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Akti Miaouli

When one hears the words “Fifth Avenue”, fine shopping springs to mind. “Fleet Street” stands for the British national press and “Madison Avenue” for advertising. There are many more metonymies for other industries and professions.

And, then, there is “Akti Miaouli”.

In all out travels, it never fails to amaze us the magic touch of the word, the matter of shipping companies managing thousands of merchant ships worldwide from Akti Miaouli, the sterling address of vessel managers from where remittances and paychecks for seafarers originate, the connotation of a gilded boulevard by the port where supernaturally rich shipowners have their family offices. Akti Miaouli stands to the world for Greek shipping.

There are reportedly close to one thousand Greek shipowners and vessel managers today based in Greece. Although only 1,350 merchant vessels worldwide fly the Greek flag (vs 7,900 and 5,400 vessels for the Panamanian and Japanese flags, respectively,) according to the most recent annual report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Greek shipowners top the world list with ownership of 4,200 merchant vessels and a cumulative tonnage of 310 million deadweight (while world’s second biggest owner Japan owns 3,900 merchant vessels at 224 million deadweight.) Greece controls appr. 17% of the world’s merchant fleet.

For an island nation like Japan with a large population, heavy industry and shipbuilding and a robust financial system, one can understand the competitive synergies the country lays for a massive merchant fleet. Likewise, for countries with certain competitive advantages like ease of access to capital in the United States and Germany or an extensive coastline like in Indonesia or tax efficiencies like in Panama and Singapore or massive “state support” (loosely defined) in the People’s Republic of China, one can appreciate the reasons for these countries having a great number of merchant fleets.

But Greece? Besides its coastline (appr. 13,700 kilometers, almost as long as PRC’s 14,000 kilometers, but a fraction of Indonesia’s 54,800 kilometers,) Greece has no trade, no heavy industry (or industry at all, quite frankly,) a small population of eleven million people, no industrial shipbuilding, no substantial banks or financial institutions. Trying to analyze the industry and the business environment, an economics student would have a hard time to make the case in a college class paper that Greece could ever be a meaningful player in the world of merchant shipping.

Possibly the very same reasons that have prevented Greece from becoming a world power in modern history may have propelled the country in the world of shipping. There are 6,000 islands in Greece (but 18,000 islands in Indonesia’s Archipelago,) some of them no more than a rocky speck in the richly blue Aegean Sea where life is not easily sustainable; many islanders took to fishing and fishing boats and diving (famously for sponge in the Dodecanese) and costal ferries and then international merchant ships, as ratings at first and then officers and engineers and captains. Almost all Greek shipowners originate from the Greek islands, whether of the Aegean or the Ionian Seas, and almost none from the continental, mountainous Greek. They worked hard and sacrificed a lot and risked even more, and paid their dues to climb the learning curve and eventually start buying their own ships; some British rust buckets that were going for scrap in the 19th century, many more Liberty ships in the 20th century, and many many more newbuildings at the turn of the century.

As stated in previous blog, shipping and especially the drybulk market were the textbook example of what economists define perfect competition, and the shipping expertise and hard work served Greek shipowners very well. It’s not usual to meet today third and fourth and even fifth generation Greek shipowners, just as one sees shops and businesses in England and Germany established in the 18th and 19th centuries. Greek shipowners worked very hard and “added value” – as we would say today – to the world’s trade; of course, they benefited from circumstances – some legitimate but some questionable (at least by today’s standards), but they run ships cheaply and efficiently, the envy of the world. And, their “nose for the market” to time the market prudently to buy “cheap ships” in bad times and sell them at a multiple a few years later in better times only added to their reputation as shrewd people of the sea.

Akti Miaouli and the passenger Port of Piraeus, Greece. Image credit: Google maps.

