Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 30 - 2006

 

PM attends christening of 'COSCO HELLAS' in Piraeus

--- Attending the ceremony for the christening of the new, Chinese-leased container ship "COSCO HELLAS" in Piraeus on Thursday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis emphasised the event's symbolic and practical importance, which he said underlined the close bonds of friendship between the Greek and Chinese peoples in the best possible way.
"With steady and decisive steps we are proceeding to boost Greek-Chinese economic cooperation, certain that this cooperation will yield important and mutual benefits for both sides," the Greek premier said.
The 'COSCO HELLAS' is a Greek-flagged ship owned by the Greek shipping company Costamare Shipping Company SA, one of the world's largest containerization companies worldwide, and has been leased to the state-owned China Ocean Shipping (Group) Co. (COSCO) for 12 years.
"The shipping cooperation agreement that we signed in Beijing at the beginning of the year is being implemented at a fast pace and, in this framework, is tangible proof of the new momentum of the Greek economy and the driving force for broader cooperation between two countries."
"I am certain that Greece and China will continue to intensify their cooperation, so that the bonds of the sea and trade that link our two countries will bring our people even closer together," the premier said.
Karamanlis stressed that Greece and China were focusing their efforts on coordinated joint action in areas where they possessed greater know-how and a strong momentum; among these he listed shipping, trade, tourism, energy, agricultural products, construction and infrastructure projects and the organisation of major sports and cultural events like the Olympic Games.
He also highlighted how the two countries were able to combine their respective comparative advantages to achieve multiplicative effects. As an example, he noted that the Greek shipping community, the largest in the world, was emerging as the biggest client of the Chinese shipyard industry and had ordered 100 large ships in the last two years.
Karamanlis stressed that China was a valuable strategic partner for Greece, both because of the large size of the Chinese market and because of the Chinese economy's rapid growth and the know-how constantly developing in this framework.
The Greek premier simultaneously pointed out important advantages that made Greece attractive to new investments and economic alliances, including:
Its political, economic and monetary stability as the only country in South East Europe that is a member of both NATO and the EU;
Its geo-strategic position as the 'crossroads' linking the EU with the Balkans, the Middle East, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, along with Greece's excellent political and economic relations with the countries in those regions, making it an ideal base for countries seeking to extend their operations in the broader region;
And finally, Greece's traditional and dynamically growing role as an important junction for combined transport and the global transit trade, especially via the sea through Greece's modern and fully-equipped ports, as a gateway to the surrounding region.
The Greek government was seeking to make full use of these advantages as a priority, promoting economic reforms that were already having a positive impact on the business environment and creating new investment opportunities, the prime minister added.
These policies were daily yielding tangible economic and social results and guaranteed sustainable, dynamic and balanced growth, new and more jobs, as well as prosperity for all, he said.
Source: www.ana.gr, 28 July 2004


