Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 35 - 2007
Source: fairplay Daily News 30 Aug 2007
Cruise ships rerouted to avoid fires in Greece
---Cruise lines with ships calling in Greece this week are making changes to avoid the fires that have flared up across the country.
Cruisecritic.com reports that the Costa Serena, in the midst of a seven-night cruise of the Eastern Mediterranean, will head to Mykonos today instead of Katakolon -- a port town that's near one of the fires. Another Costa ship, the Mediterranea, will head to Corfu Wednesday instead of Katakolon. A spokesman for Carnival said the line is waiting to make a decision about the Carnival Freedom's upcoming call at Katakolon.
Katakolon is a gateway to the famed ruins of Olympia, a popular excursion for cruisers that has been threatened by fires this week. On Saturday the flames crept to within two miles of the ancient site, but Cruisecritic.com says the birthplace of the Olympics and its new museum appears to have been saved from destruction.
The fires across Greece are so massive that they're even affecting passengers on ships miles off the coast. United Kingdom's Express and Star reports today that passengers on the Ocean Village woke up this morning "swathed in clouds of rancid smoke" -- sparking fears the ship was on fire. The ship was nearly 10 miles off the coast at the time, the paper says.
Even ships that have gone ahead with port calls at Katakolon, such as Oceania's Nautica, which visited the port over the weekend, haven't been able to run tours to Olympia due to the fire danger, notes cruisecritic.
Posted at 08:25 AM/ET, August 28, 2007
Consolidation... Booming market alters profile of Greek Fleet
---After a significant reduction in the number of Greek shipowning companies between 1998 and 2005, research shows the trend may have halted, at least for the time being. In its annual study of the profile of the Greek fleet, Petrofin Research attributes the growth in Greek shipping companies to the booming market conditions.
Reporting this month that the 2007 research shows a total of 725 Greek-based ship operating companies, 32 more than in 2006, Petrofin says the reduction in the Greek owners between 1998 and 2005 "was attributed to the decline in competitiveness of the small owner, running very small overage fleets".
Petrofin comments: "Economies of scale, increased regulations, attitude of banks and the collective view of all market participants contributed to this overall consolidation process, achieved, in the context of a stronger Greek sector, in terms of number of vessels, age and especially dwt.
"With the good markets from 2003 onwards, owners, especially small ones, took advantage of the high ship prices for their overage units and continued selling or left the industry with some of them hoping to return when the market would correct itself. As the market continued to boom, however, interest in shipping exploded from shipping related and non-shipping related routes including the rapid development of interest by the public markets and private equity providers. In addition, some owners returned to shipping having given up with the 'wait and see' theory while a number of companies split up to different ownership positions depending on the varying strategies of each party.
"Last of all, there have been some new entrants to the market from non-shipping related areas, wishing to enjoy the potential profits of shipping."
Petrofin does include ships of all types, while the GSCC tends to disregard small special purpose, often very aged, vessels operating in Greek waters.
Petrofin shows the biggest increase in companies comes in the bracket running between one and four ships. Companies with 5-15 units are down percentage wise, while 16-24 vessel companies are hovering around the same levels as last year and there is also stability among the fleets of 25 and more ships.
An explanation for the relative diminution of the middle size categories may be due to the sale of ships by owners taking advantage of the prevailing high prices. This may also partly explain the growth of smaller group companies, as medium size companies drop to this group.
Due primarily to the delivery of newbuildings, the slowdown of scrapping and the almost frantic s&p activity, the actual number of ships in the Greek fleet has risen to 4,346, some 182 more ships of all types and size. "The number of vessels is climbing substantially as owners are chasing after as much tonnage as they can get their hands on," says Petrofin.
Petrofin says the most important development this year occurs in the area of fleet age, "whereby the average age of the entire Greek fleet, irrespective of type, tonnage or flag, is reduced to 18.71 years from 19.14 years in 2006 and 23 years in 2005" which Petrofin notes "reflects the influx of newbuildings, as well as the results of the rigorous replacement of older vessels with younger tonnage over the last two years".
