Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 19 - 2005

 

New Fast Ferry Service in Greece

---Specialist fast ferry operator Sea Containers is to launch a new service in Greece in a 50-50 joint venture - Aegean Speed Lines.
The company is a partnership between Sea Containers and the Eugenides Group. It will be the first to operate a non- Greek flag ship on a dedicated domestic ferry line in Greece after the Government lifted the cabotage restrictions last year, opening up trade as part of its European Union membership.
The service will operate between Piraeus and the Western Cyclades Islands with a start-up date of May 19th until the end of October.
The craft will be a 74-metre Wave Piercing Catamaran - which formerly operated on a route from St. Malo, France to Jersey in the Channel Islands. After extensive refurbishment in a Croatian shipyard the fast ferry has been renamed SpeedRunner 1 and will sail under the UK flag.
The wave-piercing catamaran - which as Hoverspeed Great Britain won the Hales Trophy and Blue Riband for the fastest crossing of the North Atlantic in June 1990 - will carry 557 passengers and 84 vehicles.
The service will operate one round trip per day from Piraeus to the islands of Serifos, Sifnos and Milos which are popular with Athens residents, many of whom own holiday homes.
David G. Benson, Senior Vice President Ferries Division of Sea Containers said: "We are delighted to be in partnership with such a well respected Greek company as Eugenides. Aegean Speed Lines will be introducing speed, style and service into the market and we are confident it will be a tremendous success with the travelling public."
Mr Nicolas Telionis, Executive of the Eugeniodes Group said it was pleased to join forces with such an experienced fast ferry operator as Sea Containers. He added the aim of the venture is to further enhance the high speed passenger and cars transportation concept primarily for The Cyclades.
The new fast ferry venture is another foothold in the Greek tourist industry for Sea Containers as it operates the historic Corinth Canal under a 40 year agreement from the Greek government with plans to expand the facilities for visitors currently under progress.
Sea Containers also announced today that it plans to introduce a larger vessel into its SNAV - Hoverspeed joint venture service in the Adriatic between Italy and Croatia. A SNAV-owned vessel will be renamed Pescara Jet to operate on the Pescara/Hvar/Split service providing increased capacity for 900 passengers (up from 450) and 200 cars (up from 85).
The former Pescara Jet, a 74-metre SeaCat, will be renamed Zara Jet to operate a new route to Ancona from Zadar whilst the Croazia Jet will continue on the popular Ancona/Split service. All three routes will operate between June and September.
Note to Editors:
Sea Containers ferry division also operates fast ferry services in the English Channel under the Hoverspeed brand; fast ferry services in New York Harbour under the SeaStreak brand; fast and conventional ferry services in the Baltic under the Silja Line brand and in the Adriatic under the SNAV-Hoverspeed brand (50% owned).
Source: mysan.de (Pressemitteilung), Germany - May 9, 2005


