Protagonists of 2018

Safe Bulkers maintains its financial flexibility to invest on scrubbers and BWTS
Maintaining strong business relationships with leading financial institutions in Europe and the Far East and being listed in the NYSE, Safe Bulkers Inc. has secured its financial flexibility to invest on scrub bers and ballast water
treatment systems. In the interview that follows Polys V. Hajioannou, CEO of Safe Bulkers Inc., describes the company’s competitive strengths and the corporate policy on the new environmental challenges of sulphur cap 2020 and BWTS.
- Can you comment on the market conditions prevailing the shipping market today?
- Demand growth for the major drybulk commodities was satisfactory throughout 2018 and apart from seasonal volatility, the overall chartering market performed adequately at profitable levels. Presently the main concern in the market is the developing trade war between the US and China and its repercussions on global growth. We remain cautiously optimistic that talks between the two countries, as it was also agreed in the recent G20 summit in Argentina, will prove productive at the end and will ease concerns of a full blown trade war. Furthermore, the growing order book mainly as a result of Chinese leasing banks ordering could negatively affect the market but forthcoming SOx and Ballast Water Treatment regulations are expected to stimulate scrapping of older ships, rebalancing or even improving supply and demand balance.
- Can you refer to the age profile, trading capabilities, chartering policy and operational strengths of your fleet?
- Safe Bulkers Inc. owns a fleet of 41 dry bulk modern vessels ranging from Panamax to Capesize with an average age of about 8 years. More than three quarters of our fleet was built in Japanese shipyards and 11 of them are eco-design equipped with electronic engines. The quality of the fleet, our experienced personnel, the high  level of maintenance, as well as the hands-on management are our competitive strengths, allowing us to serve our charterers to the highest standards.
- How do you intend to fulfill the new regulatory developments of BWTS and Sulphur 2020 cap?
- NYSE-listed Safe Bulkers Inc, has developed over the years a  strong environmental awareness seeking to be in the forefront of  environmental and technological developments. Our vessels are certified under the environmental standard ISO 14001 and the energy efficiency standard ISO 50001. Our total environmental investments are in the order of 60 million USD. For Ballast Water Treatment we selected a full flow electrolysis system from a Greek manufacturer, Erma First and we had decided to equip the whole fleet with this system. The ordering was completed just after Erma First received the US Coast Guard approval, providing for operational flexibility worldwide including USA. Eight installations
are expected to be completed within this year. With the early  installation excessive costs and delays outside the permitted limits are avoided, while crew training and familiarization may subsequently enhance compliance with the regulation. The IMO Sulphur Cap 2020 regulation is a v ery important regulation designed to limit hazardous SΟx emissions from sea going vessels. SOx emissions are directly related to the acid r ain which when falls into the sea it is neutralized by the natural alkalinity of the sea water, however it has disastrous effects in the land, (forests, lakes, etc.) and for the human health.  We are fully implementing the IMO Sulphur Cap 2020 regulation by installing within 2019, in about half of our fleet, exhaust gas cleaning devices known as Scrubbers, which scrub the SOx by passing exhaust gases through a sea water shower, imitating what nature does in a larger scale with the rain. For the remaining half of our fleet we will  use compliant fuels with Sulphur content of less than 0.5% compared to the today’s global limit of 3.5%. We have selected Alfa Laval which is one of the top makers of such equipment and have contracted to install them in Cosco Shipyards which already have significant experience in such installations. We do not expect significant problems in relation to compliant fuels, considering the reassurance provided by the refineries and the fact that even today, most fuels are blends of distillates with residual oils. We think our approach is balanced between the two alternative means  of compliance, intending to compete on the basis of price differential between high sulfur fuel oil and compliant fuels for about half of our fleet with Scrubbers, and on the basis of low er fuel consumption for the remaining half using compliant fuel.
- Do you have access to traditional bank finance or other alternative financial tools?
- Our long history and unblemished performance in the shipping market throughout many shipping cycles the past 30 years has helped us forge strong business relationships with the leading financial  institutions in Europe and the Far East. As a result of that, together with our strong financial position we enjoy one of the lowest financing costs, among our peers. Recently we have refinanced and updated our debt profile resulting in one of the low est cash break-even points
in our industry for the following five years. The additional secured liquidity, will provide financial flexibility which is expected t o be used for further investments including scrubbers and ballast water treatment systems. Furthermore, being listed in the NYSE we have access to capital markets and alternative financing. A good example is the recent MOA for the acquisition of a Japanese resale Post-Panamax vessel to be delivered in the first half of 2020. This new acquisition will
be financed half by cash and half by common stock, allowing us to expand and renew our fleet.
25 tankers of CPLP merged with DSS Holdings
With the aim to create the third largest publicly traded MR and Product Fleet in the World, and one of the World’s Largest Public Mixed Product and Crude Fleet Operators CPLP merge the greatest part of its fleet with DSS Holdings in a $1.65bn transaction involving 68 tankers. CPLP Will Continue as a Master Limited Partnership Supported by Medium- to Long- Term Charters with a Stable Distribution Base Well-Positioned for Growth. The two companies have entered into a definitive transaction agreement pursuant to which CPLP has agreed to spin off its crude and product tanker business into a separate publicly listed company, which will merge with DSS’ businesses and operations in a share-for-share transaction.
The new company, to be called Diamond S Shipping Inc., will be a market leader in the crude and product tanker markets, benefitting from a balanced and large-scale portfolio of vessels, strong management leadership and a cost-efficient commercial platform. The transaction reflects DSS’ strategic initiatives to access public markets with enhanced scale at a cyclically opportune time to create one of the world’s largest shipping companies well positioned for future industry consolidation. The new company is expected to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange and will be headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut. This transaction represents a strategic step for CPLP to unlock unitholder value by combining its tanker business with a highly regarded pure-play tanker company. CPLP intends to continue as a master limited partnership (“MLP”), with a modern fleet under medium- to long-term charters producing stable cash flows in the container sector complemented by one drybulk vessel.
CPLP expects to be well positioned going forward to engage in  asset acquisitions across different shipping segments with the aim of growing its per unit distributable cash flow. The transaction is valued on an NA V-to-NAV basis with CPLP
receiving $23 million in consideration in the form of approximately 3% incremental ownership in Diamond S Shipping Inc. related to certain transaction benefits including access to public markets  and enhanced scale. The transaction results in CPLP unitholders initially owning approximately 33% and DSS equity owners initially owning approximately 67% of the new company (all ownership percentages are subject to closing adjustments). CPL P unitholders also will continue to own their CPLP units. CPLP intends to effect a reverse unit split promptly after the closing of the transaction.
Diamond S Shipping Inc.’s asset portfolio will consist of the combined product and crude tanker fleet of CPLP and DSS, totaling 68 high-quality tankers, with an average age of 7.8 years, including 52 product tankers and 16 crude tankers, positioning the new public company to capitalize on the improving fundamentals in the tanker market on a greater scale. Diamond S Shipping Inc. is expected to be the third largest publicly traded product tanker operator and the fifth largest public tanker company worldwide.
The new company is expected to be well capitalized, with postclose net debt to fleet value of approximately 60% and total liquidity in excess of $90 million. The new company will be led by DSS’ management team, which has an established track record of  growth and successful commercial operations. Diamond S Shipping Inc.’s Board and Management Craig Stevenson, Jr., CEO of DSS, will serve as the CEO of Diamond S Shipping Inc. Mr. Stevenson has over 40 years of experience in the shipping industry and previously served as the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer of OMI, a NYSE-listed tanker company. The Diamond S management team will continue to serve in senior management positions.
