Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 35 - 2005

 

Merchant marine and finance ministers brief PM

---Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis briefed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on issues related to their respective domains of responsibility in separate meetings on Wednesday.
According to sources, Kefaloyiannis and the prime minister discussed capitalising on shipping-generated revenue, as well as the financing of major port projects on the basis of the protocol signed with the European Investment Bank.
Kefaloyiannis, in comments he made to reporters after his meeting with Karamanlis, said that during the summer, 2.5 million passengers travelled through the port of Piraeus, while more than 5 million travelled through the country's ports altogether.
He stressed that the state guarantees transport safety, noting that most ships are reliable and relatively new.
"As for the older ships, the state is stepping up inspections to avoid problems as much as possible," he added.
Next week, Kefaloyiannis is expected to announce a series of measures regarding coastal shipping policy as well as the criteria that will go into effect for subsidising low traffic density routes.
Alogoskoufis did not make any comments following his meeting with the prime minister.
Source: www.ana.gr, Athens News Agency, Greece - Aug 31, 2005


Newbuilding activity hots up in august
Greeks are again placing orders for newbuildings. After a slowdown in the first half of 2005 the action is hotting up and in August orders for 16 ships worth around $520m were reported, with negotiations for more progressing.
The August 'orderbook' did not come as a surprise, for brokers have been saying for some time that Greek owners were assessing the market. Over the first half of the year, around 60 ships were ordered compared to 79 in the same 2004 half. Owners booking the ships in August were in the main adding to existing newbuilding programmes.
Piraeus broker, George Moundreas & Co said that "ordering in the first half was far behind intentions" but comments that "foreseeing the future, even the imminent one, is becoming a matter of guesswork rather than a cool evaluation of factors". Moundreas also points out that while niche ships were in vogue last year, some larger units were also contracted, while now smaller ships generally are being booked, most for delivery in 2008, some three years down the road.
Among the confirmed orders are two 4,300teu container ships for Danaos Shipping at Samsung HI in South Korea. Reportedly costing something in excess of $70m each, the ships will deliver in September and November 2007. They are the same as the P&O Nedlloyd Caribbean and P&O Nedlloyd Caracas, which were ordered in June 2002 at a reported $45m each and delivered to the Piraeus-based operator last year.
Cosmoship Management has added to its newbuilding programme ordering two more container ships at South Korea's Dae Sun Shipbuilding. The company has confirmed one 980teu ship for delivery in 2007 and one 1,000teu unit for delivery in 2008. Moundreas prices them at $23m and $24m respectively. Cosmoship now has eight similar ships at Dae Sun, all booked since the beginning of the year.
The Gregory Callimanopulos-controlled offshore services venture Toisa Ltd, has ordered three large DP platform supply ships at China's Wuchang Shipyard. No price has been given for the order which came via UK-based fleet manager and operator, Sealion Shipping. The three are upgraded versions of the VS483 design of PSVs already in service with Sealion in the North Sea with the emphasis of the new 4,900dwt design placed on "maximising" cargo capacities and enhancing seakeeping characteristics. They are 87.4mtrs long, have a beam of 19mtrs and a draught of 8mtrs and will offer a clear deck area of 1,020sq mtrs and a deck load of 3,000 tonnes. They will also be able to take 15,538cuft of dry bulk in eight tanks. Toisa already has three high-powered anchor handling, towing and supply offshore vessels on order at Wuchang, with the first, Toisa Defiant, being launched August 1.
Iolcos Hellenic Maritime has returned to Hudong-Zhonghua of China for two 75,000dwt bulker newbuildings for delivery in September and December 2008. Costing some $36m each, the order reflects rising newbuilding prices, for Iolcos ordered four 74,000-tonners at the same yard in 2003 at a reported $21m each for delivery in 2006 and early 2007.
Hudong-Zhonghua has also won an order for two 75,000dwt bulkers from Cardiff Marine, the Drytank group's shipmanagement arm. Cardiff's newbuildings, said to be costing the same as Iolcos', are slated for delivery in March and June 2008. Cardiff splashed out $315m to order five 175,000dwt bulker newbuildings at China's Waigaoqiao shipyard last April making eight cape bulkers and three 105,000dwt aframax tankers ordered at the yard.
Gleamray Maritime is also building panamaxes at Hudong-Zhonghua. The owner has struck a deal for two 75,000dwt ships at the yard for delivery in the second half of 2008 and again brokers believe the cost is $36m each. In March, Gleamray ordered two similar units at the yard, for 2008 delivery at around $34m per ship with a heavy downpayment of 50% and 50% upon delivery. Gleamray is to get another one 74,500dwt bulker from the yard this year and has a 53,000dwt bulker on order at New Century Shipbuilding for delivery 2006.
Roxana Shipping/Kristen Marine has ordered its first newbuildings, placing a $80m order for two 38,000dwt product carriers at China's Guangzhou International shipyard, delivery slated for 2008.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 2 September 2005


