ECONOMY

Aegean Marine’s aims

CHICAGO – Marine fuel supplier Aegean Marine Petroleum Network Inc will double its global service center network by 2010 due to rising maritime trade and a massive fleet expansion, a top executive said. «With the shipyard order books tied up globally until at least 2009, there are a lot of ships due to come on line,» Aegean President Nikolas Tavlarios told Reuters. «All those ships will need someone to provide them with fuel.» New maritime regulations due to take effect in 2008 eliminating single-hull tankers in Aegean’s line of business will reduce competition and allow the company, with its double-hulled fleet, to improve market share, Tavlarios said in a phone interview from his office in New York. The Athens-based company went public on the New York Stock Exchange on December 7, selling 14.375 million shares at $14 each, with the proceeds going to fleet expansion and debt reduction. The company has a fleet of 12 double-hull tankers, with 32 new ones due to be delivered by 2010. Aegean has five service centers in Greece, Gibraltar, the United Arab Emirates, Jamaica, and Singapore. It will open two new centers this year, and one each in 2008, 2009 and 2010 on «major shipping routes.» Tavlarios said he could not disclose their locations. The company’s major customers include Danish shipping and oil giant A.P. Moeller-Maersk and the world’s largest independent oil tanker group, Frontline. As all of Aegean’s fleet are double-hulled tankers – which are safer – the company will be well placed to take market share from competitors with single-hulled fleets when those tankers start being phased out in 2008, Tavlarios said. «This will open up a gap in the market for us,» he added. Since Aegean ordered its 32 new fueling, or bunkering, tankers in the past two years at a price of $8 million to $9 million, vessel prices have gone up by about a quarter due to increased demand and higher prices for raw materials such as steel, he said. Tavlarios said revenue growth at Aegean should, at a minimum, match its fleet expansion. «That’s a conservative estimate,» he said, adding that increased market share should boost its fleet’s productivity. Aegean currently pays a nominal dividend of 1 cent per quarter, as it is focused on growth, but Tavlarios said that strategy is not fixed and is open to change.