Greek Shipping News Cuts
Week 24 - 2010
---Analysts expect Greece to maintain the favourable tonnage tax regime because direct taxation would prompt companies relocate
GREEK shipowners will abandon Greece if the government imposes an unfavourable tax regime on them, according to Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement chief executive Andreas Droussiotis.
"I do not believe the government will proceed with [taxes targeting shipowners] because they know what will happen," Mr Droussiotis said at a press conference to celebrate the company's fifth year operating in Greece.
"If they impose tax, they will leave. Anything that means they are disadvantaged in terms of competing internationally will see them move, they have to, shipping is international."
Greek shipping companies have to pay a tonnage tax but are exempt from income taxes on profits from operating Greece-registered vessels. Analysts expect Greece to maintain the favourable tax regime precisely because direct taxation would prompt companies relocate.
Despite public confidence amongst owners during the Posidonia week shows, several are understood to have instigated informal meetings with national officials outside Greece to explore other options.
Source: NYMAR Newsletters, June 15, 2010 www.nymar.org
Greek owners start to regroup
--- * Monday 14 June 2010 * by Liz McCarthy and Janet Porter
Industry heaves sigh of relief as stability starts to return after two years of financial turmoil
WITH its two-year rotation, Posidonia provides a reliable milestone from which to judge the condition of the industry.
In late spring 2008, after the fall of Bear Stearns but before the September crash, shipowners wondered what was in store.
Two years on, there was an almost audible feeling of relief.
If this was unwinding, it had all to do with business. The analyses of the three primary sectors below show feverish activity on the part of Greek shipowners to invest, fortifying their traditional dominance in the tanker market and diversifying into containers.
On the dry bulk side, there is even a sense that too much buying has led to a potential bubble that will not be sustained by freight rates as the year progresses.
Bullishness breaks out as oil demand and spot rates climb
ANYONE unfamiliar with the tanker markets could be forgiven for thinking that there had not been a rates crisis last year, when owners were effectively paying charterers to use their ships in the spot market.
Greek tanker owners at Posidonia shrugged off the looming orderbook and stood by bullish oil demand forecasts, fresh off the back of improved very large crude carrier charter rates.
Perhaps they are riding the wave of healthy time charter equivalent earnings and do not want to look back at the crash behind them. But, as the dry bulk sector has recently seen, an improved market does not necessarily last forever.
But management at rival publicly listed companies are holding on to positive prices so far this year and running with them, with growth in Asian crude oil and oil products demand cementing their boosted confidence.
Mr Loukopoulos argues that in the past demand has always managed to absorb the supply of new ships and so he does not see this year or next being any different.
A shift in trading patterns that has seen China and India import increasing volumes of crude oil from West Africa and South and Central America has changed the tanker landscape and boosted tonne-mile demand accordingly.
The only area they agree will face a bumpier ride in the short term is the product tanker market, which Mr Saroglou believes will not see any improvements for another six to 12 months.
Despite rates being unable to escape the doldrums, many owners are looking to buy up product tankers, now that asset values have bottomed out.
With positive sentiment in abundance and the sound of champagne glasses clinking in the background, it would appear that Greek owners believe the tanker market is well on the road to recovery.
THE joke in maritime circles is that Greek owners have always steered clear of container shipping because they were such lousy timekeepers.
The thought of operating vessels to regular schedules was not for them. The free-wheeling tramp markets were far more appealing to the entrepreneurial nature of the Greeks than the rather dull container trades that were regarded as the shipping equivalent of bus services.
But there is a big difference between owning and operating boxships. While Greek shipowners continue to avoid the liner side of the business, which is dominated by ocean carriers such as Maersk Line, they have caught on to the potential of owning boxships.
Greek involvement in the box sector is nothing new. Danaos first invested in cellular ships nearly two decades ago and now has a 45-strong fleet with total capacity of almost 195,000 teu, along with a diverse portfolio of blue-chip clients. Costamare is another that began to build up its containership fleet many years ago.
But in recent months, a number of Greek owners that have traditionally focused on the tanker and dry bulk trades have started to pay more attention to the container sector.
What has stirred their interest is the downfall of the German KG system. Many of these investment companies, which have financed hundreds of containership acquisitions, are effectively bankrupt and are only being kept afloat by banks that have been reluctant so far to foreclose.
However that situation evolves in Hamburg, there seems little doubt that KG funds as a source of future ship finance will be playing a greatly diminished role in the years ahead.
The contraction was the first the liner shipping industry had ever experienced, and coincided with a huge influx of new capacity. Container lines plunged deep into the red, with combined losses estimated at $15bn-$20bn.
