The Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers Greek Branch organised its 9th Annual Forum at Eugenides Foundation, on Wednesday, 11th of December, with a remarkable success. The title was: « Underway to recovery or Underestimating the Fundamentals? ». The Forum has been well attended by over 400 shipping professionals – from the Greek and International shipping community – covering all spectrums of the industry.
The panel consisted of the following distinguished personalities: Mr. Nicolas A. Tsavliris, Chairman of ICS Greek Branch and Tsavliris Salvage Group, H.E. Mrs. Jenny Bloomfield, Ambassador of Australia in Greece, Mr. Michael Bodouroglou, Chairman & CEO at Paragon Shipping Inc., Mr. James Leak, Managing Director at Arrow Research Ltd., Mrs. Stavroula Betsakou, Head of Tanker Research at ICAP Shipping Ltd., Mr. Ted Petropoulos, Managing Director at Petrofin Research S.A., Mr. Anthony Argyropoulos, Managing Director at Seaborne Capital Advisors Ltd. Panel Moderator of the forum was Mr. Vasileios Chakos, FICS, V. Chakos Claims Adjusters Co.
Natalia Margioli – Komninou, Managing Director of the ICS Greek Branch and Hellenic Management Centre, after thanking the speakers and the audience, remarked that ICS, 100 years now, promotes the highest standards of professionalism and ethics, while the ICS Membership is a mark of competence for shipping professionals worldwide. She proudly mentioned that more and more companies trust HMC, which represents ICS in Greece, for the professional development of their human resource, under the statement that qualified individuals are better placed to make better decisions.
Mrs. Margioli – Komninou queried whether we are truly underway to recovery or we are just underestimating the fundamentals driving the supply and demand in shipping. On the one hand, she said, there are those who believe that the monumental changes occurring in the global economy will positively affect shipping. Facts supported by the mini-spike on new orders placed by owners, due to the significant improvement seen at freight markets and asset values over the last year. On the other hand, she mentioned that there are those who do not see a recovery in 2014 or even early 2015. She referred to the worse scenario, as predicted by Martin Stopford that the fleet and shipbuilding overcapacity and the orders put in place are driven by shortsighted and speculative motives rather than by a sustainable trade demand. Mrs. Margioli – Komninou concluded her reference to the topic with the statement that ‘’shipping accounts for 95% of the global trade and is here to stay’’.
The Chairman of the ICS Greek Branch, Nicolas Tsavliris referred to the current turbulent times that Greece faces, which unavoidably have affected the Greek Shipping Business. He expressed that international level shipping markets seem to have improved, though there are some that believe the opposite. Three factors are affecting the international shipping: the effect of regulatory pressure on lenders, the new sources of financing, i.e. private equities and hedge funds, the escalation of the bizarre phenomenon of insolvent banks lending money to insolvent shipowners to buy ships at inflated prices – or to build ships at insolvent shipyards. He concluded his speech by the words of President John F. Kennedy: “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.”
H.E. Jenny Bloomfield, the Australian Ambassador in Greece, underlined Greece’s dominant role in international shipping and highlighted the synergies between Greece’s shipping industry and Australia’s export-driven economy. Mentioning the significant amount of Australia’s exports, particularly to emerging Asian markets that are transported by Greek-owned ships, Ambassador Bloomfield remarked on the considerable shared interest both countries have in maintaining an efficient, safe and environmentally responsible global shipping industry. Australia’s current chairmanship of the G20, which coincides with Greece’s EU presidency, gives both countries an opportunity to engage at high levels to secure an industry that is vital to the global economy.
Michael Bodouroglou stated that although cyclicality exists in all business sectors, when it comes to shipping its consequences are far more intense. The cycle is obviously driven by the prevailing supply-demand balance. Oversupply creates recession and this can be caused by either weak demand or too many orders. The recent recession has occurred despite healthy demand simply because of too many newbuilding orders. The Chairman of Paragon Shipping added that the current state of affairs of the industry is described by a reduced order book, somewhat improved chartering market, asset values at or very near historical lows and an expected healthy demand for the foreseeable future. Lastly he stated that despite increased private equity investments into the sector, funding in general remains problematic due to lack of liquidity and reduced Bank lending. This is probably comforting as it reduces the possibility of a new over ordering wave big enough to destroy the market.
Stavroula Betsakou discussed the crude and product tanker markets. Starting by identifying the factors that led the crude tanker market at the bottom the first 9 months of 2013 and to the VLCC rally in November, expressing that that neither the bottom nor the highs seen this year are sustainable for 2014. China and India will continue to drive demand growth with the marginal barrel of supply moving westward due to unconventional production in the Atlantic basin, increasing tonne-miles. Low fleet growth may allow for a solid recovery, however, competition with the Suezmaxes and fluctuations in the fleet speed will place ceiling on freight rates, possibly below the required rates of the fleet ordered from 2004 to 2008. Expectations for the product sector are balancing between the heavy deliveries of eco-ships for a second year and the increasing trade and triangulation opportunities. Investment interest is strong as financing, sourced from financial markets and private equity. The effects of the rising markets will filter through and cause the market to reach its next peak at significant lower levels than 2008. Owners are encouraged to stay focused on quality and to exploit short-term asset cycles.
