Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 32 - 2005
---Passengers prepare to board a coastline ferry, in Piraeus, on Friday. The traditional August 15 holiday exodus gained impetus on Friday as thousands of Athenians left the Greek capital for cooler destinations.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyannis on Wednesday as the latter briefed him over recent problems in coastal shipping, mostly a handful of ferry boat breakdowns that plagued thousands of holiday makers over the past few weeks.
Kefaloyannis told reporters afterwards that the government has taken all measures required for the safety of passengers and their smooth return from their holidays, with the summer tourism season now in full swing.
Source: http://www.ana.gr, Athens News Agency, Greece - Aug 13, 2005
Lifeline for ferries
Government to offer special loans for renewal of aging fleet
Manolis Kefaloyiannis revealed that the ruling conservatives are poised to allow coastal shipping companies to obtain loans at preferential rates to buy new vessels since virtually half (36 ships) of the current fleet will have to be withdrawn from action by 2008. Greek law since 2001 does not allow ferries that are more than 30 years old to sail. [ Nowhere else in Europe does a limit on a ship's age exist. Ships must abide by operation and safety rules spelled out by the Stockholm Treaty.]
The government subsidizes the routes to more remote or unpopular destinations and Kefaloyiannis said that the ministry would sign five-year contracts with companies in this respect rather than the current one-year deals. He said this would allow the ferry firms to make more long-term plans.
Kefaloyiannis added that the government intended to free up the pricing of tickets for ferries leaving from the port of Piraeus. It has already introduced a pilot scheme for ships leaving from Rafina, Lavrion, Elefsina and Kymi and there is pressure from the coastal shipping companies to allow them to be free to charge prices as they see fit.
The ministry last week fined a number of ferry firms more than 500,000 euros in total for a spate of delays and cancellations. During a visit to Piraeus yesterday, Kefaloyiannis pledged to triple the size of the fines in August, the busiest month of the year. Some 85 percent of ferry passengers travel in June, July and August.
[ Greek passenger ships transported some 15 million passengers, 1.6 million passenger vehicles and over 400,000 trucks in 2004. In July this year, over a million passengers used the port of Piraeus. Of the 2,600 scheduled routes, 12 were canceled due mechanical failures on eight ships. ]
Source: http://www.ekathimerini.com, 8 Aug 2005
Navy ships, diverted ferry to help Greek island vacationers
---Greece has called into service military transport ships and diverted a ferry to handle the country's largest exodus of vacationers this weekend after a spate of ferry delays and breakdowns threatened to strand passengers.
The government has asked NEL Line's newer fast-ferry, the Aiolos Kenteris, to cover some routes to islands in the Aegean Sea, and the navy will provide boats to transfer goods and vehicles after older ferries had repeated breakdowns.
Thousands of passengers have been left waiting for up to two days at ports, or have been stuck at sea because of engine problems, while journeys that usually take a couple of hours have lasted almost 24 hours, state-run NET Television reported.
Greece's holiday travel peaks for the annual festival of the Virgin Mary tomorrow. A total of about 2.5 million people are expected to travel to the more than 1,100 Greek islands during July and August.
Last month, more than 1 million passengers left the main port of Piraeus for the Greek islands, 50,000 passengers more than the same period last year, while the routes were serviced by 36 ships, three fewer than last year and less than needed, Greece's Merchant Marine Ministry said. More than $620,000 in fines were issued last week to travel agents and ferry companies for delays, overloading, and the overbooking of passengers, the ministry said.
Source: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com, 12 Aug 2005
Seaplanes bring new life to Greek islands
Corfu - The Greek islands, many of which are busy with tourists in the summer, depend on transportation links, mainly by ship or by hydrofoil, but these are tied to fixed infrastructures and may be interrupted by bad weather.
And services have been disrupted recently by mechanical breakdowns.
Enter the seaplane: presented as a highly flexible and economically viable means of taking small numbers of people to out-of-the-way places, capable of flying in almost any weather provided a sheltered stretch of water is available when waves are high.
'Our advantage is that we can access islands that lack airports'
Seaplanes were used for regular commercial flights in these skies, or waters, in the 1930s and during World War 2 the occupying Germans operated them out of the main harbour in Corfu on reconnaissance and carried bombs for anti-submarine attacks.
Greece, because of its long coastline, abundance of small islands and limited airfield infrastructure, seems ideal for seaplane operations.
A Greek-Canadian company called AirSea Lines began flights from Corfu to the mainland north-west town of Ioannina three weeks ago. It had begun testing the concept with a six-minute flight between Corfu and the island of Paxoi 11 months ago.