So whether lines need to acquire additional capacity through newbuildings or from the charter market, that is a positive development for owners that want to boost their position as tonnage providers in the box shipping industry, say a number of Greek shipping companies that think this is the time to make a move.
What is holding back Greek owners is the shortage of acquisition opportunities, with relatively few containerships coming on to the secondhand market or being offered as newbuilding resales.
But ship sales are expected to pick up as banks seize on rising values to dispose of distressed assets, with Greek owners likely to be prominent buyers as market fundamentals return to normal.
With boxship prices below their 10-year average, there is plenty of upside potential, he says.
The woes of the KG system have provided just the opportunity Greek investors are looking for to expand their shipping horizons.
Caution emerges as Chinese commodities demand slows down
SIX months on from Chinese iron ore imports hitting record highs, the dust caused by this excitement appears to have settled, with many Greek dry bulk players seeing the market more clearly.
Blinded by the unexpected jump in commodities demand, publicly listed companies had appeared to devote a large chunk of 2009 investor conference calls to talking about Chinese imports and how they are going to single-handedly keep the dry bulk market afloat. But were they getting carried away?
The mood at Posidonia seemed more restrained, as so far this year the industry has witnessed a record number of newbuildings hit the water. With little scrapping taking place, the fleet is growing at an unprecedented pace, which has been felt in the spot market, where average capesize rates have fallen nearly 50% in the last six months to a rather modest $46,600 per day.
And although Chinese commodities demand has remained robust, analysts are not anticipating record highs again any time soon. The overheating in the real estate sector that was predicted at the end of last year has come to fruition and the drop-off in imports and seaborne shipments has followed suit as steel production has slowed.
But before management at these Greek-owned companies can get too excited about Asian dry bulk demand and other factors such as port congestion and adverse weather, someone always brings up the elephant in the room: the orderbook.
Despite record deliveries so far this year, the orderbook still stands at nearly 60% of the fleet, with over 3,000 ships still scheduled to enter service over the next four years.
With few quality sales candidates around, secondhand asset values have climbed disproportionately high over the last year, making it cheaper to order a newbuilding for delivery in two or three years, when some players are hoping the markets might have become more stable.
But the dramatic highs and lows over the last two years could suggest that the dry bulk landscape might not look any clearer in another two years.
With so much uncertainty on the horizon, all owners appear to be able to do is hope for the best. The industry is sure to find out if they were successful at the next Posidonia.
Greece and China play the game
---Greek owners and Chinese repair yards are sparring as both seek dominance of their respective sectors. Richard Clayton reports
The upturn has begun and the ship repair market has become a bellwether for shipowner optimism. While repair work was not held back during the downturn, maintenance programmes were delayed during 2009. Now the surge in upgrade work in China and Singapore, the Med and northern Europe is working its way through the system. And that has made the mid-2010 repair market very different from mid-2008.
Greeks like to seal a good deal. One Greek repair specialist explained to Fairplay that, while a German owner will make enquiries about replacing 200 tonnes of steel without worrying too much about the price, a Greek owner will look to see how much repair work can be achieved with a given sum, such as $1M. Chinese yards bid against each other, dragging each element of the cost lower and offering to do even more for that amount. Both parties are satisfied: Greeks get more value for their money, the Chinese get a satisfied customer willing to return.
The huge influence of the Greek shipowning community is equally matched by the dominance of the Chinese repair industry. The game they play occasionally produces losers, but time taken to understand culture should prevent accidents.
$3: Turkey/Black Sea
Source: Fairplay - Story of the Week 17 Jun 2010
Beijing's Greek deal a wake-up call for EU
SIMON TISDALL June 19, 2010
CHINA'S forceful intervention in the Greek debt crisis this week has given harassed European Union leaders a sharp reminder of the challenges posed by Beijing's relentless pursuit of global interest and influence.
What was seen in Athens as a potential financial lifeline was, for others, a troubling sign of a future made in China.
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A Chinese Vice-Premier, Zhang Dejiang, made shipping, tourism and telecommunications deals worth several billion euros during the second visit to Athens in four weeks by a high-ranking Beijing official. The investment package, reportedly the biggest by China in Europe, was a welcome shot in the arm for the Greek government.
But a Radio Free Europe commentator, Breffni O'Rourke, highlighted the wider significance for Europe.
''The Chinese are hard-headed realists and they recognise in Greece the ideal portal for exports to the Balkans,'' Mr O'Rourke said. ''They have decided to establish a bridgehead there at a moment when the terms are most favourable.''
