ECONOMY

Banks’ shipping exposure at $17 bln

Bank loans to the international shipping sector are in excess of $500 billion, according to data from Merrill Lynch. With regard to Greek shipping, loans total some $75 billion, of which $17 billion come from Greek banks. It is estimated that in the second half of 2009, and during the whole of 2010, the crisis in shipping – arising from low freight rates and liquidity problems – will be passed on to the banks that have funded them. Piraeus Bank has the largest exposure to the shipping sector, having funded it with $3.37 billion. Alpha Bank comes second with $2.6 billion, followed by National and Marfin, which are exposed to the tune of $2.39 billion and $2.25 billion respectively. A number of Greek and foreign banks have issued loans to shipping companies that have yet to be drawn down due to the global crisis. «It is doubtful whether all the money will be drawn, since on many occasions we have cancellations or renewed negotiations of (ship) orders,» said Giorgos Xiradakis, managing director of XRTC, a company specialized in shipping finance. «What is important is that Greek banks understand the needs of their customers, having created strong and healthy relations with them.»