Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 13 - 2009

 

Confiscated ships? Trust the Greeks

---SHIPPING banks should entrust confiscated ships to Greek owners, Greek commentators are saying.
In discussion
Source: Fairplay International Shipping Weekly - Newswatch 26 Mar 2009


---A bomb exploded outside the offices of a ship repair firm in Keratsini, west of Piraeus, early yesterday, causing widespread damage but no injuries in an attack that police attributed to a settling of accounts.
The ammonia dynamite bomb, which had been planted in a dumpster outside the offices of DT Marine, caused serious damage to the ground and first floors of the block and wrecked about 10 parked cars. The force of the explosion shattered windows in nearby apartment blocks.
Police ruled out any political motive behind the attack, saying that the owners of the firm claimed to have received threats over outstanding payments.
Police forensic experts were examining the remains of the bomb, which had been made of ammonia dynamite placed inside a metal pipe and attached to a slow-burning fuse, in a bid to find clues about the perpetrators.
Source: http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_politics_100014_28/03/2009_105877


Pirates Highjack Greek Ship
---Somali pirates have added a second tanker to the vessel hijacked last night, bringing the number of piracy incidents in the Gulf of Aden since Wednesday to at least four, the International Maritime Bureau has confirmed. The vessel had departed from Madagascar and was heading to the Persian Gulf, when it was attacked by speedboats 480 nautical miles off Somalia coast. As per information, the vessel was not carrying any cargo, although a EU coastal force patrolling the are reported it was carrying 9,000 tonnes of chemicals.
Negotiations are in progress presently between the Greek shipping company and the pirates.
Meanwhile, a Norwegian vessel has also been highjacked by pirates. Bow Asir with 23,000 tonnes of cargo and 23 crew members is Bahama-flagged. The highjack took place on Thursday, 250 nautical miles east of Kismayo.
Source:


ThyssenKrupp to put Hellenic Shipyards up for sale on April 1st 2009
---It is reported that ThyssenKrupp AG is to put Hellenic Shipyards up for sale on April 1st 2009 as part of a shake up announced last week when it was announced that a new group structure was being put in place.
ThyssenKrupp has set the end of September as a deadline for the yard's sale but, if not successful, it will close it down.
The Greek government is looking at an overall national shipbuilding plan that would create a single shipbuilding and repair body that would include the state, the Neorion group and ThyssenKrupp, at least for the period that it has outstanding obligations toward the Greek state.(Sourced from www.motorship.com)
Source: http://steelguru.com/news/index/2009/03/28/ODc4Nzg%3D/ThyssenKrupp_to_put_Hellenic_Shipyards_up_for_sale_on_April.html


MIG denies negotiating Hellenic bid with French group
---Marfin Investment Group denies it is in talks with a French group over a possible joint bid to acquire Hellenic Shipyards. Germany's largest steelmaker ThyssenKrupp is said to be keen to sell its Greek subsidiary, even if it's back to the Greek government.
As already reported by Newsfront, rumours of a sale of the Skaramanga-based shipyard have been circulating in Germany for some weeks as the Germans seek to cut ties with the Greek state. Likewise, the Andreas Vgenopoulos-led MIG is said to have been in talks with French interests for some time, but that the two are still at the negotiating stage and some way from submitting a plan for a bid. This has been denied by MIG with press reports of a spokesman for the equity company saying "we are not interested in the shipyard business".
Hellenic has considerable experience in building frigates and MIG's potential French partner is understood to be talking to the Greek navy about a frigates programme, something which has unsettled ThyssenKrupp, but which perhaps presents an opportunity for the German group.
ThyssenKrupp, which operates yards in Germany, Sweden as well as Greece, is in dispute with Athens over unpaid bills. The main argument between Hellenic and the Greek government concerns construction of submarines for the Greek navy, with the Navy refusing to accept the vessels built, maintaining there are technical and design problems with them.
Hellenic was privatised and sold to a consortium headed by Germany's HDW and Ferrostaal in 2002. HDW, now owned by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TMS), purchased the yard to secure the submarine contracts from the Greek navy. Under the deal, Hellenic became a sub-contractor for the submarines. Now the government is said to be considering taking legal action against the Germans.
Any plan to sell the yard will likely strike complex legal complications, for the submarine dispute is just one issue. As well, Hellenic has been ordered by the European Commission to pay back state aid worth Euro 230m ($363m) with the EC contending it was granted illegally. The Commission ruled the cash gave the company an unfair commercial advantage over rivals.
Non-delivery of the submarines has impacted the shipyard in other ways. Hellenic claims they are taking up valuable space within the yard which is hindering efforts to take on other projects.
Any buyer of Hellenic would certainly face a period of non-profit and have to tackle the political consequences involved, especially regarding the submarine dispute.
-- Filed: 2009-03-24
Source: www.newsfront.gr


