarers transferred to a two-bedroom house in Carson, Calif. which was donated for their use by a stranger, Eden Yap Dandan. Dandan heard of their plight while she was applying for a passport at the consulate. Like her, some members of the sizable Filipino community in Southern California also came forward to donate food and other supplies to the sailors.
All of the 13 seamen were allowed to apply for temporary work permits, and two actually received theirs last December.
They were not immediately able to work, though, as they had to wait for their Social Security numbers to be released, said Eugene Niez, the chief officer of ship and the group's spokesman.
"But, thank God, at least, I'm working now," he said.
The 54-year-old father of seven is currently part of a crew that does the construction work of a dance hall in Carson, a 15-minute walk from their temporary residence. He said that he's earning minimum wage.
"It's just enough to support myself, and to buy phone cards," he said.
The phone card has become the sailors' only source of joy right now as it allows them to communicate regularly with their families back in the Philippines.
The hard labor gets to him but it isn't the work or the lack of transportation that stresses him, Niez said.
"I just want to go home already," he said.
According to Los Angeles deputy consul general Helen Barber, the Philippine Consulate office is working closely with the group's lawyer in finding ways to expedite their participation in the case.
Should the ship's captain also enter into a plea agreement, like Guinto and Sullesta did, there would be no need for the seafarers to testify and they can then fly home.
In the meantime, Niez said that they are trying their best to face each uncertain day as it comes.
"We can't sleep well. Sometimes, we feel like we're going crazy already thinking about our families back home, and also thinking about what would happen to us after all this is over," he said.
The stress has affected him physically and he's currently suffering from high blood pressure.
On their behalf, the consulate sought the assistance of the Philippine Medical Association of Southern California who promptly sent three doctors and provided free medical check-ups to the stranded sailors.
Guinto is scheduled to be sentenced on April 4.
His attorney, Yolanda Barrera, declined to give any comments about the case.
Sullesta is still staying at a shelter run by the Filipino American Service Group, or Fasgi.
He is not allowed to leave its premises without the court's approval.
"I sincerely hope that he could also go home to his family soon," Kiya Kato, who was interviewed for this article prior to entering a guilty plea for her client, said.
"There just had been no good options for him here."
Niez said that they don't concern themselves anymore with the recent decisions of their former shipmates.
"We need to be concerned about our own situation," he said. "I don't have anything to say about them."
According to the U. S. Attorney's office, the parent company of the Katerina, DST Shipping, Inc. of Greece, has also "agreed to plead guilty to two felony charges related to the water pollution case.
In the filed plea agreement, DST agreed to plead guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding and failing to maintain an accurate oil record book."
Source: http://www.philippinenews.com, Yong B. Chavez, Jan 26, 2005


Stelios attacks Norton Rose over alleged Stelmar conflict
---Norton Rose last week denied conflict allegations levelled by easyGroup chairman and Norton Rose client Stelios Haji-Ioannou over work the firm has done for shipping company Stelmar.
Norton Rose has been acting for Stelmar's management in an investigation into allegations of improper conduct by members of the board relating to the repair of a Stelmar tanker named Keymar. It has simultaneously been advising management on an insurance claim made over Keymar's repair.
Stelmar was founded by Stelios (the easyGroup chairman who goes simply by his first name Stelios, which has been registered as a trademark) in 1992, and until its sale last week was a major shareholder in Stelmar. He said: "The 'investigation' announced by the non-executives using the conflicted law firm Norton Rose, appears to have been a mere whitewash."
In an earlier statement on 5 January, Stelios called the appointment of Norton Rose "a lack of judgment on the part of the non-execs" and said the time the firm spent investigating the Keymar allegations had been wasted.
Last week, a Greek judge granted an injunction freezing chief executive Peter Goodfellow's share options in Stelmar. This was despite last Thursday's (20 January) sale of Stelmar to the Overseas Shipping Group.
Norton Rose's Greek managing partner Chris Hobbs said that the firm had acted for Stelmar since the company's formation. It was engaged by Stelmar to deal with the salvage and insurance claim after Keymar ran aground off Algeria and was later instructed to investigate the mismanagement allegations.
Hobbs said: "There's not a conflict. It's part and parcel of casualty instructions." He added that the firm was asked to carry out the investigation because of its knowledge of the Keymar case.
Stelmar was unavailable for comment.
Source: http://www.thelawyer.com, The Lawyer, UK - Jan 25, 2005