However, Petrofin also points out that when looking at the fleet as a whole, it is the first year since 2001, there has been a rise in the overall number of the overage ships, with the concentration of older ships with smaller owner companies. Petrofin finds there are 741 ships over the age of 30 (645 in 2006) and 240 over the age of 40 (209). This rise of overage vessels reflects the need for tonnage that pushes aside the usual concerns over a ship's age. Overall, 34 overage fleets have been added to Greek shipping.
As a result of the selling spree, 10- to 14-year-old fleets have slightly gone and four very young fleets have been added to Greek ownership. This is in line with the overall trend of younger is better. All fleet sizes have gone up in that age range except for the 16-24 ship fleets which have stayed the same.
Ships of over 10,000dwt represent a total tonnage of 204,267,159, or 98% of the total Greek tonnage of 208,001,159dwt. Companies running ships of over 10,000dwt have gone up by 15, whereas since 2003 they had been declining. In all 13.21m dwt have been added to this tonnage range.
Source: www.newsfront.gr, 31 August 2007 Vol. 8 / No. 32
Greek newcomer books 12 panamaxes in India
---Newly established Greek company Avgi Maritime Services may have given Pipavav Shipyard of India its biggest order yet, worth up to $750m.
Sotiris Dushas, president and chief executive of Alba Maritime Services, which acts as agents for Avgi, confirms the company has booked 12 firm 75,000-dwt panamax bulkers at the yard and holds four options, which it intends to declare.
The ships are costing something under $47m each, says Dushas, and the company has the option to have the ships geared or can take them with ice-class 1B notation. Most of the bulkers will be delivered in 2010 and some in 2011.
Avgi has already lined up charters for about half the ships. Dushas says Korea Line Corp (KLC) has taken six vessels on 10-year charters but he declines to reveal the rates.
Charters for a further four ships for 10-year employment are expected to be finalised shortly with European interests but Dushas says that until the deal is inked, he cannot reveal the identity of the charterers.
Until recently, Dushas was chief executive of Anemi Maritime Services, which made a lucrative $1.1bn sale of 26 supramax-bulker newbuildings to US-listed Eagle Bulk Shipping last month.
With the sale of the supramaxes, Anemi as a company was also sold to Eagle to ease the takeover of the newbuilding contracts.
Some of the investors who were behind Anemi are also involved with Avgi and in other combinations also with Avra Maritime Services, which has a total of 12 capesize bulkers on order.
TradeWinds reported in July that Avra had booked three 180,000-dwt units at STX Shipbuilding for delivery by May 2001. It has also firmed up nine 180,000-dwt bulkers at Sungdong Shipyard all for delivery in 2010.
Dushas says that the dozen capesizes were booked for prices ranging from $82m to $87m each, depending on the time they were ordered, the specification and payment terms.
Following the pattern set by Anemi and Avgi, Avra has already sealed time charters for six of the capesize units to KLC, Hanjin Shipping and Glory Wealth for differing time periods and rates, which Dushas declines to disclose.
He says the company intends to charter a few more of the capesize bulkers, "probably 10 out of the 12".
By Gillian Whittaker, Athens, published: 31 August 2007
Analysts see clear sailing for shipping companies
---LONDON: Shipping companies are sailing through this month's turmoil in financial markets and shareholders are poised for annual returns above 20 percent.
Shipping rates as measured by the Baltic Dry Index climbed 9.6 percent since world stock markets started a decline on July 17. Record prices for hauling coal and bulk commodities are benefiting companies like Navios Maritime Holdings, Genco Shipping & Trading and DryShips.
