Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 10 - 2006

 

Ferry subsidy failed to save nightly route

The Greek-owned firm was paid freight grants towards operating costs which took some 34,000 lorries off the roads before it decided to cut Rosyth-Zeebrugge sailings to three times a week last November.
A spokesman for Superfast said freight volumes had not met "the required return". However, he stressed there were "no threats to the service as it stands".
Source: http://news.scotsman.com, Last updated: 09-Mar-06 01:14 GMT


Over 96M passengers use Greece's passenger ship annually
---With the damage caused by last month's eight-day stoppage of the Greek ferry newtork still being assessed, data just released by the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) reveals that some 96.4m people moved through Greek ports in 2004, the largest number of any country in the European Union.
Further, Piraeus was the EU's busiest port with just on 20m people while Piraeus was in tenth position regarding the movement of containers with 1.55m teu handled in 2004.
According to ESPO, overall cargo handled by Greek ports in the 2001 to 2004 period grew by 29% to 158m tonnes in 2004, the largest growth experienced by the then 15 EU member states.
Rotterdam is the EU's biggest container port, handling 8.842m teu in 2004, up from 7.117m in 2003. Hamburg handled 7m teu in 2004, up from 6.126m, while Antwerp's 6m teu in 2004 was up from 5.44m. On the contrary, Piraeus saw container movement down in 2004, with the 1.55m teu some 50,000teu less than the 1.6m teu handled in 2003, though in 2004 Piraeus rose a place in the rankings from 11th.
In passenger movement Greece's 96.4m headed Italy's 83.3m in 2004, both being a long way ahead of third placed Denmark, which handled 48.6m in 2004.
In announcing the figures, the ESPO said port policy must remain on the EU agenda, with significant changes in the port sector needed.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, Newsletter Issue nr. 9 (10 March 2006)


---Modernise ship registry or face loss of tonnage, writes Nigel Lowry in Athens- Monday March 06 2006
The preliminary Bank of Greece figures would put shipping above tourism receipts once again as the largest bringer of currency to the economy.
Other industry bodies have also been turning up the heat on the government of late.
Source: www.lloydslist.com,


Union could turn up heat on Hellenic Shipyards
---Spring could get hot for Hellenic Shipyards (HSY) of Skaramanga.
The yard's traditionally tough labour union, Triaena, warns it will step up action to protect jobs at Greece's largest facility, which is now part of German Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS).
The union says it is convinced that the owners' actions pose "an immediate danger to the future and the prospects of the company and its employees".
HSY's management has kept silent. There has been no formal rebuttal but sources within the company say they see plans for the future as "bright".
In a 10-page historical and current position paper distributing to the Greek Labour Confederation, political parties, the government and other bodies, Triaena accuses the German owners of failing to bring new jobs into the yard and trying to squeeze more profits out of existing contracts by cutting labour costs. It points out that in two years the top management of the yard has been changed twice.
Triaena claims the shareholders have failed to increase HSY's share capital, which has fallen below the permitted ratio to its losses, giving a justifiable cause for the company to be closed under provisions of Greek law.
Last month, Hellenic published its balance sheet for the financial year ending on 30 September 2005, showing a whopping EUR 70.7m ($87m) loss.
Cumulative losses, according to the balance sheet, now stand at EUR 309m.
President and managing director of HSY Reinhard Kuhlmann has stated TKMS is "committed to develop Hellenic Shipyards as a competitive and profitable company with a high level of employment", and on several occasions management representatives have stressed that the yard will be financially supported.
HSY is heavily dependent on naval contracts but under its new ownership has succeeded in boosting its commercial repair activity. A company executive tells TradeWinds that repair capacity is fully booked to the end of March. Repairs are the only yard activity that directly goes out to non-Greek shipping interests and the executive comments that HSY has received strong support from the Scandinavian market.
The yard's only attempt at commercial shipbuilding in more than a decade came to grief and Triaena claims the abandonment of an order for passenger ferries for a local owner was forced by the new shareholders.
Hellenic has a payroll of over 1,400 permanent staff and a further 200 on contract, while it brings in some 500 subcontracted workers from the Perama shiprepair zone. Triaena says it believes nearly 350 jobs will be lost. Close to 100 will go when contracts are not renewed and a further 250 when a programme for the construction of rolling stock for the Hellenic Railway Organisation finishes, it calculates.
Company sources say these numbers are exaggerated but do not deny that expiring contracts will not be renewed. "They are not going to lose their jobs but their contracts are ending and therefore they will stop working," said one pedantically.
A voluntary termination scheme was agreed between HSY's board and Triaena in November, affecting about 120 employees. But union officials say it is not working and they believe the company will go ahead with firings.
Shipyard staff staged a work stoppage last week and the union threatens further action in the near future.
Source: www.tradewinds.no, Gillian Whittaker, Athens, published: 10 March 2006


