Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 50 - 2005

 

Greeks lash out at common rules

Source: http://www.fairplay.co.uk/15:44 15 Dec 2005


Oil thieves sentenced in Nigeria
Fifteen Eastern European sailors have been sentenced to six months in prison after admitting to stealing 11,300 tonnes of Nigerian crude oil.
Judges immediately freed the men, who had already spent two years in custody in Nigeria.
They were arrested aboard the Greek-owned tanker African Pride by security forces in October 2003 and charged with stealing the oil.
The ship and its cargo later vanished from the custody of the Nigerian navy.
Two rear admirals were court-martialled for their involvement in the disappearance.
The ship has not been recovered, though Nigerian media have reported a sighting in the Arabian Gulf.
Plea bargain
Judge Gloria Okeke was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying the 15 men had pleaded guilty to reduced charges of illegal oil possession.
They were initially charged with oil-smuggling and economic sabotage, which would have led to much longer prison sentences if they had been convicted.
In September, the sailors were released on bail after diplomatic missions guaranteed they would show for their trial.
"I can't believe I'm free," ship engineer Ivan Martemyanov said as he received his seized passport from court officials. "Being in prison was the worst time in my life."
Nigeria, the world's eighth-biggest oil exporter, is estimated to lose between 100,000 and 250,000 barrels daily to oil thieves.
BBC News, December 14, 2005
Source: http://www.turkishweekly.net


Greek sizing up dry-bulk orders
A Greek player is making plans for a push into the dry-bulk newbuilding market.
Kristen Marine is planning a move into the dry-bulk newbuilding market, hot on the heels of its sister company, Roxana, which has already moved on the tanker side.
Company sources say Kristen is "sniffing around various yards" for opportunities in the handysize/handymax segment and, depending on what it can find, will make a move.
Kristen, which has no connection with Angelicoussis-controlled Kristen Navigation, has a fleet of 10 bulkers and two multipurpose (MPP) vessels, with one more bulker under the management of Roxana. After being sold, seven of the ships were bareboat chartered in.
In October, Kristen sold the 32,000-dwt Ocean Trader and Ocean Ranger (both built 1983), 33,000-dwt Voyager (built 1985) and 34,000-dwt Discoverer (built 1983) to a new Norwegian KS (limited partnership) managed by Lorentzen Skibs for a reported $42.75m.
In April, it sold the 960-teu MPPs Tasman Independence (built 1989) and Tasman Resolution (built 1988) to a Pareto outfit for $11.5m each. The deal including a five-year bareboat charter back to Kristen.
The 33,000-dwt Navigator I (built 1977) was reported sold in May for $5.35m. It was also bareboat chartered back for three years.
Now Kristen has been linked with the purchase of the 28,300-dwt Star Chaser (built 1997), last week was reported sold together with the Star Elfin , which is of a similar size and age, for $21.75m each.
However, a Kristen representative says the company was interested in the ships but no deal has been done. Kristen's expansion and renewal plans follow Roxana's growth in the tanker sector.
In June, Roxana bought the 35,000-dwt Ocean Quest (ex- Maersk Rochester , built 2000) for a reported $41m. The move came after it quietly acquired two resale contracts from the Schulte Group of Germany for a pair of 35,000-dwt tankers from Dalian Shipyard.
It followed up in September with an order for two 38,500-dwt tankers from China's Guangzhou Shipyard International (GSI) for about $40m each.
The first of the Dalian tankers was delivered at the end of November and is operating as the Ocean Spirit . The second is due for delivery in the third quarter of 2006. Both ships have been time chartered to Hyundai for an undisclosed period and rate.
The company representative also reveals that the GSI newbuildings, which are due for delivery in 2008, have already been chartered for six years to a "first-class name".
He declines to give any further details but it is understood that the two ships have been fixed at between $15,000 and $16,000 per day with a profit sharing agreement.
Source: www.tradewinds.no, By Gillian Whittaker, Athens, published: 16 December 2005


Greek Only Investor Shortlisted for Petrom Privatisation
Sotiris Emmanouil, natural person from Greece is the only competitor for the CNM Petromin Constanta privatisation, announced the Authority for Privatisation and Administration of State Shares, ACT Media news agency reports.
Currently, the negotiating commission analyses the possibility that the Greek investor be admitted to negotiations for the privatisation of the Constanta company.
The consortium consisting of SC Algoritm Consult SRL Bucuresti and Asociatia Salariatilor CNM Petromin SA Constanta was taken out the shortlist.
The above-mentioned consortium could not meet the criterion of pre-qualification, namely "a minimum 5 year experience in the domain of water transport ( CAEN 61)," decided the negotiating commission.
Petromin has a social capital of 56.219 RON and deals mainly with maritime and shore transport.
Source: www.reporter.gr 10:50 - 15 December 2005 -


Ventouris emerges as big NEL stakeholder after rights issue
Source: www.newsfront.gr 16 December 2005 Vol. 6 / No. 47


StealthGas - from nowhere to a 20-Plus LPG Tanker Fleet
NEW YORK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- Dec 14, 2005 -- STEALTHGAS (NASDAQ: GASS) was recently featured in an article written by Peter MacKay, Editor, Hazardous Cargo Bulletin.
Under the radar -- Fast-moving and highly flexible, StealthGas has come from nowhere to a 20-plus LPG tanker fleet and an over-subscribed IPO in little more than a year. Chief executive Harry Vafias explains that this is just the beginning.
Remarkably, the largest player in the 'Handysize' LPG tanker sector -- defined as 3,000 m3 to 8,000 m3 -- is now StealthGas, a name that was new to the industry just a year ago. Since buying its first two vessels in September 2004, Chief Executive Harry Vafias has expanded the fleet to 21 tankers, including both fully pressurised and semi-refrigerated ships, and he has a short-term target of expanding this to 28 vessels by next year. In addition, there are options for four newbuildings in Japan.
Energetic and committed, Harry Vafias cut his shipping teeth in his father's Athens-based firm, Brave Maritime. When he joined, straight out of university, in 1999, Brave had a fleet of 15 dry bulk carriers. His first move was into oil tankers, buying four old Aframax carriers at the bottom of the market and establishing Stealth Maritime. Harry explains that the name was chosen to reflect the way he was able to steal in under the market's radar and buy the ships before anyone knew who he was.
By the time of his move into gas carriers, Harry had built Stealth Maritime into a $400m company. He decided to start investing some of the profits in LPG carriers, a sector he identified as having less competition, a small orderbook, an ageing fleet and good fundamentals, especially in view of projected growth in demand in developing countries. Within a year, StealthGas was running 21 modern LPG tankers, all acquired on the secondhand market, and he felt confident enough to go to the stock market for funds.
An initial public offering (IPO) took place in October on the Nasdaq, generating some $120m. These funds have been used to complete the acquisition of a number of LPG tankers from Brave Maritime and acquire further as-yet unidentified LPG vessels. The debt-to-capitalisation ratio is currently 25 per cent, which is very low by industry standards, but more debt will have to be taken on to fund planned short-term growth, Vafias says.
The StealthGas approach is to achieve as high a level of contract cover as possible. Almost all the vessels in the fleet are employed on timecharters or bareboat charters, ranging from 6 months to 4 years in duration. This helps the company promise a dependable level of income to its shareholders and reduces management time. Vessels not on bareboat charter are managed by Hanseatic, V Ships, TESMA or Swan Shipping, and Vafias says this leads to a competitive atmosphere that keeps costs down.
StealthGas's client list includes some well known names; the biggest charterers are Shell and Petredec, while others include Statoil, Finaval, Petrobras, Vitol and Exmar. The majority of the fleet -- some 60 per cent -- is positioned east of Suez, where Vafias believes the bulk of new business will be found. Most of the other ships trade in Europe, while two are in South America.
Vafias likes the idea of going it alone; despite invitations to pool his ships with those of other operators he prefers to have the flexibility to make quick decisions without having to consult with pool partners. He believes that it is this flexible approach that makes StealthGas different and, despite its relative lack of experience, attractive to charterers.
And he has plans. Vafias promised shareholders that in the short term he would expand the fleet to 28 ships by the middle of next year. Then there are options for four newbuildings (two 3,500 m3 ships and two 5,000 m3 ships) due for delivery in 2008/2009. By 2010 Vafias expects to be moving up into larger vessels, including very large gas carriers. And, long-term, he is already thinking about LNG.
About STEALTHGAS INC.
Headquartered in Athens, Greece, STEALTHGAS INC. is a ship-owning company serving the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) sector of the international shipping industry. STEALTHGAS INC. currently has a fleet of 19 LPG carriers, and intends to acquire 3 additional LPG carriers. Once these acquisitions are completed, STEALTHGAS's fleet will be composed of 22 LPG Carriers with a total capacity of 95,416 cubic meters (cbm). STEALTHGAS's shares are listed on NASDAQ and trade under the symbol "GASS." For more information on STEALTHGAS INC please go to www.stealthgas.com
Source: 14 December 2005, Market Wire