Almost all the 6,600 ships available for hire are at sea, and the rising cost of credit threatens to stall financing of new vessels. Sales of raw materials to China will climb 25 percent this year, and may send profit up as much as sixfold at the Bermuda-based Golden Ocean Group, Compagnie Maritime Belge and Quintana Maritime of Greece. The stocks are cheap, when the prospects for earnings are compared with the broader stock market.
"When the dust settles, we could see these stocks moving up" by 20 percent by the end of the year, said Jonathan Chappell, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase in New York who recommends Navios, based in Piraeus, Greece, and Genco of New York.
"The underlying fundamentals couldn't be better," Chappell said. "Nobody is expecting a slowdown of demand."
The Bloomberg Dry Ships Index of 13 companies trades at 12 times earnings, compared with 16.9 times for the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index. The shipowners pay a dividend yield of 4.4 percent, more than twice the 1.9 percent of the S&P, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
"I've been involved in shipping 35 years, and I've never seen a market like this one," said Klaus Kjaerulff, chief executive of the Copenhagen-based A/S Torm D/S, which operates both oil tankers and commodity carriers. "If you take shipping as a barometer of the world economy, it seems like the future is optimistic."
Navios and DryShips, based in Athens, posted record second-quarter profits. Twelve of the industry's 13 biggest publicly traded shipowners reported second-quarter earnings more than doubled. Profit growth for the S&P 500 was 10.7 percent in the period.
A weakening U.S. economy will take "two to three months" to reduce demand in freight markets, said Andreas Vergottis, a director at Tufton Oceanic in London.
Orders for bulk carriers are close to their highest point ever. A total of 1,364 bulk carriers are on order, almost three times the level of a year ago.
Higher borrowing costs have already slowed ship financing. Precious Shipping, the biggest sea-transportation company in Thailand, scrapped a planned bond sale of as much as $1 billion on Aug. 16 as the subprime mortgage rout reduced investor demand for new securities. Thoresen Thai Agencies did the same four days later.
Rental income from so-called capesize carriers - bulk ships so large they have to circumnavigate the southern tips of Africa and South America rather than squeeze through the Suez and Panama canals - has climbed 77 percent to $118,521 a day since Jan. 22, according to the Baltic Exchange in London. Worldwide, 96 percent of commodity carriers were in use in August, 1 percentage point below the all-time peak in July, according to data from Laurentzen & Stemoco, based in Oslo.
China will import 616 million tons of iron ore and commodities by sea this year, compared with 490.6 million tons last year, according to estimates from Clarkson, the world's biggest shipbroker.
The decline of as much as 20 percent in the Bloomberg Dry Ships Index from its July 23 peak "is a real buying opportunity," said Natasha Boyden at Cantor Fitzgerald in New York. "There's a lot of fear in the market, and I think if anything, these companies are safe havens. They've gotten so cheap it's silly."
Goldman Sachs Group analysts led by Tom King in Hong Kong wrote this month that investors are underestimating the industry's profits. The firm said its favorite Asian shipping stocks - U-Ming Marine Transport, Pacific Pasin, Malaysian Bulk Carriers and Korea Line - will gain anywhere from 25 percent to 62 percent.
"What you have got to do is look at the trends of the world and ask, 'Am I a believer?' " said James Glickenhaus, a fund manager at Glickenhaus & Co. in New York, including shares of Eagle Bulk, Navios and Quintana. "I'm a believer that China will keep growing, India will keep growing, Russia will keep growing."
Todd Zeranski reported from New York.
Source: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/08/27/business/bxinvest.php, By Alaric Nightingale and Todd Zeranski Bloomberg NewsPublished: August 28, 2007
Marfin in shipping
---Marfin Financial Group confirmed that it has submitted a joint offer with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) for the acquisition of 87 percent of Turkish shipping company UN Ro-Ro Group. The Turkish firm is considered a leader in short-sea shipping within the Mediterranean. It owns seven vehicle-carriers and expects the delivery of another four.