The new company’s board of directors will consist of seven members, a majority of whom are expected to be independent. DSS will initially nominate three board members, Nadim Qureshi, who will serve as the Chairman, Hal Malone, and Kate Blankenship, and CPLP will initially nominate two board members, Jerry Kalogiratos and Gerry Ventouris. The board of directors will further include Mr. Stevenson and Bart Veldhuizen. Diamond S Shipping Inc. will combine the technical expertise of Capital Ship Management Corp., the current manager of CPLP’s fleet, and the cost effective operating structure of DSS. Capital Ship Management Corp. will continue to provide commercial and technical management
for the crude and product tankers contributed by CPLP to Diamond S Shipping Inc. Mr. Stevenson commented: “Our organization is pleased to create with CPLP one of the world’s largest public company tanker operators. This transaction
will occur at an opportunistic time in the cycle and creates one of the largest, highest quality fleets and best capitalized public shipping companies in the market. We are confident that this unique combination will create significant shareholder value through the cycle by using our cash flow to invest in the business via acquisitions and returning capital back to our shareholders . We look forward to leveraging CPLP’s outstanding expertise and industry reputation as we work to grow the business together.”
Gerasimos (Jerry) Kalogiratos, Director and Chief Executive Officer of Capital GP LLC (CPLP’s general partner), commented: “We are excited about this transaction, which marks a strategic step to drive value creation for our unitholders, as  we expect the sum of the parts following this transaction to exceed the current equity valuation of CPLP. The Partnership’s common unitholders will not only receive $23 million in consideration which implies an approximate 10.8% premium to the NA V contributed as part of this transaction, but will also retain exposure to the product and crude tanker markets at greater scale, while continuing to receive a meaningful common unit distribution from CPLP post transaction.”
Mr. Kalogiratos added: “This transaction also enables CPLP to  combine its tanker assets with DSS, a market leader that will  be led by an accomplished management team with an excellent industry track record.” “Finally, this transaction allows CPLP to reshape its business with a modern fleet that has a remaining average charter duration of 5.3 years, providing CPLP unitholders with more stability and cash flow visibility. This should w ell underpin the new quarterly common unit distribution guidance of $0.045. After the transaction, we believe that we will be uniquely positioned to grow our asset base again with modern vessels employed under medium- to long-term charters both from our sponsor as w ell as the second-hand market with a view to growing our long-term distributable cash flow.”
CPLP (NASDAQ: CPLP), a Marshall Islands master limited partnership, is an international owner of tanker, container and drybulk vessels. CPLP currently owns 36 vessels, including 21 modern medium-range product tankers, three Suezmax crude oil tankers, one Aframax crude/product oil tanker, ten Neo Panamax container vessels and one Capesize bulk carrier. DSS, a private shipping company incorporated in the Marshall Islands and headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut, is an international owner of product and crude tankers. DSS currently owns 43 vessels, including 31 modern medium-range product tankers and 12 Suezmax crude oil tankers.
Star Bulk expanded its fleet to 112 dry cargo vessels

Operating a diverse fleet of 112 vessels and having gone through the tough market in 2016 Star Bulk is well  positioned for further expansion. Spyros Capralos (Chairman of the Board of Directors of Star Bulk) speaks exclusively to ELNAVI  and describes the greatest achievements of the company during the last few years. He also refers to the market perspective and the future environmental challenges in shipping.
- Describe the greatest milestones of your company.
- Star Bulk is today the largest  US listed dry bulk operator by  deadweight, with a dual listing in NASDAQ since November 2007 and in Oslo Børs, since August 2018. Having gone through the trough market in 2016 with cost reductions, capex postponement, disposal of vessels, debt restructuring and substantial support from our shareholders, we have managed to emerge in a very healthy position, being able to repay the full amount of deferred debt during this quarter. The full repayment of deferred amounts also removes any restrictions for the Company to pay dividends and buy back its common stock. In 2018, Star Bulk concluded four major corporate transactions for a total of 41 vessels worth ~$1.1 bln. The Company’s market cap increased by ~$400 million, to a little over $1.3 bln at the time these transactions were completed. The Company on a fully delivered basis will operate 112 vessels. In October of 2018, we announced a retrofit program for the installation of scrubbers in all of our vessels by the end of 2019, in order to comply with the upcoming IMO 2020 regulations. By the end of 2018 we will have installed 3 scrubbers and have started preparatory work in numerous vessels.
- Can you comment on the market conditions prevailing the shipping market today?
- The dry bulk market has improved substantially this year, on the back of healthy demand growth of slightly above 3% in terms of ton-miles. Fleet growth is currently running at +2.5% versus 3.2%during the same period in 2017 while YTD Newbuilding deliveries activity has declined to the lowest in a decade. During the last month, restrictions in thermal coal imports fro m China combined with a reduction in the Chinese imports of iron ore have significantly affected the market. However, the recent market sell-off is not justified by underlying fundamentals and we expect cargo supply during 2019 to recover “lost” 2018 volumes. We remain optimistic for 2019 as vessel supply is limited and commodity demand fundamentals remain healthy. From 2020 onwards, we expect the effect of the IMO 2020 regulation to be significant for companies that have installed scrubbers, along with a possible slow steaming of the non-scrubber fitted vessels which will further tighten the market. Rising NB prices and T/C rates will eventually support 2nd hand asset values higher; taking into consideration the regulatory changes in 2020, it is likely that a multi-tier market will be created for both time charter and asset  values. Theoretically the cost savings of vessels with scrubbers will act positively on asset values for these vessels, as long as the time charter premium is fully reflected.
– Can you refer to the age profile, trading capabilities, chartering policy and operational strengths of your fleet?
- On a fully delivered basis, Star Bulk will have a fleet of 112 vessels, with an average age of 7.8 years, and an aggregate capacity of 12.67 million dwt, consisting of 17 Newcastlemax, 20 Capesize, 2 Mini Capesize, 7 Post Panamax, 35 Kamsarmax, 2 Panamax, 17 Ultramax and 12 Supramax vessels with carrying capacities between 52,055 dwt and 209,537 dwt. Star Bulk fleet ranges from Supramax to Newcastlemax vessels. Its diverse fleet can serve all cargoes across the globe and cater for every charterer on a 24/7 basis. Commercially, we presently remain flexible on our strategy, with more than 40 of medium to long term period charters and spot exposure through short term time and voyage charters for the remaining fleet. Our fleet is primarily exposed to the spot market and is geared towards larger vessel sizes (Newcastlemax and Capesize) which offer the highest exposure to a rising market. As we move closer to 2020 we will look into chartering our fleet progressively more through voyage charters, which will enable us to take advantage of our scrubber investment. We are the lowest cost operator in dry bulk vessels but of course the focus on cost containment was not achieved at the expense of operational excellence, as the condition of our vessels continue to be at a very high level. We are consistently among the top 5 operators in Rightship Ratings.
- How do you intend to fulfill the new regulatory developments of BWTC and sulphur 2020 cap?
-As mentioned above, Star Bulk has embarked on a scrubber installation program across its fleet in preparation for the 2020 IMO implementation date. We are aiming to have the scrubber fitted fleet operational by end of 2019. We have agreed on debt financing that will cover approximately 70% of the total investment cost. As far as ballast water treatment systems are concerned, 46 of our newbuilding vessels are already fitted with such systems. Some of the remaining ships will be fitted gradually during 2019 and 2020 along with scheduled drydocking and the majority of the remaining fleet will be fitted during the period 2021 – 2023. These two measures aim to eliminate our environmental waste in the sea, as well as in the air and make us fully compliant with IMO regulations.
- Do you have access to traditional bank finance, private equity funds or other alternative financial tools? Have you diversified your fleet in other sectors of shipping?
- Traditional bank institutions have supported Star Bulk throughout its history and still provide the main source of its financing. Our banking group comprises of 14 prominent banking institutions both from Europe and the U.S., with which w e have long lasting relationships. We have also substantial funding through Chinese, Japanese & Asian leasing houses, who overall have increased their penetration in shipping and are now also competing with certain western banks in terms of pricing. Even though Chinese lease started as an alternative source of financing, it has increased its share in shipping assets over the past 2 years, now accounting for over 10% of global ship finance entering also the 2nd hand market and scrubbers financing. New financing possibilities for green financing are already emerging and are expected to penetrate the market over the next 3 years.