New system of ships' checks
---A new ship inspection regime will soon come into force internationally, based on the risk profiling of every vessel to be inspected, as the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (Paris MOU) decided last month.
The new system aims at rewarding ships with a good history and quality level by inspecting them only every two years, while intensifying inspections of "high-risk" vessels, according to a document by the Merchant Marine Ministry.
As the inspection regime is about to change, the Paris MOU announced that "for the fourth year in a row the detention rates have dropped, indicating that the strategy of the Paris MOU on Port State Control is paying off," discouraging companies which manage ships with low safety levels.
It was also made known that the Banning Order, the measure which disallows a ship access to a port, will soon be imposed on all types of vessels and not just in some categories, as it is today.
With last year's enlargement of the European Union, there are very few regions ("white spots") in Europe left where inspections are not be made according to the Paris MOU and the EU Directives' clauses on port state control. Coordination with the six cooperative members is reported to be bearing fruit, as proven by the fact that these countries have had their flags cleared from the "Black List." In addition to that, the ministerial conference in Vancouver, Canada last year decided in favor of closer cooperation of the Paris and Tokyo MOU countries.
Finally, the ministry's document qualifies as useful the conclusions drawn from the Concentrated Inspection Campaigns (CICs) in the sectors of Maritime Security and of the crews' Living and Working Conditions.
Source: http://www.ekathimerini.com, 1 Sep 2005, NIKOS BARDOUNIAS


Olympic Gulf on expansion path
---A little-known Greek tanker owner is moving up in the tonnage stakes.
Olympic Gulf Tankers of Greece may have started out small but it is now expanding rapidly and buying bigger ships.
In the past year, the company has bought three handysize/ handymax products tankers and is now in negotiations for a fourth.
Olympic Gulf head Antonis Antoniou says he plans to buy two more ships by the end of this year and another four or five in 2006, bringing the company's fleet to nine or 10 ships by the end of next year. Olympic Gulf purchased its first larger vessel last September when it took the 31,700-dwt, single-hull Nikos A (ex-Tireless, built 1980) from listed Greek operator Top Tankers for a reported $3.9m.
In January, it bought the 39,700-dwt Antonis A (ex-Monte Rosa, built 1982) from US-based Sea Oil for $8.1m and soon after the 37,600-dwt Charalabos A (ex-Stavanger Breeze, built 1985) from Stavanger-based DSD Shipping for in excess of $14m.
In the future, Antoniou says, Olympic Gulf will buy double-hull ships but will stick to roughly the same size of up to 40,000 dwt.
Meanwhile, the company has already shed a couple of its smaller ships. In April, the 10,800-dwt Grace A (built 1983) was sold for $4.25m. It also sold the 6,900-dwt Olympic Flame (built 1978).
Olympic Marine Services, a Dubai-based company within the Olympic Gulf group, sold two small, mid-1970s-built supply vessels, keeping just one barge.
Antoniou, who lived in Dubai for 25 years, set up Olympic Marine Services in 1981 as one of a group of companies. He was actively involved in salvage operations and says that following the Iran-Iraq War he bought a couple of ships that had been wrecked in the Shatt al-Arab from insurers and moved them. After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991, Antoniou says his company was among the first to enter Kuwait after the hostilities, providing supply boats to the US Navy.
Antoniou decided to move to Greece three years ago. "Dubai is a very nice country but Greece is a better place to operate vessels from. It has better facilities all round," he said.
However, after spending so many years in the Gulf region he admits the move was not easy. Among the problems, he says, was that it was hard to find and evaluate personnel without having connections with other Greek owners. While these connections may be getting stronger, there are still few in Piraeus shipping circles who say they know the company well.
Antoniou calls himself "innocent" for having taken elderly ships he bought to work in the Gulf area to trade in the international markets where port-state-control (PSC) inspectors pounced on him. "Of course, the ships did not have the ability to go to the international markets but I had to enter," said Antoniou.
Simply put, he reckons it is not possible to make a move into larger ships from nothing, hence the need to trade the smaller ships before moving up in the tonnage stakes.
However, it seems the company has made an effort to shape up. Only one out of Olympic Gulf's fleet of five vessels is listed on the Equasis database as having had a PSC detention while under the company's management. The ships are all classed with International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) societies.
Antoniou says four of his companies in the Gulf region are still operational. Olympic Shipping, based in Sharjah is involved in oil trading, Greece Olympic Shipping in Dubai offers agency services, Olympic Marine Services in Fujairah has the remaining supply boats, while Olympic Shipping in Ajman handles the group's own berth facilities and workshops with some 100 staff.
Source: www.tradewinds.no, Gillian Whittaker Athens, published: 02 September 2005