Barry Parker Interviews the CFO of OceanFreight, Inc. (NASDAQ: OCNF)
---In an interview with Barry Parker of BDP1 Connect today, James Christodoulou, Chief Financial Officer of OceanFreight, Inc. (NASDAQ: OCNF), discussed the development of OceanFreight and the shipping markets.
The Interview is available through the Capital Link Shipping Website (where it will also remain archived under "Interviews") by clicking on the following link or copying and pasting it in your computer's browser: www.CapitalLinkShipping.com
About Barry Parker:
Barry Parker is a financial writer and analyst. His articles appear in a number of prominent maritime periodicals including Fairplay, Seatrade, Lloyds Shipping Economist and James Transport Finance.
About OceanFreight, Inc. (www.oceanfreightinc.com)
OceanFreight, Inc. was incorporated on September 11, 2006 and on April 30, 2007 closed its initial public offering. The Company maintains its headquarters in Athens, Greece, and also maintains an office in New York.
OceanFreight, Inc. currently owns and operates a fleet of 7 vessels, consisting of 1 Capesize and 6 Panamax bulk carriers. The company has also entered into an agreement to acquire one additional Panamax bulk carrier with delivery expected in November 2007. Once this acquisition is completed, OceanFreight's fleet of 8 vessels will have a dwt weighted average age of 12 years and a total carrying capacity of approximately 667,000 dwt.
OceanFreight's common shares trade on the NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol "OCNF."
Source: http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/marketwire/0292216.htm, August 27, 2007: 09:00 AM EST
Omega Navigation Enterprises, Inc. Reports Second Quarter 2007 Results
The Company had previously announced the declaration of its quarterly cash dividend with respect to the second quarter of 2007 of $0.50 per share payable on August 31, 2007 to stockholders of record on August 17, 2007.
Second Quarter 2007 Results
For the quarter ended June 30, 2007, Omega Navigation reported total revenues from continuing and discontinued operations of $18.0 million and Net Income of $3.8 million, or $0.25 per share. The Company booked an expense of $394 thousand, or $0.03 per share, related to the initial outfitting and other expenses associated with the delivery of the Omega Theodore, which the Company took delivery from the shipyard on April 26, 2007. Excluding these expenses, Net Income was $4.2 million or $0.28 per share. EBITDA from continuing and discontinued operations for the second quarter of 2007 was $12.1 million. Please see below for a reconciliation of EBITDA to Cash from Operating Activities.
Net Income included $953 thousand of revenues from profit sharing on charters of the vessels Omega Lady Sarah and Omega Theodore.
Discontinued operations refer to the operation of the two dry bulk carriers that the Company agreed to sell in September 2006 and delivered on schedule to their new owners in January 2007.
Since the inception of the charters of the product tankers through the second quarter of 2007 the Company has received $2.6 million of cash generated from profit sharing agreements, which are based on the actual trading results of the vessels. To date the Company has recorded income of $2.1 million (including $1.1 million booked in the first quarter of 2007). The Company expects to receive an additional $1.5 million in cash related to the profit sharing agreements and book to income an additional $2.0 million in subsequent quarters, for voyages performed through the second quarter of 2007.
Operating expenses in the second quarter of 2007 included $394 thousand related to the initial outfitting and delivery of the Omega Theodore, which, as mentioned above, was delivered to the Company from the shipyard on April 26, 2007. Excluding this amount, the Panamax product tankers averaged operating expenses of $4,568 per day per vessel in the second quarter of 2007 versus $4,471 per day per vessel in the second quarter of 2006. Operating expenses for the Handymax product tankers averaged $4,428 per day per vessel in the second quarter of 2007 versus $3,784 per day per vessel in the second quarter of 2006.
The Panamax product tankers operated for only 49 days in 2006 and the Handymax vessels operated for only 3 days in the second quarter of 2006, versus 521 and 182 days, respectively, in the second quarter of 2007.
