Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 45 - 2006
---Greece's Marine ministry is studying a plan to make crewing composition on oceangoing Greekflagged ships more flexible. Marine minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said the measure is designed to improve the competitiveness of the Greek flag and attract new ships to it. The move has been received with caution by both shipowners and unions.
In a bid to reduce overall labour costs the minister also announced, November 9, another incentive being studied is the subsidisation of social security contributions to the seamen's pension fund (NAT). NAT contributions are already subsidised in the cruise ship sector.
The two measures come at the behest of owners who point out the Greek flag is no longer competitive and this has resulted in its steady decline. Kefaloyiannis said the measure will only cover lower crew levels, but it is felt this may eventually be extended.
Crew levels have long been a stumbling block to running up the Greek flag as Greek crew come expensive. Under the proposal, shipping companies will be able to set the minimum number of seamen needed, depending on the ship type and capacity.
Kefaloyiannis said: "Of course the relaxation of rules regarding crew composition will not mean ships without Greek seafarers." He said it is believed more seafarers will be employed because more ships will fly the Greek colours.
Hellenic Chamber of Shipping president, George Gratsos, said the proposal "is a move in the right direction" but that owners were still waiting for the details. He noted the chamber has long sought "greater flexibility in crew composition" and subsidies for NAT contributions. "We must wait and see how these measures will be applied," he said.
The Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) said it could not express a view until the details are known, and "see if employment for seamen is secured".
In a letter to the Marine ministry, Stelios Kiliaris, ceo of Louis Cruise Lines said agreements on crewing have led the company to hope it will be in a position to raise the Greek flag on another six of its cruise ships. The Cyprus-based Louis presently has four ships operated out of Piraeus by Louis Hellenic Cruises under the Greek flag.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 10 November 2006 Vol. 7 / No. 42
Greek merchant fleet remains buoyant
---Greek shipping companies maintained the top spot in the world maritime business in October, ordering more than 30 vessels, worth $1.1 billion in October, bringing the total in the 10 months of 2006 to $14.5 billion, according to data supplied by George Moundreas & Co. The Greek-managed commercial fleet now numbers 3,397 vessels, totaling a capacity of 190,058,535 dwt. Their average age is 15.3 years, with the Greek-flagged vessels even lower, at 11.7 years. The Greek shipowners focus on tankers and bulk carriers, which they mostly order at South Korean, Chinese and Japanese shipbuilders.
Source: http://www.ekathimerini.com, 7 Nov. 2006,
Piraeus downs tools
---Fairplay Daily News, 10 Nov 2006
PIRAEUS 10 November - Port workers in Piraeus and Thessaloniki, Greece's two largest ports, stopped work today and will abstain from work over the weekend also in protest against management change and foreign investment. The two port authority boards meet today to decide details of an international tender for the management and infrastructure improvement of their container terminals. Interested parties will be asked to sign a 30-year contract and provide financial as well as cargo volume guarantees. Those who have expressed interest include Cosco, China Shipping, Hutchison and Dubai Ports. Union leaders are to meet on Sunday to discuss further action.
Greek fusion on the cards
---Consolidation in Greek shipping has accelerated in the past few years.
Ted Petropoulos of Petrofin Research said at the Greek Shipping Summit the numbers point toward a future of more consolidation among Greek owners and their fleets. But the consolidation will not be the result of a shrinkage in the Greek fleet. To the contrary, it has grown by 42% over the past eight years.
A few at the top control the biggest chunk of Greece's merchant fleet and all indications point to that share growing. Today, 69 Greek companies control 73% of the merchant fleet. In 2003, Petropoulos says, 72 companies controlled 69.71%.
Taking a close view at Greece's elite owners, Petropoulos says that in 1988, the top 20 owners controlled close to 52% of the total Greek-owned tonnage in dwt terms.
Between 1988 and 2002, the ownership of the fleet became increasingly fragmented, with the elite group losing its hold.
In the past four years, however, the trend has reversed, with the same group of owners controlling an increasing proportion, from around 34% in 2002 to just under 41% in 2006.
Greece's tanker sector has seen the most consolidation. The country's top-10 tanker owners control around 50% of the fleet, representing a dramatic rise from 39% in 2003.
