Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 05 - 2005

 

Meeting of the Ministers of Transport of the BSEC Member States

---Article by Deputy Foreign Mnister, Mr. Efripidi Stylianidi in the: Greek Diplomatic Life
Meeting of the Ministers of Transport of the BSEC Member States
Hellenic Chairmanship Of The Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), thessaloniki, 28 January 2005
Transport is one of the main priorities included in the program of the Hellenic Chairmanship of the BSEC. It is important for the BSEC Member- States to evaluate the development of transport networks in the region and to consider joint projects for the improvement and expansion of the existing infrastructure. The establishment of regional infrastructure networks aiming at facilitating intra-Black Sea region trade and tourism flows are strongly recommended, in order to create an efficient regional transport system. Given the geographic particularities of our region, emphasis should be given to strengthen maritime transportation systems between the Caspian, the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Mediterranean. Furthermore, linking the transport corridors of South- Eastern Europe with Russia, Ukraine and the rest of the Black Sea countries will further facilitate the move of goods and people within our region.
As a result, the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministries of Transport and Merchantile Marine took the initiative to reactivate the BSEC Working Group on Transport and to convene this Ministerial Meeting in Thessaloniki on 26-28 January 2005 in order:
1. To give a new impulse to regional transport interconnections between the countries of South Eastern Europe and the Black Sea with the ultimate aim of creating a unified Black Sea Transport Area.
2. To distinguish and put to the BSEC agenda new sectors of particular interest in the area of transport. Given the geographical particularities of our region, special emphasis is attached by the Chairmanship to promoting the ?Motorways of the Sea? and the maritime interconnections of the major ports of the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Mediterranean.
3. To promote EU- BSEC relations in the area of transport in accordance with the overall aim of the Hellenic Chairmanship. A Declaration on ?Connecting the Black Sea infrastructure Transport Network with Trans - European Transport Networks? was signed by the Ministers. It is to be underlined that this was the first Ministerial Meeting in the history of the BSEC that a high- level representative of the EU, namely from the Directorate General for Energy and Transport (DG TREN) participated and delivered a presentation at the Meeting.
Furthermore, the Ministers exchanged views with respect to the Motorways of the Sea, the Intermodal Transport and the promotion of the Networks. The role and perspectives of the Sea transport in the intermodal transport chain as well as the port system development were also discussed.
The last Ministerial on Transport was held in Baku in 2003 in the framework of the Chairmanship of Azerbaijan in the BSEC. The Meeting of the Ministers of Transport of the BSEC Member- States was the second Ministerial Meeting of the Program of the Hellenic Chairmanship of the BSEC, the first being the Ministerial of Interior and Public Order, held in Athens on 3 December 2004. The latter was considered very successful as the Additional Protocol on combating organized crime was signed and a Joint Declaration on the fight against human trafficking was adopted by the Ministers. Following Transport, the next Ministerial Meeting of Interior and Justice will be convened in Athens on 21 February 2005 and will deal with issues of strengthening institutional renewal and good governance in the BSEC countries._
Source: Athens News Agency, Greece - Feb 5, 2005, (03.02.2005).


