Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 10 - 2007

 

Hellenic Ministry of Shipping and IMO sign MoU

---09/03/07: A new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Hellenic Ministry of Mercantile Shipping, in order for both parties to better assess the effectiveness in implementing International Maritime Treaties. The MoU will extend to the areas of protection of human life at seas, the improvement of security ratings, the prevention of sea pollution accidents caused by vessels, the protection of the environment and rescuing researches.
Hellas is therefore one of the countries that voluntarily participate in the first phase of the Inspection System of the country-members of the IMO. An inspection is due to take place this May by a dedicated IMO unit in all respective agencies of the Hellenic Ministry of Mercantile Shipping.
Source: http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com, Nikos Skenderoglou, Hellenic Shipping News


Greek is chic, suddenly
---EVIDENCE IS emerging of a resurgence in Greek shipping, with fleet size up and average age down.
Having been lobbying Athens for more than a decade to reduce the mandatory number of Greek crew required under flag rules, Greek owners are finally seeing some reward for the effort.
Epaminondas Embiricos, chairman of the London-based Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee, stated that the measures were extremely important because they assured a strong Greek-flag fleet, which would ensure the availability of Greek officers to staff both the fleet and offices in the future.
His counterpart at the Union of Greek Shipowners, Nicos Efthymiou, spoke of a realistic policy by the government that would strengthen the flag. Both called on colleagues to support the flag.
The new rules require 4-6 Greeks or Europeans, depending on ship size, in the crew complements of a Greek-flag ship, half of the previous requirement.
So far, those who have gone on the record with a pledge for substantial contribution to the register include Spyros Polemis of Remi Maritime, Theodore Veniamis of Golden Union Shipping, Nicos Tsakos of TEN and Constantinos Angelopoulos of Arcadia Shipmanagement.
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High spots for the Greek-owned fleet
From March 2006 to last month, Greeks had a record increase of 302 ships, exceeding 1,000gt and 28M dwt.
Greeks control 3,699 vessels of 218.1M dwt
612 ships were on order on behalf of Greeks in February 2007, against 364 ships in March 2006
Greek orders account for 9.2% of the current orderbook
Source: www.fairplay.co.uk, Newswatch, Fairplay International Shipping Weekly, 08 Mar 2007


Consolidation imperative in competitive ferry sector
---The degree of competition in the Greek coastal passengership network is higher than in many other European markets, especially those in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and Mediterranean. Despite the Greek market's peculiar character with its multitude of islands and high degree of support on secondary routes, competition is keen on mainline services.
In fact, despite what the players in the marketplace, and the critics in Brussels say, the level of competition is far higher in Greece than it is in equivalent European markets, contends a study by XRTC Business Consultants, the shipping Piraeus-based consultant to France's Natixis Banques Populaires Bank.
George Xiradakis, eco of XRTC, and prime author of the study: Competition in the European Coastal Shipping Market: Is Greece any different from the rest of Europe? contends the competition is such in the Greek waters that where two or more companies are operating on routes, there is a need for the number to be reduced.
"In the Greek ferry market, where high levels of competition appear, the need for merger and acquisitions appears imperative," says the report. And this process is already underway, with XRTC saying, "a new wave of consolidation is expected to take place in the near future".
XRTC says: "This will significantly help the improvement of the sector in terms of quality of service offered to clients as well as pricing policies since the consumer, which in this case is the passenger, will ultimately enjoy the operators' economies of scale."
Looking at the 18 main itineraries in Greece, there is competition on 13 of them. In other words, on 72% of the routes, the passenger has a choice of company. These itineraries service the regions of the Cyclades, North Aegean, Crete and the Dodecannese and have as departing ports, Piraeus, Lavrion and Rafina.
Looking at the Baltic, XRTC concludes that a route-by-route analysis shows that about nine in every 10 coastal route is served by just one company. In the North Sea, there are 81 companies operating on 182 routes. On 171 of these routes, 94%, XRTC says there is only one company operating, while on the remaining 11 routes two or more companies are involved.
Looking at the Mediterranean markets, Greece, South of France and Spain, which are similar, competition exists in the markets, though in most of them a single company provides services. In the case of Greece the percentage is a high 82% compared to 68% and 67% in France and Spain respectively. XRTC notes this difference is because of the large number of state subsidised itineraries in Greece, which can be nothing but monopolies.
However, the Greek ferry operator's managerial philosophy dictates he deploy his ships in a single itinerary, whereas the majority of operators in South France and Spain operate in at least two. XRTC puts this down to the relative small size of the Greek company, the government's intervention until just recently, and the presence of the subsidised services.
The study says the European ferry market is in the process of maturing generally, and mergers and acquisitions among ferry operators serving European markets will happen "as they have in other modes of transport in Europe".
XRTC says the subsidies scheme in the Greek market is necessary, but needs "continuous strategic planning" which must be "based on the needs of the islands' population and local economies". Indeed, XRTC says the continuous growth of the ferry industry and the parallel increase in users' needs are expected to lead to a gradual increase in the budget for subsidies, which will require a more rational utilisation of the available resources.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 9 March 2007 Vol. 8 / No. 9