Six Months 2007 Results
For the six months ended June 30, 2007, the Company recorded Net Income from continuing and discontinued operations of $6.5 million, or $0.43 per share, on total revenues of $32.3 million.
The Company owned and operated an average of 6.9 vessels in the first six months of 2007 versus an average of 2.3 vessels in the first six months of 2006.
Purchase & Delivery of Two Newbuilding Ice Class 1A Panamax Product Tankers
On March 27, 2007 and April 26, 2007 Omega Navigation took delivery from STX Shipbuilding Co., South Korea, of the Omega Emmanuel and the Omega Theodore, respectively, the two newbuilding Ice Class 1A Panamax double hull product tankers with a capacity of 73,000 dwt each, which the Company had previously agreed to acquire.
Prior to their delivery, the two newbuildings were secured on three year time charters at a daily rate of $25,500 per vessel with ST Shipping & Transport Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Glencore International AG. Both time charters include profit sharing arrangements on a quarterly basis, pursuant to which earnings from the vessels in excess of $25,500 per day will be divided equally between Omega Navigation and ST Shipping. This sharing ratio will be adjusted when the vessels trade in ice conditions, so that the profit sharing above the base rate of $25,500 per day between Omega Navigation and ST Shipping will be 65%/35%, respectively.
The acquisition of the Omega Emmanuel and the Omega Theodore at a price of $64.5 million each was funded by a combination of internally generated cash and commercial bank debt totaling $60 million. As announced, the balance was funded by $4.5 million of warrants issued to the seller of each vessel, which will convert into Omega Class A Common Shares no earlier than March 31, 2009, at a minimum price of $18 per share or 8% below the market trading price. The warrants will not be entitled to dividends, and have no voting rights.
Disposal of the Dry Bulk Carriers
During January 2007, Omega Navigation delivered its two dry bulk carriers to their new owners. With this delivery and the above mentioned acquisition of the two Panamax Ice Class 1A product carriers, Omega Navigation has fulfilled its strategic vision of becoming a pure play product tanker company.
In the first quarter of 2007 we delivered our dry bulk carrier fleet to their new owners thereby realizing our strategic vision of becoming a pure play product tanker company. In the first and second quarters 2007 we took delivery of two Ice Class 1A Panamax product tankers expanding our fleet to eight vessels. These acquisitions enable us to establish a presence in the ice class niche market, which we believe has significant upside potential, and enhance the versatility and commercial flexibility of our fleet.
As mentioned above, we have also contracted for five newbuilding product carriers from a very reputable shipyard in South Korea. We believe we have contracted these vessels for very favorable prices and payment terms. This newbuilding order shows our continued to commitment to the product tanker sector, which we believe has extremely strong fundamentals going forward.
Consistent with our strategy of seeking predictable and stable cash flows through the long term employment of our vessels, all of our vessels are under three year time charters with established charterers pursuant to which we have secured 100% of our operating days for 2007 and 2008 and 63% in 2009. The charters on the vessels delivered to us in March and April of this year extend to 2010. The fact that six of our eight product tankers have profit sharing arrangements enables us to share into the upside of the market and thereby help to maximize the return for our shareholders.
Finally, we continued with our stable dividend policy, declaring our fifth consecutive quarterly dividend of $ 0.50 per common share.
Omega Navigation intends to declare and pay quarterly dividends to shareholders in amounts that are substantially equal to the available cash from operations during the previous quarter after cash expenses, debt amortization and discretionary reserves.
As of June 30, 2007, the Company had a debt to book capitalization ratio of 60%. This level of leverage has allowed the Company to drawdown its revolving credit facility to partially finance the acquisition of its eighth product tanker, the newbuilding vessel Omega Theodore, which was delivered to the Company on April 26, 2007.