Attica Group - EBITDA at 47.7 m. and group Net Profil After Tax at euro 22.3 m.
In the Rosyth-Zeebrugge service in the North Sea, Blue Star 1 carried 75,463 passengers, 24,973 private vehicles and 14,007 freight units. The service was discontinued in mid-September 2008 and Blue Star 1 operated initially in the Greece-Italy routes and thereafter is employed in the Piraeus to Rhodes connection.
Recent developements
On 5th June 2008, the Board of Attica announced the agreement to acquire from Grimaldi Holding S.p.A, of Genoa, Italy two Ro-Pax vessels built at Nuovi Cantieri Apuania, Italy. The first newbuilding (Superfast I) was delivered on 6th October, 2008, and trades in the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Bari route since 13th October, 2008. The second vessel will be delivered in the summer / autumn 2009. These vessels have a speed of 24 knots and the capacity to carry 950 passengers, 170 freight units and 100 private vehicles. As of 12th March, 2009, Superfast XII, which is rerouted from the Greece-Italy routes, commenced trading between Piraeus and Herakleion, Crete. The vessel departs daily from Piraeus at 15.30 and from Herakleion at 23.45. The journey time is 6.30 hours.
Vicky Karantzavelou - Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Source: http://www.traveldailynews.com/pages/show_page/30066


Personal reasons prompted Molaris' departure from Excel
---
Nigel Lowry, Athens - Friday 27 March 2009
FORMER Excel Maritime Carriers chief executive Stamatis Molaris says he quit the top job at the New York Stock Exchange-listed dry bulk giant purely for personal and career reasons.
Mr Molaris said that much of the reason for the departure was to pursue his own business goals. He also confirmed that he intended to remain in shipping.
But he declined to comment at all on matters pertaining to Quest Maritime, the start-up tanker company he is involved in.
One recent report questioned whether the deal with Hyundai, reportedly worth $840m, may have collapsed, but it is understood the series remains on order.
A source close to Quest confirmed that the series of 158,000 dwt vessels was still on the order. It was suggested that two-thirds of the tankers, if not all, have been chartered.
Although Mr Molaris remained quiet on the subject of Quest, he said he was watching various shipping markets.
The company has been deep in negotiations with lenders to secure covenant waivers ahead of announcing its final 2008 results.
Source: http://www.lloydslist.com/ll/news/personal-reasons-prompted-molaris-departure-from-excel/20017633583.htm


