Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 16 - 2005

 

New wave of shipping is sought

---In a bid to boost investment on the Athens Stock Exchange and to transform Greece into a regional shipping hub, the government said yesterday that it wanted to allow Greek and foreign shipping or holding companies to be listed on the bourse.
Source: http://www.ekathimerini.com, 22 Apr 2005


Greece Looks to Attract Shipping Companies
---Greece's Merchant Marine Ministry presented a draft law Thursday that aims to promote the listing on the Athens Stock Exchange of Greek and foreign shipping companies or holding companies with links to the sector.
The law has a twofold aim, the ministry said: to improve the investment climate of the stock exchange and to promote Greece as a regional shipping center.
Greece's government is keen to strengthen the link between the country's large shipping sector and the economy. Shipping overtook tourism in 2004 as the country's biggest source of foreign income.
"A significant part of the capital acquired by (Greek) shipowners could be invested into the Greek economy," Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said recently.
Conditions outlined in the legislation for a shipping company to list on the Athens bourse include: a total shipping tonnage of least 3,000 tons (3,307 U.S. tons) and total assets of at least euro29.35 million (US$38.3 million) in the year of listing. Ships must also be insured by internationally recognized insurance brokers.
Shipping companies that are already listed on foreign exchanges may still apply to list in Athens, the ministry said. Several Greek shipping companies are already listed abroad.
Source: http://www.forbes.com, Associated Press, 04.21.2005, 07:22 AM


Passenger ship owners scale back routes due to costs increase
Ministry of Shipping estimation calls for 40% increase in oil cost. Shipowners have already asked for a 10% increase in fare prices and negotiations with the Merchant Marine Ministry are under way.
Source: www.reporter.gr, 13:34 - 22 April 2005


Greek chem- tank pool to roll in 2006
---The brain behind the first-ever Greek chemical-tanker pool claims he has a winning formula.
The first-ever Greek chemical-tanker pool will be set up under the management of Mare International, which is headed by Emmanuel Papalexis.
Papalexis tells TradeWinds that there are already 18 contracts in place with one owner. He adds that the owner has made a substantial number of orders for smaller, 13,000-dwt chemical tankers, which have proved to be a rapidly growing sector of interest for Greek owners.
Papalexis does not reveal the name of the owner but Evalend Shipping, which is believed to have placed upwards of 28 orders for this size of ship, is a likely candidate. Papalexis says he is also talking with other prospective pool members.
Last year, Mare teamed up with Piraeus broking house George Moundreas & Co, which has been responsible for broking about 45 chemical-tanker orders so far.
In February, Moundreas calculated that there were 48 small products/chemical tankers on order by Greek interests with a further 16 options in place, plus pending orders. The latest confirmed order was made by Hellenic Star, which booked two 13,000-dwt units at Korea's 21st Century Shipbuilding.
Deliveries of the chemical tankers begin next year, when the Mare Chemical Pool, as it is to be called, will take on flesh and bones.
Mare has considerable experience in the design, construction and operation of chemical tankers. The company was founded in 1992 and has built a solid foundation as a third-party manager specialising in chemical and products tonnage. However, the 2000 merger of Ceres Hellenic group's Seachem and Norwegian chemical-tanker operator Odfjell led to a substantial number of vessels leaving Mare's fleet to go under Ceres's management. Mare says it can now use all the infrastructure and resources for the new pool.
Although Greeks have been involved in some way with chemical tankers, this will be the first time a proper organised pool will be established in the country, Papalexis says. He believes the Greeks have "got it right once again" in recognising the niche market for chemical transport. In 2004, he says, the chemical trades accounted for about 134 million metric tonnes (mt) and are expected to increase to 163 million mt by 2010 and 182 million mt by 2015.
He believes the Mare pool will fill a gap in the Southern Europe and Eastern Mediterranean markets.
Source: Gillian Whittaker Athens published: 22 April 2005