Lebanon evacuation fumbled, critics say
---Plans to charter many Greek ferries have largely fallen through. Petros Aivatzidis and Barnaby Eales report that only France and Sweden have so far succeeded in helping their nationals flee the violence
THE FLIGHT by sea from Lebanon has been compared to the biggest civilian evacuation since Dunkirk, but as Israeli bombs continued to pound Lebanon, world governments were this week accused of mishandling a major humanitarian crisis.
Washington reversed US policy on 24 July by calling for a ceasefire in the violence in Lebanon and Israel. By then, 30 governments and the United Nations had already, according to the Greek government, pleaded for emergency help from shipping companies to rescue thousands of war refugees.
The large number of Greek ferries serving the Aegean Islands and the Adriatic Sea were believed to be capable of rapid deployment to transport tens of thousands of civilians fleeing the danger.
So foreign embassies contacted the entire Greek ferry fleet at the early stages of the crisis, seeking to charter ships, but that effort was largely to no avail. Only France and Sweden had succeeded when Fairplay went to press.
The US government also chartered the non-Greek cruise ship Orient Queen and the ro-pax Rahmah.
But a federal lawsuit filed by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee alleges that this charter did not go far enough to protect the lives of thousands of US citizens trapped in Lebanon.
Failure to use ship brokers
Meanwhile, the Piraeus-based shipbroker Dennis Vernardakis of Masters Shipping, a cruise and ferry specialist, this week linked criticism over the handling of the evacuation with a failure by governments to use brokers in arranging the evacuation.
Instead, direct chartering contacts took place between governments and companies. It was this procedure that led to allegations that Canada and Australia had double-booked the cruise ship Serenade from Cyprus-based Louis Cruise Lines.
The spokesman said the company had a firm policy of offering its vessels on a first-come, first-served basis and that Australia had approached Louis, both through Australian Embassy officials in Nicosia and through brokers.
Louis also insisted that no charter confirmation had been received from either party.
On 20 July, Louis confirmed in a statement that it had agreed to charter Serenade to the United Nations for two days to carry UN staff and their families from Lebanon to Cyprus, the principal destination of the refugees.
Louis said Serenade and Princesa Marissa would be chartered to the Canadian government for 29 and 30 July, with each vessel making two round trips to Beirut.
Although countries including Australia said on 25 July that the evacuation was winding down, news reports indicated that thousands of foreign civilians had been left behind in Lebanon.
But brokers said they already felt confounded when, soon after the first week of the crisis, the Greek shipping minister Manolis Kefaloyannis ended the chartering of cabotage ferries.
Kefaloyannis allegedly bowed to popular pressure after TV news broadcasts showed the outrage of abandoned passengers who had originally booked to travel on the chartered Lerapetra L and Kriti II.
The Greek government was also accused by the main opposition party of disrupting domestic ferry services at the very peak of the tourist season.
GA ferries deal scuttled
The u-turn in Greek government policy ended prospects of a deal between the United Nations and GA Ferries on the ship Anthi Marina.
As violence in Lebanon continues, the only available Greek ferries theoretically are those serving on the Greece-Italy lines, where the market is free and beyond the reach of government intrusion.
Greek broker Vernardakis indicated that none of those ferries had been chartered because operators are remaining loyal to their long-time regular haulier customers, rather than helping those fleeing the violence.
Source: Newswatch, Fairplay International Shipping Weekly, 27 Jul 2006


ThPA SA invests 100 mil. euros
---Thessaloniki Port Authority, a state public listed company, in a statement will invest 100 miln euros with regard to the upgrade of its 6th pier. The completion of the work will enable ThPA SA to increase its container service capacity from 365.000 teu's in 2005 to approximately 700.000 teu's.
The overall investment will reach the amount of 100 million euros that will be drawn as to 50% from the European Investment Bank and as to the 50% balance from own equity of the Company or also partly from loans.
With regard to the extension of the 6th pier, kindly note that the project includes two construction unities, i.e. the port work and the other embankment, gravelling-coating and equipment works. As concerns the port work, the conclusion of the relevant contract work agreement is expected within the next few days
For the other embankment, gravelling-coating and equipment works, the relevant technical and financial studies are already being drafted while the construction works are expected to start in the course of 2007 and the completion of all the extension works (Port-Gravelling-Coating etc) is anticipated for the end of 2011. Detailed elements, such as implementation time schedules, financing arrangements, financial analysis etc. will be forwarded to you after the finalization of the negotiations with the EIB.
The overall investment will reach the amount of 100 million euros that will be drawn as to 50% from the European Investment Bank and as to the 50% balance from own equity of the Company or also partly from loans.The conclusion of the agreement with the EIB is expected to take place at the end of August 2006. The completion of the work will enable ThPA SA to increase its container service capacity from 365.000 teu's in 2005 to approximately 700.000 teu's.
In other news concerning the dockers strike, loading and unloading works have already been normally resumed while the whole dispute over the collective agreement conclusion issue is being taken care of by an ombudsman from the Mediation and Arbitration Organisation (OMED).
Source: www.reporter.gr, 18:06 - 27 July 2006