On the bulker side, consolidation has been less dramatic as the top-10 bulker owners controlled 25% of the dry fleet in 2003 and today that figure stands at just under 30%.
The consolidation trend is also demonstrated through the number of shipowning companies active in Piraeus. That number has fallen from 926 in 1998 to 693 in 2006, representing a reduction of just over 25%.
In 2006, there are more companies that control large fleets, while the number of midsize outfits is growing at a slower pace. Companies controlling between 16 to 25 ships have increased from 30 in 1998 to 58 in 2006. Owners controlling five and 15 ships tally at 201, up from 217 in 1998.
The greatest drop is seen in the small-company sector of shipowners that control between one and four vessels. In 1998, they numbered 679 ships and this year, are down to 434 units.
Petropoulos, however, adds that this downward trend does not mean the small owner is heading towards extinction. Many are now controlling younger tonnage, indicating they are not giving up and have plans to grow.
This sector is also due to increase in numbers for the first time in years as a new breed of capital-heavy outfits are making a first-time entry.
By Yiota Gousas, Athens, published: 10 November 2006
Mitropoulos sails on
----IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos is to continue in post for another four years
Addressing the Council meeting, Mr. Mitropoulos said "Your continuing trust in me and in the administration in place gives me strength in my endeavours in pursuance of the noble objectives of this great institution."
He also took the opportunity to thank the staff of the Organization. "No one can work in a vacuum," he said, "and the advice I receive from my colleagues, the Organization's most valuable asset, is sound, valid and reliable and helps me substantially to perform my duties."
Looking to the future, Mr. Mitropoulos said that the safety of life at the sea should continue to be IMO's principal objective. In particular, he singled out the 'goal-based standard' concept, and spoke of the "beneficial impact it will certainly have."
He added, "We should continue to pay due regard to the contribution to enhanced safety of flag, port and coastal States, classification societies and other stakeholders, all having an important role to play in collectively implementing, maintaining and raising the safety standards of shipping".
Source: www.mgn.com, Friday, 10 November 2006
Global Union signs innovative deal with Greek shipping firm
---Bahrain Tribune - 08/11/2006. Bahrain-based investment advisor Global Union Energy Ventures (GUEV) yesterday revealed the details of an innovative deal it believes will herald the start of a trend which will see top European companies conducting sales of their equity in the Middle East.
The firm announced it has signed an agreement with Greek shipping firm Stealth Petroleum Inc - a leading international transporter of hydrocarbons - to be its exclusive financial advisor in the Middle East.
Speaking to the Tribune at Global Union's Manama headquarters yesterday the firm's president, Amir Merchant (right), revealed the company's confidence that the newly struck deal would prove something of a pioneering arrangement.
He said: "We think this is an immensely significant transaction. So far this shipping company is a 100 per cent privately owned company - this is the first time they are doing a sale of the equity, but the significant part is that this is a European company which is looking to do a sale of its equity here in the Middle East rather than just do it in Europe, which is what they normally do.
He explained GUEV strategy, adding: "We think this could be the beginning of a trend. Our job is simply to re-cycle the abundance of petrodollars in this region."
Merchant described Stealth Petroleum as a company which has enjoyed something of a meteoric rise in its short time of trading, already developing one of the most modern and sophisticated fleets of Aframax crude oil tankers in the world.
Global Union will be responsible for advising Stealth Petroleum, as well as arranging the offering of equity and Harry Vafias, Stealth's CEO, hailed the deal - calling GUEV "the right strategic partners."
An additional attraction of the deal for GUEV, he revealed, lies in the fact that Stealth Petroleum Inc is already profitable and, something of a rarity for a company in its early development, is unleveraged.
He added: "We liked the fact that this fits in with the psyche of Middle East investors who like to have some tangible assets associated with their investments - which is why they like to invest in property because there is a physical, tangible asset there. Likewise the vessels involved in this deal are tangible assets as well."
The company is promoting the deal as an example of a potential new breed of deal for investors who have until now been left with little choice but to look to real estates deals to provide a return.
He concluded: "This is our first mandate to access capital in the Middle East and we think this is a great precedent because there are more European companies that could access the petrodollars which are based here if they had the right channels."
