ECONOMY

Local shipowners turn to liquefied gas carriers

Greek shipowners are flocking to shipyards in South Korea and China, mostly opting to invest in liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carriers as it is estimated that demand for such charters will increase considerably in the coming years.

Shipbrokers estimate that Greek shippers have made more than 20 orders for LNG and LPG carriers in the last 10 months, totaling $700 million. If one adds the option for extra orders that shippers can take, then the figure rises to 30 and total investment to $900 million.

Among the Greek shipowners to have chosen to boost their fleets with new liquefied gas carriers are the Angelicoussis Group, the Logothetidis family and the Vafias Group. The orders have mostly been placed with shipyards in South Korea (Hyundai and Daewoo) and at China?s Guangzhou Wenchong, as well as Cosco for container ships and dry-bulk carriers.

Data from Moundreas shipbrokers showed that in 2010 and 2011, Greek shippers ordered 347 orders for new builds, including 171 dry-bulkers, 48 tankers, 44 container ships and 29 LNG carriers. Orders also included four oil extraction and processing platforms.

The same data show that in the last couple of years shipowners have been leaning toward container ships and LNG carriers: While in 2010 there were just nine orders for container ships, they soared to 45 last year, while LNG carrier orders grew from two in 2010 to 25 in 2011. This year, there were five orders for LNG carriers by mid-March and more are expected to follow.

Delivery of the ships ordered is expected by 2015, unless the financial crisis forces the cancellation of some.

In total, the shipbuilding program of Greek owners in the last few years concerns 611 vessels whose capacity adds up to 57.9 million deadweight tons (dwt), with a preference for shipyards in South Korea and China. They have also been seeking the services of shipbuilders in countries such as Japan, India and the Philippines.

Sources from the Association of Greek Shipowners (EEE) say that although Greek shipowners could have chosen local shipyards for small ships or for extensive repairs and transformations, they have three reasons not to: the high cost of repairs, the non-adherence to delivery dates and disruptions in the sector, owing to ?extreme forms of action by the union active in the shipyards and the ship repair zone at Perama.?