Fleet Data, Profile and Employment, Financial statements, etc, are available at: http://www.omeganavigation.com/press2.html?relid=47313
Impressive results recorded by Piraeus Port for six-month period
Thursday, 30.08.2007, 12:25am (GMT), http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/index.html
Responding to the national tragedy that has burst upon Hellas the recent days, with fires claiming the lives of 65 people, the Piraeus Port Authority has granted a donation of 200,000 euros.
Source: Press Releases, http://www.omeganavigation.com/press2.html?relid=47313
Key Witness Wavers In Deep-sea Pollution Trial
---The federal trial against a Greek shipping company accused of illegal dumping slipped into murky waters Tuesday, as a key government witness struggled to explain his reasons for testifying in the case.
Dario Calubega (pictured in a sketch at the top of this story), is the third Filipino to testify against Ionia Management S.A., a Greek shipping company charged with criminal conspiracy and numerous counts of deep-sea pollution. The trial opened last Wednesday at the federal courthouse on Church Street in New Haven -- click here and here for prior coverage.
Calubega, along with seven other Filipino sailors, was detained in New Haven last March when a crew-member aboard their tanker, the M/T Kriton alerted the US Coast Guard to alleged illegal activity onboard. He took to the witness stand Tuesday, testifying that the tanker's chief engineer had instructed him to lie to Coast Guard investigators.
"When I opened the door of the TV room [onboard the Kriton], the Chief Engineer was there...he was standing there in front of the TV," Calubega said.
"He told me 'if the Coast Guard asks any questions, say only Oily Water Separator," Calubega added, referring to the allegedly unused pollution-control equipment aboard the M/T Kriton.
Two other sailors have already testified in the trial against Ionia, but neither have directly implicated the tanker's Chief Engineer, Petros Renieres. Calubega's testimony was the first to involve Renieres--an important element in the government's case, as it would prove that Renieres, who was responsible for recording the Kriton's oil discharges, had falsified the tanker's records to mislead Coast Guard investigators.
However, Calubega struggled lengthily to describe exactly what had transpired during his conversation with Renieres when defense attorneys asked him to repeat it in English for the jury. And Ionia defense counsel George Chalos pointed out that the words "bypass hose" or "magic hose"--the rubber tube allegedly used to dump the waste oil overboard--were never mentioned during the alleged conversation.
"In fact," Chalos said, "you never talked to the Chief Engineer because the Chief Engineer would never speak to the lowliest worker in the engine-room, would he?"
"Yes, he talked to me," replied Calubega.
During cross-examination, Chalos focused on the fact that Calubega, an engine cadet aboard the Kriton, had failed to mention the conversation when he testified in his testimony in front of a Grand Jury last April.
Calubega, whose slow, deliberate efforts to answer questions delayed the trial by nearly an entire day, said he had forgotten to mention the conversation because he was "confused and afraid."
Chalos was not convinced.
Calubega, he insisted, had only 'remembered' the conversation after he met with US Assistant District Attorney Bill Brown earlier this year. The allegations of illegal dumping, he suggested, were lies concocted by low-ranking crew-members who had hoped to strike back at their direct superior, Second Engineer Edgardo Mercurio, for his abusive behavior in the Kriton's engine room. In addition, the crew had only agreed to appear in court because they expected to receive reward money for their testimony, Chalos said.
At the end of the day, both parties said they expected to wrap up their cases by Thursday.
Source: by Nick Vinocur | August 29, 2007 10:21 AM http://www.newhavenindependent.org/archives/2007/08/key_witness_wav.php
Engineer Pressed In Dumping Case
---As the government wrapped up its case against a Greek shipping company in New Haven federal court, defense attorneys rallied to try to discredit the testimonies of the last three witnesses to appear in the trial.
The defensive tactic was deployed at the federal courthouse in New Haven on Thursday, the seventh day of a federal trial against the Greek shipping company Ionia Management S.A. Attorneys for both parties said they were ready to offer closing arguments.