Star Bulk is on the forefront of  this as well, as on October we concluded a $310 mln syndicate facility with a consortium of 5 banks led by DNB, which included a Green Loan tranche to finance the installation of scrubbers the Company’s fleet. On a specific basis we see very robust demand from current and new lenders to finance new projects with credits like SBLK. We recently completed the refinancing of 13 facilities with 59 vessels for $625 mln, essentially removing all 2018 maturities and essentially all 2019 ones. Being a public company, we have also access to the bond market. In 2014 we issued a $50 million “baby” bond in the U.S., which we refinanced successfully in November 2017.  Historically, we have had access to private equity funds, let’s not  forget that Oaktree is our largest shareholder. This was effectuated following the merger with Oceanbulk back in 2014 through which the initial private joint venture between Oceanbulk and Oaktree was rolled over to Star Bulk. Star Bulk is a pure dry bulk company and w e expect to remain this way. We have seen little to no evidence among public shipping companies regarding potential benefits of diversification across other shipping segments.
-What is the approach of your company regarding the continuous connectivity between the vessel and office and IT programs for training, crew welfare and energy/fuel efficiency?
- Our vessels are monitored by an in-house Vessel Performance Management team with 8 employees. We have implemented sensors on vessels that track performance, lubricant and oil consumption, engine performance. Over 40% of our operating fleet has been equipped with a sophisticated vessel remote monitoring system that allows us to collect real-time information on the performance of critical on-board equipment, with a particular focus on fuel consumption and engine performance. Using this information, we are able to be proactive in identifying potential problems and to evaluate optimum operating parameters during various sea passage conditions. We also are able to compare actual vessel performance to reported vessel performance and provide feedback to crews in real time, thereby reducing the likelihood of errors or omissions by our crews. The vessel remote monitoring system is designed to enhance our ability to manage the operations of our vessels, thereby increasing operational efficiency and reducing maintenance costs and off-hire time. Finally, because of the similarities between certain of our vessels, we can take advantage of efficiencies in crewing, training and spare parts inventory management and can apply technical and operational knowledge of one ship to its sisterships. We use advanced Business Intelligence systems to keep track of our financial and operational performance.
It has been many years since Star Bulk started adopting continuous  connectivity between office premises and vessels. The company is constantly striving to upgrade this connectivity in terms of performance and quality, while ensuring that the standards of cyber safety and security remain at relatively high levels. Training is performed with the use of well-known third party services as well as in-house presentations. When it comes to security, Star Bulk’s mission to minimize the effect of human error onboard the entire fleet, has resulted in significant investments in training and awareness of shipboard personnel. Star Bulk considers crew welfare a necessity rather than a privilege for shipboard personnel, especially nowadays that communications have become cheaper, better in quality and there is a wide range of services available for both voice and data to facilitate seafarers. Crew welfare has been proven to create a better working environment onboard, especially when the solutions adopted provide privacy to the crew (by using their own devices from their cabins) instead of setting up internet-cafés onboard.
Olympia Ocean Carriers exploits its excellent reputation in the cape sector to expand in kamsarmaxes and ultramaxes

After many years of successful operations in the sector of capesize bulk carriers Olympia Ocean Carriers has recently entered into two other sectors of the dry bulk market. These being the kamsarmax and ultramax sectors. It is reminded that Olympia Ocean Carriers represents over 55 years of shipping tradition of Mouskas family. Kikis Mouskas, Principal of Olympia Ocean Carriers, explained the reasons behind the company’s expansion and describes the commercial capabilities and strengths of the company’s fleet.
- Describe the greatest milestones of your company.
- Our family shipping activities  were built on strong foundations laid by our late Grandfather, Kyriacos Mouskas and his eldest son, my father, Zenon Mouskas. His youngest son, George Mouskas, was then able to strengthen the company further. Today, as the third generation of the Mouskas family in shipping, I believe we have continued to enhance and enrich our shipping activities. After years of trading in the smaller sectors of the dry market such as handy sizes and loggers, the company decided to put its resources into researching the largest dry cargo vessels, which at the time was the Cape size. The decision, some 30 years ago, whether to invest in this sector was hard as the capital outlay was large compared to what we were accustomed to and the risks were high. During the time we invested in the Cape sizes, there were not that many Capes in the water with the majority owned by the large Far Eastern shipping companies. Most traditional shipowners feared the risk which they thought outweighed the rewards. Second hand Cape tonnage was hard to acquire due to the handful of Cape players controlling this sector. An initial investment in the scarce second hand Cape tonnage mixed with a sizeable investment in newbuilding Cape orders was our focus. So, our greatest milestone in shipping is when our investment in the Cape Size sector came to fruition.
- Can you comment on the market conditions prevailing the shipping market?
- I will only comment on the dry cargo market conditions as we do not presently trade within the wet, gas and container markets. Over the last few years, the dry cargo market has seen a shrinking order book and immense scrapping during 2015, 2016 and 2017. The huge glut of dry ships and enormous order book that was facing us approximately nine years ago has reversed. Ahead of us we may see further shrinkage of the dry fleet with the new regulations such as Ballast Water Treatment coming into play. So, on the supply side the dry sector looks pretty good today. Demand has been growing steadily for Dry and it will continue. Presently we have a few obstacles in our way which could have positive and negative effects on the market. One of these obstacles is US President Trump’s trade war. For instance, the ‘trade wars’ are having a negative effect on US soybeans exports to China. The tariffs on US soybean imports to China have practically stopped China buying US soybeans in the last few months. However, back-to-back record soybeans crops in 2017 and 2018 mean that there is an abundance of soybeans supply, which is positive for Dry bulk trade as the high stocks and low price are conducive for trade. This also gives rise to opportunities for increased tonne-miles due to trade diversions (for instance, US soybeans exports to South America). On the Coal front, imports to India and China are growing on the back of strong demand for electricity. Southeast Asia’s imports of coal grow because of structural increase in the region’s electricity generation from coal. A slowdown in the economies of the related countries due to the ‘trade wars’ may provide a soft patch for industrial production and thus for imported thermal coal demand. Today, Coking coal trade to India is buoyant as the country’s steel sector is booming. Iron ore imports to China is still healthy, however they have reached a plateau over the last 12 months. And the rest of world’s iron ore imports have been strong in 2018. We have seen strong growth in the economies in India and Southeast Asia due to the demand for steel from infrastructure, manufacturing investment and consumer durables. Manufacturing investment in Southeast Asia may even be boosted if the ‘trade wars’ lead to major supply chain reorganisation away from China. We await to see whether the US – China trade war will dissipate or escalate after the G20 meeting in Argentina on the 30th November. Another obstacle that we believe is presently affecting demand is the uncertainty and unknowns with regards to the Sulphur 2020 cap. What will happen to various fuel oil prices? Who will lose out on fuel price difference for vessels on TC during cut off period? What will the various Baltic Indices  represent? Will they be altered in any way? Will there be enough ultra low Sulphur fuel oil? Will it be available in most ports? We are seeing charterers holding back in fixing vessels on long term charters that go past the Sulphur Cap deadline. This applies to the Owners as well, where by some Owners are unsure in fixing their vessels that could be redelivered back from charterer around this period, being cautious on making their vessel’s fuel tanks clean and prepared in time for ultra low Sulphur fuel oil. There is no doubt the Dry cargo market has seen a decent recovery from mid-2016 but with these obstacles thrown in, it is any ones guess what will happen. One thing is for sure, we presently have a very subdued fleet expansion which again has only happened because of the high uncertainty.
- Can you refer to the age profile, trading capabilities, chartering policy and operational strengths of your fleet?