‘’We are on the brink of a dry bulk renaissance» is what James Leake, the new MD of Arrow Research, would have us believe. He argues that the era of punishing fleet growth is behind us, and now we have compelling trade growth stories in the key dry commodities representing a shift in the fundamentals. Some doubt that the current rally is anything more than the kind of seasonal uptick experienced over the last few years. In his presentation at this year’s event, James will no doubt attempt to convince the doubters, with supporting evidence spanning all the major bulk commodities and likely fleet developments. The expansion of the iron ore trade is central to his view, with Capesize leading the way as the major beneficiary in this up cycle. With delivery dates for new orders now slipping into 2016, further newbuilding investment risks missing the boat.
According to the latest Petrofin Research, Ted Petropoulos stressed the fact that Greeks remain totally committed to shipping. Interest in acquiring more vessels is accelerating, as is shown by this year’s second hand vessel purchases and newbuilding orders. As Greek banks, financing Greek shipping, have been in a merging and acquisition turmoil, ship finance has been affected downwards, stated Mr. Petropoulos. He added that the two international largest banks financing Greek shipping, the Royal Bank of Scotland and HSH Nordbank, have been addressing their own difficulties, and this has also affected Greek ship finance. Hence, the divergence between the rise in Global ship finance and the downward trend of Greek ship finance. He concluded with a reference to every other financial and private capital source that is being exploited with increasingly more reliance on own resources to acquire second hand vessels and newbuildings. However, the majority of newbuilding orders remain largely speculative in having no arranged finance in place.
Anthony Argyropoulos approached the topic by describing the relation of shipping and US Capital Markets. He stated that tighter lending by commercial banks has led to shipping companies to seek for alternative sources of financing in the public markets, while private investors are cautious when it comes to investing in shipping. He referred to the IPO activity which in 2013 increased compared to the previous years, as 5 shipping companies entered the US Capital Markets raising approximately $ 951.5 millions in gross proceeds. Lastly, on the basis of the title Mr. Argyropoulos stated that dry bulk shipping market experiences a small recovery- especially in Capesize- due to Australian and Brazilian iron ore exports, outpacing the dry bulk shipyard activity. But he queried, will it be sustainable? Though, a positive sign is that analysts predict a 4% fleet growth in 2014, compared to the 10% – 16% experiencing between 2010 – 2012.
This year’s proceedings closed on a celebrating note with the award commendation of the candidates that participated at the ICS Examinations in April 2013. The panel Moderator, Mr. Vasileios Chakos, mentioned that in 2013 more than 500 shipping executives attended the ICS Professional Training Courses, while the Greek Branch come secondly in terms of examination participation only to London.
The candidates distinguished internationally were: Ioannis Theodorou – Niovis Shipping, Loukia Tranou – Oceanwide Shipping, Christian Becker – Thenamaris Shipmanagement, Evi Platsidaki – Norton Rose, Sofia Zoidou, Nikolaos Vasilatos – Vita Management, Konstantinos Katranis, Helen Arabatzi – Aerio Shipmanagement and Panagiotis Kalogerakos – Marmaras Navigation.
The 9th Annual Forum of the ICS Greek Branch was held with the kind contribution and support of the following sponsors:
AB Maritιme Inc., Acropolis Chartering & Shipping, Capital Shipmanagement Corp., Cass Technava Maritime, Curzon Shipbrokers Corporation, Eastern Mediterranean Maritime Ltd, Element Shipmanagement S.A., European Navigation Inc., Dimitrios K. Fotinakis Ltd, George Moundreas & Company S.A., Holman Fenwick Willan International, Horizon Tankers S.A., Marine Plus S.A, National Bank of Greece, Neda Maritime Agency Co., Paragon Shipping Inc., Prevention at Sea, Springfield Shipping Company Panama S.A., Target Marine S.A., Tsakos Energy Navigation Ltd, Thenamaris Ships Management, Tsavliris Salvage Group, Urshachart S.A., Wartsila Greece.
Photo: Mrs. Evi Platsidaki from Norton Rose, Mrs. Natalia Margioli Komninou FICS, Managing Director of HMC and ICS Greek Branch, Mr. Nicolas A. Tsavliris FICS, Chairman of ICS Greek Branch, H.E. Jenny Bloomfield, Australian Ambassador in Greece