Fortis Provides $60.2 Million in Vessel Financing to Diana Shipping
---Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Diana Shipping, a global shipping company specializing in the transportation of dry bulk cargoes, announced that it has signed a loan agreement with Fortis Bank for a secured term loan of $60.2 million, which the company will use to finance the pre-delivery installments of two Capesize dry bulk carriers.
The carriers will be constructed by Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Co., Ltd.
Diana Shipping expects to take delivery of the vessels during the second quarter of 2010.
Diana Shipping's plans to assume the shipbuilding contracts for the two Capesize vessels, as well as a commitment letter from Fortis Bank for the pre-delivery financing, were previously announced in September 2006.
Under the loan agreement, principal repayments are scheduled upon delivery of the vessels. The interest on this facility during the construction period will be capitalized and included in the construction cost of the vessels.
easyCruise opens new Aegean horizons
---From Philip Pangalos in Athens- Thursday November 09 2006
He said his company, whose cruise destinations already include France, Italy, Holland, Belgium and the Caribbean, will offer Greek island cruises, aimed at Greek and foreign tourists, lasting from three days to 14 days, beginning from May 31, 2007, on its easyCruiseOne vessel.
Greek stops will include the capital Athens, as well as the popular Cycladic islands of Mykonos, Paros and Ios, and the lesser-known Milos, Amorgos, Naxos, Folegandros, Sifnos and Serifos, and the Saronic islands of Poros and Spetses.
Tsakos profit doubles as tanker fleet grow
---By Paul Tugwell [Last modified: November 09. 2006 9:17PM]
Tsakos Navigation also benefited in the quarter from a $13.3 million one-time gain related to the sale of its two remaining single-hull tankers. There will be a gain of $50 million in the fourth quarter from ship sales.
Tsakos Navigation has 37 vessels, with a further 15 on order. The company reported full-year profit of $161.8 million for 2005.
Shares of the company rose 64 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $44.80 at 12:40 p.m. in New York, giving it a market value of $853 million. The stock has risen 22 percent this year, outperforming the 8.8 percent gain in the six-member Bloomberg Tanker Index.
---Robert Mendick, Evening Standard, 10 November 2006
The action was launched in the High Court this week in a test case that could lead to one of the biggest damages claims in British legal history.
Shipping firm Trafigura, which has an office in London, is accused of being behind the dumping of hundreds of tons of toxic waste so poisonous that 10 people died in the slums of Abidjan in Ivory Coast.
Dozens more were hospitalised and an estimated 85,000 were treated at local clinics for vomiting, nausea, headaches and nosebleeds.
The incident is alleged to have occurred in September when a tanker, the Probo Koala - a Greek-owned ship flying under a Panamanian flag and leased by the London branch of a Swiss trading corporation - docked at Abidjan, allegedly carrying toxic waste.
It is claimed the 400 tonnes were dumped at at least 18 sites around the city, allegedly leading to the poisoning of tens of thousands of people, many of them children.
Solicitor Martyn Day of London law firm Leigh Day & Co said: 'We hold Trafigura fully to account for all the deaths and injuries that have resulted from the dumping of their waste.
'Although the events took place thousands of miles away, it is right that this British company is made to account for its actions by the British courts and made to pay British levels of damages for what happened.' Trafigura denies it was responsible.
---THE Liberian registry has topped the 70 million gross tons mark for the first time in more than twenty years. It is also dominating the market for new ships, and is set to claim at least 25 per cent of the Greek newbuilding sector. This year alone, to end-September, more than 375 vessels aggregating 12m gross tons have signed up, bringing to almost 2,300 the number of ships under the Liberian registry - the highest total since the peak period between 1976 and 1981.
In addition, Greek and German owners have committed over 600 newbuildings, aggregating 10 m gross tons, to the Liberian registry. In the case of Greece, the commitment of owners to Liberian is second only to that shown to the Greek flag, and Liberia is set to have at least 25 per cent of the Greek newbuilding market.
Source: The Maritime Advocate online, Issue 278
'Flag of convenience' vessels often skirt laws to enrich shady owners
---By DAN CHAPMAN, Published on: 11/05/06
The Trinity Sierra didn't arrive in Savannah until Oct. 2. The sugar traders, an American subsidiary of a Japanese conglomerate, were not amused.