Shipyard registration continues to cause problems
---By mid-April just 120 of the 648 shiprepair companies based in the Piraeus/Perama region that have submitted the registration paperwork had in fact been registered, certified and categorised, a process considered key to the government's policy aimed at re-vitalising the region's shiprepair activity.
The slowness of the process is increasing the threat of extinction of the Greek shiprepair industry say many in the sector, leading shipbuilders and shiprepairers to call on the government to re-think its policy on company registration and development of the sector. However, the government seems determined to close companies not formally registered, certified and categorised, despite allowing an end of the year deadline to slip by.
Many companies in the shipbuilding and shiprepair zone have said they will not apply for registration, a move which would bring the industry to the brink of collapse. This has dismayed industry leaders.
Among those calling for a re-think while supporting efforts to restructure the organisation of the sector is Vassilis Kokkinos, chairman of the Association of Shipbuilders and Shiprepairers.
Kokkinos said: "At such a critical time for companies to say they will not apply to register has surprised me." He said he "is disappointed" for the registration must continue because "it is the result of years of efforts to ensure professional standards".
The 648 companies said to have submitted the necessary paperwork only tells part of the story, for Kokkinos estimates there are more than 900 companies affected by the registration legislation. Further, in the past two year upwards of 40 companies have closed down.
Those that have applied and have not been accepted, or have been rejected outright, have usually failed to meet the necessary criteria. Many of these companies are considered to be well organised, efficient and professional enterprises but are not able to meet the required levels regarding revenue and number of employees. Aim of the programme is to ensure all facilities are up to standard and from the beginning of 2005 yards and workshops have begun displaying a seal of compliance.
The Industrial Chamber of Piraeus has proposed to the Development ministry that enterprises which meet all the criteria except that of turnover and wage bill be given temporary registration for three years at the end of which time they must meet all criteria. The ministry is said to be considering either a one year postponement for registration or the 'temporary registration' idea which has the support of seven of the eight unions in the repair zone.
Companies not registered, will not have a license to work. This is a problem, as there are many small companies which cannot meet the criteria, that are owned by experienced people who have been in the business for many, many years and are near retirement but want to continue to work until retirement. It appears no provision has been made for this rather sizable group.
To meet the registry's criteria, a company must have a turnover ranging from Euros 50,000 to Euros 130,000 per year and pay 500 to 800 daily wages, depending on the category of business activity. It must also be up-to-date with its social insurance and tax obligations.
Under the original law 3050/2002, companies could register without having paid their insurance and tax obligations. But this ?temporary law' expired and now its re-instatement is being sought. However, once a company does register it must pay its obligations regularly, otherwise it will be thrown off the registry.
-- Filed: 2005-05-11
Source: www.newsfront.gr


The American Club opens office in Piraeus
---Reflecting its growing Greek membership which is swelling the ranks of the American Club, the managers have this week announced the opening of an office in Piraeus. Shipowners Claims Bureau (Hellas) Inc. will provide local claims liaison and advisory services for club members in Greece and the surrounding region.
Joe Hughes, chief executive of the managers, said in New York today: "It's very much a case of a new kid on the block on the Akti Miaouli, perhaps the most famous shipping street in the world. Also, the office at No. 51 is on the fourth floor of the building that houses the Piraeus Marine Club, which means we are very easy to find.
"This new office will greatly extend the services available to the club's members in Greece, the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond. Greek members now represent a significant constituency of the club's total membership, and we are hopeful of further growth.
"In terms of both numbers of ships and tonnage, Greece remains the largest shipowning country in the world, and the Greek registry is fourth in tonnage terms. Indeed, it is estimated that Greek interests now control some 15% or so of the entire world fleet. With the continuing renewal of the fleet, the provision of supportive quality services is more important than ever.
"From New York, London and Piraeus, our message is clear: the club remains single-mindedly determined to provide the very highest levels of service to its members."
In February, the American Club topped the prestigious P&I/Insurance Services category at Lloyd's List's 2005 Awards, announced at a dinner in London's Banqueting House.
The new operation is headed by George Tsimis, a director of SCB Inc. and the current manager of the club's FD&D business. Already well known to most members, Mr Tsimis will continue to oversee FD&D while in Greece.
He is supported in the office by Dorothea Ioannou and Victoria Liouta, both highly experienced and qualified in marine insurance and maritime law.
Source:


Greek ship captain in hot water for docking at Famagusta
---THE captain of the Aegean Sun, the Greek-registered vessel that docked at occupied Famagusta port on Thursday was grilled by Greek port authorities on Sunday after the vessel returned to Keratsini.
Shipowner Costas Agapitos has also been called in for questioning, along with the master Stahis Stylianou, according to Greece's Kathimerini newspaper.
On Friday, when it came to light that the Ro-Ro ship chartered by a British company had docked at Famagusta to unload a cargo of used cars, Greek Shipping Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis ordered them to leave or face two years in jail.
Turkish Cypriot press said the all-Greek crew had raised the 'TRNC' flag in order to be allowed to dock.
According to Kathimerini, Stylianos claimed he was unaware of the ship's true destination, believing he was headed for Alexandretta, but was forced by the British company to go to Famagusta.
Stylianou has had his licence revoked and faces disciplinary action, the paper said.
The government said the docking of a Greek-flagged cargo ship at Famagusta port was unacceptable and welcomed the action taken by the Greek Shipping Minister.
Source: Cyprus Mail, By Jean Christou,10 May 2005