Shipping going strong
---The year 2004 was great for Greek shipping, but the continuation of the industry's significant contribution to the national economy depends on whether the government acts to turn Piraeus into a modern shipping center, the Union of Greek Shipowners (EEE) said on Wednesday.
"In 2004 we witnessed rare dynamism and stability in the freight rates market, along with admirable energy on the part of shipping enterprises," EEE's president, Nikos Efthymiou, told the members' annual assembly.
He noted that last year, a series of developments occurred which reshaped the whole shipping industry, and the protection of Greek interests was a difficult proposition requiring work, careful study and collective effort.
Efthymiou stressed that in 2004, the foreign currency inflow from Greek-managed ships across the world was an estimated $17 billion, i.e. more than 13 billion euros. Bank of Greece data showed that in the year's first 11 months, the inflow came to 12.1 billion euros, up by 40.6 percent year-on-year, turning it into Greece's best exporting industry, Efthymiou pointed out.
"The Greek shipping industry, due to the inherently extroverted character it is obliged to develop daily, cannot in the current circumstances channel a crucial part of its revenue to the state coffers, although it wants to in all honesty," said the EEE president, suggesting that "for a ship to be productively linked with its national base, it is not shipping that should step backward but the state that must step forward to meet it in a modern and well-organized shipping center in Piraeus."
The Greek-managed fleet came to 3,370 ships with a capacity of 109 million gt and 180 million dwt. Of these, 256 ships with a capacity of 14 million gt and 23 million dwt were under construction. It represents 15.5 percent of global capacity in deadweight tonnage regarding ships in service. Ships in shipyards represent 8 percent of all ships being built internationally, 12 percent of global gt capacity and 14 percent of global dwt capacity.
Efthymiou added that last year, 140 ships were added to the Greek register while 143 were withdrawn, yet total capacity rose by 750,000 register tons.
Source: http://www.ekathimerini.com, 4 Feb 2005


Competitive fares for ferries?
---Remote islands' and seamen's organizations demonstrated in Piraeus last month in favor of regular and inexpensive services.
NIKOS BARDOUNIAS
The Merchant Marine Ministry is studying the lifting of restrictions in economy-class fares on ferry routes served by at least three competing companies, as required for the harmonization of the current institutional framework with that of the EU, Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said. He explained that the ceiling on fares on routes without sufficient competition will be maintained.
Another step, which the state as well as the coastal shipowners must take as soon as possible, is the adoption of the "Stockholm agreement," which Kefaloyiannis said "can bring EU capital to coastal shipping."
Coastal shipping circles suggest that if the "Stockholm agreement" is applied to certain ships - as it is not applicable to all conventional vessels for reasons that include high costs - it could contribute to overcoming the problem of the withdrawal age, which now stands at 35 years and is due to fall to 30 years in 2008.
On the issue of fare discounts, Kefaloyiannis said they will still apply to socially vulnerable groups and the inhabitants of small islands, with the difference covered by the state budget.
He added that the ministry intends to have the National Shipping Policy Council operate actively. After the council concludes its study of costal shipping issues it will turn to the cruise industry and its growth prospects, the issue of the upgrade of seamen's education and that of port infrastructure.
Source: http://www.ekathimerini.com, 4 Feb 2005


User provoked shake-up of Piraeus port management
---After only eight months there is a major overhaul of the leadership of the Piraeus Port Authority in motion. Dimitris Samolis and Nikos Anastassopoulos have been appointed president and ceo respectively replacing Anastassios Gonis and Nicos Yannis.
Under mounting criticism from port users, Marine minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis confirmed January 26 that Gonis and Yannis had resigned along with four others on the 11-member PPA board, however these four resignations were not accepted. Subsequently Gonis' seat on the PPA board was taken by his son, Christos.
At an egm January 29 called as a direct result of pressure from the port company's 74% shareholder, the Greek state, Yannis denied there were any serious problems between himself and Gonis and the Marine ministry, as was being widely reported.
The resignations came in the light of increasing criticism, including from the Prime minister Costas Karamanlis of the performance of the PPA management. Differences between Gonis and Yannis had been blamed for slow decision-making which was said to be hindering a re-organisation of port operations.
The state's representative, George Vlachos, the Marine ministry's director of port policy, told the meeting that though 2004 saw an explosion in shipping, Piraeus was unable to take full advantage with movement up only 7.5% and income by just 1% up. Vlachos said it is the government's intention to support the PPA's financial plans and that there are a number of companies seeking to co-operate with the port and it's hoped the new management will give preference to creating a coordinated effort to provide competitive transportation.
He likened the PPA to being "a corner shop on a very busy square, with much potential".
Vlachos advocated railway links between the port and the national network in parallel with cooperating with companies involved in transshipment. He felt the cruise sector could be "a very profitable business for the port" and expressed the hope the shiprepair zone, which is presently uncompetitive with the Black Sea and Turkey, would be given more attention.
He said the government is positive towards European Union moves to liberalise port services, but warned the rights of workers have to be respected, noting the aim of liberalisation is to increase employment.
However, when talking of the need to overhaul the organisational plan of the PPA, Vlachos said the employment relationship has to be taken into account and pointed out that as the state is the main employer, employees have to work within the state's framework.
Users of the port however have expressed the fear the changes will leas to further
delays in the materalisation of the PPA's development plans. Spyros Angelopoulos, president of the ship agents body, The International Maritime Union, said he fears the prospects will not improve as there is "a lack of political will to deal with the problems, including those of human resources".
Following the resignation of Anastassios Gonis and Nicos Yannis as chairman and ceo
respectively, and the enforced egm of the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA), January 29, the new board
of directors of the PPA now shapes-up as: Dimitris Samolis, chairman; Christos Antoniou, vice
chairman; Nikos Anastassopoulos, acting ceo; and members: L Areteos, N Philppas, C Gonis, G
Heretis, C Agrapidis, P Kyriakou, S Balabandis and G Nouhoutidis. - See story page 3 in Newsfront, February 2005, Vol. 6 / No. 4
Source: Newsfront, www.newsfront.gr