Public image is limited
Source: Fairplay International Shipping Weekly, 21 Apr 2005


Athos I, final chapter: oil spill leaves lasting mark
---The Athos I oil spill left a discolored coastline along the Delaware River. At low tide, oil from last year's big Delaware River spill can still be seen along much of Gloucester City's waterfront. It clings to the pilings of old industrial piers like tar, drips out of cracks in bulkheads and coats the undersides of rocks that bolster the river's banks. While the river is vastly improved from the days after the spill on 26 November 2004, when undulating waves of oil rolled onto blackened beaches, plenty of tough work lies ahead.
"By no stretch of the imagination is the cleanup over," says Bob Saunders, Gloucester City's emergency management coordinator. "It's going to be a continuous, laborious type of thing."
Questions are surfacing about how much oil will be left behind when hundreds of cleanup workers finally pack up and leave, perhaps over the summer. With the onset of spring, crews are shifting to the tedious process of cleaning up oil that has worked its way into countless nooks and crannies along the river, staining reeds and even settling deep into the coarse sand of beaches.
Officials acknowledge they'll never get all of the estimated 265,000 gallons of thick crude that spilled from the tanker Athos I. But they insist they will get a lot of it. "The goal is to get the environment back to or better than it was before, as much as is reasonably possible," Coast Guard Petty Officer Kimberly Smith said.
In Gloucester City, even as crews remove oil, more seems to appear, creating sheens along much of the city's shoreline, Saunders said. "It looks clean, but when you pull rocks up there's oil underneath and it's percolating into the sand," Saunders said. As a result, the city has decided to keep the municipal marina closed at least through early spring.
The Coast Guard says no-wake zones around cleanup areas may be in effect over the boating season but that recreational boating will be allowed. Just five months after the spill, many of the river's banks now show no outward signs of oil. A stretch of riverbank in West Deptford near Soupy Island seems pretty clean.
While officials continue to monitor the impacts of the spill on wildlife, they say there are no indications that fish are being affected. Edwin Levine, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said some patches of oil likely will be left on the bottom. But he doesn't expect this to create widespread ecological problems.
Just a few months ago, officials expressed fears that the heavy crude, spilled as the Athos I was approaching an asphalt plant in West Deptford, was sinking throughout the river and would resurface this spring, possibly as tar balls. Today, officials are more optimistic. While they don't have an accurate gauge of how much oil has been collected, they believe they've gotten a lot of it on the beaches.
The Coast Guard's Unified Command hopes the bulk of cleanup will be completed by midsummer, although spot cleanup could continue for months or years. Much of the current work is taking place between the mouth of Mantua Creek, where the spill occurred, north to Big Timber Creek, along the boundary between Gloucester and Camden counties, state officials said.
Source: By Tankerworld staff in Oslo, Published: 18.04.2005 | Last updated: 18.04.2005


GO Carriers to take AIM route to shipowning
Led by Vassillis Vintiadis, 64, the prospectus for Global Oceanic Carriers (GO Carriers), also says, that in addition to the five ships, the company may acquire interests in shipyards to help address the shortage of newbuilding capacity.
A deposit of $2.275m has been put down for total purchase price of $45.5m of the 65,000125dwt Panormos Faith, built 1984, the 63,942dwt Panormos Trader, built 1983, and the 35,055dwt Panormos Pride, built 1982, all part of the John J Rigos Marine Enterprises' fleet. Rigos will maintain commercial, technical and crew management of the vessels for at least a year. Two further vessels costing $60m are earmarked by GO Carriers for purchase by June. They are a 72,000-tonner built in 1993 which is on charter until April 2006 at $34,500 a day and a 46,000dwt handymax built in 1994 which is chartered for 12 months at $23,000 to $24,000 a day. Total fleet acquisition value will thus be $105.5m and GO Carriers plans to set up a loan facility equivalent to 60% to 70% of the value of the ships for purposes that include provision of working capital.
Vintiadis lists former Stolt-Nielsen executive, Konstantinos Dimitriou, 65, and Scottish
accountant, Douglas Kearney, who will be cfo, among GO Carriers' directors.
GO Carriers is the first Greek-based shipping company to join the AIM market and Vintiadis believes the company "is exceptionally well positioned to take advantage of the drybulk shipping market, which, due to demand from Asia, is undergoing a period of considerable growth".
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 22 Apr 2005