Shipowners pay for Cyprus call
---The Greek owners of a Greek-flagged merchant vessel that delivered cargo to the Turkish-occupied port of Famagusta in northern Cyprus last week were yesterday fined a hefty 5.2 million euros for safety oversights detected on the ship.
A Merchant Marine Ministry release said the shipping company, Aegean Cargo, was being fined for "irregularities and deficiencies" discovered by ministry inspectors after the Aegean Sun car transport arrived at Piraeus on Sunday.
On Friday, the ministry ordered the ship's Greek captain, Stathis Stylianos, to leave Famagusta and stripped him of his license. Yesterday, Stylianos was released pending trial for safety breaches and docking at Famagusta.
Greece considers visits by ships of any nationality to Turkish-occupied Cyprus to be illegal and banned Greek vessels from doing so in 1980. "Greek ships that do not uphold our national interests cannot fly the Greek flag," the ministry said. The Aegean Sun, which delivered second-hand cars from the UK to Famagusta last Thursday, is understood to have been chartered by a British firm.
Source: Kathimerini Date: 5-13-2005


Quintana, Eagle Bulk IPOs May Struggle as Shipping Shares Slide
---Quintana Maritime Ltd. and Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc. are among a dozen shipping companies that may struggle to sell shares this year as a 25 percent expansion in the world fleet pushes down freight rates and shipping stocks.
``These companies haven't got their timings right,'' said Stig Frederiksen, an analyst at HSH Gudme Investment Bank in Copenhagen, who recommends clients sell shares in Danish shipowner D/S Norden A/S. ``They are going to have a very hard time selling stock given that freight rates have already passed their peaks.''
Shares of Athens-based DryShips Inc., which listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market Feb. 22, have fallen 13 percent. Diana Shipping Inc., which debuted on the New York Stock Exchange on March 17, has dropped 16 percent. Shares of Copenhagen-based A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, the world's biggest shipping company, have fallen about 9 percent since reaching a record March 7.
Shipping rates may fall by as much as 28 percent this year as the number of vessels that carry oil, coal and other commodities expands just as global economic growth slows, according to a Bloomberg survey of 15 analysts. The Lloyd's List/Bloomberg index of the 50 biggest shipping companies by market value, including A.P. Moeller, has more than doubled since the start of 2003.
Global economic growth may slow to 3.1 percent this year from 3.8 percent in 2004, the World Bank said April 6. At the same time, orders for 1,999 ships with a total capacity of 159.3 million tons are scheduled for delivery by 2007, according to London-based shipbroker Clarkson Plc. That will add to the world fleet of 9,705 vessels with total capacity of 655.4 million tons.
Downside Risks
``The shipping markets are very high in the cycle and so the downside risks are greater now,'' said Didier Salomon, head of global shipping at BNP Paribas SA in Paris. ``Investors cannot put aside the possibility of future hiccups in the market.''
Quintana Maritime Ltd., incorporated in the Marshall Islands, plans to raise $300 million in an initial share sale on the Nasdaq Stock Market, the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 3.
Quintana, whose owners include First Reserve Corp., the largest private buyout firm specializing in energy-industry investments, expects to operate eight ships by the third quarter, it said in the filing. Chief Executive Stamatis Molaris said on May 4 that he was unable to comment on the sale.
New York-based Eagle Bulk, controlled by Kelso & Co., a private equity firm, plans to raise $250 million, according to a regulatory filing on April 4. Chief Executive Sophocles Zoullas didn't return messages for further comment left by Bloomberg.
``As far as most shipping stocks are concerned, I am pessimistic,'' said Finn Bjarke Petersen, an analyst at Nordea Securities in Copenhagen, who has a ``reduce'' rating on Danish shipowner D/S Torm A/S. ``The long term outlook for this sector doesn't look promising because of the increase in capacity.''