Cap on damages sought in oil spill
---The Athos I's owner and operator asked a federal court to limit liability not related to pollution.The owner and operator of a Greek tanker that spewed an estimated 265,000 gallons of oil into the Delaware River have filed a petition in federal court seeking to thwart - or at least limit - any damage claims not related to oil pollution.
The petition was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia by Frescati Shipping Co. Ltd., owner of the Athos I, and Tsakos Shipping & Trading S.A., the ship's operator. The action is one piece of a legal strategy to control expenses for a spill that has cost millions to clean up.
Citing 154-year-old maritime law, the petition asks a judge for "exoneration" from any liability unrelated to oil pollution, or at least a $5 million cap on total awards - the proposed value of the damaged tanker.
The petition does not apply to property or environmental damage caused by the oil, which is covered by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.
"This is pretty standard legal practice," Tsakos spokesman Jim Lawrence said yesterday. "It's designed to protect our interests and bring some order and, hopefully, some efficiency to the claims process."
Though the filing does not name any potential claimants, the petition, if granted, could include damages sought by Citgo Petroleum Corp. for loss of its oil cargo. A Citgo spokesman declined to comment yesterday.
The spill occurred Nov. 26 as the Athos I was preparing to deliver nearly 14 million gallons of oil from Venezuela to Citgo's asphalt refinery in West Deptford.
Before reaching Citgo's dock, the ship struck an object sticking up from the river bottom in the federally maintained Mantua Creek anchorage. Oil gushed from a six-foot-long gash and a nearly two-foot-wide puncture in the hull.
Coast Guard investigators last month announced the discovery of a large piece of cast-iron pump housing, which they believed had caused the spill. But this month, divers hired by the ship's insurer, UK P&I (Protection & Indemnity) Club, found two more suspects: a concrete slab and a large anchor, both on the river bottom in the anchorage.
The Oil Pollution Act limits the Athos I's liability to about $45 million. Tsakos has spent twice that amount - $90 million - on the cleanup, but can recoup expenses above the limit from the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is financed, in part, by a special industry tax. To do so, the company must prove that a third party was responsible for the spill.
Maritime lawyer Edward R. Petkevis said Tsakos would have an interest in helping Coast Guard investigators uncover the origin of whatever tore the hull of the Athos I.
"They are looking for any clues as to what caused this, because it's going to be their position that they didn't put that stuff on the bottom of the river," Petkevis said.
Source: http://www.philly.com, Posted on Wed, Jan. 26, 2005, By Wendy Ruderman, Inquirer Staff Writer


Hellenic- / Norwegian-American Joint Shipping Conference
---The annual shipping conference arranged jointly by the Hellenic- and Norwegian-American Chambers of Commerce will be held in New York on Thursday, 10 February 2005.
This year's event, "Shipping Without Borders: Has National Identity Become Irrelevant" will be chaired by Derick Betts (Seward & Kissel) and Richard DuMoulin (Intrepid Shipping); the luncheon keynote address will be delivered by Wilhelm Wilhelmsen. The full-day event will focus mainly on issues affecting the shipping industries in Greece, Norway and USA, and will conclude with a networking cocktail reception.
Please go to http://www.nacc.no/newyork/multimedia/content_298_26_1106519365345.pdf for information on the program, speakers and sponsors, as well as registration details.
Source: Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce, email announcement, 24 Jan 05