Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 07 - 2005

 

Used ships fetch good prices for shipowners

---Greek shipowners have recently shown increased activity as the program for renewing the Greek fleet with fresher vessels is in full development, while several companies are rushing to take advantage of the high prices used ships have by selling older ones. As a result there now are many ship sales and purchases bearing a Greek stamp.
Making the most of the current trend of a rise in the prices for used ships, Diamantis Diamantidis's Marmaras Navigation recently sold two capesize vessels, securing profits of 50 million euros. The company sold the Faneromeni, 149,000 dwt, built in 1989, and Koutalianos, 172,000 dwt, built in 1987. Their buyer was the Chinese Hebei Ocean Shipping Co (Hosco), for $75 million. It will receive the vessels by April.
Marmaras Navigation had purchased the Faneromeni and Koutalianos for $16.5 million and $10.6 million respectively. The price of the deal has apparently impressed some analysts who suggest it might be particularly high, given that there is no certainty prices will remain at current levels; the rise of prices is estimated to be near its end.
Stamford Navigation has also begun sales in order to renew its fleet. The company sold its bulker Anemi Breeze, 72,000 dwt, to a Greek-owned company for more than $28 million, having purchased it last July for $19.75 million. It further sold the smaller Pioneer Sky, 10,000 dwt, for $11 million, which had also bought in the same period for $6 million. It therefore continued the sales it began in the last quarter of 2004, when it sold another two ships for $22.75 million, having bought them for only $7.9 million. With nine bulkers bought in 2004, Stamford Navigation has set its course toward renewing its fleet, controlling 16 ships today after its recent sales. According to a statement by Mr Zolotas of Stamford, the company will continue its expansion into the dry bulk market, while also preparing its penetration into the tanker and the liquified petroleum gas sectors. It is now negotiating with a Japanese firm for the purchase of a 50,000dwt bulker built in 1996.
Source: http://www.ekathimerini.com, 19 Feb 05, by Nikos Roussanoglou


French bank moving into Greek shipping
--- Leading French bank Natexis Banques Populaires has decided to dip its toes into Greek shipping and has signed an agreement with Piraeus-based consultants XRTC, headed up by George Xiradakis, to represent it.
Michel Degermainn, head of shipping and land transport at Natexis, says that although the bank has a global shipping portfolio of some $1.5bn, it has only been involved in two transactions involving Greek owners, amounting to a total of less than $40m. "This is nothing compared to the potential of the market," he said.
The bank, which is listed in France, is Banque Populaires Group's financing, investment and service bank. Its shipping portfolio breakdown is 20% in France, 30% in the rest of Europe, 25% in Asia and 25% in the US and South America.
Degermainn says the bank takes an opportunistic approach to the shipping deals it funds, covering all types of assets. About 20% of the portfolio is in tankers, a similar percentage in boxships and some 10% to 15% in LNG carriers. It has a much smaller percentage in bulkers. "We considered we could not do shipping in Greece from Paris," he said.
Xiradakis has some 20 years of shipping-finance experience and XRTC had a similar agreement with Credit Lyonnais until it was taken over by Credit Agricole, which already had a representative office in Greece. "After Credit Lyonnais left we wanted to continue with the product XRTC is offering as a consultant to finance institutions. This is an international business with a solid strategy in shipping that wants to come and work in the Greek shipping market with a view to a long-term presence," Xiradakis said.
Degermainn adds Xiradakis's previous experience with French banks is an asset. "He is used to working with the French and it is very important for us to have someone who will understand how we work," said Degermainn.
Source: www.tradewinds.no, Gillian Whittaker Athens, published: 18 February 2005


"Innovative" rules put Greek passenger shipping in danger
---The laws under which Greek passenger shipping operates are so antiquated they could be
considered "innovative" according to Pericles Panagopulos, chairman of the Attica Group. The regulations have "killed the Greek cruise ship sector" and are putting the entire Greek passengership sector in danger.
"Outdated laws which can not be applied are imposed on Greek passenger shipping and in many cases can be considered worldwide innovations," Panagopulos told the annual meeting February 17 of companies involved in the passengership sector. He said that the state has to take daring decisions if the serious problem of the competitiveness of the Greek ship is to be addressed, let alone overcome.
Panagopulos, president of the Association of Companies Operating Passenger Ships, said the present Greek regulations are out of step with those of the international marketplace and it is time to stop making unreasonable demands on the passengership operator. He was especially critical of manning laws and said they were responsible for the demise of crusing.
He said the industry needs a clear, flexible and steady framework so that the Greek flag will become attractive to new investors. This way the fleet will increase and more seafarers will be employed. "Greek-flag passenger vessels must be able to adjust to international rules otherwise we are putting Greek passenger shipping in danger and many work places will be lost," said Panagopulos.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 17 Feb 05