We are predominately in Capesize bulk Carriers. However, we have  recently entered into two other sectors within the dry cargo market. These being the Kamsarmax and Ultrmax sectors. Thus, currently we are trading three different types of dry cargo vessels; Capesizes, Kamsarmaxes and Ultramaxes. The age profile and chartering policy for each types of vessels are very different. The Capesize fleet which is the core of our shipping activities, has an average age profile of approximately 12 years. The chartering policy on this fleet is long term charters to first class major Capesize charterers. Our reputation in the Cape sector over the years has enabled us to sustain strong links with all top Capesize charterers and operators. Our newly formed Kamsarmax fleet has an average age of 7 years and the plan is to build up this fleet keeping the average age not more than 8 years. Our chartering policy set for these types of vessels is short term charters. The chartering for both these fleets is carried out here in Cyprus. My cousin and son of George Mouskas, Kyriacos, heads up our chartering department. Our Ultramax fleet is the most modern fleet with an average age of just over 1.5 years.This large fleet of Ultramaxes were ordered in Japan with the highest possible specification and with their super eco engines are very well liked by leading charterers. The chartering policy on the ultramaxes is short term charters mixed with spot fixtures and timecharter trips. Chartering for this particular fleet is done through our jointly owned office with our partners in Stamford, Connecticut, USA. The operational strength of our fleets is the optimal specification with competitive particulars the vessels have within each of its sectors. This makes it more attractive to the top charterers when hiring our vessels. With the attributes of the vessels together with our operational team we are able to adopt a ‘hands on approach’. We operate each vessel with a personal approach trying to always achieve the highest quality of service and efficiency to our charterers and clients, whilst always ensuring safety in all aspects and protection to our environment. Presently, I believe we are in a fortunate position due to the group’s hard work over the years to enjoy long standing relationships with leading charterers, who appreciate our ethics.
- How do you intend to fulfill the new regulatory developments of BWTC and sulphur 2020 cap?
-We are fitting the Ballast Water Treatment system to our vessels as and when required, in fact our technical team is in the process of arranging fitment of the first system on one of our Capes. The Ultramaxes were all ordered with BWT installed from the yard, so these ships already have the system in place. With regards to how we will implement or ‘get ready’ for the Sulphur 2020 cap regulation, our various departments will devise a plan to stop our vessels in the latter part of 2019 to clean the tanks from heavy fuel oil (HFO) to be ready to carry the compliant, more expensive, ultra low Sulphur fuel oil in time for January 2020. According to some, the ultra low Sulphur fuel could cost between $300 to$400 more per ton than the heavy fuel oil we are burning today. There is the option of installing a ‘Scrubber System’ on a vessel where by it allows the use of the cheaper heavy fuel oil, which is then washed onboard in the scrubber. In short and not to be too technical, the scrubber will clean the Sulphur from the heavy fuel oil on board, by cleansing out the Sulphur from the fuel so it is not burnt into our atmosphere. The problem with this system and because most desired is ‘open loop’, is the waste cleaned by the scrubber is then discharged into our Oceans. I am not so sure this sulphurous waste going into the sea is a good thing. However, on the Capsizes our technical team are in continuous talks with various scrubber suppliers, as well as our chartering department with major Charterers. On both the Kamsarmax and Ultramax fleets, scrubbers at this stage will not be fitted as these vessels’ consumptions are low, especially on the Ultramaxes with super eco engines where we believe the extra cost in fuel oil price compared to the cost of fitting a scrubber (plus the unknowns) does not make sense Expect freight rates being paid to be distorted during this period due to the fuel price differentials, availability of LSFO, vessels spending more time in dry docks for installations of BWTS and scrubber (or both) and the uncertainties.
- Are you engaged with the traditional bank finance, private equity funds or other alternative financial tools? Have you diversified your fleet in other sectors of shipping?
-We are a traditional shipping family therefore only use traditional bank finance. We are proud to say we have certain traditional ship financiers that are always there to support us. Over the years we have managed to prove our strength to our banks and gained a solid reputation. As I mentioned before, the group has diversified into Kamsarmax and Ultramax shipping sectors of the Dry with plans to diversify further. If the timing is right, we are always hungry to buy quality ships.
– What is the approach of your company regarding the continuous connectivity  between the vessel and office and IT programs for training, crew welfare and energy/fuel efficiency?
-We have always maintained a strong connection between the office onshore and its vessels. Our various departments are continuously in touch with the senior officers onboard as well as frequent visits to the vessels. Crew welfare is always discussed with high priority and our crewing department together with representative offices are always making sure all crew members are working in safe and healthy conditions. As well as this, we have implemented recreational facilities, such as Internet/Communications/Movies/Musical Instruments/Games/ Gym rooms. A careful approach has been given to the catering on board to make sure the crew members have a variety of healthy meals. Medical facilities are all in place and organized well by the crewing department. We believe if you have a happy crew you have a happy ship! We are great believers of fuel efficient vessels and this has been proved by our recent large order of super eco Ultramaxes, which have now all been delivered. The problem is that we cannot just discard the older tonnage when at the time were built with much less efficient engines. The fact remains that most dry cargo vessels built before 2013/14 have the old style, less fuel efficient engines. That’s a lot of ships! However, our technical team have taken the initiative to work closely with our engineers onboard to try and make our older bulk carriers more efficient, but without compromising the engine or safety of the vessel.
Signal Group takes advantage of new IT tools to maximize its commercial performance

The Signal Group is a diversified shipping services group with offices in London and Athens. Within the Signal Group there are two main entities – the technology arm, Signal Ocean, and Signal Maritime, a commercial ship management company that brings together shipping best practice with advanced analytics and management methods. After systematic and careful research into shipping market trends and fundamentals, in 2018, at the Stavros Niarchos Culture Centre, the Signal Group announced the development of two innovative and comprehensive initiatives aimed at maximizing commercial shipping performance. The two initiatives include the launch of the Signal Ocean Platform and the Group’s Aframax tanker pool. The Signal Ocean Platform, a solution developed and marketed by Signal Ocean, allows charterers, brokers and shipowners to securely process, aggregate, analyze and interrogate a complex array of private and public shipping data. The Signal Maritime Aframax tanker pool is focused on high-performance, sustainable commercial management and the creation of innovative pooling models providing flexibility, transparency, enhanced commercial performance and more fairly distributed returns. In the interview that follows, CEO Ioannis Martinos describes the greatest milestones of the Signal Group and explains the capabilities of Signal Ocean Platform.
- Describe the greatest milestones of the Signal Group.
- “In 2014, after a number of years at Thenamaris, I founded the Signal Group. Back then, Signal Maritime – the commercial ship management arm of the company – chartered vessels under medium-term bareboat contracts from our long-term partner, Stealth Maritime. Between 2015 and 2016, we expanded our fleet to five Aframax tankers, one MR tanker and a Panamax bulker carrier. Encouraged by early signs of validation of our technology, coupled with the strengthening of our commercial ship management team, we are now increasingly focusing on our Aframax pool, which we launched in September of this year. Thenamaris covers technical management for some of the ships under management.”
- Describe your group’s chartering policy.
- “We think the market will continue to be volatile over the next few years. We follow an opportunistic strategy within the Spot market, with the aim of optimizing our commercial profits, and our technology helps us to do that. Of course, we don’t underestimate the value of the traditional hands-on ship management which means good maintenance, trained crews, fuel/ cost savings and safe management – all of which are important. Our Aframax Pool will follow this approach, and we will put all of our vessels into the Pool, as well as seek other Pool participants. We’ll continue to use the Signal Ocean Platform to take advantage of the added competitive edge Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and analytics can offer.
- Can you comment on the market conditions prevailing in the shipping market?
- “The recent tariffs which have been imposed, and the resulting trade war, have predominantly impacted the Container market rather than the Tanker or Dry Cargo sectors. It’s important to recognize that the growth rate of China significantly affects the conditions in the Tanker and Dry Cargo markets. On the other hand, growing US exports are a good thing and this is something we watch carefully. We expect in 2019 to see a healthier Tanker market and potentially softer Dry Cargo sector.”
- Are you involved in the compliance of BWTC and sulphur 2020 cap?
- “Being solely responsible for the commercial management of our fleet, we are not directly involved in the compliance of sulphur cap regulation and BWTC.”
- Are you engaged with bank financing, private equity funds or other  alternative financial tools? Do you have plans to diversify your fleet in other sectors of shipping?
- “We have invested our own funds in the expansion of our fleet so we have not shared financial risk with external providers. However, we continuously monitor and consider the available funding and financing options, without them being part of our immediate plans. We have also plans to diversify our fleet depending on the market fundamentals.”
- Can you refer to the reasons behind the development of Signal Ocean Platform?