Polemis seeks dialogue over impending maritime laws
---New chairman of International Chamber of Shipping urges owners and regulators to consult more regularly, writes Janet Porter- Thursday July 27 2006
NEWLY-elected International Chamber of Shipping chairman Spyros Polemis wants to put relations between shipowners and regulators on a different footing.
Instead of occasional dialogue between the two sides, Mr Polemis hopes to establish a more formal mechanism that will ensure the industry is automatically consulted on relevant maritime issues.
The ICS, which represents national shipowner associations from 34 countries, is not seeking regular fixed meetings but does want to be involved when legislation or directives affecting shipowners are being drawn up.
Mr Polemis, chairman and managing director of Seacrest Shipping and former chairman of Intercargo, has already met officials in Brussels and Washington since taking over as both chairman of the ICS and president of the International Shipping Federation.
The message to legislators on both sides of the Atlantic is the same.
Brussels has proved more difficult over the years, partly because of a frequent change of personnel in the top jobs.
This is a problem container lines have often run into as the European Commission investigated liner conferences and then embarked on a review of maritime competition laws.
Container lines set up their own lobby group, the European Liner Affairs Association, to focus on that specific issue, but the Brussels review will also impact on the non-liner trades with the commission about to broaden its jurisdiction to cover tramp shipping as well.
Mr Polemis singled out this as one of the areas where the ICS wants to have direct input, as Brussels prepares to change the law, to ensure shipping pools are not penalised.
Educating policy-makers and decision-makers about the workings of the shipping industry, so as to remove misunderstandings and misperceptions, is seen as essential.
Too often the focus is on punishment rather than prevention, Mr Polemis argues.
He makes the same point of other regional initiatives, such as ship emissions, where there are moves to impose local controls.
The ICS will continue to press the case for international regulation through the International Maritime Organization, but also accepts that the ratification process could be quicker at times.
The chamber will be encouraging its own members to be more proactive in urging flag states to ratify conventions as fast as possible.
Mr Polemis will be supported during his chairmanship by Tony Mason, the former P&O Nedlloyd director who will succeed Chris Horrocks as secretary general of the ICS in September. The two are working alongside each other over the summer.
That is the sort of combination that, Mr Polemis hopes, will help the ICS forge a better understanding between shipowners and regulators.
Source: www.lloydslist.com


Bodouroglou Emerges with London-based SPAC
---At a time when both the shipping market and the capital markets were supposed to take a break for the summer, it appears that neither have. The dry cargo market continues to be strong, defying many that expected a substantial correction, and most bulker shares are trading at a rich premium to net asset values. It is against the backdrop of this robust shipping market that the charismatic Michael Bodouroglou, best known as co-owner of highly reputed Eurocarriers and Allseas Marine, has emerged as the backer of Paragon Shipping Limited, a SPAC to be listed on the Even as Pappas-sponsored Star Maritime struggles to make a shipping acquisition with its blank check funds and the only 2005 AIM shipping listing, Global Oceanic, continues to founder, Paragon is bravely seeking its turn on the alternative London exchange to see whether the shipping blank check idea will float in Europe.
The Lead Placing Agent on the deal is a firm called CTA Capital Group LLC, a CT-based middle market-focused firm that we have never seen on a shipping deal. Joint Placing Agents are HSBC Bank, which underwrote the successful Dragnis-led Goldenport, and Cantor Fitzgerald, with the latter handling only North American sales. The SPAC, Paragon Shipping, is seeking to raise gross proceeds of just over $100 million through the sale of 17,000,000 common units at $6.00, each unit being comprised of one share and two warrants.
Importantly, the prospectus states that Paragon's strategy will be to invest in dry bulk vessels or tankers directly rather than seeking out an existing business, although it does not preclude alternative strategies. One of the important things about listing its blank check company on the less-regulated London AIM as opposed to a US exchange is that the hurdles that must be passed for an initial qualifying transaction are significantly lower. Whereas a more typical Rule 419 blank check offering would require that target assets or businesses represent at least 80% of proceeds, Paragon's initial target assets or businesses must have a fair market value equal to at least half their net assets.
After accounting for dilution and about $5.76 million in fees associated with the offering, all told investors will get $4.82 in book value for their $6.00 investment. This equates to purchasing the company for about 124% of NAV, although that is hardly a fair measure for a company that has yet to acquire either assets or debt.
To help mitigate the other major risk blank check investors take that of finding a suitable acquisition _ the placing agents agreed to defer $2.04 million in fees until the consummation of an acquisition.
We wish Mr. Bodouroglou luck in this venture and we will keep you posted as the transaction develops.
Paragon Principal Shareholders*
Beneficial Owner / Amount & Nature of Beneficial Ownership / Approximate % of Outstanding Common Shares
Michael Bodouroglou / 3,196,080 / 95.62%
George Skirmizeas / 33,333 / 1.09%
Nigel Cleave / 33,333 / 1.09%
Bruce Ogilvy / 33,333 / 1.09%
George Xiardakis / 33,333 / 1.09%
All directors as a group / 3,329,412 / 16.38%
*Pro forma the offering
Source: Offering circular
Source: www.marinemoney.com - M a r i n e M o n e y F r e s h l y M i n t e d v T h u r s d a y , J u l y 2 7 , 2 0 0 6


Euroseas Announces Agreement to Purchase Panamax Bulk Carrier Vessel
---MAROUSSI, ATHENS, GREECE -- (MARKET WIRE) -- July 27, 2006 -- Euroseas Ltd. (OTCBB: ESEAF), an owner and operator of drybulk, containership carrier and multipurpose vessels and provider of seaborne transportation for dry bulk and containerized cargoes, announced today that on July 25, 2006, a subsidiary of Euroseas Ltd. signed a Memorandum of Agreement to purchase M/V "Torm Tekla," a Panamax dry bulk carrier vessel of 69,268 dwt built in 1993. The vessel can transport bulk commodities like iron ore, coal, grain amongst others.
The vessel is to be delivered to Euroseas Ltd. between August 20 and September 20, 2006 at the sellers' option. The M/V "Torm Tekla" comes with a period charter attached until November 20, 2006 at a rate of USD 19,750 per day.
Following the acquisition of the M/V "Torm Tekla," the Company will have a fleet of 8 vessels, including 2 Panamax drybulk carriers, 2 Handysize drybulk carriers, 3 Handysize containerships and a Handysize multipurpose dry cargo vessel. Euroseas 4 drybulk carrier vessels have a total cargo capacity of 207,464 deadweight tons (dwt), its 3 containerships have a cargo capacity of 66,100 dwt and 4,636 teu and its 1 multipurpose vessel has a cargo capacity of 22,568 dwt and 950 teu.
Aristides Pittas, Chairman and CEO of Euroseas, commented: "Our strategy has been to take advantage of market opportunities and grow our company by focusing on age and size segments that maximize our return on equity. The acquisition of M/V 'Torm Tekla' is consistent with this strategy. After the acquisition, the average age of our fleet will drop to about 18 years; and, excluding M/V 'Ariel,' the oldest vessel in our fleet, the average age of our fleet will be 16.7 years which is the age group we believe allows us to maximize the return on our investments. We look forward to further growing our company with suitable vessel acquisitions as opportunities emerge."
Source: www.euroseas.gr


Quintana Maritime Enters Into New $735 Million Revolving Credit Facility
---ATHENS, GREECE -- (MARKET WIRE) -- July 24, 2006 -- Quintana Maritime Limited (NASDAQ: QMAR) announced today that it has entered into a new $735 million, 8.25 year secured revolving credit facility with Fortis Bank S.A./N.V. as arrangers. The new credit facility replaces the existing $250 million revolving credit facility that was entered on October 5, 2005 and would have expired in October 2013.
Proceeds of the new credit facility will be used to provide partial financing for the acquisition of a fleet of 17 drybulk cariers from Metrobulk S.A, will refinance indebtedness under the existing $250 million credit facility and will also provide financing for working capital purposes and general corporate requirements.
On July 7, 2006, Quintana entered into an interest-rate swap transaction with Fortis Bank (Nederland) N.V. on variable notional amounts ranging from $295 million to approximately $702 million, based on expected principal outstanding under the Company's new revolving credit facility. The swap transaction effectively converts the Company's expected floating-rate interest obligation under its proposed new revolving credit facility to a fixed rate of 5.135%, exclusive of margin due to its lenders, through December 31, 2010.
As a result of entering into the new credit facility, Quintana will expense in the third quarter 2006 approximately $1.8 million related to unamortized loan-financing costs due to the early extinguishment of the previous facility.
Paul J. Cornell, Quintana's Chief Financial Officer, noted, "We are pleased with our new credit facility, which will permit us to complete the acquisition of the Metrobulk fleet as well as to refinance our existing indebtedness on superior terms. In addition, we believe that we have achieved an attractive and visible fixed interest rate through 2010 by entering into the swap transaction covering expected amounts borrowed under the credit facility."
Source: http://www.quintanamaritime.com