Shipping stocks in rough seas
But it was also the year investors departed from the sector after the positive reception of the first months following the 2004 euphoria when three shipping companies entered the NYSE.
That became more obvious by the latter half of 2005, when a series of scheduled public offerings of shipping companies were either canceled or postponed indefinitely, and even those that did go ahead failed to be covered. Examples included Golden Energy, of the Restis group, and Capital, of the Marinakis family.
Still, shipowners managed to draw funds totaling $2.6 billion from the US market, which became a key instrument for their funding.
Today in the NYSE there are a total of 11 Greek-interest shipping companies. They are Tsakos Energy Navigation (TEN), Excel Maritime, Navios Maritime, Top Tankers, Genmar, Genco, Stealth Gas, Freeseas, Quintana Maritime, Dryships and Diana Shipping.
Despite the rather uneasy end of 2005, there still is great interest in entering more shipping firms this year. Euroseas, of the Pittas family, was recently approved for listing its stock in the New York market, absorbing the already listed company Cove Apparel. This is a quicker and less costly listing method, as it circumvents the procedure of public offering. This way is also considered ideal for small and medium-sized shipping companies.
Similar was the method used by FreeSeas of the Gourdomichalis brothers and Ionas Varouxakis, which bought out the listed Trinity Partners Acquisition, a special-purpose acquisition firm that had entered the stock market without an object. It was another vehicle company created to facilitate firms with an object to enter the market without high costs. Freeseas eventually listed its stock in the US market on December 16.
The most successful listing in 2005, in terms of oversubscribing, was in the beginning of the year, concerning Dryships of the Economou family. The company had a target of $127.8 million, but in the end its oversubscribing fetched $206 million.
Timing played a key role in that case as Dryships was the first shipping company to enter the market in 2005, in early February. Investors were then looking for shipping companies in the dry cargo sector, where Dryships is active, in view of the high return of profits in the market during 2004 and the rising demand for raw materials and goods, mainly thanks to China. Furthermore, at the time there had only been one company available to investors, and that was Excel Maritime, another Greek firm.
Dry bulkers
Stamatis Molaris, the president of Quintana Maritime, recently defended dry bulk firm stocks, noting they ought to be considered attractive for the public. The sector has not seen the concentration trends recorded in the tanker sector and concentration is bound to happen, based on listed companies, he said.
With Aries Maritime excepted, the new entries in 2005 had only losses to show. The worst ones concern Dryships, whose share fell by 44.85 percent. It is followed by Diana Shipping (-33.35 percent) and Genco (-22.52 percent). On the contrary firms with some years behind them in the capital market provide better value: Excel Maritime that was listed in 1997 without a public offering has recorded profits of 176.7 percent to date, followed by TEN with 139.67 percent.
Source: http://www.ekathimerini.com, By Nikos Roussanoglou - Kathimerini, 7 March 2006


FinMin presents policy priorities for 2006-07
---The first two years of reforms by the government will be followed by a two-year period of implementation and performance, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis stressed on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister presented his policy priorities for the period 2006-2007. These include:
-implementing a second phase of a tax reform programme envisaging higher tax-exempt ceilings and a gradual reduction of tax factors (the main factor will drop from 30 percent to 25 percent, while the highest factor will fall from 40 percent to 35 percent over the next three years).
-implementing government pledges to raise supplementary pay to pensioners,
-promoting a dialogue over the country's pension system. Alogoskoufis said the government's aim was to seek the widest possible political and social consensus on the issue,
-implementing a privatization policy in 2006. Alogoskoufis said the programme would focus on banks this year and will expand to the country's infrastructure (ports, airports) in 2007. The minister said the government was likely to announce a consultant to the sale of Emporiki Bank next week,
-accelerating absorption of EU funds,
-adopt a more effective control of public spending,
-combating tax evasion,
-support exports, and
-implementing a National Strategic Framework for the period 2007-2013 and a Digital Strategy.
Alogoskoufis, commenting on the country's economic course, underlined the economy's strong growth rate (at 3.7 pct in 2005), a decline in unemployment to 9.7 pct and a reduction of the country's budget deficit (expected to total 2.6 pct of GDP this year), as well as a 13.1 pct jump in exports last year.
He also sharply criticized the previous governments' policies of leaving the country's fiscal condition "in quicksand", as he said, with nil foreign investments and low competitiveness.
Commenting on a same-day decision by Eurostat regarding the method for registering defence spending on state budgets, Alogoskoufis said the decision would be implemented for future budgets and that the impact of this decision would be insignificant for the years 2005-2006.
In other developments, Alogoskoufis said he agreed with remarks made by Bank of Greece Governor Nikos Garganas, as the latter warned of dangers from a rising household debt in the country.
On his part, Economy Deputy Minister Christos Folias said the government managed to cut the loss of community funds to below 10 million euros last year, and pledged that not one euro would be lost in the future.
Economy Deputy Minister Petros Doukas said the government managed to contain primary budget spending in the period 2004-06 by 0.7 percent of GDP.
Finally, Finance Deputy Minister Antonios Bezas said budget revenues rose significantly in the first two months of the year (17.7 pct up in January, 14.4 pct up in February).
Source: http://www.ana.gr, 11 Mar 2006


In praise of prison
Express Samina judgment draws criticism from all sides
Fury has greeted the long-delayed judgment in the Express Samina tragedy. But in jailing some and exonerating others, the Greek courts have got it just about right
FAIRPLAY has consistently opposed the criminalisation of seafarers, and the jailing of senior officers after accidents. But we feel compelled to praise the judge who has just sent two officers to prison for 16 and 19 years (see p8). Despite the length of the sentences, the Greek court has come under fire for being too lenient in the Express Samina case. It was not enough to send the two men to jail. More heads should have rolled, said protesters. As a rule, protesters should be ignored. They have emotional attachments to issues, and their feelings are not often genuinely relevant to the case. Of course, relatives have an interest in the outcome of an accident, but justice should be blind and dispassionate. The bereaved are seldom dispassionate.
Source: Fairplay International Shipping Weekly 09 Mar 2006