For the past ten days, Ionia has been battling allegations that crew-members aboard one of its ships, the tanker M/T Kriton, routinely pumped waste oil overboard using a "magic hose" to bypass pollution-control equipment onboard. The tanker's second engineer, who is also charged in connection with the pollution violations, pleaded guilty to the charges last July after reaching a plea agreement with the U.S. District Attorney's office.
In his testimony Thursday, Second Engineer Edgardo Mercurio (pictured at the top of this story) said he had agreed to cooperate with the government when he realized the severity of the charges against him.
After lying to Coast Guard investigators about the existence of a "magic hose" during several interviews onboard the Kriton, Mercurio said he decided to tell the truth in exchange for a plea agreement with the government. As a result, ten felony counts were erased from Mercurio's indictment, and a $250,000 fine was waived.
Now, Mercurio faces six months in prison for his role in the illegal dumping, and for instructing crew-members to lie to the Coast guard. He may be eligible for probation if US District Judge Janet Bond Arterton agrees to it.
During cross-examination, defense attorney George Chalos questioned Mercurio's motivation for testifying against Ionia Management, suggesting that he had changed his story in order to obtain the sentence reduction.
"That's an awful big motivation for you to embellish your story here, isn't it," Chalos asked, referring to the plea agreement.
"I'm just trying to tell the truth," answered Mercurio.
Chalos argued that Mercurio should be held personally responsible for all the illegal discharges made under his watch, as Ionia had offered him training on how to avoid deep-sea pollution. But Mercurio insisted that he "could not have done it if [he] wasn't instructed to."
The government then rolled out Dr. James Galt, an expert in ocean surface patterns who has been testifying in court on behalf of the government for the past 30 years. Prosecutors asked him to interpret an aerial photograph taken from a Dutch Transport Ministry aircraft that allegedly showed the M/T Kriton trailing an oil slick across the North Sea.
The image projected in the courtroom showed an irregular gray expanse -- the North Sea -- streaked with a line of darker gray.
The dark streak was clearly an oil slick, Galt said.
Chalos disagreed with his assessment, arguing that Dr. Galt had arrived at his conclusion without taking all pertinent information into account.
"Are you familiar with the make and model of the Dutch machine used to take this picture?" Chalos asked.
"No, but I've worked with similar machines in the U.S., and they are identical in structure," Galt answered.
Chalos countered that severe wind conditions on the North Sea would have rendered the aerial-imaging equipment unreliable. Furthermore, he said, it was impossible to identify the M/T Kriton from the image.
Finally, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Brown called a Coast Guard officer to the stand to testify about an inspection of the M/T Kriton that took place in New York in January of 2006.
At the time, inspectors had found that a piece of pipe near an opening in the bulkhead was missing. But the finding had not caused much alarm among the inspectors; they issued a report and ordered the Kriton to have the part replaced before leaving the port.
Lt. Craig Toomey, who was part of the team that boarded the tanker, said engine room workers had told him that removing the piece of piping before entering a harbor was "standard ship procedure." Nonetheless, he found the practice to be "unusual" and indicated in his report that it may have been intended to cover up a discharge mechanism.
Chalos asked Toomey if he found Kriton had been in breach of any maritime laws.
"No," came the answer.
Source: by Nick Vinocur | August 31, 2007 10:41 AM | http://www.newhavenindependent.org/archives/2007/08/as_the_governme.php
Greek shipping company fined $8,500 for failure to have oil spill readiness plan
---OLYMPIA - The Department of Ecology (Ecology) has levied an $8,500 fine to the Greek shipping firm Marmaras Navigation Co. Ltd. for operating a cargo vessel in Washington waters without a state-approved oil spill readiness plan.
The penalty against Marmaras Navigation marks the first time Ecology has levied a fine under its new oil spill contingency plan rule adopted in October 2006.
Ecology requires that cargo and passenger ships, tank vessels, oil storage facilities and pipeline companies demonstrate that they can mount an effective, timely response if they spill oil.