Nasdaq Boom
The Nasdaq Stock Market expects to more than double the number of shipping companies that trade on its exchange to about 22 this year, Charlotte Crosswell, head of Nasdaq International, said in a telephone interview from London. Shipowners have also filed to list on the New York Stock Exchange, spokeswoman Allison Circle said last month, declining to say how many.
Greece, whose shipowners operate a fifth of the world's fleet, is planning to allow operators to list on the Athens Stock Exchange, the Merchant Marine Ministry said in an April 21 statement.
Record Earnings
Shipowners are planning share sales after A.P. Moeller posted a record profit of $4.3 billion last year. Frontline's profit reached an all-time high of $1 billion.
Teekay Shipping Corp., the world's largest oil tanker owner, reported 2004 earnings of $757.4 million compared with $177.4 million a year earlier. Shares in the company's natural gas unit, Teekay LNG Partners LP, rose by more than a third on its first day of trading on May 5.
``I hope investors are well aware of the risk in investing in cyclical industries when earnings are record-high,'' said Jarle Sjo, an analyst at First Securities in Oslo, who has a ``sell'' rating on Hamilton, Bermuda-based Frontline Ltd., the world's biggest oil-tanker company by capacity. ``The downside becomes naturally bigger and there is a high risk of losing money.''
Top Tankers Inc. and Shanghai-based China Shipping Container Lines Co., China's second-largest, were among at least seven shipping companies that sold shares last year to expand their fleets after rising demand from China for commodities such as oil and coal strained capacity and pushed freight rates to records.
Top Tankers
Top Tankers, based in Athens, raised more than $287.6 million in two share sales on the Nasdaq last year and has since spent at least $826.7 million on 22 vessels. DryShips, also based in Athens, raised $269 million in its share sale and agreed in the last two months to buy 10 carriers for $520 million.
Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd., based in Bermuda, raised $174.8 million in shares sales in March and December. The company this year announced plans to buy at least 10 ships for $334.1 million.
``Shipping can be a boom and bust industry and so we shouldn't forget about what has happened in the past, even if many fundamentals have changed,'' Salomon said.
Shares in Frontline almost tripled in 2000 when freight rates for its 2 million barrel tankers shipping crude from the Middle East to refineries in Asia, soared close to a 30-year high.
Boom, Bust
Frontline's stock fell about 20 percent the following year when rates for their vessels, known as very large crude carriers, slumped 75 percent as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cut production to help boost oil prices.
Freight Forward Agreements, which help to protect against or speculate on the cost of shipping, suggest lower earnings for tankers and dry bulk carriers in the next two years, according to International Maritime Exchange AS, or Imarex, in Oslo.
The contracts for 2 million barrel tankers on the benchmark Middle East-to-Japan route fell 0.3 percent to $48,728 a day for 2006 contracts on May 4, Imarex said. For 2007, the contract closed at $39,761 a day.
Some shares have avoided the market drop. Shares of Top Tanker have risen 40 percent since trading began in July. Stock of Hamilton, Bermuda-based Arlington Tankers Ltd., is up 42 percent since a listing in New York in November. Shares in Golden Ocean Group Ltd., the Oslo-based dry-bulk operator spun off from Frontline in December, have risen 21 percent.
``The underlying trends of most markets are still strong and shipping is still an attractive field of business,'' said Jan Albertsson, a partner at Aquamarine Finance AB, a consulting company based in Kungalv, Sweden. ``With lots of cash, I believe owners in certain cases will buy back shares they sold.''
Athens-based Anangel-American Shipholdings Ltd. left Nasdaq in 2002 after the founding Angelicoussis family bought back all the company's shares, which slumped 61 percent in the last five years of trading.
Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/ May 9