Vafias emerges as key DryShips investor after Brave Bulk sale
---THE Vafias shipping family of Greece has emerged as a leading shareholder in newly floated DryShips, headed by fellow Greek shipowner George Economou, just as it has concluded the sale of its own dry bulk operating arm, Brave Bulk Transport, to Middle Eastern interests.
The group has agreed to sell the majority of its stake in Australian company BBT but will remain a majority shareholder and will continue as exclusive representative for all the company's European business.
The transaction does not include any ships as two ships under BBT's control - the 1982-built capesize Cape Haralambosand the 1988-built panamax Sydney King - are being transferred back to ownership of Brave Maritime, the group's traditional dry bulk company.
Spokesman Harry Vafias said the buyers, described as a Middle Eastern conglomerate involved in shipping, trading and the recycling business, will gain control of an operating company with contracts of affreightment and period charter parties for at least 20 bulkers.
The company's contracts would remain "in full force" although the full transfer of control may take up to about 60 days.
Vafias, based in Athens, launched BBT as an independent operating arm in the autumn of 2003 although it had been chartering and trading in the bulk sector since about 1986.
Last year BBT carried about 3.5m tonnes of cargo, particularly grains, and claimed to be the largest supplier of wheat to Iraq.
Based in Melbourne, the company is said to have close relations with commodities houses in Australia and East Asia and owns a 50% stake in recently launched Chinese brokerage Eastern Star Maritime, which is also part of this week's sale.
Mr Vafias declined to give a price for the sale of most of the group's stake in BBT although it is likely to have been considered a strong price at a high period for the dry bulk market.
He told Lloyd's List the group was "still keen to be involved in the [operating] segment" and may examine other niche trades that would not pitch it into direct competition with BBT.
"We are still involved in the company," he stressed.
At the same time it has been confirmed that the group opted for a cash and shares deal for two panamaxes it has sold to Nasdaq-listed DryShips, which completed its initial public offering earlier this month.
The 1988-built Magic Wandand the 1989-built Macanudo were reported sold to DryShips for about $45m, but it now appears that a large part of Vafias' remuneration was taken in company stock.
Mr Vafias declined to discuss the size of the family's DryShips stake, although it is believed to make the group one of the largest shareholders in the Economou-led company.
However he confirmed: "We believe in the dry market and did not want to take all the money in cash."
After the latest deals take effect Brave Maritime will manage half a dozen bulkers in its own fleet.
Source: http://www.lloydslist.com, Company News, By Nigel Lowry in Athens- Friday February 18 2005


End of the line for Royal Olympia
---A court in Piraeus has ordered struggling Greek operator Royal Olympia Cruises to auction its last three ships, the Triton, World Renaissance and Odysseus, thereby dashing any hope that it might survive. A claim by Dutch bank Fortis, to which ROC owes $58.9M, was upheld. Piraeus lawyer Theodoros Sioufas has been appointed as liquidator. The move will bring an end to the employment contracts of 200 seafarers and 100 office staff who will seek $3.4M compensation for unpaid wages and insurance contributions. ROC had already been granted a nine-month period of protection from its creditors, which ended in November, since when the three ships have been in lay-up in Piraeus, occupied by unpaid crews. The Panhellenic Seamen's Federation are warning that the ships will not be allowed to leave the port until the crews are compensated, and have demanded that the ships' generators be supplied with fuel for port safety reasons.
Source: www.Fairplay.co.uk, Daily News, 14 Feb 2005


EST chooses BV to class 32 bulk carriers
---French leading Classification Society has been chosen by Enterprises Shipping & Trading (EST) to class the 32 bulk carriers they recently purchased from MISC. The 32 vessels represent a total gross tonnage of about 810,000 tons and have an average age of 11 years.
Mr. Bernard Anne, Bureau Veritas Executive Vice-President and Managing Director of the Marine Division, came over to Greece to seal with Mr. Victor Restis the deal to re-class the whole MISC fleet to Bureau Veritas.
In the presence of Mr. Victor Restis, Mr. George Sarris, Managing Director of the company and Bernard Anne signed the deal on EST premises.
Mr. Didier Bouttier, Bureau Veritas Chief Executive for Hellenic & Black Sea Region and Mr. Lambros A. Chahalis, Marine Department Manager for Greece & Cyprus, also attended the signing ceremony.
The entire fleet of Enterprises Shipping & Trading, including all the ships purchased from SAFMARINE, is under the umbrella of Bureau Veritas.
Eight (4+4) new handy size bulk carriers are under construction, under full supervision from Bureau Veritas.
The Bureau Veritas Piraeus office is now taking care of the total fleet of 73 ships, for a total tonnage of around 2.500.000 tons, without counting the new buildings in progress.
Bureau Veritas has also certified EST for both ISO 9000 AND 14000 standards.
With EST being awarded the EFQM (European foundation of Quality Management) certificate and Mr. Sarris being elected the "Greek Quality Leader of 2004", we are indeed dealing with quality partners, says Didier Bouttier.
Mr. Chahalis highlighted the fact that EST has been playing a key role in the Bureau Veritas Marine activities for the past 25 years.-
Source: Bureau Veritas, Press Release, Piraeus, 18th February 2005


