Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 24 - 2005
---An overhaul of the top management at Hellenic Shipyards marks a further step in the integration of the Greek yard into the wider European shipyard sector. Announcing the management changes, Hellenic's owner, the ThyssenKrupp Group of Germany, said they are "central key points" in "securing the future as well as the strategic advancement for Hellenic".
"The European integration of the shipyard locations within the framework of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems strengthens Hellenic Shipyards as well and creates an improved strategic basis for successful future development," said ThyssenKrupp, Europe's largest shipyard group in an internal staff memo announcing the changes.
Announcing the second change of top management in just over three months, the memo said that "within the scope of its strategic concept for Hellenic", ThyssenKrupp's management will "support the sustainability of this important industrial project in Greece". A prior promise to employ a minimum of 1,400 people at the yard was reaffirmed.
The sustainability will be strengthen through: the systematic integration of Hellenic into the group; the continuing provision of products to the Greek Navy; strengthening the coordinated efforts regarding the export of submarines and other naval ships; the extension and advancement of repair and maintenance within the affiliated group; and directing the product portfolio of Hellenic toward the safeguarding of the location.
Georgios Paterakis, who took up the dual role of president and ceo of Hellenic in March, will resign all duties at Hellenic to focus on his function as group representative in Greece, "promoting the group's growing interests".
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 17 Jun 2005
Egyptian-Greek maritime network agreement
---Dr. Essam Sharaf the Minister of Transport signed an Egyptian-Greek memorandum of understanding with the Greek Commercial Maritime Minister and the Greek Transport Minister.
Dr. Essam discussed with his counterpart the Egyptian-Greek maritime relations concerning transportation, commerce, tourism, investment and maritime training.
The memorandum of understanding included the maritime network between the two countries which will develop the commercial and economic cooperation, enhance the transport maritime network with the European network and facilitate passengers and commodities transportation between Egyptian and Italian ports.
It also included the toursit cruise under Egyptian and Greek flags so that the ships can pass through Egyptian or Greek ports.
The two ministers discussed all issues related to the air links between the two countries and establishing an Egyptian-Greek tourist package to lure tourist coming from the Far East and finding all ways for developing the Egyptian-Greek tourism.
Theodore Koumelis - Tuesday, June 14, 2005
An old hand gives views of what has to be done for Greek shipping
---Simos Palios, the shipowner born on the eastern Aegean island of Chios, sounded the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Friday, when his Diana Shipping Inc made its trading debut.
Palios said Diana Shipping, founded in 1972, is the fifth Greek company to be listed on the NYSE, after heavyweights like National Bank of Greece, Coca-Cola HBC, OTE Telecom and Tsakos Energy Navigation. He said his company has no debts, a strong balance sheet and an average ship age of 3.5 years. He expressed certainty that the NYSE will give the company the ability to grow substantially and create opportunities for Greeks to be involved with certification, arbitration and funding.
Kathimerini interviewed Palios at his office in Faliron.
Why should oceangoing shipping be listed in New York and not in Athens?
At the moment several Greek-owned shipping companies are listed on the New York markets, NYSE or NASDAQ. These listings have been very successful as foreign investors view shipping with great interest. Greek shipowners would have loved to list their companies in Athens, but with the current situation there and the lack of investment interest, it is practically impossible for anyone to raise $200 million or more, as in New York. That is not the main problem, though. There is an issue with Greek legislation: In previous years the Athens Stock Exchange would not even accept listing applications by oceangoing shipping companies while the existing laws are particularly inflexible, discouraging any listing effort.
Is there really such a major problem?
I do not think any other stock market in the world imposes such restrictions on the listing of shipping companies. Nevertheless, Greek shipping, long used to international competition, has found its way to foreign stock markets. In fact, both the listed companies and those about to enter foreign stock markets, as well as other big companies, are changing the shape of shipping enterprises as we have come to know them traditionally. The new company model has a permanent corporate structure consisting of a parent company, listed or not, and of subsidiary shipping companies. Most board members in these enterprises are experienced technocrats, so that companies have a lasting image, separate from personalities and the traditional shipowner. The latter, however, will always remain in each company for guidance.
The corporate model is changing. Aren't the respective adjustments required?