The airline says its strategy is based on satisfying local demand that well-established airlines such as Olympic Airlines and Aegean Airlines cannot meet.
"We're not aiming to compete against Olympic or Aegean," says company general manager Tassos Govas. "Our advantage is that we can access islands that lack airports, where local residents have problems with their transport and goods supply, and (a shortage of) health facilities."
Also known as float planes after the padded supports attached to their fuselage, seaplanes were used extensively in the formative years of commercial aviation between the wars.
Corfu itself served as a stopover point for British Imperial Airways flights from Southampton to Alexandria, and for French Lignes d'Orient flights from Marseille to Beirut.
Propeller-driven aircraft were phased out after 1945 when faster jet aviation became the industry standard.
But in Greece, the necessary infrastructure for airport-to-airport flights could never be fully developed in the island quiltwork that dots the Greek coastline.
Most of these islands rely today on regular ferry connections to the mainland, but the link becomes tenuous in winter when coastal shipping operators have to contend with bad weather and falling passenger numbers.
"A ship with a capacity of 500 that carries 30 passengers in winter is a loss-making one," says Govas. "We, however, can help the situation with 19-person loads, which is our full capacity."
He also says: "If an island is left without supplies and the ship cannot go, we can make that flight. We can roughly carry 1.5-2 tons."
Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis says that seaplane services to the eastern Greek archipelago will "likely" follow in the coming months.
His ministry had planned to authorise flights to 10 additional island destinations this summer, he says, before unforeseen complications in the designation of plane landing sites cropped up.
"We need to be very careful, we cannot place them in harbours or where people swim," Pavlidis said. "We want to solve problems, not create fresh ones."
Under the terms of a new Greek law, seaplanes cannot operate in areas where wave height exceeds two metres.
But AirSea Lines pilot Daniel Englund, who flies the Corfu-Ioannina link, insists that his Canadian-built De Havilland Otter "can handle gale force winds, anything (short of) a hurricane".
The pilot, born in Sweden, said: "The wind is never a problem, it's actually better when it's windy. The more wind you have, the faster you can get airborne."
Flying at an altitude of up to 1 830 metres, the Otter provides an undeniably fast, though loud and frequently bumpy ride. Earplugs are provided to block out engine noise during the flight.
Englund says he has received favourable comments from passengers.
"Most tourists go to Paxoi, and say they don't want to fly another way," he says. "They are amazed, because it's so fast and easy to get there. Lots of people from Europe are not used to seaplanes, so it's a nice experience."
Launched with extensive support from leading Canadian seaplane operator Harbour Air, AirSea Lines eventually plans to expand its services to Italy and Spain once the Greek market is firmly in hand.
The western port of Patras, Greece's main point of passenger traffic to Italy, is its next target.
"We have a licence to (access) any EU destination, and we will commercially develop this when the time comes," says Govas. - Sapa-AFP
Source: http://www.iol.co.za, August 08 2005 at 11:45AM By John Hadoulis
Greeks temper historic year with concern
---Owners fear EU legislation could drive business away, writes Nigel Lowry- Tuesday August 09 2005
GREEK shipowners have hailed a historic year for their industry but voiced continuing concern over legislative initiatives - and particularly European Union "regional measures" - that they fear could drive maritime businesses from Europe.
Writing in the Union of Greek Shipowners' annual report for 2004-05, president Nicos Efthymiou called last year "a landmark for the shipping history of Greece".
At the same time, owners basked in an unprecedented increase in the size of the Greek fleet which caused Mr Efthymiou to comment: "No other country in the history of the world has ever created such maritime power solely for peaceful purposes."
The UGS leader also highlighted a number of union initiatives in the period under review, including the defeat last year of proposals for mandatory double hull bulkers, a campaign for robust ships that he said had placed "goal-based standards" on the agenda of the International Maritime Organization, and the preparation of class common rules, which Mr Efthymiou said had been a longstanding aim of the UGS.
"Our performance in maritime transport, which stems from perhaps the last bastion of the traditional shipping communities, puts the onus on us to be on a continuous and systematic alert in order to demonstrate that the ship is the most environmentally friendly mode of transport," he wrote.
But the UGS report, as expected, also sounded a sombre note when it came to European legislation and the "unduly tarnished" image of shipping.
The UGS, Europe's largest national shipowners' association, maintained that the image problem had grown more acute after the Erika and Prestige accidents which, it said, triggered EU action "deviating from the international regime".
As a consequence of the EU-driven single-hull phase-out and the criminal sanctions directive, "responsible shipowners will be discouraged from investing in ships and youngsters from following a seafaring career".