Tsavliris calls for respect for salvage profession
But he makes a clear distinction between this and intervention by governments, even when state involvement appears to support salvors.
Ironically, warns Mr Tsavliris, as a by-product of the European drive to extend criminal sanctions in pollution cases, salvors in future may not respond to such incidents in EU waters for fear of being prosecuted, as a Tsavliris salvage master was in Pakistan recently after the Tasman Spirit tanker case.
Despite this, his group claims to be continually investing in resources and in recent years has expanded its network of salvage stations, for example with powerful tugs in South Africa and the Red Sea.
Source: Lloyds List Feature


TOP Tankers Inc. Announces New Employment Contracts for 12 Tankers
TOP Tankers Inc. (Nasdaq: TOPT), announced today that it has signed new employment contracts for 12 of its tankers. Following these new contracts, all 14 Handymaxes and four out of nine Suezmaxes will be employed on time charter contracts. In total, 18 of the Company's 23 tankers will be on time charter contracts with an average term in excess of three years. All but one of the time charters include profit sharing agreements.
The Company has secured approximately 76 percent of the estimated working days for 2005 and 78 percent for 2006 under time charter contracts. At the same time, the five Suezmaxes operating in the spot market, together with the profit sharing component of the time charter contracts, expose approximately 57 percent of the Company's estimated working days for 2005 and 58 percent for 2006 to potentially higher spot rates.
Regarding the new employment contracts: TOP Tankers has entered three of its Suezmax tankers into two-year time charter agreements with Glencore SA, one of the world's largest oil traders. Pursuant to these agreements, the M/T Stopless, M/T Timeless and M/T Flawless will earn base rates per day of $28,000 during the term of the contracts. Should a vessel generate revenue in excess of its base rate over the duration of the contract, TOP Tankers will receive 100 percent of the first $7,000 per day in excess of the base rate, up to $35,000 per day, and 50 percent of the excess thereafter.
The Company has also extended the two-year time charter contracts with Glencore SA that are currently in place for four of TOP Tankers' Handymax vessels by three years. The M/T Invincible, M/T Relentless, M/T Sovereign and M/T Victorious are currently deployed under two-year time charters that expire during the third quarter of 2006. The new three-year contracts will commence immediately upon the expiration of the current contracts.
The existing two-year time charters have base rates per day of $14,500. Should a vessel generate revenue in excess of its base rate over the duration of the contract, TOP Tankers will receive 100 percent of the first $500 per day in excess of the base rate and 50 percent of the excess thereafter. The base rates per day for the new three-year periods will be $14,000. Should a vessel generate revenue in excess of the base rates over the duration of these contracts, TOP Tankers will receive 100 percent of the first $500 per day in excess of the base rate and 50 percent of the excess thereafter.
TOP Tankers also announced the details of its five-year employment agreements with Glencore SA for all four of its double-hull Handymax tankers delivered during March and April 2005. Pursuant to these time charter agreements, the M/T Taintless, M/T Dauntless, M/T Soundless and M/T Topless will earn a base rate of $17,000 per day during the first year of their respective contracts. Should a vessel generate revenue in excess of its base rate over the first year of the contract, TOP Tankers will receive 30 percent of the excess. From the second year through the expiration of these contracts, the base rates per day will be $16,250. Should a vessel generate revenue in excess of its base rate per day during this period, TOP Tankers will receive 100 percent of the first $1,000 in excess of its base rate and 50 percent of the excess thereafter.
The M/T Taintless, the M/T Dauntless and the M/T Soundless were delivered on March 21, March 24 and April 19 respectively. The Company anticipates delivery of the M/T Topless on or about April 25, 2005.
In addition, TOP Tankers has entered one Suezmax tanker into a five-year time charter contract with Hyundai Merchant Marine. The M/T Faultless will earn $37,000 per day during the first two years of the time charter contract, $36,000 per day for the third year and $35,000 per day for the remaining two years through the expiration of the contract.
Source: TOP Tankers Inc. ATHENS, Greece, April 20, 2005