The change in the shipping company model requires some adjustments by Greek shipping legislation as well. The framework of the domestic legislation has for years proved successful and should not be replaced. Yet it had been created for single-ship companies and cannot deal with all the needs of the new business forms. So, without changing the framework, some clause adjustments are needed to serve the requirements of the new corporate structures, i.e. the parent firms with their subsidiary shipowning companies. Furthermore, the strengthening of shipping enterprises and their international recognition in the world's biggest stock markets create the need and the conditions for Greece, and Piraeus in particular, to become international centers not only for shipowners but also for other services shipping needs. Also, the portion of shipping funding by banks has increased in Greece, most of it by domestic banks.
Another issue is shipping arbitration, most of which takes place in London. However, its huge delays and particularly high costs render essential the creation of a permanent shipping arbitration seat in Greece, too, based on international standards. The shipping community is looking forward to such a prospect and when it is created shipowners will certainly embrace it, support it and could even impose it.
In the Greek-American media you indirectly referred to the Hellenic Register of Shipping (HRS).
Yes. This is another domain where Greek shipping companies can support the domestic shipping services. Registers are companies which, among other things, monitor the technical safety of ships.
HRS ought to be supported by shipowners, who should registering their ships on it rather than on foreign registers, as well as by domestic companies such as railways and other construction projects that it could certify. Foreign registers do not rely on shipping only, but also on domestic activities. In addition we, individuals and authorities, should not defame HRS every time there is an accident at a ship registered in it. No doubt those responsible must pay but the "witch hunt" must stop as we are hurting ourselves in this way.
Source: By D. Kapranos - Kathimerini, 13 Jun 2005
HSH Nordbank boasts modern appearance of financed fleet
---VERY modern tonnage accounts for the overwhelming majority of the fleet financed by HSH Nordbank, the world's largest ship finance institution, senior bank officials said on a trip to Piraeus to underline the increasing importance of the Greek market to the bank.
But he added: "We often finance older tonnage and we are not shy of that. We are very much driven by the approach of our customer."
Befitting such a large industry financier, the executives portrayed a bank that was active in a diverse range of maritime finance activity.
Within a shipping department that has expanded by more than one-third to 165 employees since the bank took its present shape with the merger of Hamburgische Landesbank and Landesbank Schleswig-Holstein two years ago, a new "structuring and development" unit has been established to provide more innovative and complex financing structures.
By way of example, the bank acted as adviser and provided acquisition finance for International Shipping Enterprises in the takeover of Navios, while it is said to have closed several structured deals earlier this year.
"This was a first step on the mergers and acquisitions side and it is the sort of business we are well placed to do and want to do more of," said Mr Kuznik.
"Mergers and acquisitions business in shipping is an on-and-off affair but today even medium-sized companies have the cash to take over other companies.
"It is not only for paying by shares."
The German banking group was said to be working on a "a couple of cross-border deals" at the moment.
"Our thrust is clearly in value-added business," Mr Kuznik said. "But we are not a bank that is just interested in fee business.
"We put our money where our mouth is, so to speak," he added, referring to the bank's huge lending portfolio.
Despite "dramatic" pressure on margins and returns, as well as soaring ship prices, the bank had increased both lending and fee income.
"We think we are coping with the high value of ships very well," said Mr Kuznik.
In 2003 the bank set up a Greek affiliate, AB Bank, to widen its base of local customers and the German institution was "very satisfied" with the way the two banks had been working, Mr Kuznik said.
Source: www.lloydslist.com, By Nigel Lowry in Athens - Friday June 17 2005
Consultant group says $2bn will go to Greece
---Hellenic Millennium Capital Partners (HMCP), a group of consultants to Greek shipping interests eyeing the US equity markets, believes that by the end of this year it will have been instrumental in making deals that bring upwards of $2bn in equity and debt finance into the Greek shipping market.
HMCP, founded in 2004, is smoothing the way for Greek shipowners and shipping families to approach the US capital markets through special acquisition vehicles or initial public offerings (IPOs).
Leading US property-tax lawyer Allan Schwartz, whose ideas led to the formation of HMCP, and one of the two New York-based partners, says deals already underway will bring some $1.2bn into Greek companies in equity and debt. He expects the figure to almost double by the end of 2005.
Schwartz says that currently HMCP is representing four or five major families looking at the blank-cheque market and "probably another half-a-dozen clients that are looking to do small or large IPOs".
Schwartz's partner Steven Wasserman appears aggressive about taking a piece of the market and argues that shipowners "have had one or two captive banks at their disposal, like Jefferies".
HMCP was involved in the $200m blank-cheque company filing of Star Maritime Acquisition Corp that emerged at the end of last week, while it is also believed to be behind Euroseas Ltd, a new effort by the Pittas family-controlled Eurobulk (see stories left).