- “In our effort to optimize the company’s chartering strategy and performance we developed a technology platform which helps chartering professionals monitor and predict, in the short-term, tonnage availability and spot market freight rate levels. Originally developed for internal use, we soon understood that both the investment and the value creation potential was bigger, so we decided to make The Signal Ocean Platform commercially available to all chartering professionals, ship owners, charterers and brokers.”
- Describe the main features and advantages of Signal Ocean Platform.
- “The Signal Ocean Platform is a B2B Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product. It securely collects, aggregates, analyses, and interrogates a complex array of private and public shipping data, in various formats: from emails, fixture reports and tonnage lists, to publicly available information and automatic identification systems. It then instantly delivers actionable, real-time intelligence, through a simple interface consisting of easyto- use dashboards and tools, to enable better and faster commercial decision-making. “The platform was developed and tested over four years by our team, who have intimate, first-hand knowledge of the commercial pressures each of the supply chain stakeholders are under. It fuses that knowledge with the same sort of data science and artificial intelligence technologies that are revolutionizing other transport sectors, like the connected car market. Most important of all, it recognizes that the shipping industry is unique and each of the stakeholders has an important and continuing role to play –they simply need industry specific tools to do the job more efficiently.” “For brokers, personal relationships, track record and experience are all important, however, what really counts is market knowledge and the ability to exploit that knowledge. The Signal Ocean platform provides brokers with comprehensive information that is delivered quickly, and easily accessed and analyzed to deliver actionable insight. “Charterers also have a real need for access to accurate, real-time information that will allow them to fix the best possible contract. Harnessing our technology allows them to fix the right ship, at the right time, travelling via the safest and most efficient route, and arriving within the allotted time frame. “Finally, shipowners, who are operating in a highly competitive market, also benefit from a more comprehensive understanding of industry to make better informed pricing decisions and load choices, and to gain that all important competitive advantage.”
- Describe the objectives of the commercial Aframax tanker pool that was launched by Signal Group.
- “To further enhance the use of our technology, the commercial ship management arm of the group, Signal Maritime, decided to create a new type of Pool. Launched in September of this year, the Pool we have built offers flexibility, transparency, enhanced commercial performance and more fairly distributed returns. We currently have eight Aframax vessels in our Pool and we intend to grow this to 10 by the end of 2018 and into 2019. All of the vessels in our Pool are no older than 15 years and they comply with the highest standards of quality and safety as per the latest vetting requirements of oil majors and port controls globally.”

- Can you refer to the future plans of the Signal Ocean Platform?
- “Our plans for the Signal Ocean Platform are to expand beyond dirty tankers and focus on dry and clean vessels. We’ll continue to develop the features and functionalities of the platform and better the technology for our current and future customers, whilst continuing to respect the traditional market structure.”
Danaos looks for further growth opportunities

Despite the recent volatility in the container market Danaos is seeking to engage in further growth opportunities following the completion of its $2.2b debt refinancing program which was concluded in June 2018. In the interview that follows Filippos Prokopakis, Commercial Manager (Chartering/Sale & Purchase) of Danaos Shipping Co Ltd, describes the greatest milestones of the company and refers to the chartering policy of the company’s fleet as well as the capabilities and skills of the human force.
- Describe the greatest milestones of your company.
- Different milestones in terms of nature remain pivotal regarding both our company’s past and future which can be addressed in the following chronological order. Danaos leadership switching from its founder Mr. Dimitrios Coustas to the hands of our current President & CEO Dr. John Coustas back in 1987. The handover provided the opportunity to Dr. Coustas to  explore his dream which was to interconnect his shipping know how and expertise together with technological breakthroughs which would eventually establish the Danaos brand as a powerhouse among the world’s shipping industry. The company’s induction to the NYSE as a container vessel owner in 2006 in combination with the sale of its entire dry bulk fleet in at the high side of the shipping cycle provided the fundamental opportunity of equity generation among other financial capabilities which would eventually enable the company to engage in its massive new building program right after which resulted in long term steady cash flow streams and strong customer/owner relationship whose synergies are still very relevant today. Latest massive re-financing of our company’s usd 2.2 billion debt which was concluded back in June and was under process for almost 2 years now has provided us the opportunity to ensure a healthy balance sheet which will enable us to engage in growth opportunities in the near and long term future.
- Can you comment on the market conditions prevailing the shipping market today?
- The shipping industry across all segments is currently focused on the ongoing tensions deriving from the US administration’s tariffs and sanctions mainly towards China but to Iran, Russia among others. These tensions surely do not support any substantial growth sentiment with most industry participants being sceptical and cautious when it comes to analyzing future consequences and therefore their future actions. Focusing on the container market it has to be stressed that following a historical market low in 2016, 2017 and the first months of 2018 demonstrated sharp charter rate increases thus creating a positive sentiment which proved to be short lived since tariff announcements and a combination of a traditional weak winter season resulted in a sharp decline which of course for the time being is above OPEX and far away from all time low figures across different vessel sizes. Currently the forecast and general impression is cautiously optimistic for 2019 with charter rates moving sideways although seasonal volatility and the traditional busy spring season commencing after the Chinese New Year may provide a note of optimism. Supply and demand fundamentals currently stand at some sort of equilibrium thus creating a sustainable charter demand across the board of different vessel sizes however this demand is volatile and highly dependent on market seasonality due to traditional cargo flows.
- Can you refer to the age profile, trading capabilities, chartering policy and operational strengths of your fleet?
- Our fleet’s average age is 10 years old with more modern tonnage being found on the larger sized vessels. Our ships vary in size from feeder sizes of 2.200 TEU (container intake) to very large container vessels of 13.100 TEUs in size trading worldwide and across all continents in designated and specific routes as assigned in the respective Charterer services. Out of the 59 vessels we operate, 26 are trading in the short to medium term charter market in terms of duration and the remaining majority is enjoying long term contracts which are not subject to re-chartering at least for the next 12 months providing 90% of the company’s revenue since most of them were originally contracted as NB’s. The mix of the two enables us to take advantage of any market upside on our spot ships whilst the ships under long term contracts provide steady cash flows, thus financial security which at the same time protects us from any market downside. As far as the  operational strengths are concerned it has to be mentioned that despite our big size, our top management “hands on” approach and everyday involvement in the business in combination with highly knowledgeable executives deriving within the Danaos family either from sea or shore, with our values close to mind and heart, makes us being pioneer among industry participants. Also establishing a breakthrough performance monitoring system by our Technical team also awarded by Lloyds List enhances our technical superiority and provides us with the opportunity to offer our customers a wide mix of services topping the traditional ship usage which in today’s demanding environment is critical.
- How do you intend to fulfill the new regulatory developments of BWTC and sulphur 2020 cap?
- The sulphur 2020 cap as well as BWTC installation will definitely change the shipping industry as we know it creating both obstacles and opportunities. In regards to BWTC our company will fully comply with the upcoming regulation by investing and installing such systems to vessels of its fleet, same to be applied in their upcoming dry dock dates whenever that will be. In regards to the 2020 sulphur cap we do believe that the 0.5% sulphur fuel will eventually become the dominant market norm with prices versus traditional HFO minimizing however it is evident that this may take up to 3 years if not more to apply during which price differentials will be substantial therefore we took a commercially driven decision to install open type scrubbers on 6 of our medium to large sized ships followed by a long term charter commitment from one of our customer thus ensuring a smooth payback as well as steady employment whilst enjoying a sustainable market rates demonstrating strong premiums versus today’s spot market. We are also negotiating further 5 ships with one of our existing long term Charterer whilst installing and financing the scrubber versus a charter premium on the existing charter duration. The rest of our fleet is already optimized and ready to use the “new” 0.5% sulphur fuel however its worth mentioning that the smaller the vessel and the less time in deep seas the less the consumption and therefore less the fuel price relevance.
- Do you have access to traditional bank finance, private equity funds or other alternative financial tools? Have you diversified your fleet in other sectors of shipping?