Greek seas conducive to competition
---Coastal shipping in Greece is developing into a highly competitive market, despite its peculiar character with a multitude of islands, compared with similar markets in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and several Mediterranean markets.
In the Baltic Sea there are 34 geographical domains, where 71 companies are involved in 169 routes. In 32 percent of domains there is only one company active, in 26 percent there are two and in 42 percent there are three or more companies operating.
However, the route-by-route analysis of the Baltic shows that about nine in every 10 coastal shipping routes are served by just one firm. This means that out of the 169 routes in the Baltic, only five (3 percent) have three or more companies operating, and eight routes (5 percent) are served by two companies. Furthermore, just over one in two companies (53 percent) avoid operating on more than one route. In absolute numbers this translates into 38 companies.
North Sea
In the North Sea there are 20 geographical domains with 81 companies operating on 182 routes. In 15 percent of domains there is only one company operating, in 25 percent there are two, and in the remaining 60 percent there are three or more companies involved. On 171 routes (94 percent) there is only one company operating, while the remaining 11 routes have competition with two or more companies involved. Some 59 percent of companies serve just one route.
In the Mediterranean, there are 37 geographical domains with 131 companies involved in as many as 354 routes. While 37 percent of the domains are served by just one company and 11 percent by two companies, 57 percent has three or more companies operating. On 81 percent of routes there is only one company operating, with 19 percent having two or more competitors. Most coastal shipping companies in the Mediterranean opt for a variety in their route strategy, as 55 percent serve two or more routes.
Comparison of the three markets shows that the Mediterranean has the greatest competition features. The variety of options for passengers is greater both in terms of geographical domains and of routes. In the Mediterranean 19 percent of routes are served by two or more companies, against just 8 and 6 percent in the Baltic and the North Sea respectively.
Diversification of routes is another characteristic in the Mediterranean, as 55 percent of operators serve more than one route, against 47 and 41 percent in the Baltic and the North Sea respectively.
The Greek market
From the 18 routes which concern the bulk of passenger and vehicle traffic, there are 13 (72 percent) with at least two companies serving them. These routes cover the Cyclades, the northern Aegean, Crete and the Dodecanese, departing from the ports of Piraeus, Lavrion and Rafina.
Source: By Nikos Bardounias - Kathimerini, http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/news/content.asp?aid=80931


Busy Korean shipyard launches tanker for Greek firm
---According to INP Heavy Industries' website, they launched the 13,000 DT chemical/oil tanker NEGOTIATOR on the 3rd March 2007.
The vessel is being constructed for Greek shipping firm Evalend Shipping, which traditionally has been a dry bulk concern but it is understood they are moving heavily into the chemical tanker market.
INP Heavy is located in Ulsan and is one of South Korea's smaller shipyards that are benefiting from a boom in mid-size tanker construction. The shipyard has orders both from Evalend and Lauritzen Kosan as well as local tanker company Sekwang Shipping which placed an order for four chemical tankers in January with the yard.
INP's building berths are now full with an orderbook total of 41 vessels which will keep the shipyard busy until the end of 2009.
Source: http://www.shippingtimes.co.uk/item275_inp_negotiator.htm


Shipping company indicted after Jacksonville inspection
---A Greek shipping company and one of its crew members have been charged in a three-count indictment related to a Coast Guard inspection in Jacksonville.
Kassian Maritime Navigation Agency Ltd. and Spyridon Markou, a crew member of the M/V North Princess, were named in the indictment, which was handed down Thursday.
The M/V North Princess, an ocean-going cargo ship, arrived in Jacksonville in November. An inspection by the Coast Guard revealed that the ship had improperly disposed of waste oil and did not keep proper records, and that Markou provided false information to the Coast Guard.
Kassian Maritime faces a fine of up to $500,000 and other possible penalties, while Markou faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for an obstruction of justice charge.
Source: http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/stories/2007/03/05/daily29.html, Jacksonville Business Journal - 10:44 AM EST Friday, March 9, 2007