Lenders demand Excel action
---While Excel Maritime principal Gabriel Panayotides is under pressure to inject his own money, the future is also uncertain for Denmark's Torm.
Lenders are placing "massive pressure" on Excel Maritime principal Gabriel "Villy" Panayotides to inject his personal wealth into Excel Maritime, which is reeling under the weight of bank covenant violations.
There was word in finance circles this week that Panayotides appears willing to kick in more equity from his personal coffers with an amount said to be no more than $50m. Pending approval of the 14 banks in Excel's $1.4bn syndicate, a deal could be announced within the next week, say sources.
Also hanging in the balance is the future of Danish shipowner Torm, which is 52% owned by Panayotides's family. Word in Danish newspapers that Panayotides could be forced to sell down the stake put Torm shares into a nosedive this week. Despite denials from the Panyotides camp, one observer calls the situation "a dark cloud hanging over Torm's stock".
At the root of the turmoil is Panayotides's $2.4bn acquisition of Quintana Maritime last year. Then hailed as a model of consolidation in some quarters, it now looms as an albatross that is weighing on Excel's ability to survive a depressed bulk market. Equity analysts say the top-of-the-market purchase months ahead of a rates crash has placed Excel in violation of as many as five bank covenants.
While sources say they believe denials that Panayotides has decided to sell Torm shares, they also maintain that the option is almost certainly under discussion.
"But that shareholding situation is more complicated than most people think," said one source. "As people who have explored acquiring Torm in the past have learned, the shares are in the hands of family members, including his wife, and selling them is not such a simple matter." One market source suggests that Torm management would like to be done with the Panayotides headache. "I think current management is clearly estranged from the Panayotides camp and would like someone - anyone - to buy those shares so that they can be clear of this cloud hanging over them," he said.
While the Torm picture is yet to clarify, chances are that the Danish company would not even be in the discussion if not for Excel's fateful decision to acquire Quintana. The purchase - carried out with roughly half Excel shares and half cash - brought together Excel's 18-unit fleet of somewhat older, spot-trading bulkers with Quintana's charter-oriented fleet of 29, including eight newbuildings on order. It valued Quintana at some $25 per share.
The terms were agreed just a few months before the first signs of weakening in the dry trade and six months before it collapsed. One banker who maintains Quintana was overvalued from the outset did not pass up a chance to recall his assessment this week.
"Excel would be OK right now if they [hadn't bought] Quintana," he said. "If they bought Quintana at a fair price they would have some problems but I think they'd still come out of it OK. But by buying Quintana at a ridiculously high price at a time when a market downturn was foreseeable, they have themselves a real mess." Another financial source agreed: "I didn't foresee the market falling off a cliff. I don't think anyone did. But it was apparent that the dry-bulk market was pretty far into the cycle and was near the edge, and that they were paying a lot that far into the market.
"I think most people feel that Excel is gone and the contagion could spread over to Torm," he added.
After Excel announced it would delay its fourth-quarter earnings announcement while in discussions with its banks over covenant waivers, equity analysts quickly laid out the stakes last week.
Dahlman Rose's Omar Nokta was particularly thorough, cutting Excel to "sell" from "hold" and noting likely violations of five separate covenants: leverage, fair market value, interest coverage, minimum net worth and debt to earnings. He, too, points a finger directly at the Quintana deal.
"Quintana's fleet was taken on Excel's balance sheet at a fair value of $2.21bn. We estimate the current value of that fleet has fallen to $1.26bn, meaning Excel may be taking nearly a $1bn writedown on its equity," Nokta wrote.
However, Nokta says he did not expect the banks to push Excel into liquidation. Market sources seemed to confirm that this week, saying they are hoping the unwieldly process of gaining approvals from the credit committees of 14 banks will result in covenant waivers or relaxation. The costs to Excel would be the Panayotides equity and higher margins on the debt, at minimum.
Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Natasha Boyden sounded a similarly negative note. "While all dry-bulk companies have been impacted by the significant fall in asset values, we believe that Excel Maritime is in a much more difficult situation as a result of the leverage incurred from the acquisition of Quintana Maritime in 2008, which was made using roughly 50% cash at near-peak valuation levels," she wrote.
"Based on this analysis, we believe there is substantial risk that current negotiations with the banks could result in an adverse result for shareholders. Given the company's fleet, existing charters and outstanding debt obligations, we believe there may be little, if any, equity value remaining in the company," concluded Boyden.
By Joe Brady and Yiota Gousas Stamford and Athens
Published: 00:00 GMT, 27 Mar 2009 | last updated: 10:43 GMT, 27 Mar 2009
Source: www.tradewinds.no