Nel Lines sues First Business Bank for over $15m
---Athens-listed passenger-shipping company Nel Lines is suing one of its lending banks for EUR 12.4m ($15.7m) plus interest.
The company is also asking the Greek courts to invalidate loan agreements with First Business Bank (FBB) worth a total of around EUR 23.4m. The agreements were signed in December 2003 and December 2005.
The civil section of the Piraeus courts, where the suit has been lodged, has set a trial date of 12 June 2007.
Nel's action follows up shareholders' rejection at a general meeting in early July of FBB's demand for the sum of EUR 3,366,500 referred to as Loan Portion B to be met in common shares of the company.
The company also noted in an announcement to the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) that FBB went to English arbitration seeking to enforce a share-conversion option but it considers the act without grounds as the agreement is a contract in Greece between Greek companies.
At the general meeting, major shareholder and current Nel chief executive officer Apostolos Ventouris also proposed that the question of the handling of the total loan with FBB be taken to Greek civil and penal law.
The 121-page suit delves into the history of the loan agreement, originally signed with Debis UK Ltd in September 1998 as a French francs 206.55m, 10-year facility to finance 85% of Nel's 3,536-gt newbuilding, the Corsaire 12000 , which was later christened the Aeolos Express . The loan was later transferred to Debis USA and then taken over by FBB.
Nel alleges wrongdoing on the part of the bank in various aspects of an amended loan agreement signed in December 2003 and a supplementary agreement signed in December 2005.
FBB has not yet made any announcement concerning its intentions and a senior officer of the bank's shipping division says he is unable to comment on what its actions might be.
Ventouris became managing director of Nel after acquiring a majority shareholding through his company, Edgewater Holdings Inc, in May 2005. Under his guidance, first the company sued French engine builder SEMT-Pielstick for EUR 90m for the failure of engines in Nel's three high-speed monohull ferries. In February, Nel went on to sign agreements to restructure its $117m debts to a syndicate of banks led by Calyon Corp&Investment Bank. That agreement left Nel with a benefit of EUR 60m, the company says.
By Gillian Whittaker Athens, published: 28 July 2006
Source: www.tradewinds.no


Stelios Haji-Ioannou wants revival of Greek cruising.
---Haji-Ioannou, the founder of easyCruise, underlined this aim during meetings in Piraeus June 19 with Marine minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and the leadership of the Panhellenic Seamens Federation (PNO).
He also re-stated his intention to build up to four 500-passenger cruise ships in Greece. Early May, Neorion Holdings and the easyGroup signed a letter of intent for the construction of two firm, two options, with Haji-Ioannou saying the contract came to Greece ahead of rival offers from shipyards in Spain, Italy and Germany. Haji-Ioannou also met with several mayors from the islands of the Cyclades to discuss the introduction of island cruises in 2007 by easyCruise.
Haji-Ioannou, 39, is a citizen of both Greece and the UK. Though he made his start in shipping with his father Loucas Haji-Ioannou's tanker group Troodos, it was his establishment at the age of 25 of Stelmar Tankers, which he floated in New York in 2001 and subsequently sold at the beginning of last year to OSG for a total $1.3bn, that saw Sir Stelios take off.
The founding of the easyGroup a couple of years later, which in turn flew from the base of low cost airline easyJet had Haji-Ioannou really flying.
In his meeting with authorities from the Cycladic islands group Haji-Ioannou recommitted easyCruise to a programme of cruises and, underlining his keenness to be part of cruising in East Med linking the plans to build in Neorion with this revival.
easyCruise is in negotiations with the Marine ministry about operating at least one ship under the Greek flag on a series of cruises out of Faliron where an office is to be established.
The plan sees weekend cruises to Mykonos, and four-day cruises to Santorini with possible stops at Paros, Naxos, Milos or Serifos/Sifnos.
Kefaloyiannis said the newbuilding plans will be important to Aegean cruising and efforts to attract cruiseships to the islands. The 100mtr long, 7,500gt ships planned by easyCruise, still depend on a number of issues being resolved. One of these is financing in the form of export credit assistance. easyCruise is not a Greek company and if the ships are built in Greece, Haji-Ioannou believes they qualify as an export product. Athens Stock Exchange-listed Neorion controls Elefsis Shipyards, in Elefsina and Neorion on the island of Syros. Elefsis is currently completing a $35m highspeed ferry newbuilding for Hellenic Seaways. Neorion is specialised in building large luxury cruising yachts for up to 80 passengers. The easyCruise ships would have 240 cabins and would be capable of carrying 504 passengers.
Source: Issue nr. 11 of Newmartec (July - August 2006)