Greece, Counting on Post-Olympic Boom, Now Faces Tourism Bust
---George Tsakiris, who owns three hotels in Athens, says he and other hoteliers spent 1.5 billion euros ($2 billion) to renovate and supply rooms with new furniture, televisions and Internet connections on a bet the 2004 Olympic Games last summer would power tourism for years to come. The Greek government spent 10 billion euros on a new airport, subway and rail system and venues to prepare for the Games.
Instead, hotel occupancy plunged 7 percent in the fourth quarter to 57 percent, the lowest among 11 of Europe's biggest cities, according to a study by Athens-based consulting firm JBR Hellas Ltd. London had the highest occupancy, at 77 percent. The number of visitors to Greece fell 3 percent last year, according to the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises.
The decline is a blow to a nation that relies on spending by tourists for about 6 percent of its gross domestic product. Spending to prepare for the Games helped boost economic growth to 4.2 percent last year while swelling the country's budget deficit to 6.1 percent of GDP and increasing its total debt to 111 percent of GDP, both the highest in the European Union. GDP growth will slow to 2.9 percent this year, according to the European Commission, the EU's economic overseer.
``The advantage of the Olympics is over and finished,'' says Bart Daenekindt, who manages about 30 million euros in Greek stocks at KBC Asset Management in Brussels.
Not Enough
That gives the government of Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, 48, until next year to tame the deficit and reduce debt, both of which are about double EU guidelines. Karamanlis, a lawyer who was elected in March 2004, has responded with a plan to cut spending, boost certain taxes and sell state-owned assets. The European Commission said in a statement in April that those efforts may not go far enough.
Even so, investors have bid up Greek shares and bonds, lured by the country's growth and the prospect of sales of state-owned companies.
The ASE General Index gained 23 percent in 2004, led by Athens-based Opap SA, Europe's third-biggest publicly traded gambling company. Opap, 51 percent owned by the government, is among the enterprises that may be sold. The company's shares rose 79 percent last year and have gained 4.8 percent this year to 21.34 euros yesterday. The ASE increased 4 percent this year to 2896.40.
``There was some relief that the Olympic games were a success, nothing bad happened, there were no bombs,'' says Panagiotis Antonopoulos, who helps oversee the equivalent of $6.5 billion at Athens-based Alpha Asset Management SA.
Bond Spreads
The spread of Greece's 10-year benchmark bond over the German bond of comparable maturity fell 10 basis points to a record low of 8.1 basis points on Feb. 18. The spread has since widened to almost 27 basis points after government reports on the ballooning deficit. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.
Tourism is one of Greece's three biggest industries, along with construction and shipping; the latter accounted for about 8 percent of GDP last year. About 6.4 percent of Greece's workforce of 4.3 million, or about 275,000 people, is employed in the tourism trade.
Greece's economy went into overdrive after it was picked to host the Games. Since 1996, a year before Greece was chosen, the economy has expanded an average of 3.8 percent a year, the third- highest rate in the EU after Ireland and Luxembourg, according to EU figures.
EU Laggard
Though the economy has been expanding, Greece's 11 million people are still the second-poorest among the 12 EU nations that have adopted the euro. Last year, GDP was 15,000 euros a person, higher only than Portugal's 12,850, euros according to EU figures.
Of the 15 nations in the EU at the start of last year, Greece ranked 14th in competitiveness, according to the Geneva- based World Economic Forum, which surveyed 8,700 business leaders in 104 countries.
While Greece was gearing up for the Games, hotels and other travel businesses increased their prices.
The average rate for a room for one night in Athens rose 33 percent in 2004 to 167 euros, the highest among six cities in a survey by accounting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP. The average rate in Rome, the next-most-expensive city, fell 1 percent to 157 euros. In Istanbul, the least expensive city in the survey, the average room rate rose less than 1 percent to 99 euros.
Higher prices boosted overall revenue of hotel and other travel companies by 9.4 percent last year, according to the Bank of Greece, the country's central bank.
Cheaper Destinations
The increased rates also deterred some tourists, who chose cheaper destinations instead. ``Greece was among the losers last year,'' says Anja Braun, a spokeswoman for TUI Deutschland, the German division of Hannover, Germany-based TUI AG, Europe's largest tour operator. ``People were put off by negative reporting about price hikes.''