Aegean Marine Petroleum Network: Fuel for Your Portfolio
---Hilary Kramer (AOL Money and Finance) submits: If you're operating an ocean-going or coastal ship and need to refuel, Aegean Marine Petroleum Network Inc. (NYSE: ANW) may be able to help you out. This Greek company supplies fuel and lubricants for marine vessels, and performs refueling at sea. It owns a fleet of tankers to service its customers, which include the U.S. Navy and commercial ship owners, as well as fuel brokers. Its service centers are located in Greece, Gibraltar, the United Arab Emirates and Jamaica, which allow it to service ships across the Atlantic.
ANW just went public in December, with an IPO price of $14. It got as high as $17 at the end of January but dropped back after that, and is now trading just above $15. I think this is a company with a very bright future, and I think it's a strong buy right now.
ANW's revenues have been climbing steadily since 2004; operating income in 2005 was 25% higher than it was in 2004, and it was up 30% again in 2006. The growth in net income for 2006 was a bit lower at 15.5%, but those are still solid numbers for a growing company. Indeed, revenues in 2006 were up 55% over 2005, and as the company adjusts to its growth, I think we'll see the profits grow even more.
In addition, the proceeds from the IPO have given ANW significantly more capital to invest in its growth -- an essential factor in a capital-intensive business like this one. I expect to see it opening more service centers, ideally in the Pacific, to expand its reach. As countries like America continue to outsource more and more production, ocean shipping will become increasingly valuable, and ANW's services will only be in growing demand in the coming years.
Type of stock: A rapidly growing marine-refueling business that has just gone public and offers great potential for growth.
Price target: I'd buy this now while it's still in the mid-teens. I think this one is only going up over the next few years.
Source: Posted on Mar 8th, 2007 with stocks: ANW, http://energy.seekingalpha.com/article/29005


Aries in charter agreement with MSC
---Aries Maritime Transport Limited today announced that it has entered into a period charter with MSC, the second largest container shipping line in the world, for the SCI Tej, a 1989-built container vessel now named the MSC Oslo, following the completion of repairs and preventative maintenance work. The time charter is expected to commence by March 10, 2007, for a period of 24 months at a net rate of US$15,000 per day.
The Company also announced that the Arius, a 1986-built double hulled products tanker, has entered into its second 6-month charter period with ST Shipping (an affiliate of Glencore). Following receipt of two oil major approvals for the Arius, the new minimum net rate for the extended charter is US$18,037.50 per day. The time charter also includes a profit sharing component with a 50 percent share for Aries based on the actual trading of the vessel. The charterer has the option to extend the time charter, which originally commenced on August 1, 2006, for up to a total of 18 months.
Mons S. Bolin, President and Chief Executive Officer, said, "We are pleased to return our entire fleet to service upon entering into a long-term period charter for the MSC Oslo. Our new charter for this vessel follows our extended charter for the Arius, which continues to earn profits well above and beyond the charter hire level. Both of these agreements are consistent with our strategy to secure all of our vessels on profitable period charters. As we continue to strengthen our time charter coverage with leading international charterers, we expect to further improve our revenue and earnings visibility for the benefit of our shareholders."
Source: 9 March 2007, http://www.shippingtimes.co.uk/item305_ARIES.htm


Livanos's perfectly timed takeover leaves Italians kicking themselves
---Greek shipowner Peter Livanos is among the biggest winners in the ongoing bulker boom.
Estimates that he has likely benefited to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars are not unreasonable.
His decision to move into dry bulk has likely been one of the best-timed deals of the boom.
It was in the summer 2003, before anyone had an inkling that the biggest boom in shipping history was about to take off, that Livanos agreed to buy what was then Italy's biggest bulker fleet, owned by Coeclerici.
The ships changed hands in deals estimated to be in the region of EUR 260m ($341m) a figure that today might net three or four modern capesizes.
Instead, the Italian owner parted with its entire fleet of around 16 capesize and panamax bulkers, not to mention lucrative purchase options on a number of time-chartered vessels and the pool-operating companies.
The Italians have goneon record admitting that they would have doubled their money if they had waited a year.
That would seem to be an understatement today, with a five-year-old panamax and capesize now worth $48.6m and $85m, respectively, as compared with $19.1m and $33.3m in September 2003.
The main beneficiary was Livanos, through his dry-bulk company DryLog, but he was not alone. A number of partners also hold stakes in the fleet he acquired, the most important being steel maker Mittal.
Just how lucrative Livanos's move into dry bulk could be seen more or less immediately.
A few months after purchasing the ships, he was selling them on at massive profits. For example, the 170,000-dwt capesizes Bulk Asia and Bulk Europe (both built 2001) went to Vogemann of Germany at a profit of $18.4m each.
At the same time, Livanos was acquiring more potentially lucrative contracts through a number of bulkers taken on time charter.
For example, DryLog holds a 35% stake in CCBC, a joint venture with Coeclerici, that was scheduled to take delivery of around 16 panamaxes and capesizes on period charter by the end of last year.
It is a safe bet that in the current climate the purchase options on these ships will be exercised or sold on.
Livanos's organisation gives no details of its windfall profits over the past three-and-a-half years but it is likely that DryLog's $73m profit on from the sale of bulkers in 2004 is only the tip of the iceberg.
The company also has a revenue stream coming from bulkers tucked away on long-term time charters that are under management by CTM of Monte Carlo, which Livanos also bought from Coeclerici. CTM manages around 45 capesizes and 40 panamaxes.
All this points to Livanos having pulled off one of the most juicy deals in recent shipping history, leaving the unfortunate Italians ruing what might have been.
By Ian Lewis Genoa, published: 09 March 2007
Source: www.tradewinds.no


