This growth poses new challenges to LISCR which attributes a big chunk of it in the quality of services provided, according to the registry's President, Mr. Brad L. Berman and the Piraeus office head, Mr. Michalis S.
Pantazopoulos, speaking to Hellenic Shipping News. Aiming even higher, LISCR is about to introduce a new service from this July, which will give all ship owners and clients of the registry the ability to monitor and have access to the data of their corporate entity, through a dedicated online service.
Being one of the main Registries of preference among Hellenic ship owners, the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR) is home to about 400 Hellenic-owned vessels of every kind, out of a total of 2,350. It has also secured the addition of about 25 percent of all new buildings ordered by Hellenic shipping companies in the previous years and expected to join the world fleet in the next 2-3 years.
The full text of the interview is as follows:
The Liberian Registry has recorded a significant growth over the past years. Which were the main drivers of this development?
Brad L. Berman: In the registry business the fee, which everyone thinks is the most important is completely commoditized. So basically you pay the same fees all over, without many differences. Liberia took the lead in different projects like online seafarer documents, doing our own audits and inspections, following security ISPS and ISM codes. At the same time we did a lot of infrastructure with new laws.
Michalis S. Pantazopoulos: We pride to be very responsive to a client's needs. Within 24 hours on a worldwide basis, no matter what the vessel or the operator is, we try to solve the problem upon request.
Brad L. Berman: We have 250 inspectors who work for us independently, who we can send to a location. So in any case we can either foresee a problem, or we already know that some situation has occurred and send a local inspector with a nominal charge, because he's already on location. These inspectors are based in all the major ports of the world and in some cases we have our own exclusive inspectors in the same ports in order to assist us. This provides us a great advantage that other registries don't have. So, besides operating worldwide out of key offices in major ports like Hamburg, London, Piraeus, Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York, we also have these local inspectors who have maritime experience being i.e. former captains, to affectively jump on a situation, before it becomes a problem.
Michalis S. Pantazopoulos: We view the client as a partner in the shipping industry and because of that we would like to assist them when they are in need. This way we manage to keep our record of high standard. So, when a vessel has a problem and the client informs us of that, we are intervening either with a dispensation, or with our own local surveyor at the port where the vessel is and we try to resolve the problem. If the problem can't be resolved, we offer other assistance with an exemption, or to have the issue corrected in the next port of call etc. and perhaps this way we are eliminating a possible vessel detention. In such cases if the flag-state intervenes, probably you avoid detention.
Do you perform inspections prior to each vessel's registration in LICSR?
Michalis S. Pantazopoulos: It's not a requirement to perform a pre-inspection before the registration of the vessel. What we do is review the vessel records, because the Liberian Registry has an age limitation of 20 years. However, if a vessel ages within the Registry, of course we keep the vessel under our flag. The only thing required by the Registry is to perform a mandatory annual safety inspection on each vessel by our own inspectors and then based on the findings report back to the ship manager in order to remedy possible problems, if such are found.
Can we attribute the boom in the Liberian Registry's growth to the introduction of new services?
Michalis S. Pantazopoulos: The characteristic of the Liberian Registry, either if it is a vessel or a corporate one is that annually we try to produce new services or products. Being a big registry with more than 2,300 vessels, some of the fees we collect on an annual basis are reinvested in technology, without passing this cost to the client. But the facilitation of the new service or product is offered to the client, saving him time and money. The corporate services exist as long as the Registry exists. The Liberian Registry was one of the preferred registries of Hellenic ship owners back in the 50?s.
What is the number of Hellenic-owned vessels currently registered under Liberia's flag?
Michalis S. Pantazopoulos: We have around 400 existing Hellenic-owned or managed vessels under the Liberian flag. Also, in the next two to three years, around 25 percent of the new buildings ordered by Hellenic ship owners are expected to list in our Registry. In terms of our clients, all the major Hellenic shipping companies have joined us, among which are many of the new ones, controlled by the new breed of Hellenic Shipping.
What is your target for 2007 in terms of vessel additions?
Michalis S. Pantazopoulos: We will continue to do our best in the business. Of course we have targets, but if you see our performance in the last five or six years, you will observe that in 2000 the Registry had 1,750 vessels, while today, six years later, we have 2,350 vessels. This 30 percent increase in numbers is quite solid performance and we expect this trend to continue in the future.
In terms of fees would you place your Registry on the medium-end of the market?
Brad L. Berman: Our fees are very competitive. On the corporate side we?re one of the more expensive corporate registries, but no one would know that.
Michalis S. Pantazopoulos: What Mr. Berman means by that is that the Liberian Registry for instance costs $700 while a competitor's service costs $650 and that money difference is insignificant when it comes to ship owners. On the vessel side, we are on the medium end of the market, we?re not the most expensive. For example Panama?s registry is more expensive. But the differences in prices are not that big or important. What is important is what kind of services does the ship owner get for the same amount of fees.
Would you say that the services side is also one of the main challenges that Registries face in today's maritime business?
Michalis S. Pantazopoulos: Yes it is because time plays a key role in today's shipping. So a registry must be able to promptly respond to a problem wherever that occurs in the world and resolve it as quickly as possible. If you manage to do that successfully you will be rewarded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide