Monthly Archives: March 2015

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Cyprus ready to launch Limassol Port privatisation

The Cypriot government has announced plans to transfer all commercial operations at the Port of Limassol to private sector operators by the beginning of April next year.

Minister of Communications and Works Marios Demetriades told IHS Maritime he intended to open the bidding for commercial services at Limassol, the island’s biggest port, before the end of April and to close the bidding process by the end of the year.

The government will decide on the winning bid or bids by the end of March next year.

Demetriades said the government had not yet decided how many concessions or licences it would award, adding that there could be as many as three – one for the port’s multipurpose terminal, one for the container terminal, and another for marine services, including towage and pilotage.

He hoped privatising Limassol would enable it to attract more international traffic.

“We do hope that we will attract some big names to our port,” he said. “Our objective, of course, is to bring strategic investors.”

Demetriades said he also expected progress in the long-running negotiations with international consortium Zenon for the development of cruise and leisure sailing facilities at the Port of Larnaca. He expects an agreement to be reached by July.

 


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China vows to deepen maritime security ties with Pakistan: report

BEIJING: China on Thursday vowed to deepen maritime security, anti-terrorism, security and military cooperation with Pakistan to further strengthen their ‘all-weather’ strategic ties.

The “pledge” was made by Chinese Central Military Commission Vice Chairperson General Fan Changlong during his meeting with Pakistan Navy Chief Muhammad Zakaullah in Beijing.

Fan said China hopes to enhance coordination and cooperation with Pakistan on regional security affairs.

“China is willing to deepen cooperation with Pakistan in anti-terrorism, maritime security and military technology,” Fan said.

China together with Pakistan will push for the construction of the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor within the construct of China’s “Belt and Road” initiatives.

Zakaullah said that Pakistan will work with China to deepen logical cooperation between the two armed forces.

Previously, the Pakistan naval chief said that Pakistan Navy and PLA Navy are strengthening their existing maritime cooperation, keeping in mind the changing regional international scenarios.

Yesterday (Wednesday) Zakaullah met with Commander of the PLA (Navy) Admiral Wu Shengli and said that the navies of Pakistan and China have been cooperating for decades.

He said that military cooperation between the two countries is extensive and it covers equipment, personnel exchanges and joint exercises.

Zakaullah said Pakistan strongly supports PLA Navy’s enhanced role in the international arena.


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Pirates hijack tanker off Pulau Repong, Indonesia

Pirates hijack tanker off Pulau Repong, Indonesia

Titus Zheng
18 March 2015

Indonesian Navy commandos disguised as pirates stage a mock attack on a cargo ship during an anti-piracy exercise. Photo: PA
A product tanker was hijacked off Pulau Repong, Indonesia, by armed pirates, reported anti-piracy watchdog International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

Singa Berlian was under way around 37 nm south of Pulau Repong when it was boarded by seven masked men armed with guns and long knives on 9 March at 21:08 h local time.

The armed men held the crew hostage and took control of the ship. The 1993-built, 1,940 dwt tanker’s communication and navigational equipment were later damaged by the pirates and the vessel’s marine fuel oil cargo was transferred to another ship. The pirates then left the vessel, leaving a crew member injured.

The owner of the tanker, Sin Soon Hock, notified the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), which later dispatched their vessel for investigations.


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Anti-Piracy Weapons Used For Private Army?

Gotabaya Rajapaksa Gotabaya Rajapaksa

By MarEx 2015-03-10 03:26:59

A Sri Lankan court has banned the feared brother of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa from foreign travel, police said on Tuesday, over allegations he used a commercial floating armory as weaponry for a “private army”.

The move against former defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the toughest sanction yet on a member of the family that ruled the Indian Ocean island until a surprise election defeat in January.

It is part of a wide probe of alleged corrupt deals and repression by the former president and his relatives.

Police this year seized more than 3,000 weapons in 20 containers from the armory, run by private security firm Avant Garde Maritime Services (Pvt) Ltd and docked in the southern port of Galle.

“The Galle magistrate imposed a travel ban on three people: former secretary of defense Gotabaya Rajapaksa; former navy commander and adviser of Avant Garde, Satilaka Dissanayake; and another director of Avant Garde,” acting police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara told Reuters.

The armory was a commercial venture that stored weapons for maritime security guards stationed on ships that pass near Sri Lanka, located on one of the world’s busiest sea routes.

The loosely regulated practice of arming merchant ships has flourished in recent years in response to the threat of piracy.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who oversaw the military defeat of Tamil Tiger separatists after a 26-year war, is also being investigated by police over abductions, assaults and murders during his brother’s time in office.

Government spokesman Rajitha Senarathne accuses Gotabaya Rajapaksa of maintaining a “private military” with the floating armory. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has previously denied wrong doing, was not immediately available for comment.

Copyright Reuters 2015.

 


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Iranian Navy foils piracy attempt in Oman Sea

Iranian Navy foils piracy attempt in Oman Sea

The Iranian Navy has rescued a Filipino-flagged cargo ship from pirates in the Oman Sea.