Greek class society wins US approval
---GREECE'S classification society, the Hellenic Register of Shipping, has announced it has gained approval under the US Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act, writes Nigel Lowry in Athens.
HRS said that the Coast Guard had examined its safety record and standards under provisions for recognising non-IACS member class societies before granting it approval.
According to the Piraeus technical body this means HRS and all vessels holding class or statutory certificates of the society can operate freely in US ports and waters on the same basis as IACS members.
"This recognition underlines the significant progress achieved by HRS in terms of quality, organisation, operation and services," said managing director Constantinos Chiou.
In the past HRS has been the only non-IACS society recognised for quality standards by the European Union.
However, it is too small for membership of the international class club and has also fallen short of EU size criteria.
Source: www.lloydslist.com, Company News, Friday February 04 2005


Greek to the bone
---Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos insists all his company's vessels fly the Greek flag, discovers Petros Aivatzidis. Not just out of patriotism, but because of his deep respect for Greek seafarers
The career of Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos does not quite fit the stereotype of self-made Greek shipowner. His rise from the lower ranks of seafaring to his long-standing presence on the world shipping scene is a rare accomplishment. And the fact that he has chosen to dedicate his efforts to containers, a sector of limited popularity among Greeks, makes it even rarer.
Despite being one of Greek shipping's greatest success stories, Capt Vassilis remains a quintessential captain, good-hearted, with a genuine concern for his employees' welfare.All Costamare Shipping vessels fly the Greek flag. Capt Vassilis has good reasons for being a loyal supporter of the national ship register despite having to incur higher running costs. Patriotism is the most important reason. The other has to do with his deep appreciation and respect for the seamanship and other attributes of Greek seafarers. The company would not be able to apply its Greek-centred manning policy under a different flag.
An added reason is that, when visiting one of his ships, the captain enjoys a level of understanding, intimacy and friendship with the Greek crew. Born to farming parents in the inland village of Diavolitsi in the Messinia region of the Peloponnese 69 years ago, he says he didn't see the sea until he was 13. He first saw it from a train window as his family fled to Athens in 1948 in search of a safer life during the devastating Greek Civil War.
Departing from the Greek norm
In 1953, after finishing night school while working during the daytime, he decided to go to sea. He started as a deck boy on a small freighter, at first without salary. He worked his way up to gaining his master's ticket in 1967 after serving on a variety of dry cargo vessels and passing the appropriate exams.
He took another bold step in 1974, coming ashore to set up Costamare Shipping with his own savings and those of his wife Carmen. His start-up capital, he notes, was a fraction of what a new entrant needs to have nowadays. In its first decade, Costamare operated like any other Greek company: buying ships cheaply and selling them on for higher prices at the right time. His fleet grew from one 37-year-old tweendecker to between 15 and 17 general cargo ships and bulk carriers by the late 1970s. The departure from the norm started in 1984 with the purchase of four container ships previously owned by the bankrupt Hellenic Lines.
In the past five years, Costamare has doubled its fleet, which now stands at 53 container ships, not including five post-Panamaxes of 9,500TEU on order at Hyundai, all to be delivered by August 2006. These will bring the capacity of the Costamare fleet to more than 209,000TEU and seal the company's reputation as the world's largest independent of its category. Capt Vassilis considers Greek seafarers second to none and gives them the lion's share of credit for Costamare's success. "Without them, the company would not have been as strong and trustworthy as it is now," he says.
Best possible care of seafarers
In return, the company takes the best possible care for its 1,150 seagoing staff. Costamare uses larger crews than required by the safe manning standards.This is for additional safety, better maintenance and training of cadets. Accommodation on its ships is purpose-built and equipped to make life on board as comfortable as possible. Further, since 1996 all Costamare seagoing and office staff qualify for an in-house pension and accident insurance scheme in excess of the obligatory cover. The company applied the scheme retroactively since its establishment to reward its loyal employees, despite the huge cost this incurred.