Vafias family's StealthGas seeks to raise $107m in Nasdaq listing
---Proceeds will go towards building up LPG fleet, writes Nigel Lowry in Athens- Wednesday August 31 2005
STEALTHGAS, the company that has led the Vafias family's charge into the liquid petroleum gas shipping sector in the past year, has filed with US regulators for a much-touted initial public offering.
The company is aiming to raise net proceeds of $106.8m, assuming an IPO price of $15 per share, and list on the Nasdaq market, according to its prospectus.
Most of the proceeds and additional indebtedness of $9.75m would go to double StealthGas' existing fleet of nine LPG carriers with nine acquisitions from private Vafias-controlled sister company Brave Maritime, which has also been expanding in the sector.The newly listed company would then control 18 LPG carriers with an average age of 10.8 years.
Stressing that the LPG market is "smaller than other shipping sectors", StealthGas said it intends continuing to grow the fleet, specifically with a further 10 as-yet unidentified vessels by mid-2006 that would put it among the larger operators in the industry by number of ships.
Although the current fleet and target vessels are all defined as small LPG vessels, it aims to diversify in all sizes including midsize and very large LPG carriers of over 70,000 cu m.
The fleet will be managed by Vafias tanker company Stealth Maritime but with technical management subcontracted to V.Ships, Tesma and Hanseatic Shipping.
The IPO is being led by Cantor Fitzgerald with Morgan Keegan, Johnson Rice, Hibernia Southcoast Capital and HarrisDirect among underwriters. With equity markets in the US still less than bullish, Lloyd's List understands that a longer-than-usual roadshow is being planned, with pricing unlikely before October.
Sole stockholder of StealthGas at present is 27-year-old shipowner Harry Vafias, who will serve as president and chief executive of the company, with an expected stakeholding after the common stock offering of 43.8%.
Banker and former Heath Lambert executive Andrew Simmons has been named as chief financial officer.
Others lined up for the eight-person board include marine entrepreneur and Tsakos Energy Navigation deputy chairman Michael Jolliffe as chairman and leading Greek shipowner Thanassis Martinos of Eastern Mediterranean Maritime.
Source: Lloyd's List Company News, www.lloydslist.com


Stelmar K/S Deal Sold - Back to Greeks
---Sources in Norway tell us that the $107 million K/S fund that Pareto Private Equity and DVB put together for Stelmar in May of 2004 has now been sold back to Greeks. What with the sale of Stelmar to OSG and the sale of the equity, the deal is surviving all of the original parties that put it together! As a refresher, the transaction involves the nine handymax products tankers listed in the accompanying chart. Under the terms of the deal, Stelmar sold the ships to a group of investors and took them back on 5-year bareboat charters at about $6,500 per day each. Add in operating costs of about $4,000, and you have vessels with a cash break even of about $11,000 - in a market now paying nearly three times that.
As we understand it, DVB put up 60% of the capital in the form of a term loan, BTM put up 20% in the form of mezzanine finance and the remaining 20% equity component came from Camillo Eitzen, Klaveness Group and NFC Shipping Funds.
We really liked this deal when in came to market (in fact it won a Marine Money Deal of the Year Award in June 2005) as we thought it epitomized why leasing can work for both buyers and sellers. Now it has apprarently been a homerun for the equity investors who were cashed out with an attractive make-whole premium. Stelmar was able to offload the residual value risk, maintain control of the ships and extract $42 million of equity that could have been used to make vessel or corporate acquisitions in excess of $200 million. The investors were able to use Stelmar's credit to achieve very high leverage and, of course, high returns on equity. As for the buyers, this is what we wrote when the deal closed: "So why would some of the smartest shipping investors buy nine ships, six of which will be excluded from the vegoil trade in 2007 and might not be able to trade beyond 2010. The answer is pretty simple: risk and return.
This is a low risk deal for the equity that will have much of the debt amortized on these ships on the maturity of the charters. The bet is simply that the six older ships will trade something, somewhere in the world and that the three double-hulled ships will be a decent investment on their own merit. This deal is the essence of why equity investment in shipping can be compelling -although running cash on cash returns may not be spectacular, there can be very little downside risk and an almost limitless amount of upside."
Source: Freshly Minted Online, www.marinemoney.com, VOLUME 1 ISSUE 34, September 1, 2005


