Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 19 - 2008
> The Board of Directors of Blue Star Maritime has accepted the resignation of executive board member, Michael Gialouris and replaced him with Nikolaos Tapiris. Other changes were made and the board is now: Charalambos S. Paschalis, chairman, non-executive member; and executive members: Petros M. Vettas, vice chairman; Michael G Sakellis, md; Spiros Ch. Paschalis, authorised director; Nikolaos I. Tapiris, Yannis B. Criticos and Antony D. Stintzis; and as independent, non-executive members: George N. Karistinos and Alexander Th. Edipidis.
> The long awaited Greek-based P&I club is to be launched end-May. The Hellenic Mutual P&I and War Risks Association will initially be chaired by Nick Velliades of Aigaion Insurance, the driving force behind the club, though at present little is being said about the make-up of the club's board, nor the extent of the cover the club will offer. There has long been an interest in a Greek P&I club, with Hellenic Chamber of Shipping (HCS) president George Gratsos among those to have promoted the idea. With Greek owners having a strong relationship with the established members of the International Group (IG) of P&I clubs, the Hellenic Club will be touting the smaller fleets.
> Greek services provider Alshic Holdings SA is now supplying bunkers at the Pakistani ports of Karachi, Bin Qasim and Gwadar. Alshic director Mohammed Douas says the firm's entry into the Pakistani marine fuel market through its bunkering arm, Alshic Bunkers, was "a natural progression in our long-term expansion plans". He said it would "complement and service our existing portfolio of clients in our specialised areas of trade."
Alshic Holdings already acts as a shipping agent in Pakistan, and offers marketing, trading and physical supply services in 16 other countries. In Pakistan, it is supplying the four main grades of bunker fuel as well as lubricants and is reviewing plans to expand its four barge fleet.
Source: Issue nr. 18 (9 May 2008) of Newsfront Greek Shipping Intelligence newsletter. www.newsfront.gr
Coastal shipowners demand additional liberalization
Coastal shipping companies are pressing for a further modernization of the institutional framework for the industry and full harmonization with European rules.
They also want to start talks with the ministries of Economy and Merchant Marine on issues such as the abolition of third-party levies, the reduction of state intervention and the end of certain labor regulations that they deem obsolete.
Coastal shippers maintain that third-party levies increase fare prices by up to 25 percent and distort competition. Were this demand to be satisfied, they say, they would even proceed to fare reductions, as they have previously promised. They also want the state to stop intervening and regulating, instead assuming a purely coordinating role.
Their argument is that services would have been much improved if European Regulation 3577/92 had been implemented and steps toward liberalization taken at the right time.
Employee association representatives responded to questions about possible changes to labor relations, saying that they will not accept modifications based on the desires of companies under any circumstances.
Shipowners recognize that some progress toward liberalization has been made and this is why islands are now better served by new and modern ships. They add that the existing fleet is the most modern in Europe and offers a reliable service with a wide range of itineraries.
Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis is holding a meeting today with the President of the Athens Stock Exchange, Spyros Kapralos, and the President of the Association of Mediterranean Cargo Ship Owners, Nikos Varvates, regarding the growth of shipping companies through listing on the Greek bourse.
Cosco and Hutchinson bid for Port of Piraeus
---Saturday, 10 May 2008
As one of the world's Top 10 shipping companies, COSCO has set eyes on the development of container terminals and studied the terminal investment strategy since the 1980s, while gradually taking a role in terminal investment. To meet the changes of the global shipping market and requirements of self-development, COSCO has attached more and more importance to the operation of terminal business. Today's terminal business is an important component of the global transport strategy of integration and multi-function.
At present, COSCO has 34 dock berths in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Qingdao, Shenzhen, the US and Italy, with annual throughput up to over 13 million containers. According to the prestigious Drewry Shipping Consultants's latest ranking of global terminal operators, COSCO is the 8th largest container terminal operator in the world.
HIT's container terminal operations were established in 1969 by the Hongkong and Whampoa Dock Company (HWD) - Hong Kong's first registered limited company with roots dating back to the mid-19th century. A major ship construction and repair company for over a century, HWD diversified into cargo handling and then container operations in the 1960s. HWD merged with Hutchison International in 1977 to become Hutchison Whampoa Limited.
In 1991, HWL acquired the United Kingdom's busiest port, the Port of Felixstowe. Reflecting HWL's global expansion and internationalisation, Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) was formally set up in 1994 to hold and manage HWL's ports and related services worldwide. Since 1994, HPH has expanded globally to strategic locations in 24 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Today, HPH is the world's leading port investor, developer and operator with interests in a total of 292 berths in 47 ports.
In 2007, HPH handled a combined throughput of 66.3 million TEU worldwide.