By way of counterbalance, China's firmly rooted reluctance to support policies inimical to its economic prospects and geopolitical influence has also been on display. Sanctions on Iran agreed by the European Union on Thursday will not inhibit Chinese firms, already big investors in Iran, from supplanting EU businesses.
Beijing forced the United Nations Security Council to water down the latest UN sanctions against Tehran; it is pressing ahead with a deal to build two civilian nuclear reactors in Pakistan despite Western concerns about proliferation; and it has steadfastly refused to condemn North Korea for sinking a South Korean naval vessel in March.
A report published this week by the European Council on Foreign Relations says an increasingly neg-ative pattern in Chinese behaviour poses a ''huge test'' for Europe.
Its author, Francois Godement, said it was time EU leaders woke up to the scale and seriousness of the global challenge posed by Beijing and took a tougher line.
Dr Godement said European assumptions that China would adopt modern, Western-style ''values and interests'' as it developed into a modern, global power were flawed. The EU should adopt a hard-nosed, conditional and unified approach, the report concluded.
It seems increasingly clear that Europe, like the US, must prepare for a day when China seeks physically to protect its burgeoning interests with ''hard power''.
Greece may be safe for now. But it would not do to be complacent.
Aquavita makes ownership move
---A Greek player is looking to acquire vessels due to limited long-term charter options.
Athens-based bulker operator Aquavita International is looking to raise money in the public markets to buy ships, as owners shy away from long-term charter commitments.
The company, which currently lists 23 bulkers chartered into its operation, of which the majority are modern panamaxes, says it is already in discussions with a number of parties.
Company founder and managing director Evgeniy Lavrenko says capital will most likely be brought in from the private-equity sector but adds that no firm decision has been made.
Lavrenko says Aquavita is interested in taking in tonnage on a long-term basis of five to 10 years but owners controlling expensive ships are not willing to commit tonnage for more than two years at current levels. Even owners of cheaper bulkers, he adds, are waiting for a market upside and are not willing to lock themselves in beyond 2012.
Lavrenko says the company has therefore decided to expand into ownership. Current asset values, he explains, offer prospects of good returns over the next 10 years.
Operators have a lot of room for expansion in this market, he adds. The company has established enough manpower, risk-management tools and know-how to be able to sell an attractive story to investors, says Lavrenko.
Aquavita brought in chartering director Angelo Scarra around a year ago from the Monaco office of C Transport Maritime (CTM), a subsidiary of Ceres Shipping. Scarra continues to work out of Monaco where Aquavita set up an office and is due to expand its operations over the next few months with similar expertise.
Aquavita was established in 2006 in Athens after Lavrenko, a naval engineer by trade, decided to break away from Industrial Carriers and, before that, Metalinvest. He has links with Russian and Ukrainian dry-cargo interests and has opened an office in Odessa.
The company, Lavrenko says, did not overleverage its operation during the boom years and abstained from taking in tonnage on a speculative basis.
During 2009, Aquavita chartered in a total 72 vessels and transported about 4,5 million tonnes of various bulk cargoes. Some of the owners that have committed tonnage at the moment are Norden, US-listed Diana Shipping, Mercator and Target Shipping of Greece, adds Lavrenko.
By Yiota Gousas Athens
Published: 21:59 GMT, 17 Jun 10 | updated: 20:08 GMT, 16 Jun 10
Italian ships still stuck in Corinth
Cabotage battleground moves to Corinth from Piraeus
---Italy and the UK have become embroiled in the battle to have cabotage lifted in the Greek passenger shipping sector. The diplomatic representations in Athens of Italy and the UK became involved in the cabotage issue when Greek seafarers prevented two UK-flagged ro-ro ships from leaving Corinth for Italy June 9.
Seafarers blockaded the RoPax 1 and RoPax 2 as part of their protest against claims low-paid crew are crewing European Union-flagged vessels homeporting in EU ports. Whatever the final outcome of the dispute the two ships will be unable to leave Corinth before June 28, when an appeal by the Panhellenic Seamens Federation (PNO) against two earlier court decisions is due to be heard by a Piraeus higher appeals court. The PNO has already lost in court on June 9 and June 16.
A twist was added to the argument, June 15 when Economy, Competitiveness & Shipping (YPOIAN) minister Louka Katseli deemed the two ships were passenger ships and not ro-ro vessels, because "they transfer more than 12 passengers". Until then the ministry had stood on the sidelines while the operator of the ships, Adriatic Lines and the PNO had tried to reach an agreement, though Adriatic had maintained the industrial action was illegal, because of the court decisions in its favour.