Frangou gets it right
---THE $607.5M takeover of bulk operator Navios by 'blank cheque' venture International Shipping Enterprises underlines fortuitous timing by Greece's Angeliki Frangou - something she has not always been associated with.
Frangou's ISE raked in $182M via an IPO last December and finalised the terms of the Navios deal in March, well before drooping rates and a flood of offerings brought shipping equity plays to their current doldrums.
It's no surprise that ISE shareholders overwhelmingly approved Frangou's chosen purchase target when the deal was officially closed on Thursday. Connecticut-based Navios boasts a sturdy reputation and six owned bulkers, plus 22 on charter through 2013.
The financial vehicle for its purchase - known as a Special Purpose Acquisition Co - would be likely to find few takers now that Wall Street's shipping sentiments have turned. A Spac allows industry specialists to raise money through capital markets, with proceeds placed in escrow for an acquisition.
If shareholders disapprove of the proposed deal, the Spac is dissolved and investors get their money back. Two other 'blank cheque' shipping hopefuls, Manhattan Maritime and Star Maritime Acquisition, have emerged, but neither has moved forward.
Before Navios, Frangou was most often associated with her father's company, Good Faith Shipping, where she attempted a $280M junk-bond offering that was pulled in 1998 due to 'bad timing' on interest rates.
Source: www.fairplay.co.uk, Newswatch, Fairplay International Shipping Weekly, 01 Sep 2005


Salvage stalls as Kiperousa moves further inshore
---STRONG winds and eight to 10-metre swells have moved the Kiperousa closer to the Hamburg shore, making salvage operations even more difficult than before.
"It's not looking good," Nick Sloane, representative of the salvage company SvitzerWijsmuller, said yesterday.
He added that the stricken ship had holes in it and "sooner or later" would break up completely.
The Greek-owned Tsavliris salvage company, operating out of Cape Town, was contracted by the owners to carry out the salvage operation. More than 1000 tons of logs were discharged this weekend from a barge that was forced to wait outside the harbour mouth on Friday due to atrocious weather and gale-force winds gusting up to 60 knots.
The load of between 150 and 170 logs was the third off the Kiperousa, since the 160m-long Maltese-registered ship ran aground in June.
Sloane said the barge was ready to return to the Kiperousa, but the fact that the ship had moved in the storm would throw a spanner in the works for the salvors.
It is likely that the salvage operation will drag on for the next few months, especially if the weather continues to hamper operations.
Source: http://www.dispatch.co.za, Dispatch Online, South Africa - Aug 29, 2005, By Taralyn Bro


Over 5 million people used Greek sea ports this summer
---An estimated 2.5 million passengers used the port of Piraeus to travel to the Greek islands during the summer months, while over 5 million passengers in total used Greek sea ports this summer, stated Minister of Merchant Marine Manolis Kefalogiannis after the meeting he had today with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Mr. Kefalogiannis said that the state guarantees the safety of transportation and pointed out that the average age of the passenger ships currently in service is low stressing that most of them meet the quality standards and are very reliable.
Source: www.mpa.gr, Macedonian Press Agency, Greece, 31 August 2005 (13:59 UTC+2)


Motor Oil: Profit down 9%
Results were in line with Marfin analysts' expectations.
Note that the group released its 1H05 and 2004 results under IFRS for the first time.
Also, despite the positive operating environment for refineries in 2Q05, note that Motor Oil could not enjoy at full extent the strong refining margins and the weak Euro versus USD in 2Q05, because the refining units' maintenance shutdown affected the first three weeks of the quarter.
Therefore, Marfin analysts consider the second quarter as transitional and not representative, while the group will enjoy the benefits of its production upgrade from 2H05 onwards.
Note that both Marfin analysts' 2005 projections as well as their valuation exercise are subject to a potential upgrade if the refining margins remain strong in 2H05 for which they have incorporated a more conservative stance.
Until now, the scenario of upgrade is quite possible.
Furthermore, management announced the beginning of a share buy back period from September 1 until November 30, 2005.
Source: www.reporter.gr, 10:39 - 29 August 2005