Still, in Capt Vassilis' view, seafarers deserve greater benefits: "A seafarer's remuneration, no matter how good it may be, is never good enough compensation for being away from their loved ones and the family problems," he says.It's no wonder that fewer young people choose a seafaring career, he says. "And those who do are not trained properly to meet the contemporary demands of the profession," he notes. Capt Vassilis also has suggestions about the remedy: expand the sources from which seafarers can be drawn, for example, by reviving the institution of the nautical lyceums and allowing private schools to train officers in parallel with the state-run marine academies. Secondly, update the curriculum of the marine academies and hire well-qualified teaching staff.
He acknowledges the contribution of Greece's legislation to the development of shipping enterprise, which in return contributes more to the country's balance of payments than any other domestic industry. Apart from that, Greece offers no subsidies, has no national cargoes and shipping finance comes from abroad.
Accordingly, Capt Vassilis has a clear conscience for being rich because he does not take any money from the Greek taxpayer. Instead he points out he made his money through transparent dealings with affluent individuals and corporations of the shipping sector. "If I were a wealthy retailer, I would have a guilty conscience from profiteering off my poor customers," he says.
NAME: Vassilis C Constantakopoulos
MARRIED: To Carmen Kiritsi since 1964; three sons, each in charge of a different aspect of the family business: shipping, tourism and mining
POSITION: Founder and chairman of Costamare Shipping Co. SA
INTERESTS: Keen amateur golfer
Source: www.fairplay.co.uk, Fairplay International Shipping Weekly, 03 Feb 2005


Marinakis gunning for US offering
---Markets are abuzz that a Greek player is planning one of the largest public offerings ever by a shipping company.
Evangelos Marinakis of Barclay Shipping looks set to be the next Greek out of the trap and racing for the US capital markets with an initial public offering (IPO).
Sources suggest Marinakis may file with the regulatory bodies for a large offering this month.
Details of the issue are not known but it is believed the owner will go to the market under the name of Capital Maritime or Capital Shipping and may put up both dry and wet vessels managed by Barclay and Capital Shipmanagement in Greece.
There is some speculation that the IPO may be one of the largest ever attempted by a shipping company. Marinakis may be looking to raise in excess of $250m and it is hinted that leading global investment banking, securities and investment management firm Goldman Sachs may underwrite the issue. The Piraeus-based companies declined to comment on the subject.
As long ago as last July TradeWinds reported that there were already suggestions Barclay's rapid expansion in the past couple of years pointed to its intention to go for a substantial IPO.
Currently, Capital Shipmanagement is listed with 21 vessels, of which three are bulkers. Barclay's existing fleet list is made up of 10 ships, of which six are bulkers. In the second half of last year Barclay snapped up at least 11 secondhand vessels, paying out close to $200m. Some sources now value the fleets at around $500m.
Barclay also has a massive newbuilding programme including 16 ice-class chemical/products tankers at Hyundai Mipo Dockyard, giving it the world's largest concentration of this vessel type. The orders have been valued at around $570m. It also has orders for up to 20 IMO II chemical tankers of 5,500 dwt at Sinan Shipbuilding in Korea. And there are indications that other unrevealed orders may also be in place. According to the Equasis database, the first two 5,500-dwt tankers from Sinan will be delivered this year. A further 15 tankers from Sinan and Hyundai Mipo are slated for 2006 delivery and then there will be 10 ships in 2007.
Meanwhile, Barclay has booked a comfortable profit on the sale of a 30,000-dwt tanker it acquired four months ago. The Amadeus (built 1982) has been sold to unnamed Greek interests for about $6.5m. It was reported purchased as the Vishwadoot, together with the Asterix I (ex-Shakidoot, built 1982) in October for around $10m en bloc, although some sources suggest the price may have been lower.
Source: www.tradewinds.no, Gillian Whittaker Athens, published: 04 February 2005