Just what the minister's ruling will mean is not yet clear, but passenger ships do have to carry more crew than ro-ro ships and are governed by a different set of regulations. The minister said "the matters of safety of passengers and navigation are taken seriously" indicating crew numbers will have to be increased, Greek spoken on board, and other upgradings made for the vessels to continue serving the route.
What the decision has done is see the focus of the PNO action fall on safety. PNO leader, John Halas says it had never demanded crew be replaced, but that more crew be put on board "in the interests of safety". The PNO says a ship of the size of the two ro-ros should have around 60 staff, where as there are presently 32 Romanian staff. The PNO also demands crew to be paid Greek wage levels.
Adriatic had appealed to the Italian and British embassies in Athens to help seek a solution. YPOIAN says it is up to the two sides to find a solution. The ministry says it respects the rights of the workers' union and the EU and calls on the company to show a cooperative spirit. Adriatic argues its ships are unlawfully held and the union's rights are not above free and fair trade. It says the Italian and British authorities want to be present at meetings with the PNO as the matter has become of great importance to Italy and the UK as well as the EU.
Adriatic Lines, is a jv between Italian service provider Trans Ferry and Greek company Ocean Finance Ltd, and runs a driver accompanied freight operation across the Adriatic Sea, linking Corinth, Igoumenitsa and Ravenna, three times a week. It has faced hostile complaints from longer established ro-pax ferry owners as well as the PNO. The owners are especially unhappy with an EU's recent decision to subsidise Adriatic under the Marco Polo programme, and there have been suggestions owners are supporting the PNO.
Based in Milan, Adriatic was one of 22 Marco Polo projects accepted and will get at least Euro 4.4m ($6m) over the next three years. The call at the key road traffic port of Igoumenitsa has just been added and is directly linked to the Marco Polo programme which aims to take trucks off the roads.
The action in Corinth took the spotlight off a threat by the PNO to interfere with the visit to Piraeus of the Maltese-flagged, Spanish operated cruise ship Zenith, June 14, which went off without a hitch. Zenith has been homeporting in Piraeus, but PNO action has led to operator Pullmantur Cruises, part of Royal Caribbean Cruises, to have second thoughts as the ship has become a focal point in the cabotage battle, delivering a major blow to tourism in Greece. Zenith is slated to make 33 calls in Piraeus this year.
RCCL's vp, John Fox, has been in Greece discussing the company's plans for Piraeus and the Aegean islands. RCCL believes Piraeus is an ideal port for its cruise programme, and Fox has told George Anomeritis, chairman and md of the Piraeus Port Authority that under the right conditions RCCL could homeport up to six cruise ships in Greece.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed the Maltese-flagged cruise ship Ocean Majesty, owned by Greek interests, but on charter to Turkish tourist group, Apex Tours & Cruise Holdings, will homeport in Izmir and not Piraeus, for its East Med cruise programme.
-- Filed: 2010-06-15
ABN/Fortis, International network strengthened by new representative office in Athens
For more information, please contact:
ABN AMRO Group Press Office
+31 20 6288900
Source: Press Release, 10 Jun 2010
Kelvin Hughes beefs up Greek presence
The Greek concern will offer the complete range of products and systems manufactured by KH.
Yet another successful WISTA party
---Despite the doom and gloom predicted for Posidonia 2010, the exhibition had a record turn-out and possibly a record social calendar with over ten prestigious private events a day in various parts of Athens and Piraeus, creating a celebratory atmosphere in the shipping industry.
WISTA Hellas President, Anna-Maria Monogioudi and the Board of Directors welcomed members from Greece and many WISTA International members and guests from all over the globe who were in Greece for Posidonia. WISTA International President, Vera Chalkidi and her daughter Lia were there, together with Maria Dixon, President of WISTA UK, as well as past presidents of WISTA Hellas, Vicky Roussos, Maria Christina Ktistakis and Harris Kioseoglou, past President of both WISTA Hellas and WISTA International.
Naturally, the forthcoming Conference was a main topic at the Cocktail Reception and many international WISTA members confirmed they would be returning to Greece at the end of September in order to participate.
Delegate registration is now open and the Conference has already been supported by prestigious sponsors of the sector. Greek shipping which has the largest fleet, continues to grow, despite the contradicting opinions of some skeptical analysts.
The party underlined the respect with which WISTA Hellas is viewed in the wider shipping community, with a large attendance of guests who thoroughly enjoyed the occasion before starting out for yet more festivities at several other Posidonia parties the same night!
Source: Friday, 18 June 2010 16:18 nafsgreen