Excel Maritime Positive on DryBulk Sector Fundamentals
NEW YORK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- Dec 15, 2005 -- Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd. (NYSE: EXM) President, CEO & Director Mr. Christopher Georgakis was recently interviewed by Barry Parker of www.conconnect.com . Below please find the interview.
Barry Parker: Dry bulk stocks have been under significant pressure and decline lately. In your opinion, what are the reasons behind this(TM)
Christopher Georgakis: Shipping is a very important industry in global trade, if you take into consideration that 2/3 of the world's goods are transported by sea. However, it is also a cyclical business, with freight rates impacted by the balance between the supply of vessels and the demand for transportation.
We, as providers of seaborne transportation services, are fully aware of the risks and opportunities which the cyclicality of our business presents. Investors should also take this into consideration when investing in shipping and ensure they take a longer term view.
Shipping is a relative newcomer to the U.S. capital markets and certain investors may not be fully versed on the industry's structure and dynamics. As a result we have observed that some investors become concerned about the short term decline in freight rates and fail to focus on the medium or longer term potential of the drybulk sector, which we anticipate to be quite positive.
A considerable number of IPOs took place during the first nine months of 2005 in a climate of optimism and robust freight levels. Since then, freight rates -- and as a result stock prices -- have declined and we believe that at this particular moment much of the trading activity is driven by tax, technical or speculative factors and not by sector or company fundamentals.
We expect that as of January 2006, trading will again start responding to fundamentals, with investors focusing on the sector's outlook for 2006 and 2007. The current low valuation levels, coupled with positive sector outlook for the second half of 2006 and beyond, should enhance interest in dry bulk stocks.
There are numerous publicly listed companies in the dry bulk sector which follow distinctly different strategies in terms of fleet composition, fleet deployment, capital structure and dividend payout, thereby potentially appealing to different types of investors. Consequently, investors can have a wide choice amongst them.
We expect that current market trends will result in a reshuffling of shareholder constituency in most shipping stocks. "Hot money" from speculative investors and short term trading oriented hedge funds will tend to exit shipping stocks, and, a new "value-oriented" investor base is likely to acquire positions. As a result, notwithstanding the volatility of current market conditions, shipping stocks should attain a more stable and long term oriented shareholder base.
Barry Parker: What happened to the market in 2005(TM) Why are we experiencing lower rates(TM) Why was the rate recovery that started in the third quarter 2005 not sustainable(TM)
Christopher Georgakis:
Following one of the strongest freight markets of all time early in 2005, freight rates began deteriorating in the second quarter 2005 in the face of the developing supply side, and continued sharply downwards in the third quarter 2005, before bottoming in early August 2005. The reasons for such decline are simple and can be attributed to an inventory correction in China, as well as seasonal weakness lasting longer than anticipated. Though rates staged a recovery in September 2005, they failed -- so far -- to live up to the anticipated levels suggested by many market participants. I maintain that recent high freight levels witnessed in the dry bulk markets are primarily "Cape-led" and attributable to an excess in Capesize demand over supply. In my view however, recent rapid fleet expansion in the Panamax class is beginning to compete for cargo usually shipped by the Capesize class and consequently, erode demand for Capesize vessels resulting in freight deterioration in all vessel classes.
Notwithstanding the above, we believe that the fundamentals in the dry bulk sector remain strong. The rapid industrialization that is taking place in China results in increased steel production and imports of raw materials which act as the principal drivers for strong freight rates. The first half of '05 GDP growth in China was 9.5% and industrial production growth was 16.5%. China's rapid growth rate, together with growth in the emerging economies of South East Asia, is behind the increase of seaborne trade of approximately 4% on an annual basis for the next three years. This increase in seaborne trade is expected to result in firm freight levels.
What is important to understand is that this demand is not consumer driven. It is demand related to core commodities necessary for infrastructure development and industrial activity. These imports go into electricity generation and steel making. Even if there is softening in Chinese GDP growth this does not necessarily translate into less electricity or less steel making, especially given China's preparation for the Olympics of 2008 and the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. There are also other projects which will require large quantities of steel for the next several years such as a national electricity grid, a national highway system, and the Yangtse-Huangpu canal.
