International Registries Inc., the group representing the Marshall Islands Registry and its Hellenic branch are powering through the economic crisis. With Hellenic ship owners representing 26% of the Marshall Islands fleet, being the second largest
source of gross tonnage for the Registry, the local office in Piraeus increases its staff to further accommodate local owners and operators. Moreover, the company also established a liaison office in Istanbul, under the supervision of the Piraeus office. "We have seen a lot of development in Turkish shipping lately and are pleased to now have a local representative in this market. This office will be able to serve the local community by offering registration of ships and mortgages, certification of ships, issuing of corporate related documents and acting in a commercial capacity with a marketing objective" said Mr. Theofilos Xenakoudis, Managing Director of Marshall Islands Registry in Piraeus. The full text of the interview follows:
International Registries, Inc. (Marshall Islands) has long established itself as a credible and reliable in the shipping industry. How did 2008 fare for the Hellenic branch?
The average age of the Marshall Islands fleet is 11 years and includes 489 tanker ships totaling 21,684,972 gross tons, 310 bulk ships totaling 11,495,313 gross tons, 235 container ships totaling 5,365,874 gross tons, 228 vessels servicing the offshore industry totaling 2,465,737 gross tons, along with passenger ships, general and multi-purpose vessels and many other vessel types bringing the total fleet size, as of the first quarter of 2009, to 1,994 vessels totaling 48,238,385 gross tons.Β The Marshall Islands is ranked as the fourth largest open registry.
Greek shipowners continue as the Registry's second largest source of gross tonnage.Β Approximately 26% of the Marshall Islands fleet is represented by vessel operators in the Mediterranean region for which the Hellenic branch of International Registries, Inc. looks after. The Registry's office in Piraeus has increased its staff to further accommodate local owners and operators with respect to technical and marine safety matters in addition to handling vessel registrations, mortgage recordations and seafarer documentation.Β Representatives from the Greek shipping community remain active on the Marshall Islands Quality Council (MIQC) with the next scheduled meeting to be held in Singapore during Singapore Maritime Week.
Amid the crisis that affected shipping gravely, what are the guidelines that a registry can set for its customers, in order to provide useful advice to them?
While this is a broad question, there are a couple of things that the Registry has historically done and continues to do to keep owners and operators apprised of changes affecting the operation of their ships. Additionally, the Registry has established clear and express procedures for laying up ships and guidelines are communicated to the owners and operators through marine notices and publications.
Do you think that we'll see significant changes in registries' structures (in terms of ships) as a result of the crisis?
This is certainly a possibility. From our perspective, we have seen some cancellations of newbuilding contracts and have received requests from owners on the container side to find out the necessary steps to move a vessel into a lay-up status. During 2008, there was a 50/50 split between newbuilding and second hand tonnage coming into the Registry. In the first quarter of 2009, we've seen more newbuildings coming in the flag, which reveals the downturn in the sale and purchase market. In fact, 62% of the registrations in the first quarter of this year represent newbuilding tonnage.
What are the future plans of International Registries, Inc. both in the international scene and the Hellenic branch (i.e. Istanbul)?
It's good to ask this at this time since International Registries, Inc. just opened offices in Dubai and Houston. We have also established a liaison office in Istanbul, under the supervision of the Piraeus office. We have seen a lot of development in Turkish shipping lately and are pleased to now have a local representative in this market. This office will be able to serve the local community by offering registration of ships and mortgages, certification of ships, issuing of corporate related documents and acting in a commercial capacity with a marketing objective. We are really proud that an Istanbul office is now a reality in this beautiful and historic city.
Additionally, I would like to underline that our office has further expanded by adding Marine Safety and Technical persons with sea and shipmanagement experience, who will be in the position to handle 100% marine safety, PSC, technical, ISM/ISPS requests for the local shipowning community (and at an international level when appropriate) plus scheduling and assessing safety inspections in the Mediterranean and Black Sea area. Also, marine operations department in Piraeus will liaise with the classification societies for further class and statutory matters. This is a great step towards offering a first class post registration service to our clients, in a timely and quality fashion.
How will this crisis affect global shipping when it finally ends? Will we see a different picture emerging?
It is difficult to comment on how this crisis will ultimately impact global shipping but given what we currently know, it seems a different picture is already emerging. If the market conditions continue as we've been experiencing, we may see more changes in terms of companies restructuring and the organization/management of fleets. Honestly, it's difficult to say how long the crisis will last. As a flag state, it is important to maintain a strong infrastructure, expertise and resources to assist owners and operators so they can keep their ships moving during these difficult times.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide