Chinese banks eye piece of shipping pie

Chinese banks are looking to secure a chunk of the lending market in global shipping, offering Greek shipowners an additional source of finance. Lenders from the Asian country, such as Bank of China, the Export-Import Bank of China and China Construction Bank, are aiming to build portfolios in the global shipping market estimated to be worth 500 billion dollars, up 3.1 percent year-on-year in 2010 after dipping 5.7 percent in 2009. Some 30 lenders, most of whom are based in Europe, fund more than half of the total amount. European banks have indicated they are not concerned about their aggressive Chinese rivals, which have helped improve lending conditions for Greek shipowners. According to a survey completed by Petrofin Research, almost two-thirds of senior industry officials predict that competition from Chinese banks in three to five years will be «moderate,» with just over 20 percent of respondents expecting greater competition. According to industry figures, five Greek banks – National (NBG), Alpha, Emporiki, Marfin and Piraeus – have pumped 12.7 billion dollars into shipping. The largest amount comes from NBG, whose shipping portfolio is worth 3.2 billion dollars, followed by Alpha with loans of 2.7 billion. On the shipbuilding front, Greek shipowners have ordered the construction of 325 vessels at Chinese shipyards, out of a total of 822 vessels they have on order worldwide.