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Hellenic Shipping News interviews Mr. Alexis Aggelopoulos, Chairman of A.C.A Shipping Corp.

The remains of outdated mentality cannot prevail in the new environment of privatization and dense competition among other big ports of the Mediterranean says ?Alexis Aggelopoulos, regarding the dispute in the Port of

Piraeus, which has caused a near black-out in the market, during the last month.Furthermore, Mr. Aggelopoulos states that the new series of proposals in order to raise the competitiveness of Hellenic-flagged ships don?t take into account the ships operating in the Mediterranean with capacities of up to 10,000 dwt. As to his predictions on the evolvement of rates during 2007, he claims that the current levels are sustainable throughout next year.
Port of Piraeus is going through a serious crisis recently, with the work stoppages of dockworkers, causing major problems in the port’s operations.

Which is your opinion on the matter?
In the new environment of privatization and dense competition among other big ports of the Mediterranean, all parties involved (management and port workers) need to realize that the remains of outdated mentality cannot prevail.
On the other hand it seems a little ungainly that the Ministry is to make deals (COSCO) without any kind of pre-advice by the port management or port workers and without prior investigation of interest expressed by major players (MAERSK) or the main port users (MSC) which can have obvious and immediate negative impact on the operation of the port.
On top of that, the port has to develop into a friendlier one towards its users since Piraeus port is not solely a container port. For instance, no one can dispute the fact that there are numerous problems such as delays caused by pilot?s unavailability while at the same time no one can overlook the unstable situation hovering over the Perama zone.
Ministry of Merchant Shipping has adopted a new series of proposals in order to raise the competitiveness of Hellenic-flagged ships. Do you think that the new measures are moving towards the right direction? Will they have a positive impact or not?
Basically, most of these proposals are in the right direction even though they do not seem radical enough so as to have an obvious result. On the other hand, to our deep disappointment, there have been no proposals at all regarding the “Mediterranean size ships’ (i.e. up to 10.000 dwt) which our company specializes in and particularly the ones trading out of the Greek waters. As a consequence, the strong fleet of Greek owned ships which culminated around the world 20 years ago practically does not exist anymore. No Greek flagged ships trade in the Mediterranean any more and even the number of Greek owned ships with foreign flags has been dramatically reduced since the difficulties deriving from operation of a ship flying a flag of convenience and without a strong/national registry behind the ship owner become harder and more intense day by day.
Banking sector seems to be moving its fierce competition in shipping. Is that notion true in your opinion? Do banks actually aid Hellenic shipping more than in the past?
Banks globally have realised that despite the fact that shipping is a high risk investment, at the same time it is an industry meeting the criteria for further financing and of course quick and serious profits for all parties involved.
Over the last few years the qualitative development and the modernisation of the shipping companies along with the fact that Greece remains the number one shipping nation in the world has normally led the majority of banks (other than the ones which have been traditionally supporting Hellenic shipping) to see shipping as a lucrative field offering opportunities for extra profit. Banks or funds had the need to inflow money in a new industry and share with them their big economic liquidity.
We will be able to practically see if banks are actually here to aid the Hellenic Shipping in a closer way than in the past only if the market starts to be declining (which is by all means something that I wish not”¦).
Which are your estimates about the future course of rates in 2007?
This year is about to end so as anyone can understand the future course of rates in 2007 is the big talk of the day! The market globally remains in very strong levels and most analysts predict it will sustain (more or less) the same levels in 2007 as the development and growth of China and India seems to be -at least for the time being- incessant.
What is the current market situation in the Mediterranean market, where ACA Shipping is present? Which are the main problems faced by ship owners and operators?
The current market situation in the Mediterranean is quite encouraging despite the existing problems. This positive outcome is solely due to the fact that freights are strong and med size ships are not so many, as a lot of the Russian ships are trading within the Russian rivers and Caspian Sea. A major player during this decade has been the Turkish fleet with a lot of new ships (mainly built in Turkish shipyards)
I’m of the opinion that the main problem for Greek owned ships as advised before, is the lack of a national (or “parallel’) registry which could help and boost the quality improvement of these kind of ships. Quality improvement by the fact that Greek flagged ships would be better approached by major charterers, classification societies, insurers, bankers and port state controls, i.e. by all the shipping chain. A second, but equally important, problem is the present situation with the Paris or Mediterranean M.O.U. port state control inspections. There have been some ports (not to mention whole countries such as Portugal and Spain) which act as if they have an open war with the Greek shipping. Bear in mind that a ship of such size trading within the Mediterranean can have 5/6 calls per month to Paris M.O.U. ports. It goes without saying that you don?t just need a quality ship in your hand and a professional management company but saint Nicolas? help and some of extra luck so as to overcome the daily difficulties.

Nikos Roussanoglou- Hellenic Shipping News Wordwide

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