FreeSeas Inc. Announces 2008 Fourth Quarter and Year End Financial Results
---
Fourth Quarter 2008 Financial Highlights
* Q4 2008 operating revenues of $20.8 million, an increase of 179.5% year-over-year
* Q4 2008 net income of $5.4 million, or $0.25 earnings per share, basic and diluted
* Q4 2008 net income excluding non-cash items of $6.4 million, or $0.30 earnings per share, basic and diluted
* Q4 2008 adjusted EBITDA of $13.1 million
* Nine vessels owned and operated during the period, earning an average Time Charter Equivalent, or TCE, of $25,673 per day
2008 Year Ended Financial Highlights
* 2008 operating revenues of $66.7 million, an increase of 231% year-over-year
* 2008 net income of $19.2 million, or $0.91 earnings per share, basic and diluted
* 2008 net income excluding non-cash items of $21 million, or $1.00 earnings per share, basic and diluted
* 2008 adjusted EBITDA of $40.7 million
* An average of 7.4 vessels owned and operated during the year, earning an average TCE of $25,719 per day
2008 Operational Highlights
* Increased the size of the Company's fleet from five to nine vessels, taking delivery of the Free Impala, Free Knight, Free Lady, and Free Maverick
* Increased carrying capacity by 84% from 145,704 DWT to 68,166 DWT
* Lowered the average age of the Company's fleet from 16.4 years to 13.7
Outlook for 2009
* Charter agreements in place for 53% of available days in 2009, which represents approximately $45 million in revenue
* Company to discontinue dividend payments as it focuses on debt reduction
* Profitable operations expected based on current fleet charter deployment
PIRAEUS, Greece, March 26, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- FreeSeas Inc. (Nasdaq:FREE) (Nasdaq:FREEW) (Nasdaq:FREEZ) ("FreeSeas" or the "Company"), a transporter of dry bulk cargoes through the ownership and operation of a fleet of seven Handysize vessels and two Handymax vessels, today announced financial results for its fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2008.
Mr. Ion Varouxakis, President and CEO of FreeSeas, stated, "We are particularly pleased to report strong results for the year ended December 31, 2008, a transformational year for our Company. During 2008 we grew our fleet from five to nine vessels, lowered the average age of our fleet and secured frontloaded charters. We decided not to enter into newbuilding contracts or engage in a chartering policy of spot only coverage or long period charter at unsustainably high rates, opting instead to adopt a balanced chartering strategy.
The Company's focus in the smaller and versatile Handysize market provides for distinct competitive advantages over the larger dry bulk segments. Our vessels can transport a wider array of cargo, access a larger number of ports due to their shallow draft and onboard crane equipment, and have historically achieved greater charter rate stability. The worldwide Handysize fleet has been shrinking over the last few months, as scrapping of over-age tonnage has far outweighed newbuilding deliveries. As a result, over the last few weeks Handysize rates have outperformed those of larger vessels. We are optimistic that this trend will continue, which will in turn greatly increase the earning potential of our fleet.
Entering 2009, we have strengthened our relationships with all of our lenders, extended a number of our existing charters, and thus, solidified our near-term revenue and cash flow visibility through the second quarter of 2009 (contracting 53% of our available days, or approximately $45 million in revenue for 2009), and maintained a solid relationship with established charterers.
We believe that our current financial position is solid, as evidenced by the recent modifications to our loan agreements. In order to further strengthen the Company's balance sheet in this challenging economic environment, our management and Board of Directors has decided, in coordination with its lenders, to concentrate on reducing FreeSeas' debt. We expect to achieve debt reduction with the utilization of operating cash flow and through the suspension of dividend payments until economic and market conditions are more favorable."
2008 Fourth Quarter Financial Review, visit > http://www.freeseas.gr/index-6.html
Source: http://www.freeseas.gr/


---(Mar 27 2009) TOP Ships has taken delivery of two more MRs.
They were the third and fourth in a series of six
product/chemical tankers all of which were due to be delivered within the first and second quarter of this year.
Both vessels have entered into respective bareboat timecharters for a minimum of seven years at a daily rate of $14,300, with three successive one-year options at a higher daily rate.
TOP ships currently has a fleet of 11 double-hull handymax tankers, with a total carrying capacity of around 500,000 tonnes, of which 74% are sisterships.
Seven handymaxes are on timecharter contracts for an average period of one year. All of the timecharters include profit sharing agreements above their base rates. Four of the company's handymax tankers are fixed on a bareboat charter basis with an average term of eight and a half years.
The two final newbuilding product tankers, which are expected to be delivered during the first half of 2009, each have fixed rate bareboat employment agreements for a period of 10 years.
Source: http://www.tankeroperator.com/news/todisplaynews.asp?NewsID=1101


Dryships' $1bn Q4 loss
The whole-year loss was $361.3m but, had it not been for the exceptional items in Q4, Dryshaips would have made a profit of $506.2m
The company says it has cancelled 17 vessel acquisitions which had been valued at about $2.0 billion when the original deals were struck. It also says it has raised about $380m million in gross proceeds through an equity offering and has reached a definitive agreement with Nordea Bank , DnB NOR Bank and HSH Nordbank regarding a covenant waiver in connection with its $800 million Primelead facility.
Source: http://www.mgn.com/news/dailystorydetails.cfm?storyid=9761


---Paragon Shipping reported its 4th quarter and year-end 2008 results last week and the results were relatively strong given the overriding weak economy and depressed shipping markets. Looking forward the company has strong earnings visibility, with 98% of the fleet fixed through 2009, and cash well in excess of its current portion of long-term debt.
Nevertheless the company was not immune to the travails suffered by the rest of its peers.
The company announced that it had to amend its six credit facilities for covenant breaches.
The facilities are detailed in figure 1. Paragon - Credit Facilities
O/S as of 3Q2008
Commerzbank Revolving Credit Facility $110.3
HVB Secured Credit Facility $90.0
Bank of Scotland Secured Revolving Credit Facility $82.3
First Business Bank Secured Revolving Credit Facility $29.2
Bank of Ireland Revolving Credit Facility $30.0
HSH Nordbank Credit Facility $51.5
Total $393.3
In its presentation, the company also disclosed the current status of the loan covenants as portrayed in figure 2. [see > Marine Money Freshly Minted  Thursday, March 26, 2009]
Of the seven covenants, four were waived or amended, through 2009 with the balance maintained. In addition, the Commerzbank and HVB facilities were amended to provide for a somewhat frontloaded accelerated amortization schedule in lieu of the original balloon payment due at maturity in 2010.
With the involvement of six banks, this seems to be a measured and reasonable response to the covenant defaults compared to others. But then again the banks can afford to be somewhat flexible based upon the performing and visible revenue stream and no major capex. Practicing triage, the banks have placed this relatively low risk company on a short lease with careful monitoring as they deal with the greater risks out there.
Source: www.marinemoney.com  Marine Money Freshly Minted  Thursday, March 26, 2009


Merchant Marine minister visits London at invitation of Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee
---ANA - Mar 24, 2009. London (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis) -- Merchant Marine, Aegean and Island Policy minister Anastasis Papaligouras concluded a visit to London, at the invitation of the London-based Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee.
During his vist, Papaligouras met with the plenary of the Committee's board of directors and discussed current issues concerning Greek and global maritime.
Discussions particularly focused on protection of the institutional framework for Greek shipping and the need for preserving the climate of confidence.
The Greek shipowners of London also put forward the issue of the best possible representation and presence of Greek shipping at global level, particularly during the present international financial crisis.
Another matter discussed was the Greek shipping register, ship recyclling, and avoidance of unilateral measures by the European Union.
The board expressed appreciation for the Greek government's actions in the effort to combat piracy at sea off the Somali coast, and stressed the need for continuatin of such actions and efforts in other problem areas such as the Niger Delta.
Source: http://www.ana-mpa.gr/anaweb/user/showplain?maindoc=7436382&service=142


Greece and the sea
When it comes to the sea, however, Greece is one of the best places to experience how people become so connected to such a force of nature. Few places are are so entwined with the sea as Greece with its 2000 islands.
Naturally, when it comes to the idea of summer in Greece, the image of thousands of islands comes to mind. Some say that in order to know the country one has to island hop because life on the land (continental Greece) is so removed from island existence. As small as some of these islands are, each and every one of them is a "little Greece", part of the big picture that tour agents sell today as the "Greek tour package".
Source: Fri, Mar 27 2009 10:00 CET by Petar Kostadinov, http://www.sofiaecho.com/2009/03/27/695818_greece-and-the-sea