So they sued the ship's Greek owners in U.S. District Court here seeking $288,060 in damages. Like a rat cornered below deck, the owners soon were the target of a flurry of lawsuits by others with grievances, including a Singapore timber dealer, a Liberian electronics supplier and a New York insurance company.
The U.S. Marshal Service has placed the vessel under "arrest" until attorneys settle the legal grievances.
The saga of the Trinity Sierra, though, is murkier and more ominous than simply a globe-trotting ship with capricious owners trying to stay one port ahead of creditors, as its detractors allege.
Upon the vessel's arrival in Savannah, a Nigerian stowaway was apprehended by the U.S. Coast Guard. The suspicious Coast Guard commander ordered a stem-to-stern inspection of the Trinity Sierra. After discovering 42 safety violations, he detained the Cyprus-registered vessel until repairs are made.
Without visas, the 25 crew members, who hail from the Balkans and Myanmar (formerly Burma), were confined to the ship where they've languished for more than a month. A representative from the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) visited and discovered that many of the crewmen hadn't been paid in as much as five months.
Maritime, legal, religious and government officials say that ships like the Trinity Sierra highlight much that is wrong with the world of cut-throat, cut-rate shipping today. With 90 percent of the world's cargo traveling by sea, competition is fierce among the hundreds of owners who employ questionably sound ships and offer low prices and quick delivery.
To trim costs, owners register ships in so-called "flag of convenience" countries where regulations are typically lax, accountability is rare and taxes are minimal. Most of the 32 flag of convenience, or FOC, countries don't question ship owners who pay mariners from poor countries, like Burma, as little as $1.50 an hour. Paychecks are routinely delayed or never delivered.
'A form of neo-slavery'
Roughly 20,000 of the world's 47,000 commercial-sized vessels fly flags of convenience authorized by countries like Panama, Liberia, the Bahamas and Cyprus, according to the London-based ITF. And bulk carriers like the Trinity Sierra, the blue-collar ships that transport timber, steel, chemicals, kaolin (a clay used in numerous products) and sugar, are notorious for skirting internationally sanctioned security and safety rules.
"What you see on many flag of convenience ships is a form of neo-slavery," said Tom Matyok, chief executive of the International Seafarers' Center in Brunswick, which assists mariners. He visited the Trinity Sierra in mid-October.
"Owners skate right on the edge just to get by," he said. "Sometimes they get caught, like they did in Savannah. Sadly, most of the time they don't. And the seamen suffer the worst from this relationship."
FOC-registered ships routinely run afoul of creditors and inspectors. Georgia's most infamous run-in with an FOC occurred five years ago. The Panamanian-registered, Greek-owned Agios Minas delivered a load of tree stumps from Belize to Brunswick and settled 10 miles offshore to await its next assignment.
It never came. Days later, the Greek captain radioed a shipping agent that the freighter was running out of food and water. Matyok ferried cases of potatoes, cabbage, bananas, cookies and bottled water to the ship only to discover that the crew, mostly Central Americans, hadn't been paid in months.
The 215-foot-long Agios Minas was abandoned by its owner, the first commercial vessel ever discarded off Georgia. It was sold to a cattle rancher in Alma and its crew repatriated.
Navship Maritime Co. Ltd., which owns the Trinity Sierra, and Thesarco Shipping Co., which manages the ship, are no strangers to scrutiny, according to lawsuits, maritime databases, trade publications and interviews with industry experts. (Both companies are headquartered in Greece.)
As with the Edco, plaintiffs have filed claims against the Trinity Sierra for alleged debts owed by sister ships. Last week, the American Steamship Owners Mutual Protection and Indemnity Association sued Navship and Thesarco claiming unpaid insurance premiums totaling more than $668,000.
In its lawsuit, the insurance company also claims that Thesarco "and its alter ego Argosy Shipmanagment Inc." manage a fleet of vessels including the Trinity Sierra, the Annie Sierra, the Thermopylae Sierra and the Taxiarchis Sierra.
Last March, the Annie Sierra was accused by a Singaporean trader of failing to deliver a timber shipment to India, according to published reports. On Oct. 20, the same company accused the Trinity Sierra of again failing to deliver timber to India. The company seeks roughly $5 million in damages.