Under the rule, the vessel must either have their own approved spill readiness plan or be enrolled in one of the two non-profit organizations with approved plans that cover vessels in Washington.
A spill contingency plan assures that if a regulated vessel or facility spills oil, the company has identified its cleanup contractors, knows where response equipment is located, possesses the financial means to launch a cleanup, and knows how to make timely and proper notification to state and federal response authorities if a spill occurs.
Ecology discovered that the Marmaras Navigation ship, M/V Theodoros P, entered Washington waters on May 26 without a spill readiness plan. On May 30, Ecology issued an administrative order requiring the Theodoros P to have contingency plan coverage.
The next day, the company paid to enroll under a state-approved blanket readiness plan operated by the Seattle-based Washington State Maritime Cooperative.
Linda Pilkey-Jarvis oversees statewide oil spill preparedness activities for Ecology. She said the fine was based on the five days the ship was in Washington waters without coverage.
Ecology could have levied a fine up to $100,000 a day.
"Preventing spills is our highest priority, and we expect the same from the vessels that we regulate," Pilkey-Jarvis said. "But if a spill occurs, shipping companies must be ready to respond quickly and effectively. Puget Sound and all Washington waters deserve that level of vigilance."
The majority of vessels entering Puget Sound enroll with the Maritime Cooperative. In exchange for a per-trip fee the non-profit organization will manage the spill response for a vessel during the first 24 hours of the incident, including providing a spill response contractor.
A similar organization, the Maritime Fire and Safety Association, provides comparable coverage for vessels operating in the Columbia River.
Marmaras Navigation may apply to Ecology for a penalty reduction or appeal the penalty to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.
# # #
Media contacts: Curt Hart, media relations, 360-407-6990; cell, 360-480-7908
Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, oil spill preparedness manager, 360-407-4774
For more information: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/preparedness/cplan/cplans.html
Source: Department of Ecology News Release - August 29, 2007, http://www.ecy.wa.gov/news/2007news/2007-248.html
Greek shipyard workers host art exhibit
The artists approached the metalworkers union at the Perama shipyard near the port of Pireas, adjoining Athens, and initiated a project whereby they began visiting the yard on a regular basis to witness the harsh conditions under which the workers there labor.
They had chosen the shipyard because the workers there, who build and repair large seafaring vessels, are subject to some of the sharpest forms of exploitation in the country. They also selected the yard because the workers are represented by one of the most militant labor organizations in Greece, the 7,000-member-strong metalworkers union.
In 2005, the union held a monthlong strike. With the support and mass mobilization of all the trades, it won a strong collective bargaining agreement that set a new standard for Greek unions.
Despite that victory, the workers still face great hardships. The artists learned just how difficult it still is for the shipyard workers to make a living and raise a family.
Accidents are frequent, as even the most minimal safety requirements are not enforced. Two workers were killed in an explosion in July, bringing the total death toll at Perama since 2000 up to 15.
While the shipyard at Perama was once the hub of the shipbuilding/repair industry in Athens, cranes now stand rusty from disuse. Greek shipowners have been gradually contracting out shipbuilding to China and South Korea, and ship repairs now typically get done in Eastern Europe.
While there are orders for 300 new ships to be built, very few will be built by Greek workers. Unemployment has skyrocketed, at almost 60 percent, putting even more pressure on shipyard workers to accept the terms and conditions demanded by the shipowners.
The remarkable thing about the exhibit is that the pieces of art are completely melded into the shipbuilding environment. Metalworking machines display paintings, welding machines become human faces, cranes support sculptures.
The artists and the union working together demonstrated how art belongs to all the people and what an important role it can play in daily life.
This year, three shipyard workers participated in the exhibit by contributing a painting, photographs and sculpture. Next year, an art studio will be established at the shipyard where artists and workers can work together to produce art by and for the people.
Source: Author: Laura Petricola, People's Weekly World Newspaper, 08/30/07 16:25, http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/11647/1/388