Excel Maritime agrees to acquire MV Seaboni
---Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd, a shipping company specializing in the seaborne transportation of dry bulk cargoes such as iron ore, coal and grains, announced that it has agreed to acquire a Handymax bulk vessel, MV Seaboni, for a purchase price of $30 million.
The vessel (to be renamed "Emerald") is a "grabs fitted" Handymax bulk carrier of approximately 45,600 dwt, built in 1998 by Tsuneishi Ship Numakum in Japan. She is expected to be delivered during April, and will be deployed on the period time charter market in accordance with the Company's fleet deployment strategy. MV Seaboni is the seventh vessel that the Company has agreed to acquire since Christopher Georgakis joined Excel Maritime as CEO in late October 2004.
CEO Georgakis commented, "In line with our strategy and acquisition criteria, MV Seaboni will continue to decrease the average age of our fleet. Moreover, we expect that the fact that this vessel is fitted with grabs will make her a more attractive candidate to prospective charterers."
Source: Press Release, Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd, PIRAEUS, Greece, Feb. 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ --


easyCruise offers low-cost cruise option
---A new low-cost cruise line designed for independent travellers has started taking bookings.
easyCruise, which was started by easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou, is offering cruises along the French and Italian rivieras during the 2005 season.
St Tropez, Cannes, Nice, Monaco, Genoa and Portofino are among the destinations on offer for passengers, who can stay on board for as little as two nights or as long as two weeks.
The itineraries are designed to appeal independent minded travellers in their 20's, 30's and 40's who have not previously considered going on a cruise.
The ship, easyCruiseOne, will arrive in a new destination by lunchtime each day and remain in port until the early hours of the following day before sailing to the next destination.
And contrary to some media reports you won't have to clean the room before you leave.
The current booking period runs from June 3 to October 15 this year.
For more information see easyCruise.com
Source: http://www.travelbite.co.uk, Tuesday, 15 Feb 2005 09:10


Greece's OPAP mulls expanding Kino to cruise ships
---ATHENS, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Greek gaming company OPAP (OPAr.AT: Quote, Profile, Research) may extend its Kino game, a key revenue generator, to cruise ships and casinos, its chief executive said on Friday.
"Up to now, Kino is only available at agents. The next step (expansion) should be taken prudently and in carefully selected sites," CEO Sotiris Kostakos told analysts during a conference call.
He added an example could be cruise ships and casinos.
Earlier, Europe's biggest betting company by market value said Kino posted sales of 944.1 million euros ($1.23 billion) in 2004, contributing about 30 percent of group sales.
Kostakos said any decision to extend the game's seven hours of play would not be taken before summer.
He said OPAP was also considering adding Greek football matches to its sports betting game Stihima, which has lost market share and revenues to Kino, adding the operator would decide jointly with gaming operator Intralot (INLr.AT: Quote, Profile, Research) .
Revenues from Stihima were down 2.3 percent last year.
"We do believe it (addition of Greek matches) is realistic," he said.
Source: http://www.reuters.co.uk


Isle of Man set to cap income tax
---The Isle of Man, home to some of the UK's wealthiest tax exiles, is planning to impose a cap on personal income tax.
Allan Bell, Treasury minister, announced the plan to make the island more attractive to prospective millionaires and billionaires wanting to reduce their income tax and capital gains tax bills as part of the island's annual budget yesterday.
The 227-square mile island in the Irish Sea, which has built up a flourishing offshore financial services industry, has always attracted tax exiles, particularly from the north-west of England, because of its 18 per cent maximum rate of income tax on a resident's worldwide income. However, the Manx government is proposing to introduce a maximum tax cap in an attempt to attract more high net worth individuals from London and other offshore tax havens.
Mr Bell said attracting more wealthy people would be good for the local economy because they not only bought local goods and services, but frequently invested in more significant ways.
Malcolm Couch, the island's assessor of income tax, has been asked to carry out an "early and rapid consultation exercise" with a view to introducing a "cap on personal tax liability" for wealthy people. Mr Bell said the cap could be justified because they could create new business opportunities.
The Isle of Man, whose economy has been growing considerably faster than the UK economy for many years, has been cutting the rate of corporate taxation steadily since 2002 and plans to introduce a standard zero rate of income tax for businesses by 2006.
It has already introduced a zero rate for the fund management, space and satellite and shipping industries.
Yesterday it extended the zero rate to several other sectors, including films and e-gaming.
Mr Bell said the Isle of Man was already one of the "most business-friendly places in the world" and added: "We want business to blossom in the island."
One Isle of Man tax expert said yesterday that the proposal to cap personal tax liabilities fitted in with the government's plans to boost the island's role as a ship management centre and could appeal to London-based Greek ship owners who were concerned by the UK government's plans to tighten tax rules for non-domiciled residents.
Under current rules, foreigners are not liable to pay UK tax on non-UK investment income, earnings and capital gains, provided these monies are not brought into Britain. Non-domiciled residents are also not liable for UK inheritance tax on overseas assets.
However, there have been concerns that changes in the tax treatment of London-based ship owners could lead to them transferring their business elsewhere.
Source: http://news.ft.com, Financial Times, By William Hall, Northern Correspondent , Published: February 16 2005 02:00 | Last updated: February 16 2005 02:00