Steven Psarellis, a New Orleans attorney representing Navship and Thesarco in the Trinity Sierra lawsuits, expects his clients to prevail.
"The owners have resolved minor differences in contractual issues with a couple of the vendors and we are in the process of settling other smaller claims," he said. "However, they are disputing the [timber] claim and the [insurance] claim which they believe are without merit."
42 safety problems
U.S. Coast Guard Commander David Murk, captain of the port in Savannah and Brunswick, had his eye on the Trinity Sierra before it reached Georgia and announced that a Nigerian stowaway was on board.
The ship arrived Oct. 2 and immediately turned over the stowaway. (Murk offered no details on the man's plight other than to confirm he remains in custody.) The commander ordered a safety inspection of the Trinity Sierra.
With good cause. The ship has been inspected nearly 20 times since 1998 at ports in Russia, the United Kingdom, China and Singapore, according to a European Commission maritime safety database. The U.S. Coast Guard inspected the vessel seven times, citing the ship for numerous deficiencies and detaining it for a day in Jacksonville in 2002.
The 42 safety "discrepancies" uncovered in Savannah include serious problems with the vessel's lifeboats, watertight doors, fire-fighting equipment and crew living conditions. In his 15 months in Savannah, Murk had never tallied as many violations. He ordered the Trinity Sierra to remain in port until the ship was seaworthy.
"In its present condition," the commander said, "it's not safe to go back to sea."
Most of the world's cargo is carried by container ships. The cargo fits into sleek, 40-foot-long steel boxes hoisted by cranes onto massive ships that, typically, leave from the Far East for the United States and Europe. Georgia's two ports handled more than two million containers last fiscal year, up 229 percent from 1996, according to the state's Ports Authority.
With the Trinity Sierra detained and under arrest, the ITF had time to investigate a report that the crew hadn't been paid since May. Tony Sacco, the ITF inspector for the Southeast, says he arranged for the ship's owners to pay $73,000 owed many of the crew.
"These guys won't say nothing because they fear for their jobs," he said. "They're worried about getting black-balled. Some of the companies will call the hiring agencies and say, 'Look, Gonzalez complained to the ITF, so I don't want him back on my ship.' "
Yet Langewiesche and other critics agree that FOC's epitomize "free enterprise at its freest." Steel, tea and DVD players are cheaper due to FOCs.
"Globalization has helped fuel this rush to the bottom," David Cockroft, ITF General Secretary, told an interviewer in 2003.
"In an increasingly fierce competitive shipping market, each new flag of convenience is forced to promote itself by offering the lowest possible fees and the minimum regulation."
'They'll be back'
After a month upriver, the crew of the Trinity Sierra headed toward the open sea last Tuesday. Its voyage, though, proved short-lived: the ship was transferred to another berth below Savannah.
Two tugboats shepherded the vessel under the Talmadge Bridge and past a busy River Street. With little cargo, the rust-spotted ship rode high in the water, its propeller visible above the river's churn. A handful of Burmese sailors lined a rail, looking longingly at the Halloween Day frivolity below.
The journey lasted six miles and 75 minutes, until the ship was jostled by the tugs into the Liberty Terminals.
Creditors may soon try to sell the Trinity Sierra to satisfy debts. The ship is scheduled for a safety and security inspection this week. If it passes the Coast Guard could release the vessel. If the lawsuits get resolved, the ship will, yet again, roam the high seas.
Matyok knows the saga of the Trinity Sierra is far from over.
"They'll be back," he said.
ELPE wins oil exploration tender in Egypt
ELPE participated in this Bid Round as partner in a consortium consisting of Melrose Resources (40%) as operator, Oil Search (30%) and Hellenic Petroleum (30%). GANOPE has notified that the consortium is the successful bidder for the new exploration block Mesaha in Upper Egypt. The rights to the Mesaha concession area have been awarded to the consortium, subject to final Government approval and completion of documentation.
The Mesaha block is located in the south-west corner of the Western Desert in Upper Egypt on the border with Sudan and covers an area of 56,930 km2 .
Commenting on this, E. N. Christodoulou, ELPE Chairman of the Board of Directors, said:
Source: www.reporter.gr, 11:25 - 08 November 2006