According to the UGS, such measures would not eliminate pollution incidents and more effective measures would include "more robust, fit-for-purpose vessels, clear-cut regimes for areas of refuge, rational crisis management by authorities ... as well as adequate reception facilities".
The shipowners' association called on policymakers to redress the balance between what it defined as the three axes of sustainable development - competitiveness, environment and employment - or face the loss of maritime clusters that would "move away to more hospitable areas".
It said: "Europe is unduly punishing its maritime entrepreneurs, who are among the most traditional and successful in the world."
According to Mr Efthymiou: "The re-establishment of the true image of both the ships and the seafarers is the only way to sufficiently develop the maritime cluster in order to attract capable young people to the shipping profession and to face the chronic problem of lack of seafarers."
In the domestic context, he praised the Greek government for showing signs of willingness to assist the industry's competitiveness and to support the industry in political fora.
But he also said a policy was needed to transform the country's institutional and technical infrastructure and to capitalise on the industry's success in advance of "the difficult days that may lie ahead".
Who needs London?
---GREEK shipping is prospering, which has pulled new blood into the shipbroking market, left Piraeus and Athens stronger than ever - and left London on the sidelines. "This is the era of the Greek shipbroker, and Piraeus is rapidly turning into a major shipbroking centre," John Pachoulis, president of the Hellenic Shipbrokers Association, tells Fairplay.
The newcomers, as a rule, are university-educated and many hold post-graduate degrees. Established brokers are more than willing to offer training jobs to the next generation, he adds.
Membership in the association today numbers about 300 people and 180 companies, Pachoulis estimates. Outside the body, there up to 200 more active brokers who have yet to fulfil the working experience criterion for membership. The prosperity results from brokers extending activities beyond their captive market to foreign owners and charterers, he tells Fairplay. Costis Tsalpatouros, director of Allied Shipbroking, agrees that this trend is continuing and adds that competition has caused Greek brokers to set up direct contacts with clients.
He recalls that in the 1970s he had to go through a broker in London or the client's country, which resulted in increased brokerage costs. "What London brokers did for all those years, we do it in Piraeus - and perhaps better because our clients are based here, we speak the same language and share a lot of other common things," he tells Fairplay. Tsalpatouros adds that three local companies, including his, are now among the 10 largest shipbroking firms in the world in terms of deal volume. Allied, specialising in S&P, was the sole broker in deals valued at more than $1Bn last year.
Source: www.fairplay.co.uk, Fairplay International Shipping Weekly, 11 Aug 2005
Captain turned master broker
---The name Dennis Vernardakis has become synonymous with passenger shipping.
Masters Shipping Co was founded in 1965 and its sister company, Masters Cruise and Ferry Shipbroking, some 15 years later. The latter is the only brokerage in Greece to specialise in the sale-and-purchase (S&P) and chartering of cruise and passengerships.
According to managing director Dennis Vernardakis, the whole thing came about by chance.
Vernardakis has headed up Masters since 1998 but was not the founder. He joined the outfit in 1974 and encouraged it to move in the passengership direction.
The actual founder, John Kindinis, was friendly with the Potamianos family, pioneers of the cruise business in Greece. "Somehow, being close to them, he was offered this special niche business," said Vernardakis.
But it was Vernardakis who saw the potential.
"Over the years, your clients who are older than you hand over to their sons but the sons are much younger and have their own friends. You are in a vacuum all of a sudden," he reasoned. "I said: 'We have to specialise in something where we are unique, so they will come to us.'"
Now, Vernardakis asserts, Masters is among the top passengership brokers worldwide and, besides its S&P and chartering expertise, is very well versed in passengership newbuilding contracts. It also stands as a valuer of passenger tonnage to some 30 banks and other organisations.
"Without a doubt, Masters Shipping is a pioneer in passenger shipbroking in the whole Mediterranean, not just in Greece," Vernardakis said.
The Potamianos family's Epirotiki Lines, later Royal Olympic Cruises (ROC), may have been its first passengership client but since then, Masters has brokered some 500 deals, almost 90% of them S&P transactions.
The company has become ever busier under Vernardakis's leadership and now counts among its clients Cyprus-based Louis Cruise Lines, and in Greece, Minoan Lines, Strintzis Lines and Majestic Cruises.
Minoan Lines chief executive Antonis Maniadakis speaks warmly of Vernardakis, saying that over the past decade Minoan has "highly appreciated his wide knowledge of the passenger-shipping market and his exceptional professionalism in S&P matters".
One S&P deal brokered by Masters was the October 2003 sale of Minoan's 27,000-gt high-speed ferry Prometheus (built 2001) to Caronte Shipping of Italy, reported to have been worth around $65m. This gave Minoan the opportunity to reduce its debt by EUR 50m (then some $63m) at a time when it was seriously burdened.
