ECONOMY

Coastal shippers sell their vessels to stay afloat

Greek coastal shipping companies are proceeding with successive sales of their vessels in order to respond to the challenges in the sector, where financial hardship has been compounded by the rise in fuel prices, the decline in passenger traffic and the inability to secure new funding.

Either on their own initiative or on the recommendation of their creditor banks, Greek coastal shippers have made the sale of their vessels a top priority as a means of meeting their obligations.

The most recent example was the agreement between Attica Group and Genting Group for the sale of the former’s Superfast VI vessel to the latter at a price of 54 million euros.

In the last three years the five main players in the local market (Maritime of Lesvos, Attica, Minoan, ANEK and Hellenic Seaways) have accumulated losses of more than 500 million euros, while their total borrowing exceeds 1 billion euros.

In 2010 Attica Group sold Superfast V to Bretagne Angleterre Irlande of Roscoff for 81.5 million euros and Minoan Lines sold Pasiphae Palace for 73.5 million euros.

Maritime of Lesvos (NEL) has been following this course since last year, while Hellenic Seaways has sold several ships in recent years including popular vessels Highspeed 2 and Highspeed 3 for 20 million euros to Moroccan company Comarit.

This prolonged crisis has been a drain on Greek coastal shipping, but the sector is setting a good example for other economic domains that are suffering, according to Giorgos Xeradakis, head of XRTC Business Consultants.

“The recipe for survival for the companies has been exemplary compared with other managers-administrators of major firms: Rationalization of services, steady decline in the speed of vessels and an exemplary reduction in administrative costs,” said the maritime funding expert.

Amid the general crisis, coastal shippers have also managed to maintain their good relationship with Greek and foreign funding sources, which have also been hammered by the credit crunch, Xeradakis added.