- Let me answer your question starting from the end. We are currently  pure container vessel owners since expertise and focus in our industry is mperative to create the long term owner/charterer relationship needed to move forward. We did have diversified in the past and may do so in the future under favorable circumstances. We are constantly also evaluating the dry bulk market and in case our top management feels its a right investment time then we have to be ready to move fast. In regards to financing, being a publicly listed company makes us an attractive partner to all financial tools and structures including alternative ones like Chinese leasing schemes as well as traditional ones. It has to be stressed that traditional bank finance is now limited and available to a limited number of Owners when at the same time funds are willing to provide sufficient funding but are not institutional investors thus demanding high returns, a clear exit strategy and relatively short term investment duration. Chinese Leasing is replacing traditional bank finance in terms of figures provided in monetary terms however it comes at a higher cost.
- What is the approach of your company regarding the continuous connectivity between the vessel and office and IT programs for training, crew welfare and energy/fuel efficiency?
- Our company prides itself for its operational efficiency whether this is in regards to vessel/office communication, training and energy efficiency. Danaos is purely relying on its own crew whilst operating crew offices in Russia, Ukraine, and Tanzania and of course Greece. In Tanzania we have created a maritime academy for low level rankings ensuring crews maintain the Danaos identity. Operational efficiency is also ensured by our local technical support office in Pusan, Korea  which ensures any problem in that part of world can be tackled extremely fast and efficient. Last but not least fuel efficiency is ensured by our award winning online monitoring  system which basically enables real time vessel data to be transmitted from the vessel to our head office via sensors. The data are then analyzed and compared automatically by the in-house developed software and with  specific vessel KPI’s whilst any deviations are corrected promptly by the attending fleet manager. Our online monitoring system ensures maximum reliability since any deviation from the vessel’s KPI’s and optimum company standards are corrected promptly.
Okeanis Eco Tankers invests timely in scrubber-fitted newbuilding tankers
Anticipating to the improvement of market fundamentals in the tanker sector Okeanis Eco Tankers has invested in newbuilding scrubber-fitted tankers adapting to future requirements and developments, whilst continually striving to achieve and sustain a state of excellence in the whole spectrum of its services. The company continues the maritime tradition of the Alafouzos family with a forward thinking and innovative policy. Okeanis Eco Tankers listed in 2018 in the Merkur Market of Oslo raising $100m. The fleet of the company comprises of 3 LR2s – 114.322dwt, built 2015, 4 suezmaxes, 157.000dwt, built 2016 – 2018, 8 newbuildings at Hyundai Heavy Industries, 319.000dwt, to be delivered in 2019.
As Mr. Ioannis Alafouzos, chairman and CEO of Okeanis Eco Tankers stated to the 20th Annual Marine Money Forum in Athens: “Okeanis Eco Tankers cooperates with 1st class charterers investing in state of the art ships. The company has decided to install scrubbers to all tankers focusing on the excellent environmental operations of its fleet. We expect that the regulation of sulphur cap 2020 will accelerate scrapping which will result to the dramatic recovery of the tanker sector”.
According to market sources the newbuilding program of the company is financed by the traditional bank lending and lease facilities while the  placement of $100m will accommodate the financial needs of Okeanis in 2019. Okeanis has also employed the majority of its fleet under medium term charter contacts cooperating with 1st class charterers including Vitol, Trafigura, Koch and Total and anticipating to further improvement in the tanker sector into 2020.
Blue Planet Shipping combines traditional shipping values with innovative spirit

Focusing on ship energy efficiency systems and the development of soft skill for its shore and shipboard personnel  Blue Planet Shipping has achieved to operate one of the most advanced and sophisticated fleet worldwide. Mrs. Marianthe Patrona, Managing Director of Blue Planet Shipping, describes the company’s initiatives in the fields of safety, environmental protection and sustainability and refers the commercial capabilities and strengths of the company’s fleet.
- Describe the greatest milestones of your company.
- Blue Planet is committed to safety, environmental protection and putting its sustainability policies into action. We are proud to manage modern ships with innovative technology such as the MV Afros, being the first bulker worldwide with a Flettner Rotor System for wind assisted propulsion. In addition we gradually install on managed fleet, Ship Energy Efficiency System comprised of variable frequency dri ves reducing significantly onboard powering needs of primary pumps and fans. The fleet over the past 2 years has doubled in size, requiring particular attention and a solid management system to be supported. Such an expansion entails the addition of new employees both ashore and onboard, the Company invests in seafarers through our cadets’ programme as we strongly believe that in the absence of entry level opportunities, a team with potential cannot be built. The continuous training and development of our shore and shipboard personnel both in technical and soft skills is of paramount importance, for that reason we have developed training campaigns and programs for all levels.
- Can you comment on the market conditions prevailing the shipping market today?
- Certainly we are in a better place than some years ago, however there are currently signs of a market depression. In the long term we believe that the freight market will improve mostly because of the new regulations coming into force. First a number of old tonnage will be scrapped as an investment for ballast water treatment installation will not make sense. Furthermore it is widely known across the industry that older ships face difficulties in consuming low sulphur diesel oils and we have not yet seen any implication with the hybrid oils that we expect to be produced by refineries near 2020. We have also to take into consideration the side effects of this so called ‘’trade war’’ but in my opinion this side effects will not last for long nor have any significant consequences on the market. Therefore we expect a favourable market condition in the years to come.
– Can you refer to the age profile, trading capabilities, chartering policy and operational strengths of your fleet?
- Blue Planet manages 14 vessels, 1 post panama, 6 kamsarmax, 3 ultramax, 4 supramax. The average age of our fleet is 5.6 years and total capacity 992,894 dwt. Our operational strengths rely firstly on people, each and every one has great experience on his/her field and a strong corporate culture. Blue Planet combines traditional Greek shipping values along with an innovative spirit. Many consider seamanship relates to the skills associated with ship-handling and navigation. For us, seamanship is a business culture defining our course as a business; forecasting challenges, navigating through favourable and difficult market conditions and finally delivering our services safely and efficiently.
- How do you intend to fulfill the new regulatory developments of BWTC and sulphur 2020 cap?
-With regards to Ballast Water Treatment requirements, 60% of  our fleet is already in compliance both with USCG and IMO requirements. We have installed approved systems on our new ships and our ultramax fleet have duplicated systems for maximum efficiency. As explained above the Company is committed in protecting the environment and putting its sustainability policies into action. Action means investment and we strongly believe that the future lies in renewable energy and not in systems redirecting wastes from the air into the sea.
- Are you engaged with the traditional bank financing funds or other financial tools?
-Although the access to traditional finance has been made difficult for most shipowners, traditional shipping companies such as Blue Planet has access to bank finance. This access is safeguarded by mutual trust and consistency. Despite the strict compliance requirements imposed by central banks, in my opinion banks will continue to support traditional Greek shipowners being a safe and reliable investment for the banks. We have no any plans to diversify our fleet since we wish to stick on what we know best and excel on it.
- What is the approach of your company regarding the continuous between the vessel and office connectivity and IT facilities for training purposes and crew welfare?
- Traditional paper based management systems are replaced by ERP software products leading to efficient workflows in an eco-friendly way and to minimize the margin of error. We work closely with Argo Systems in developing our custom ERP to suit our specific needs and requirements. Procurement, accounting, freight collection and ship’s performance tasks are performed and monitored solely through the Argo software in real time between Office and vessels. Currently we
are developing the Planned Maintenance System and re-designing our Safety Management System in a digital format to be implemented  through the Argo software including elements of Bulker Management & Self-Assessment. All of our vessels have onboard wi-fi for crew welfare.
Transmed marks 44 consecutive years of excellent ship operations
Adapting and surviving towards any change and fluctuation of the shipping market Transmed Shipping marks 44 consecutive years of fleet growth, renewal and diversification to new shipping sectors. Nicole Mylona, CEO of Transmed Shipping, describes the greatest milestones of the company and discloses the short and medium plans of the company.
- Describe the greatest milestones of your company.
-Transmed had since inception owned and operated second hand dry tonnage. In the years surrounding the millennium the decision was made to focus on younger and larger tonnage. A rigorous newbuilding program was then adopted and very soon our fleet average age was in the single digits. In 2016 we set up operations in Nicosia and towards the end of 2017 the Group exceeded 3 million dwt in cargo carrying capacity in the dry sector alone. In terms of number of vessels, though, we are – for now – a few short of our previous high. But are these really milestones? In an ever-changing industry the key to survival for any company is adaptability. Whether it be changes in regulation or changes in the market, we are all directed towards renewed strategies or technological advancements that promise to improve our competitiveness. In my mind, our greatest milestone is that w e have been in business for 44 consecutive years, riding the waves of 4 shipping crises never at the expense of quality. Our “milestones ” are all connected to this adaptability and any changes to our fleet size, type or technology have all been part of continuous and vital decision making to this end.
- Can you comment on the market conditions prevailing the shipping market today?
- If I had to use just one word to describe the shipping market today that would be “distorted”. Overcapacity is still a fact despite increases in world GDP. New regulations will assist the scrapping rate, but the world fleet is very young in age, and I would not expect to see any significant decrease on the supply side over the next few years. The ongoing sanctions and tariffs do not seem likely to disappear any time soon, but the extra tonmiles are already evident in many trades such as soya beans, and their impact has not been so significant so as to counterbalance the oversupply. The trickiest part in my mind, is that expectations seem to be the driving force of the market nowadays. The world of Tweeter and of derivatives that we have grown into has meant that market fundamentals are only relevant if looking at the long term.
– Can you refer to the age profile, trading capabilities, chartering policy and operational strengths of your fleet.
-The group currently operates 29 dry bulk vessels ranging in size from Kamsarmax to Newcastlemax. Our chartering policy has always been conservative. At any given point in time one third of the fleet is employed in long-term charters providing us with down-side protection. Our volume further allows us to strategically position ourselves across both basins, enabling us to take full advantage of seasonal trades. Our 44 years of presence coupled with our young, energy efficient fleet have served to strengthen our ties with major clients around the world.
- What are the objectives and plans of your company’ s entering into the tanker market?
- Entering the tanker market now was a carefully thought out plan of diversification for us. Our current volume of 3.5 million dwt in the dry sector mandates this. The conditions in the tanker sector appear favourable at this time and we envisage to steadily grow our wet  fleet over the next 12 to 24 months.
- How do you intend to fulfill the new regulator y developments of  BWTC and sulphur 2020 cap?
- Contrary to our instincts our Technical team has been working on retrofitting ballast water treatment plants and investigating options to comply with the global sulphur cap. They have to. The regulations are coming and we must find a way to be compliant. But once again the industry is unprepared and – in my opinion – on the wrong t rack! The problem with ballast water originated with the transfer of micro-organisms from one region to another, thereby altering local
eco systems. Instead of regulating these transfers, shipowners have been asked to install complicated and expensive equipment to kill off any living organism contained therein. Has any one studied the impact of this “treatment” in the long run? Does it not stand to reason that it is only a matter of time before environmentalists around the world realize what we are doing to our seas? The case of desulphurization is no different. It is in fact particularly worrying that we are just 13 months away from implementation and we still have no reliable information on what fuels will be available. Instead owners are being asked to invest huge sums on technology that has not been sufficiently tested. Why are regulators not focusing on the supply side instead?  If desulphurization really is the way to save the atmosphere then why are we attempting to create 40,000 mini refineries instead of simply regulating the quality of fuel oil? It is both disappointing and infuriating…
- What is the approach of your company regarding the continuous connectivity between the vessel and office and IT programs  for training, crew welfare and energy/fuel efficiency?
-The ability to have continuous connectivity has undoubtedly  transformed modern day shipowning. It has opened the door to a multitude of tools that make both monitoring and training ever  more efficient and effective. I have often heard said of the use of computers “garbage in-garbage out”, but it seems to me w e are ignoring that this refers to the human element – not the machine or software. Choosing to use the available technology simply makes data more manageable.What we must all be careful with is the very real cyber security risk. Whether it be crew personal data or MRV reporting, connectivity comes with risks that must not be underestimated or ignored. All of us at Transmed place great importance on protecting against these risks and still finding ways to take advantage of the available technology.
Global Ship Lease and Poseidon Containers merger
On 15th November 2018 Global Ship Lease and Poseidon Containers proceeded to a merger of their fleets, a transaction valued more than $500m. The above deal marks the second attempt of George Youroukos, managing director of Poseidon to enter the US Stock Exchange. In his first attempt during 2015 the company decided not to proceed with the induction of the company although the company had completed with success the shares book as they predicted that the market showed signs of recession and did not want the investors to loose money from their investment in Poseidon. Both companies will have a fleet of 38 small and medium size containerships with an asset base more than $1.3bn. The aim of the company is to succeed significant additional growth and to benefit substantially in a recovering market. Mr. Youroukos will be Executive Chairman of this company and Ian Webber Chief Executive of GSL will be retaining his position and Mr. Tasos Psarropoulos as Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Youroukos mentions that “evaluating the market fundamentals we believe that this merger of the two companies creates significant opportunities to invest in small and medium size containerships waiting at the same time for the improvement of the financial market and the global economy in the immediate future”. According to Mr. Webber “the combination of these two companies will allow the company to double its fleet, diversify and enlarge our portfolio of customers”
Load Line Marine aims at maintaining a quality and modern fleet

Taking advantage of the latest technological developments in ship maintenance, emissions control and training of seafarers, Load Line Marine S A has achieved to manage one of the youngest and highest quality fleets in the Greek  shipping industry. The CEO of the company, George Souravlas describes the trading capabilities of the company’s fleet and explains the company’s strategy and philosophy in complying with all regulatory and vetting requirements of port state authorities and charterers.
- Describe the greatest milestones of your company.
- Load Line Marine was set up in 2010 together with Costis Calfoglou. The original objective was the gradual acquisition and ordering of two handysize and an ultramax dry cargo vessels. Load Line Marine’s first bulk carrier was the 28,000 DWT “Alpha”. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 the company took delivery of the newbuilding vessels “Charlie” (34,168 DWT), “Delta” (34,175 DWT) from S. Korean shipyard, Daesun and the 63,490 DWT ultramax “Eco” from the Chinese shipyard, Jiangsu Hantong Ship Heavy Industry, respectively. Subsequently, the company proceeded to the addition to its fleet of the geared 35,170 DWT vessel “Foxtrot”, built in 2012, the 30,193 DWT vessel “Horizon”, built in 2007 and the 34,416 DWT vessel “Golf”, built in 2011. In 2015, in view of the low values of ships, the company acquired the supramax bulker “Top Trader” (52,400 DWT), built in 2001, and in 2016 acquired the 54,850 DWT “Erasmos”, built in 2011, the 52,413 DWT “Challenger”, built in 2001 and the 48,193 DWT “Fighter”, built in 2001. Since 2018, the company has followed a fleet renewal strategy taking advantage of the recovery in the dry cargo market. In that context, Load Line Marine has sold three older vessels at high prices, securing strong profits. Recently, the company acquired the M/V “Super Trader” (56,838 DWT), built in 2011 and “Epic Trader” (56,779 DWT), built in 2012, investing the proceeds of the previous sales in the renewal of its fleet. We consider the most important and forming period of our company, the market crisis years between 2013 and 2016 during which our systematic and continuous efforts to weather the weak market conditions, with the support of our financiers, creditors and shareholders, were successful. We managed to reduce Operating costs and engage in sound charter contracts as a result of the efforts, dedication and expertise of our staff and crew, despite the unfavourable conditions which have prevailed in the dry cargo market.
- Can you comment on the market conditions prevailing in the shipping market?
- We are confident that the dry cargo market in the sectors of handysize, supramax and ultramax vessels will continue to improve due to the healthy supply of tonnage and the strong demand for ton-miles. The banks are still very reluctant to lend and, therefore, there is a limited number of new building orders, resulting in a healthier market environment.
– Can you refer to the age profile, trading capabilities, chartering policy and operational strengths of your fleet?
- Today the company controls a fleet of eight bulk carriers from handyzise to ultramax with an average age of seven years. We charter our fleet mainly under short period contracts with first class charterers, always aiming at favourable terms and conditions. We carry a great variety of cargoes such as grains, coal, minerals, sugar, fertilizers and others. Our vessels are mostly equipped with 36 ton cranes and grabs and trade worldwide but mainly in the Atlantic region from South America and US Coast to Europe and West Africa.