Greece's post-Olympic experience stands in contrast to that of Australia, which hosted the Summer Olympics in 2000.
Australian tourism rose 11 percent in 2000, according to a 2001 study by Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., a Chicago-based commercial real estate broker and management company that evaluated the impact of the Olympics on regional property markets. The number of visitors peaked in December 2000, three months after the Games ended.
Greece, birthplace of the ancient Olympics, did reap some lasting gains from the Games. EU funds helped pay for a 2.6 billion euro subway system in Athens, easing the capital's legendary traffic jams. Some EU money was also used to finance the city's new international airport, permitting more flights.
Accommodating Tourists
``The change in infrastructure has been very important,'' says Christos Avramides, an economist at and general manager of Athens-based Proton Asset Management SA, with more than 180 million euros under management. ``The issue now is to capitalize on this experience.''
Considering tourism's importance to the economy, Greece isn't the most accommodating of destinations. The government determines when shops can open; department stores have to close by 3 p.m. on Saturdays and all day on Sundays. Museums don't have evening hours.
The new Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens charged the third-highest fees and taxes among international airports, after Newark, New Jersey, and Osaka, Japan, according to U.K.-based Transport Research Laboratory, a transportation research organization.
`Live Your Myth'
The fees discourage discount carriers from flying to the city, says Tsakiris, 48, who is also president of the Athens Hotel Owners Association.
``We have cases of low-cost airlines where airport taxes double the ticket price,'' he says.
In an effort to raise Greece's appeal to tourists, the Ministry of Tourism is spending a record 30 million euros on advertising this year -- four times what it spent in 2004. Much of that is going to buy airtime on the BBC and CNN cable news channels, inviting viewers to ``Live Your Myth in Greece.''
Braun says the ad campaign is showing some signs of working, with bookings to Greece up 7 percent so far this year compared with the same period a year ago.
Luring tourists may be easier than fulfilling Karamanlis's plan to cut the budget deficit by more than half next year to less than 3 percent of GDP.
`Serious Risk'
Karamanlis said the government will raise 1.6 billion euros from selling state assets, including a stake in the Athens airport, which is 40 percent owned by Hochtief AG, Germany's largest builder. He has imposed higher alcohol, cigarette and value-added taxes and is pushing for curbs on wage increases for government workers.
The EU told Greece on April 6 that those efforts may not go far enough.
``Greece appears to be at serious risk with regard to the long-term sustainability of public finances,'' the European Commission said in a statement from Brussels.
Karamanlis, whose New Democracy party ousted the Socialists, blames the deficit on his predecessors and said his proposals will sustain expansion.
``We are aiming for high growth,'' he said at a news conference in Athens on March 8. ``It can't be based only, as in the past, on Olympic projects or European funds. Greece needs dynamic, self-created growth. Greece can't stay in last position.''
Failure to meet the 3 percent deficit ceiling by 2006 may put the country's credit rating at risk.
Ratings Cut
In December, Fitch Ratings cut Greece's rating, joining Standard & Poor's, after the country revised budget figures to show that deficits since 1997 were higher than initially reported. Fitch reduced its grade to A from A+. Moody's Investors Service rates Greece's debt A1, the fifth-highest investment grade, while S&P rates it a step lower, at A.
``The reduction of the deficit to below 3 percent of GDP is achievable by 2006 but would require the government to exercise significant control over public expenditures,'' says Trevor Cullinan, a ratings analyst at S&P in London.
Amid the tourism slump, shipping revenue surged 39 percent to 13 billion euros in 2004.
``Shipping has made up for the relative slide in tourism,'' says Dimitris Maroulis, an economist at Greece's No. 2 lender, Athens-based Alpha Bank SA.
Greek shippers such as Stelmar Shipping Ltd., which was acquired in January by New York-based Overseas Shipholding Group Inc., control about a fifth of the world's vessels by capacity. They benefited last year from rising freight rates after crude oil prices surged 34 percent and China increased imports of raw materials to feed its factories.
That's of little consolation to hotel owner Tsakiris, who says he's running out of ideas to salvage his investment.
``We lowered our prices and fixed our rooms,'' he says. ``What else can a hotel owner do? Now, we wait.''
Source:


Oil and gas pipelines spur closer ties among Black Sea countries
---KOMOTINI, Greece (AP) - Senior diplomats and energy officials from the troubled Caucasus and Black Sea regions gathered Friday to forge closer co-operation with Greece and Turkey - spurred by recent oil pipeline and energy deals.
A declaration to be signed Saturday is aimed at expanding energy and trade ties among 12 countries that have often viewed their neighbours with hostility.
"When markets co-operate more closely and companies form joint ventures, there is pressure on politicians to co-operate too," Evripidis Stylianidis, Greece's overseas trade minister, told The Associated Press.
The meeting follows an April 12 agreement between Bulgaria, Greece and Russia to build a 285-kilometre Balkan pipeline - the latest major venture planned to speed up the transfer of oil and natural gas from the former Soviet Union to western markets.
Worth more than 500 million euros ($650 million US), the pipeline will bypass Turkey's busy Bosporus strait, linking Bulgaria's port of Burgas to Greece's Alexandroupolis.
"Pipeline development is positive," Stylianidis said. "It's good for the West, which will get cheaper oil, and good for the region because better relationships grow between the countries on pipeline routes."
The new pipelines are part of an effort to lower western dependence on Middle East oil.
In June, the major Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline is set to begin operation, carrying Caspian Sea oil 1,760 kilometres though Georgia to the Turkish Mediterranean port. Bulgaria is also planning a separate Caspian oil pipeline with neighbors Macedonia and Albania, to reach the Adriatic port of Vlora.
"Bypass routes are an insurance policy against the risks involved in the Bosporus," Valentin Tserovski, Bulgaria's minister of regional development, said ahead of Friday's meetings. "This way we will also overcome delays which cause huge loses to oil and shipping companies."
Greece and longtime rival Turkey are planning to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from Iran. And in Athens last December, the EU promised to link up power grids to form an "energy community" with 10 southeast European countries.
Greece is chairing the Organization of Black Sea Economic Co-operation, a regional trade forum founded in 1992, which includes Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Serbia-Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.
Half those countries have been involved in wars or conflicts since 1990. More recently, popular revolts led to pro-western governments coming to power in Georgia and Ukraine.
Stylianidis said Russian distrust of ventures like the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline - potentially competing with its own oil transit network - had eased.
Black Sea and Caucasus countries "are coming closer to the West," he said. "Russia was suspicious of this trend, but we have won their trust. And they too have realized they must become strategic partners of the European Union."
Saturday's declaration, to be signed in Komotini in northeastern Greece, will also call for expanded regional co-operation in tourism, transportation and fighting organized crime and illegal trafficking.
Source: http://www.cbc.ca, 04:19 AM EDT Apr 23 , DEREK GATAPOULOS