Spotlight on Oceanaut
---Hiring a Personal Shopper
We commented a couple weeks ago on the initial public offering of Oceanaut, a blank check company sponsored by Excel Maritime and its key employees. With the deal successfully completed with a total capital raise of $161 million on Tuesday, we thought it might be worth taking a closer look at the transaction.
do a larger deal with a lower cost of capital
The company sold 18.75 million units, consisting of one share of common stock and one warrant to purchase one share of common stock at an exercise price of $6, for a price per unit of $8.00 in order to raise $150 million for the purposes of making a yet to be determined investment in the maritime industry. The warrants, unlike most SPACs are exercisable upon completion of an initial business combination or one year from the date of the prospectus. When closed, the company then has 18 months to find and consummate an acquisition, which period can be extended to 24 months if a letter of intent has been signed within the 18 month period but the deal has not yet been executed.
In addition to the typical risks of a blank check company, this offering is not being conducted in compliance with Rule 419 of the Securities Act of 1933. The main difference is that the units are immediately tradable and the company will have a longer period of time to complete a business combination in certain circumstances.
Also unlike other SPACs, the company can consummate the initial business combination if (i) the majority of the shares of common stock voted by the public shareholders are voted in favor of the business combination and (ii) public shareholders owning 30% or more of the shares sold in the offering do not vote against the combination and exercise their conversion rights. Allowing a conversion threshold of 29.99% versus the more typical 20% of the shareholders makes it easier on one hand to consummate the transaction in terms of consent but on the other hand may leave it short of funds to consummate the most desirable business combination or optimize its capital structure.
The warrants themselves raise certain issues. There is a substantial warrant overhang on the basis of 24.875 million warrants versus 24.562 million shares outstanding. So normally if the deal is successful there will be a substantial inflow of cash to the company at the expense of dilution that will be shared pro rata. However, in this instance, the 5 million founding and private placement warrants issued to Excel are exercisable on a cashless basis allowing the holder to convert the value (fair market value of the stock less the exercise price) into common shares. This is not the case with respect to the public warrants.
As a consequence of the major shareholding by Excel and its officers and directors, the company has entered into a business opportunity right of first refusal agreement to minimize conflicts. Under the terms of this agreement, Oceanaut will have the first opportunity to consider investment opportunities outside of the dry bulk sector whereas Excel will have the first opportunity to look at transactions within the dry bulk sector. Decisions to release opportunities to Excel have to be approved by a majority of the independent directors of the company.
Citigroup and Maxim earn underwriting commissions of $10.5 million or 7% of the offering however of that amount $4.5 million or 3% is deferred and paid upon consummation of business combination as a success fee otherwise it is distributed upon liquidation pro rata among the public shareholders and Excel to the extent of 625,000 shares.
Source: 8 March 2007, http://www.marinemoney.com/freshlyminted/PDFFiles/2007/FreshlyMinted-Current.pdf


---High-profile Greek operator will face down looming US lawsuit danger, writes Nigel Lowry in Athens - Friday 9 March 2007
AS IT reported a sharp drop in profits for 2006, Athens based TOP Tankers has said it will fight an expected class action by a number of disgruntled investors that is said to have been triggered after the company was forced to restate interim finances last year.
The suit alleged violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, while certain executives also faced a derivative suit seeking damages for alleged breaches of fiduciary duties and violating the Exchange Act, it said.
According to the statement, TOP Tankers has not so far been served in either action.
Last December the company announced it had restated its interim financial statements for the first and second quarters of 2006.
Results for 2005 and the second part of last year are said to be unaffected.
TOP Tankers paid a hefty $7.50 per share dividend to shareholders following the $550m sale and leaseback programme.
Voyage revenues climbed from $244m in 2005 to $310m last year.
But charter expenses soared to $96m for the year, and voyage and operating expenses also appreciated significantly.
The Athens based suezmax and handymax operator remained comfortably in the black with net income of $15.1m, though this represented a slump from a net profit of 68.7m the previous year.
Meanwhile Mr Pistiolis said an order for six newbuilding handymax tankers placed late last year was a coup due to early delivery dates in the first and second quarters of 2009.
Management said last year it had 60% concluded a $50m upgrading programme on its fleet, which entailed dry docking nine vessels last year.
Source: www.lloydslist.com,