- How do you intend to fulfill the new regulatory developments of BWTC and Sulphur 2020 cap?
-We intend to timely and fully comply with the Ballast Water Treatment Convention by monitoring the efficiency of several systems and taking the right decision after evaluating all related factors. We would like to invest, if possible, in the latest and most updated version of BWTS in order to achieve the best possible performance, while being crew user friendly. In the field of Sulphur cap 2020 regulation, we believe that the open loop scrubber is not the most environmentally sound system, as it discharges the washed water with increased SOx levels in the sea along with possibly unburned fuel and lubricants and there is a possibility that such a system will be banned by an increasing number of port state authorities. Vessels fitted with open loop scrubbers will probably be required to use compliant fuels or switch to a closed loop mode of operation. Therefore, we will delay taking our final decisions, to be in line with the latest regulatory, market and technological developments.
- Do you have access to traditional bank finance, private equity funds or other alternative financial tools? Have you plans to diversify your fleet in other sectors of shipping?
-Over the years, we have built excellent relations with our financiers, who  have continuously supported our vision and future aims. Regarding the alternative tools of financing, we believe that they can prove to be very useful for transparent and sustainable projects in shipping. We cannot accuse Private Equity Funds for the imbalance of supply/demand of tonnage and the excessive orderbook in shipping during the period 2013-2016. It is the shipping companies that ordered new vessels with the support of Private Equity Funds that distorted the supply/demand balance, causing dramatic reduction in the freight rates of bulk carriers. We do not have immediate plans to diversify our activities by investing in the tanker sector, although we have extensive experience in operating crude oil, product and chemical tankers. Nevertheless, we are monitoring the market fundamentals and we will proceed with acquisitions in this challenging sector, when the time is right.
- What is the approach of your company regarding the continuous connectivity between the vessel and office and IT programs for training, crew welfare and energy/fuel efficiency?
-We provide the highest level of support to our crew in order for them to enjoy high standards of health, welfare and living conditions onboard. We also provide the proper training and equipment to ensure that all vessels under our management are operated according to the highest standards of safety, security and protection of the environment. We have equipped all our vessels with satellite communication systems and Wi-Fi connections in order to keep our crew on board content and, thus, efficient. We strongly believe that the most important problem of our planet is the climatic change and we therefore use all applicable systems, from ultra smooth antifouling coatings to energy saving devices to improve the performance of our vessels. Our newbuilding vessels are eco-type with efficient engines and we continuously renew and upgrade our fleet, in order to ensure energy efficiency. At present, we are in the process of implementing a remote performance monitoring system for the entire fleet.
-How do you face the vetting requirements of port authorities and charterers?
- Currently, all our vessels are rated by Rightship with 5 stars, which is the highest rating. The US Coast Guard has eleven times awarded our vessels with the prestigious Qualship 21 award, which brings our ships in the highest 10% rating of all vessels entering US ports. Our fleet actively participates in the US Coast Guard’s AMVER system and two of our vessels have been awarded with Gold Flags. On numerous occasions, our vessels have participated in the search and rescue of seafarers. We see value in every initiative that would help to reduce risk of life at sea and environmental pollution. We are also members of BIMCO, HELMEPA, Intercargo, UGS, HSSA and we voluntarily participate in the Green Flag program of the USA for the protection of the sea and air pollution. All the above distinctions demonstrate our focus on achieving high performance and consistently top standards of operation in a financially, socially and environmentally sustainable manner.
Leon Shipping & Trading explores new growth opportunities in the chemical tanker sector
Although the history of Leon Shipping & Trading is not too long, the background of the company’s management team concentrates an experience of over 50 years in general and 30 years specifically in the chemical tanker sector.  Leon Shipping & Trading was established in 2010 by Panos Efthymiadis after a carefu l and thorough examination of the market fundamentals in the tanker sector. Before setting up his own venture Panos served as General Manager of his family owned shipping company, Lotus Shipping Co. Ltd., a company founded by his father Capt. Pantelis Efthymiadis in 1986. Capt. Pantelis Efthymiadis, a sea-going captain for many years in his early career, became in 1970 a co-founder of the Tsakos Shipping & Trading S.A. and he remained there as General Manager, a Member of the Board of Directors and a shareholder for 16 years. Lotus Shipping Co. Ltd. has acquired, operated more than 45 ships of all types, and was one of the leading companies to sign 12 newbuilding contracts for chemical vessels with Korean shipyards in 2002-2003. Panos Efthymiadis holds a B.Sc degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Manhattan College in New York. He has worked as a Superintendent Engineer and Assistant to the Technical Manager of Tsakos Shipping & Trading S.A. in his early career and after being involved in all activities with in the company became senior advisor to the management team. In the interview that follows Panos Efthymiadis describes the greatest achievements of Leon and refers to the future plans of the company.
Can you refer to the age profile and operational strengths of your fleet?
- Leon Shipping & Trading S.A. is currently managing two 40.000dwt product/chemical tankers both build on 2008, a dwt 20.000 IMO 2/3 marine lined coated build on 2009and two dwt 17.500 IMO 2/3 phenguard, build on 2008 and 2009 respectively. All these years we have focused on maintaining a young fleet of an average age under 10 years and operating at the highest standards of the market. Leon employs experienced and qualified executives and personnel and enjoys close relationships with major groups, traders and charterers of the chemical and tanker shipping sector. The company’s mission is to explore new business opportunities and joint ventures on these particular sectors. While being under the umbrella of Lotus and the Tsakos Group of Companies, Leon Shipping is fully independent and may choose to act either independently or jointly with them depending on the circumstances of each particular project.
-What is the chartering policy of your company and trading capabilities of your fleet?
-Our policy is to charter our fleet both in the spot and timecharter markets.  Also and in order to maximize revenues as the tanker market was not favorable the last year, we have entered the UPT and Maersk pool with two of our vessels. Now our future plans is to expand our fleet size with the acquisition of one MR2 and one LR2 tankers, as we believe that the market outlook is very favorable to invest on larger vessels. In 2019 we will enter into more sophisticated and demanding ships exploiting our excellent reputation and management expertise in the tanker sector.
-Describe the skills of the company’s human force and financial resources.
-We take advantage of the traditional financing tools and private equity funds to expand further our fleet with modern second hand  tonnage. Our office employs high qualified and skilled people and our key personnel has served in top management positions in the tanker industry. All our vessels are TMSA3 approved and comply the highest standards of safety and quality of our charterers.
-Do you comply with the new environmental regulations of BWTS  and Sulphur Cap 2020?
- We follow a “wait and see ” policy regarding the new rules for the sulphur cap 2020, because we believe that the objectives of the regulations are not achievable and realistic. We are sure that the shipping industry will face practical problems in implementing those regulations. We will draw our policy according to the latest developments in the shipping market and in any case w e intend to install BWTS before the final timeline. Regarding the sulphur cap 2020 we will  adopt to our charterers guidelines.
-Do you have plans to employ Greek seafarers and how the Greek Government can strengthen the National Registry and attract more shipping business in Piraeus?
-We employ Russian officers onboar d our vessels and Philipino ratings. Of course we will be happy to employ Greek seafarers as we see more young people to join the shipping profession due to the high unemployment rate in Greece the last y ears. We regret to say that the last 30 y ears although the Greek shipping industry has grown tremendously in terms of the number of vessels and tonnage controlled by Greeks maintaining the highest position internationally, Greece’s economy could not take advantage of this expansion. We have seen the sectors of ship repairing, ship constructions and the development of new seafarers to slow down due to the lack of the appropriate incentives and vision.
The Greek state should be more flexible and open minded to attract  a big part of maritime and ancillary activities through the pro motion of the maritime profession and upgrading maritime education and  training as well as the adoption of the appropriate institution framework  for listing shipping companies in the Greek stock exchange. We hope that the interest of Greek young people to study in state owned and non- state nautical academies will be a positive sign for the future of our shipping industry.

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