Greek shipowners kept a brisk pace in buying and selling used vessels in early 2005, according to shipbrokers George Moundreas & Co SA. «Greeks have always had a very strong presence in the sale and purchase sector, having the judgment required to make their moves in the best period, that is when market prices are better,» says the head of the company’s finance department, George Gregoriadis. «This continues today, as from the start of the year their presence is very intense,» he notes. Many analysts believe that the deal of the year is already done as Ceres Hellenic of the Livanos family sold 16 Suezmax ships to Belgium’s Euronav for $1.5 billion. Euronav also purchased four VLCCs (300,000 dwt) from Metrostar of Theodoros Angelopoulos, one of which was still being built. The price agreed was $477.5 million. Metrostar received another $272.5 million from the sale of two more VLCCs to Gulf Management. In all, the company has cashed in $816.5 million from the beginning of the year, having also sold two tankers to Interorient. NYSE-listed Some of the most active companies are those listed on the New York Stock Exchange, especially Dryships of the Economou group, which was only listed in February. Since then it has invested almost $300 million for the purchase of five ships, without intending to stop, having committed itself to buying 15 vessels (beyond the 10 it already controls) in the next two years. Its most expensive purchase was the 2004-built Katerina V, a 171,000-dwt bulker from Greek company Golden Union of Veniamin and Gavriil for $85 million. Similarly, Danaos Shipping of the Kousta family spent $124 million for the purchase of two containers of 3,711 TEU, which have already been time-chartered and will be delivered in 2007. Top Tankers continues its investments in ships, buying three gas tankers of 46,000 dwt from the Latsis group and another product tanker from MMS, spending a total of $169 million. Many further sales and purchases are also linked to Greek interests but not confirmed yet. It is certain, however, that the strategy of Greek companies, besides covering their needs, focuses on selling older ships and replacing them with new and bigger ones. There also are profitable sales of vessels which are still in the shipyards; the foresight of several domestic firms to order ships two and three years ago is fetching them large profits before they even receive the newly built vessels, as prices have risen considerably since. Greek shipowners’ focus on buying and selling is also dictated by another factor: the difficulties of building new ships. The lack of building slots along with sky-high prices and the long completion periods have made newbuilding a particularly risky activity. As a result, new orders by Greek interests so far this year have been strictly limited. This had actually been the trend from the second half of 2004. Data by the London Committee of Maritime Cooperation, representing Greek shipowners based in the UK, showed outstanding ship orders at 338 in March, from 256 in March 2004. Out of those 338 ships, the biggest category (104) is chemical cargo vessels, followed by dry bulkers (86), containers (24) and liquefied natural gas carriers or LNGs (12). Note that when it comes to tankers, shipowners place more emphasis on size than on number. New orders Within this year Arcadia, of Constantinos Angelopoulos, has used its option and agreed with Samsung for the delivery of one more Aframax tanker (115,000 dwt) in 2008 for $66.5 million. An impressive move was the deal by A.M. Nomikos for the building of two Handymax bulkers in a particularly short period, to be delivered within 2006. A George Moundreas & Co report suggests that this deal with Japanese shipyard IHI is a special case, since such delivery times are unprecedented. In the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) vessels sector, the orders for two ships of 82,000 cubic meters by Dorian Hellas, of the Hatzipateras family, stand out. The ships are priced at $85 million each, ordered at the Hyundai shipyard. A similar 84,000-cubic-meter ship is reportedly ordered by Kirsten, of the Angelikousis group, to be delivered within 2008, just like Dorian’s ships.