On the New York side of the team, Schwartz is partnered by investment-banking advisor Wasserman, who was associated with an attempt in 1999 to take over Motorola spin-off Semiconductor Components Group, now On Semiconductor, for $1.7bn.
Wasserman underscores the hedge funds as target investor of the blank-cheque IPOs especially. "They were originally devised for the retail investor who wanted a way to get involved in a leveraged buy-out," Wasserman explained. "In the last two years the hedge funds got really involved."
In Greece, Hellenic Millennium's representatives are John Locke of Seatrust International and Dimitris Adamopoulos, a non-practicing attorney and financial consultant. Greek-American Locke has been in the insurance-brokerage business for about 30 years in Piraeus.
Schwartz believes the days of the traditional family-dominated Greek shipping company may be numbered as shipping business consolidates.
"The amount of private equity that is now looking to be associated with or invested in the shipping business is going to have an immense effect," he said.
He believes there is going to be a period in which larger, well-funded companies with deep pockets will go into consolidation mode and sweep up smaller fleets of two to five ships. "Right now, if you are not capable of growing, you are going to become extinct. And that's the power of Wall Street's money," he said.
He had no doubts that acquisition vehicles will find fleets of ships to buy. He said: "The guys who are going to be sitting with cash in acquisition vehicles are going to take a huge advantage of what appears to be now a downward change in the market."
The Star Maritime transaction was pushed through in record time. It is led by blank-cheque specialists at New York's Maxim Group, with whom Schwartz says HMCP has "a very substantial and in-depth relationship". He declines to reveal names but says "there are some very impressive investors" who will emerge in the transaction.
Schwartz admits that he relies solely on Locke and Adamopoulos in Greece to filter prospective clients. "I am highly concerned about making sure that anyone we are dealing with are people of the highest reputation so that nothing comes back to haunt us," he said.
Source: www.tradewinds.no, Gillian Whittaker and Bob Rust Athens and Oslo published: 17 June 2005
Greeks continue US equity hunt
---YET more Greek shipping interests are moving to tap US equity markets, with the Marinakis family filing an IPO registration this week for Capital Maritime & Trading, just days after the Star Marine offering. Capital plans to offer 16.67M shares for estimated net proceeds of $229.7M, most of which would be used for repayment of outstanding debt. Capital is a holding company incorporated on 10 March serving as an umbrella for predecessor companies owned by the Marinakis family, which would own 73.5% of Capital following the offering. Capital currently operates a fleet of 26 product tankers and nine bulk carriers with an aggregate capacity of 1.7M dwt, with an additional 16 ice-class product tankers on order. Last week, Greek investors led by Oceanbulk's Akis Tsirigakis unveiled an offering in newly-formed 'blank cheque' company Star Maritime Acquisition Corp. This company plans to hold $184M of net proceeds in trust for use in an unspecified business combination in "shipping and related industries" within the 18 months of the offering.
Source: Lloyd's Register - Fairplay web links, 14 Jun 2005
Excel Maritime Sells One of Its Older Vessels
---Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd (Amex: EXM - News), an owner and operator of dry bulk carriers and a provider of worldwide seaborne transportation services for dry bulk cargo, announced that it has sold the oldest vessel in its current fleet, MV "Lucky Lady," a Handysize bulk carrier built in 1975. The vessel was acquired by Excel in 1999.
CEO Christopher Georgakis commented, "We are committed to our fleet modernization program and are pleased to be reporting the sale of MV "Lucky Lady," which results in the reduction of the average age of our fleet from 24.6 years in November 2004 to 14.4 years today. The vessel was due for Special Survey in the third quarter of this year and we view this as an opportune time to conclude the sale. We intend to redeploy the proceeds in the acquisition of younger tonnage."
The Company anticipates that the gain realized from the sale will be US $1.6 million. Following the sale the Company will have a total fleet of 18 vessels with an aggregate deadweight capacity of 1,185 million dwt.
The Company has announced the acquisition of 15 vessels over the past eight months.
About Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd
The Company is an owner and operator of 18 dry bulk carriers with a total carrying capacity of 1,184,713 dwt, after having taken delivery of all new acquisitions, and a provider of worldwide seaborne transportation services for dry bulk cargo. This includes commodities such as iron ore, coal, grains, as well as bauxite, fertilizers and steel products. The Company was incorporated in 1988 under the laws of Liberia.