Athens clears way for elusive shipping IPOs
---Nigel Lowry - Thursday 8 May 2008
Shipping companies of all types will be treated equally with shore based businesses as a result.
Officials are confident that the changes, likely to be adopted within approximately one month as part of a wider round of rule amendments, will lead rapidly to the first public offerings (IPOs) from the industry since ferry lines were admitted in the 1990s.
In the meantime, the Greek market has watched, galled, as a stream of Greek shipowners have listed their companies in the US and UK.
The move will result in shipping companies of all types being treated equally with shore based businesses, with no extra conditions for entry.
It will be the fourth time the rules have been redrafted for shipping in the space of about a decade.
This has been a barrier to smaller companies that see going public in the local market as their best option for funding fleet renewal.
For its part, Athex management has conceded that its breakthough is more likely to come from the second or third tier of shipping firms, rather than the top echelon of major owners that it initially coveted for reasons of prestige, as well as well-intentioned notions of protecting investors.
Stock market circles were hopeful back in 2005, when the majority of shipping-specific hurdles to entry were dropped, that the first listing would only be months away.
Athex is of the opinion that there have been Greek shipowners in the past willing to list in Athens but they were diverted to the US or London by underwriters.
Tripartite talks have been scheduled with the Hellenic Banks Association and shipowners later this month.
Argyropoulos heads back to Athens
---An architect of Greek shipowners' access to capital markets in the US has returned to his native country to continue his banking duties.
Anthony Argyropoulos remains in his familiar role with New York investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald but is now doing the job from an Athens headquarters rather than Manhattan.
Argyropoulos said in a recent interview he believes he is the only investment banker with a full-time shipping focus to be based in Greece.
"It is a combination of my own personal preference to be there and an opportunity to be closer to my clients," Argyropoulos said while on a recent trip to New York. "I think it's a huge advantage. I'm working in the same time zone as my clients, while I still have access to the full Cantor Fitzgerald platform of resources here in New York. So it's really the bestof both worlds, in my view."
Argyropoulos has already made the move and expects to work with two junior bankers as Cantor develops the Greek office, which is likely to be located in Athens suburb of Glyfada.
Argyropoulos has been a pioneering figure in leading Greek shipowners to Wall Street. In his former capacity with investment bank Jefferies&Co, he led the first Greek initial public offering (IPO) in New York, helping Stelios Haji-Ioannou's Stelmar Shipping to its March 2001 listing. Stelmar has since been acquired by New York's Overseas Shipholding Group (OSG).
The banker steered Tsakos Energy Navigation (TEN) to a listing on the New York Stock Exchange in 2002, guided Evangelos Pistiolis's Top Tankers to a Nasdaq slot in 2004 amid heavy scepticism and, perhaps most famously, led the charge for George Economou's DryShips in February 2005.
Such was investor demand for DryShips that the company nearly doubled the number of shares it offered and its IPO proceeds at $206m. DryShips's success made clear that the gates were wide open for shipping IPOs in what became a record-setting 2005 with more than $2.6bn in equity issuance on 11 international listings.
The window for shipping IPOs is all but closed at present, although owners have been getting off secondary shares issues with varying degrees of success ( see story far right ).
Argyropoulos and Cantor did win a significant piece of business recently, however, with a retainer to advise DryShips in its acquisition of Oslo-listed driller Ocean Rig ( see story above ).
"We've been seeing more advisory mandates lately and I think that's a trend that will continue, along with work on secondary offerings," Argyropoulos said. "It obviously is not the strongest climate for IPOs at the moment."
Argyropoulos was born and raised in Greece and received a bachelor's degree from the American College of Greece before leaving for the US at the age of22. After earning an MBA from Bentley College in Massachusetts, he went to work for the predecessor of Compass Maritime shipbrokers in New Jersey in 1998.
He left to join the banking team at Jefferies, then moved to DVB Bank as it pursued IPOs in co-operation with Cantor Fitzgerald, which hired Argyropoulos in late 2004.
By Joe Brady, New York, published: 09 May 2008
New VLCC benchmark set
---Marmaras Navigation has ordered three VLCCs at Hyundai for a record $156 mill each.
The ships will be delivered in the first quarter of 2011.
Ship prices have hit record levels for the fifth successive year as shipbuilders have passed on higher steel costs to owners and as demand for energy continued to outstrip supply.
Shipyards have backlogs stretching into 2012, prompting some of them to increase production.
The price of a VLCC was $152 mill at the end of March, some 4.1% more than the $146 mill average seen at the end of last year.
Hyundai is expanding its capacity by building two of the world's largest docks and also extending the length of existing docks to meet demand. Operations on the new facilities are expected to start later this year.
Source: (May 9 2008), TANKEROperator news
DryShips Sees Calmer Waters Ahead
---08 May, 2008 03:10:00 Justin Kuepper
The bullish commodities cycle has definitely helped DryShips Inc. (NDAQ: DRYS) over the past couple of years. Strong demand for steel and fertilizer has led to a broad increase in basic materials, which has subsequently led to an increase in drybulk shipping rates. These bulk rates are expected to remain strong through 2009 with robust demand.
DryShips is diligently working to expand its fleet in order to better expose itself to the continued boom in commodities. The Greek drybulk shipper recently announced that brought up its stake in Norwegian offshore drilling services company Ocean Rig ASA to 71 percent ahead of a tender offer slated for early June.
Ocean Rig is active within the oil and gas industry as a leasor of ultra-deepwater offshore drilling rigs. The company's two rigs, Leiv Eiriksson and Eirik Raude, are mainly marketed to oil companies for exploration or development drilling programs worldwide, particularly in ultra-deepwater and harsh environments.
Ocean Rig has benefited from the boom in another commodity - crude oil. The rig leasor has seen its day rates and operating expenses improve dramatically over the last few quarters. Revenues for the first quarter hit $67.8 million from $40.8 million the prior period. Meanwhile, operating expenses decreased to $35.6 million from $36.6 million the prior period.
"While our belief in the positive fundamentals of the dry bulk sector remains unchanged, we believe our strategic investment in the ultra-deepwater sector will contribute to shareholder value as the extremely bullish fundamentals of the sector continue to unfold," DryShips said in a statement.
The move will help DryShips diversify its revenues and stabilize its earnings. Dry commodities will remain the bulk of DryShips' business, but this acquisition represents a prudent move for a strong company. Offshore oil and gas drilling remains strong. Meanwhile, a continued bullish commodity cycle in China and Southeastern Asia should keep drybulk rates up.
Shares of DryShips Inc. rose $1.48, or 1.64%, to $91.60 on the day.
---Nearly 30 companies from seven Middle East countries are converging to Athens next month to participate at Posidonia 2008, the 21st edition of the world's biggest and most international maritime trade events.
The UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Syria and Tunisia are all sending strong delegations to the Athens event focusing on ship building and repair, engineering and port services in the region's bid to highlight its growing industry potential in Greece, the world's biggest maritime nation.
Greece controls the world's biggest newbuilding orderbook, currently standing at 1,054 vessels of some 75 million dwt. Greek shipowners have already committed some US$ 50 billion in various fleet renewal projects, according to Nana Michael, Managing Director, Posidonia Exhibitions S.A., the exhibition's organisers.
With over US$ 50 billion in committed investments for the renewal of Greek-owned fleet announced in 2007, double the amount invested in the previous year, and two-digit annual sustainable growth rates in a region that holds almost half of the world's population, the global ship building industry, equipment suppliers, other vertical sectors and the second-hand ship market are all turning their radars to the biennial event slated to be the biggest in its 40 year-old history.
Dubai Maritime City, Hamriyah Free Zone Authority, Drydocks World Dubai, Sharjah Ports, NICO International and Gmmostech and Grandweld, parts of the GMMOS Group of companies, are just some of the UAE's major shipping companies participating at the five day event to be held from 2-6 June at the Hellenic Exhibition Centre (HEC).
"As the world's first purpose-built maritime centre, Dubai Maritime City sees Posidonia as the most significant maritime event on a global scale, and our participation for this year has significantly increased in terms of exhibiting size, activities, and content, as we see in Posidonia an ideal platform that will allow us to share our vision and the unique offering that the maritime city has to offer to the world key maritime players as they all gather in Posidonia," said Nawfal Al Jourani, Chief Marketing Officer.
The potential opening of Greece's biggest ports to foreign investors has also enticed the interest of major Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arab funds competing for a stake and management access of Piraeus' lucrative container transshipment hub strategically situated at the crossroads of three continents.
According to Neil Corbasson, Vice President Business Development of Jebel Ali - based GMMOS Group, which will be represented at Posidonia 2008 through its ship building and repair arms Grandweld and Gmmostech, the Middle East's shipbuilding sector stands to gain a lot from an apparent order backlog in Asia's major shipping yards.
"Last year the order books at Chinese shipyards surpassed those of Japan inching closer to South Korea's output and this has put a strain on China's ability to cope with demand. The Middle East and the GCC in particular offer a good alternative with excellent ship building and repair infrastructure facilities and the sector is set to gain much from the region's bid to diversify economies away from hydrocarbons."
Posidonia 2008 is sponsored by the Ministry of Mercantile Marine, The Aegean and Island Policy, the Municipality of Piraeus, the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping, the Union of Greek Shipowners, the Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee, the Mediterranean Cargo Vessels Shipowners Union, the Association of Greek Coastal Shipping Companies and the Association of Greek Passenger Shipping Companies.