Recent deals Masters has announced include the $71m sale and lease-back deal involving the 37,700-gt cruiseship Sunbird (built 1982), taken by Louis Cruise Lines from MyTravel Group of the UK in April, and the sale of Louis's Princesa Cypria at around the same time for scrap.
Louis chief executive Stelios Kiliaris is also a Vernardakis fan. Noting that his company has been co-operating with Masters for the past 15 years, Kiliaris says Vernardakis has always acted professionally and proposed imaginative new ideas.
"Dennis, who is also a very good friend of ours, has proved to be a very skillful mediator, thus saving a number of deals that seemed certain to fail. It is really a big pleasure to work with him on a deal," Kiliaris said.
Masters was involved in chartering some eight passengerships as floating hotels for the G8 summit meeting in Genoa and another eight for the Nato summit meeting in Naples, both in 2001. The majority of the ships belonged to Louis or ROC.
Last year, Majestic Cruises' 17,600-gt Ocean Countess (built 1975) was chartered as a floating hotel to French television and Vernardakis casually slipped in: "By the way, this ship has so far been sold three times in a row by Masters."
The company was deeply involved in what should have been a star project for Greece when Strintzis Lines was to build a series of three conventional fast ferries at Hellenic Shipyards of Skaramanga in 1999. The project was hailed as a lifeline for the yard, which had not built commercial ships in more than a decade, but despite receiving warm government support at the time, it later came to grief, leaving one partly built ship.
Besides that project, Vernardakis concedes that a number of passengership-newbuilding contracts he has been in the process of sewing together have not materialised for various reasons. Nevertheless, he said: "I don't think there is any other broker in passengerships so well versed with passengership-newbuilding loopholes."
There are plenty, he adds. Unlike dry-bulk vessels, passengerships are not built in series. "No yard would design a passengership series, therefore on a prototype newbuilding there are a lot of loopholes," he said.
One of the most common passengership problems is noise and vibration, which is no problem for a cargoship. Knowing where to insert the right details in the contract can make the difference between success and tragedy for the passengers and the owner, Vernardakis says.
The passengership scene has changed enormously in the four decades since Masters was founded. Companies have come and gone. Vernardakis says he is "happy to see clients like Louis Cruise Lines having got so big but on the other hand, it is sad to see traditional clients like ROC being scuppered".
Regardless of the changes, Vernardakis is clearly devoted to the sector and his company. "I did not found Masters but I loved it more than the founder," he said.
Source: www.tradewinds.no, By Gillian Whittaker , Athens, published: 12 August 2005
The Greek Logistics Market: A Perspective
---Alexander Horn (photo), Head of Sales and Marketing at Schenker S.A. in Athens, discusses the rapidly evolving logistics market in Greece and offers his views on growth areas that can turn Greece into a Southeast European logistics hub and a gateway to Eastern Europe.
How has logistics evolved in Greece during the last decade?
The outsourcing of logistics services in Greece was virtually non-existent prior to the early 1980s. The abolishment of custom taxes in 1993 created strong demand for warehousing space, thus resulting in the creation of 3PL (third party logistics) companies in Greece. Many small- and medium-size companies were established by former customs brokers and truck operators who were familiar with warehousing and distribution procedures. Only a few of these companies have survived. By recruiting experienced managers and investing in new infrastructure and technology, these companies became serious players in the 3PL market.
The Greek 3PL market is still at an early stage of development compared to the rest of the EU. Despite the strong growth experience by the 3PL market over the past few years, with an annual growth rate of approximately 25% for the last six years, the use of 3PL services remains relatively low at nearly 10%. Therefore there is strong growth potential in the market, with an estimated annual growth rate of approximately 10% for the next two to three years.
What are the basic market drivers?
What are the primary areas in which 3PL companies operate?
The services offered by the 3PL companies are mainly transport, warehousing and distribution services, since Greece is primarily a trading country. The demand for value added services such as raw material procurement, pre-assembling or quality control is relatively low and can grow as Greek companies see the value in such services.
What about growth prospects?
Given its strategic location, Greece is in a unique position to take advantage of growth opportunities in the Balkans to become a gateway to Eastern European countries. Some investments in the northern part of the country have been aiming in this direction. As Greece's legal framework covering the logistics industry, as well as the regulation of the national transportation network are reformed, we will see more opportunities. Now is the right time to undergo complete reform since the accession of Eastern European countries to the EU by 2007 will create strong competition.
Source: http://www.elke.gr/newsletter/, August 2005