JFC swoops on Lagoa ships
---Piraeus-based Lagoa Shipping has sold six reefer ships to Russian shipper Joint Fruit Co (JFC) for an undisclosed price, completing yet another sale and purchase deal for the Greek owner.
No further details were available on the transaction but JFC was long known to have ambitions to expand its owned fleet.
The company, one of the largest importers of banana cargos into the country, has acquired several vessels in the last three years, as part of a wider trend by Russian shippers to control their own tonnage.
Lagoa has also been busy in the sale and purchase market.
JFC is expected to make an announcement confirming the deal in the next couple of days.
Lagoa is the Greek management vehicle for the London-based Logothetis family's interests. It was one of the first European owners to do business with Russian fruit shippers when the sector opened its doors to the West in the early 1990s.
In December it sold two reefer ships to Sorus, another Russian fruit shipper. Sorus paid $11m en bloc for the 535,000-cbf reefer Atlantic Spirit (built 1979) and Pacific Spirit (built 1980).
More recently the company sold two smaller reefers, the 302,000-cbf Japan Star and Hachinohe Bay (both built 1991), to Norway's Green Reefers.
As of February this year, Lagoa controlled four bulkers, 13 general cargoships, one containership, 19 reefers and two offshore-newbuilding contracts.
Source: www.tradewinds.com, By Yiota Gousas from Piraeus published: 15:57 GMT, 12 May 2005 | last updated: 16:25 GMT, 12 May 2005


Vafias group swoops for three more LPG carriers
---Company 'remains bullish due to increased scrapping and a limited order book', writes Nigel Lowry in Athens-
THREE more liquefied petroleum gas carriers have been acquired by the Greek Vafias shipping group, continuing its bullish move into the sector since the latter stages of last year.
Frequently cited as a possible public flotation candidate later this year, the group confirmed that it has paid about $32m for the latest three additions to an LPG fleet that now rises to 15 vessels.
The vessels are the fully pressurised 6,500 cu m Wetherby, built 1991, the 1990-built 3,200 cu m semi refrigerated vessel Hamilton, which is at present on charter to ExxonMobil, and the seven-year-old fully pressurised LPG carrier Gas Eternity.
Industry sources suggest the Greek company has agreed prices of $11m and $9.5m respectively for the Wetherby and Hamilton, both owned by the Ber- muda LPG trader and shipowner Petredec.
Sources gave $11.5m as the price tag for the Gas Eternity, which has been trading for Toned Shipping of the Philippines.
Group spokesman Harry Vafias said the company "remains bullish for the rest of the year due to increased scrapping and a limited order book, especially in the semi-refrigerated sector".
This was despite recent softening of LPG carrier rates, which he described as "seasonal", and admitting to worries over an ever-increasing order book for the larger LPG carriers.
Mr Vafias said that the Wetherby, to be delivered this month, will be renamed Gas Chios and will trade in the Far East, while the Hamilton, to be renamed Gas Crystal, is expected to be handed over in July.
The Gas Eternity is to keep its present name after delivery to the Greek company next January, he added.
All three ships appear to have been bought by the group's traditional shipping company Brave Maritime, which now controls six of the LPG fleet with the remaining nine under its newly created Stealthgas arm.
For its swing into the LPG sector Vafias has outsourced technical management of the fleet and is continuing its policy of assessing three different contractors.
Mr Vafias said the contract for the Gas Chios has been awarded to Danish shipmanager Tesma while Cyprus company Hanseatic Shipping would be managing the Gas Crystal.
In a separate development, the Vafias family tanker company Stealth Maritime has just taken delivery of the Primo Stealth, the first of a series of three aframax newbuildings being constructed by Shanghai Waigaoqiao Ship- building.
Delivered a month ahead of schedule, the vessel, which has gone on long-term charter to Heidmar, is said to be the yard's first tanker delivery.
Source: www.lloydslist.com, Thursday May 12 2005 Company News


Stelios confident in success of easyCruise
Source: Fairplay International Shipping Weekly 12 May 2005