Freighter Panama-Gade was under way in the Oman Sea on 8 March when it was chased for several hours by a number of motorised vessels equipped with light weapons.


 


The Iranian Navy picked up the vessel’s distress call and immediately dispatched naval ships to the vicinity.

The armed vessels fled the scene upon seeing the naval vessels. The naval vessels then escorted Panama-Gade to the Pakistani border.



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Four long-held Thai hostages released by Somali pirates

Four long-held Thai hostages released by Somali pirates

Written by Reuters, Monday, 02 March 2015
Freed Somali pirate hostages.Somali pirates have freed four Thai nationals seized from a fishing vessel at sea in 2010, ending the longest-running hostage drama in the Horn of Africa state, the United Nations said on Friday.

At one time Somali pirates made millions of dollars in ransoms from seizing ships but increased patrols by international navies in the Indian Ocean have greatly reduced incidents of piracy since 2012.

“I am grateful to see the longest-held hostages released from Somalia, and thank all those involved who made it happen,” said Nicholas Kay, the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Representative for Somalia.

It was not known whether any ransom was paid for the release.

Of the original 24 crew members of the FV Prantalay, 12 who were taken hostage, six died from illness in captivity while 14 from Myanmar were freed in 2011.

 


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Dry Bulk Shipping Crisis

File photo (c) Shutterstock/Hellen Sergeyeva

ReutersBy Jonathan Saul and Sophie Sassard

LONDON, Feb 26 (Reuters) – The global slump in demand for dry freight commodities is adding more pain to Greece’s already crisis-hit banks by heaping pressure on many of their shipowner clients, particularly the smaller companies.

This is in part pushing the banks to consider slimming down their shipping portfolios, moves that would also free up needed banking capital, according to bank and shipping-finance sources.

A number of smaller Greek shipping companies have already been looking for non-Greek financing, a maritime lender said.

Greece has secured an extension to its bailout from its European partners, but the danger of it unraveling and of Greece being pushed out of the euro zone still exists, raising the risk that Greek banks could face large deposit losses in the future to add to those they have already had.

But added to this, Greek banks face exposure to dry freight, essentially the transport of non-oil commodities, which is experiencing its worst conditions since the 1980s due to weakening demand for industrial goods from buyers like China.

Greek shipowners together put Greece among the world’s top three bulker-owning nations.

The banking and ship finance sources said Greece’s leading banks are considering offloading part of their shipping debt worth billions of dollars, including dry freight exposure, in a bid to shore up their capital.

“There are several portfolios being shopped around at the moment, including shipping loans,” one banking source said.

“It makes sense for the Greek banks which face a huge liquidity problem to transfer these assets to third parties because they do not have the structures in place to collect bad debt.”

One banker and a ship-finance source said such debt could be attractive for private equity players who have been scooping up distressed assets in shipping due to the sector downturn.

“If they can find buyers, certainly one way to raise cash is through distressed deals. If the pricing is attractive enough, this would be private equity and hedge fund territory,” the ship-finance source said.

A second ship-finance source said Greek banks were also approaching ship owners directly and offering to sell their performing loans back to them at a discount.

“Even at a slight discount, this will help bolster underlying capital and buy some breathing space for the banks. It’s also a good way of getting loans off their books. For ship owners who have cash, it would be a good option too,” the source said.

Bank of Piraeus, Eurobank and their rivals National Bank of Greece and Alpha Bank are estimated to have shipping portfolios of at least $10 billion in total, ship industry sources said.

While this is small in global terms, it represents a potentially useful way of freeing up capital.

Eurobank declined to comment when contacted. An executive at Piraeus Bank said they could look into selling some loans if approached by interested buyers, adding that nothing was imminent.

An Alpha official told Reuters the bank was “not considering selling shipping loans.” Some sources said, however, that Alpha, which late last year raised over $500 million in a transaction back by shipping loans, may still examine such moves.

An official with National Bank of Greece, whose chief executive and chairman are expected to step down, said there was “no such decision” on shipping.

DRY FREIGHT WOES

The Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index, tracking rates for ships carrying dry bulk commodities and seen by investors as an indicator of global industrial activity, has slumped this month to its lowest ever level.

There have already been casualties with three dry shipping firms in Denmark, China and South Korea filing for bankruptcy this month.

“There is more pressure than before especially for the smaller owners,” a leading Greek shipowner said. “The banks in general have been less keen to extend credit to dry bulk owners and the Greeks are the dominant community within that.”

Svein Engh, group head of CIT Maritime Finance, a unit of U.S. commercial lender CIT Group, said it had been approached by small to mid-sized Greek ship owners looking for “alternative financing.”

“We do have the impression it is difficult for a lot of them as historically they would have banked with the Greek banks and they do not really seem to be able to do much or be very active these days.” (Additional reporting by George Georgiopolous and Lefteris Papadimas in Athens and Steven Slater in London, Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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