He's Back!
---With Wednesday's extraordinarily successful DryShips Inc. floatation, George Economou has stunned the ship finance community and silenced even his harshest critics. The final deal nearly doubled from its original size, going from 7.1 million shares in the initial prospectus to an astonishing 13.0 million shares (before underwriters' overallotments).The $18.00 price per share compared favorably with the red herring price of $17.00 but was significantly higher than the $14.00-$16.00 range initially put out by the company. In total, DryShips raised a gross $234 million (again before the shoe and underwriters' commissions) against an initial target of $120.7 million (same basis). Market sources tell us the deal was 9x oversubscribed, and as we go to press, the stock is up 10% in heavy trading. This transaction was a huge success for George, Mark Blazer, Anthony Argyropoulos and Cantor Fitzgerald, which is proving to be a formidable force in shipping finance.
Let's take a quick look at the deal from both sides of the ball. First, when John Sinders of Jefferies told more than 100 shipowners, in attendance at the Marine Money/Jefferies seminar at the Piraeus Yacht Club two weeks ago, that the pool of U.S. investment capital available for shipping equities was unlimited, the owners hooted - but Sinders was absolutely spot on. As we have said in these pages for more than two years, U.S. investors are clamoring to invest in dry cargo shipping deals, and DryShips has been the first to come to market with scale.
Although we have not seen the roadshow slides yet, we suspect that the word "China" in six-inch red letters was superimposed on the background of each one. Sometimes as shipping professionals, we tend to over think and complicate things. Conversely, investors in this space look to simplify (perhaps oversimplify) things.
The Valuation: 1.8x NAV; 4.1x EBITDA The key to making an IPO attractive to both issuers and investors is valuation. The company needs to feel as though it is getting an attractive enough valuation on its assets to make it worth selling, and investors need to feel that there is still some upside in the future. It is always a delicate balance, but this deal, thanks to the composition of the fleet and the outlook for the markets, has done just that. Here's what we mean: As you can see from the charts that accompany this analysis, DryShips was valued at about 1.8x net asset value. This was clearly attractive to George, especially in light of where asset values currently are when looked at in an historical perspective and the fact that many of the ships are coming into the company from the open market. The net asset valuation is pretty much in line with comparables in both the tanker and dry bulk industries (Excel), if not a bit higher.
What is interesting, though, is to look at the company's value from a cashflow, or EBITDA, standpoint. As the charts illustrate, the DryShips deal was priced at about 4.1x 2005 cash flow. We arrived at these figures using 2005 estimates for capesize, panamax and handysize vessels that comprise the fleet. While this figure may appear low in absolute terms, it is important to recognize that the vessels in the DryShips fleet have an average age of 10 years - 10 years less cashflow generation power than a newbuilding, which would clearly have a high EBITDA multiple because new ships cost more than their marginal earning ability. In addition, the DryShips fleet will trade mostly on the spot market, so the EBITDA multiple will not be a static number - for better or for worse.
For companies thinking of entering the U.S. capital markets during this extraordinary moment in time, the DryShips deal should provide encouragement. The deal was done on very favorable terms for a company that restructured a bond after making just one coupon payment and a fleet that consists of spot trading vessels that are of middle age.
Source: www.marinemoney.com, 3 Feb 05