Barry Parker: How does Excel Maritime differ from its peers(TM)
Christopher Georgakis: Excel Maritime is the first pure dry bulk company to have listed on a U.S. Exchange. We have been public since 1998 and have delivered 6 consecutive years of profitability.
One of the key elements that differentiates us from our peers is our fleet deployment strategy. In November 2004, we had a fleet of five vessels with an average age of 25 years and a total deadweight tonnage (dwt) of 358,000. Within a period of three quarters we sold 4 older vessels and acquired 16 new ones, increasing the total number of the fleet to 17 vessels (one Capesize, ten Panamax and seven Handymax vessels) with a total dwt capacity of 1.0 million and an average age of 12.8 years, well below the industry average of 16 years. This transformation was made possible through two secondary offerings in December 2004 and March 2005 which grossed about $ 179 million.
In principle, we are period minded, however, our present mix of period and spot charters enables us to take better advantage of prevailing market conditions. For the fourth quarter of 2005, 50% of our fleet operating days are booked under period charters and 50% by spot charters. For 2006, 36% of our fleet operating days are under period charters and 64% under spot charters. We believe that this strategy enables us to take full advantage of market opportunities as they arise, while at the same time enjoy cash flow stability and greater visibility of earnings.
We also enjoy several major competitive advantages. Firstly, a strong management team with considerable experience in the operations of dry bulk vessels, Secondly, strong customer relationships, as a result of the quality of our fleet and Excel's reputation for dependability. Thirdly, cost effective operations with low operating costs and low break even levels. It is also worth noting that Excel Maritime is the first listed dry-bulk company to have fully integrated in-house commercial and technical management. As of March 2005, the technical and commercial management of the fleet is conducted by Maryville Maritime Inc., our wholly owned subsidiary, which also provides management services to third parties. Finally, we have considerable experience in dealing effectively with all regulatory aspects of being public, having been a listed corporation since 1998.
In conclusion, Excel Maritime has successfully delivered on its promises to the investment community by rapidly expanding the size of its fleet, reducing the average fleet age, implementing a deployment strategy of "period" charters, maintaining a Net Debt to total cap ratio of about 40% and addressing the trading liquidity of the stock by transferring to the NYSE. We look forward to the continuation of our expansion strategy in 2006 and to delivering shareholder value.
About Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd
The Company is an owner and operator of dry bulk carriers and a provider of worldwide seaborne transportation services for dry bulk cargoes, such as iron ore, coal and grains, as well as bauxite, fertilizers and steel products. The company's current fleet consists of 17 vessels (ten Panamax and seven Handymax vessels) with a total carrying capacity of 1,004,930 dwt. The Company was incorporated in 1988 and its common stock had been listed on the American Stock Exchange (AMEX) since 1998. As of September 15, 2005 Excel Maritime is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), trading under the symbol EXM. For more information about the company, please go to our corporate website www.excelmaritime.com .
Provided by Capital Link, Inc.
Source: 15 December 2005, Market Wire


FreeSeas Successfully Completes Reverse Merger with Trinity
Trinity Partners Acquisition Company Inc. announced today that its Class B stockholders have approved the merger of Trinity with and into FreeSeas Inc. at a special meeting held on December 15, 2005. Under the terms of the merger, FreeSeas will be the surviving corporation. Each outstanding share of Trinity's common stock and Class B common stock will be converted into the right to receive an equal number of shares of FreeSeas' common stock and each Trinity Class W warrant and Class Z warrant will be converted into the right to receive an equal number of FreeSeas' Class W warrants and Class Z warrants. FreeSeas' common stock, Class W warrants and Class Z warrants are expected to commence trading on the Nasdaq Capital Market on Friday, December 16, 2005 under the trading symbols FREE, FREEW and FREEZ, respectively. Congratulations to George and Stathis Gourdomichalis, Ion Varouxakis, Poseidon Capital and everyone else involved on their new venture!
Source: Freshly Minted, VOLUME 1 ISSUE 49 December 15, 2005 www.marinemoney.com