Source: Press Release, Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd Tuesday June 14, 7:35 am ET
Blue Star completes 200 mil. euro bond issue
The bond successfully completed the reorganisation of its capital structure. The funds will be used for the prepayment of existing bank debt as well as for repaying a convertible bond that expires this month.
The bond was arranged by Citibank International, Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank, Commercial Bank of Greece, National Bank of Greece, HSH Nordbank, DVB Bank and Deutsche Schiffsbank.
Blue Star's fleet of eight ro -pax vessels and one catamaran is active in the Greek island trades and the Adriatic.
Source: www.reporter, 15:22 - 10 June 2005 -
TEN Receives 'Ship Safety Achievement Award' from The Chamber of Shipping of America
---Tsakos Energy Navigation Limited (TEN) (NYSE: TNP), a leading owner and operator of a fleet of modern tankers providing marine transportation services for national, major and other independent oil companies and refiners, announced today that it has received the esteemed 'Ship Safety Achievement Award' for the vessel Inca from the Chamber of Shipping of America.
"With the acceptance of this illustrious award, TEN has proven its vision and commitment to seamanship and maritime professionalism," said Nikolas P. Tsakos, President and CEO of Tsakos Energy Navigation. "This accomplishment is a direct reflection of our dedication to the strict observance of international maritime regulation, the high quality maritime training of our employees, and to providing our customers safe, punctual and superior service."
The Ship Safety Award is presented to vessels that have performed outstanding feats of safety during the course of a calendar year. Outstanding feats of safety may include, but are not limited to: rescue; assistance to distressed vessels; transfer of ill or injured persons under difficult sea conditions; and demonstrations of safety and ship operations which have contributed to saving a life or a ship.
The Inca was nominated by the U.S. Coast Guard for its alertness, outstanding seamanship and search and recovery skills under adverse weather conditions on March 6, 2004, in successfully recovering three crewman from their disabled fishing vessel off the Coast of Colombia. Because of the severity of the weather conditions M/T Inca was unable to transfer the three survivors to the Coast guard vessel and they remained on board for the voyage to Cristobal, where they were repatriated.
Mr. Paul Durham, Chief Financial Officer of TEN, has accepted the award on behalf of the Company during an awards ceremony held in New Orleans, Louisiana by the Chamber of Shipping of America on June 9, 2005.
About Tsakos Energy Navigation
TEN expects to operate a fleet of 38 vessels of 4.1 million dwt by mid-2007. Currently it operates a fleet of 25 vessels (including three chartered-in, one Aframax and two Suezmaxes vessels) of approximately 2.8 million dwt with an average age of 6.5 years compared to 12 years of the world average. Its newbuilding program today consists of 13 vessels (5 Suezmax, 2 Aframax, 5 Handymax, 1 LNG) of 1.3 million dwt.
Source: Tsakos Energy Navigation Limited, ATHENS, Greece, June 13
Hellenic Technical Committee: Guidelines for Corrosion Protection and PSC implications discussed
---At the biannual meeting of Germanischer Lloyd's Hellenic Technical Committee top technical managers of major Greek shipping companies discussed latest developments of safety issues and classification topics.
Dr. Kokarakis, the head of the Tanker & Bulker Expert Team in Piraeus, presented the results of IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) 80 meeting which took place in London last month. Harmonisation of damage stability requirements, a revision of the convention "Safety of Life at Sea" (SOLAS) Chapter II-1, has been passed and will enter into force within 18 months. He reported that the MSC favored "Goal Based Standards" in a prescriptive way along the Greek lines.
The introduction of the Guidelines for Corrosion Protection of Cargo Oil Tanks and Coating Systems during the second half of 2005 led to an intensive discussion. Daniel Engel, head of department Product Certification at Germanischer Lloyd headquarters, emphasized that corrosion is one of the decisive factors influencing service life and profitability of ships, above all for tankers. Damages to the outer skin, the fuel and ballast water tanks and especially the cargo tanks can lead to substantial financial losses. Thus coating has to serve multiple purposes. It has to protect tanks from corrosion as well as prevent contamination of cargo.
The latest implications of actions by Port State Control for shipping companies and classification societies were presented by the Mediterranean Area
Manager Athanasios Reisopoulos. In addition to background information e.g. the varying risks of ships' detentions in ports, Mr. Reisopoulos analysed the detention causes for further improvements in technical services. During the last years (2001-2003) Germanischer Lloyd had the lowest class-related detention rate among the 23 classification societies considered according to the Paris Memorandum of Understanding.
Source: Germanischer Lloyd, Press and Information, Hamburg/Athens, 16 June 2005 -