It’s a miracle indeed seeing a group of business people from a small country reached such collective dominance. And no wonder that Akti Miaouli, carries such great connotations for the people of shipping worldwide. Just the east and south terminals of Piraeus’ main passenger port, with its own private club (Piraeus Marine Club) for dining and socializing, Akti Miaouli used to be where most of Greek shipowning companies were based by choice and for reputational reasons, sort of sign for “making it to the top”. There are buildings graced with names of the pillars of Greek shipping like Livanos and Lemos and Chandris and many more, and, in a sign of a truly competitive business and in-your-face attitude, the best real estate and prestigious buildings were close to the Church of St Nicholas, saint patron of seafarers and shipping; the closer to the church and the holy relics and the priest and the bishop, the closer to be to the center of things… Some religion or even superstition never heard anybody…

Like many industries in our age, the internet (and also other factors for Akti Miaouli) brought a diaspora of shipping companies from Akti Miaouli, whereby some moved to the northern and others to the southern suburbs of Athens. Akti Miaouli (meaning Miaouli Coast, Andreas Miaoulis being a Greek admiral and hero of the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century) is today a shadow of its old glory with only smaller shipping companies (and some service providers such as shipbrokers and adjusters and insurance agents) being still placed there.

As shipping keeps facing challenge after challenge after challenge in the last decade, some have been worrying about the state of Akti Miaouli. Yes, the shipowners of Akti Miaouli had been extremely graceful and managed to excel at handling the crises handed to them since WWII, but would the new market – where financiers opt for big corporate structures of a shipowner and charterers do differentiate in favor of big and modern fleets – still be a productive market?

I still remember like yesterday an experience from almost fifteen years ago on a cold, wet winter night with the deck lights glimmering in heavy fog, when I boarded an aframax tanker in Lake Charles, LA as a husbandry agent; the Filipino able man standing guard at the gangway, upon learning that I was originally from Greece, started asking magical questions about Akti Miaouli (where the management of the tanker and his paycheck was coming from); as almost Akti Miaouli was some sort of Shangri-La and Promised Land together, a place from where the world’s merchant fleet was transcended to the seven seas and where the streets were lined up with treasure caskets.

Ready to dock at Akti Miaouli, Piraeus. Image credit: Karatzas Images


© 2017 to present.  All Right Reserved. Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMERS:  Vessel descriptions (if any) are provided in good faith and believed to be correct and accurate but no assurances, warranties or representations are made herewith. Vessel descriptions (if any) are provided for entertainment  purposes only. We have no responsibility whatsoever for any errors / omissions in vessel description.                                                                                                                                                                                                   Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information herewithin has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

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Manhattan Skyline and George Washington Bridge on a New Year’s Day Sunset

Wishing our readers a most Prosperous and Happy New Year!

May all your dreams and wishes come true!

Today’s posting has pictures of the Manhattan skyline, the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge (GWB). The shooting took place in the afternoon / evening of New Year’s Day 2017 when the weather was just winter perfect for the New York area; cold but not too cold (+2°C), sunny with long shadows typical of the winter in the north and clean atmosphere after several days of rain, snow and strong winds. A great deal of the pictures were shot from the Fort Lee Historic Park in NJ facing southbound; Hudson River separates the state of New Jersey from the State of New York (Borough of Manhattan, New York City), the water body seen in the pictures. Trying to visualize, Manhattan is generally seen from the northwest in the pictures. The new One World Trade Center tower can be seen at the bottom of Manhattan in the pictures (actually in Downtown Manhattan where the offices of Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co at One World Financial Place, on the 30th Floor, across the street from the World Trade Center); the tall, skinny building sticking out in Midtown Manhattan is the newly erected residential tower ‘432 Park Avenue’ with 85-floors above ground, world’s tallest residential building, in Billionaires’ Row. The Empire State Building, the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, the Chrysler Building, the Bank of America Tower are distinguishable. The tall building standing out on the New Jersey shore at the bottom of the pictures is the Goldman Sachs Building (30 Hudson Street) in Jersey City, NJ; the green-glass tower of the Goldman Sachs (200 West Street) headquarters in Downtown Manhattan can be distinguished by the World Trade Center.

The George Washington Bridge (GWB) connects the state of New Jersey with the state of New York, and it’s located just north of the Fort Lee Historic Park in New Jersey; pictures of the bridge show the south part of the bridge and were shot from the New Jersey side. GWB is a double-decked, 14-lane, suspended bridge built in 1931; with over 100 million vehicles crossing the bridge each year, GWB is the world’s busiest motorist bridge; for those good at math, the toll for a passenger vehicle crossing the bridge eastbound is US$15; do the math! Pictures from the bridge were taken from the South Sidewalk, open to pedestrian traffic. The Little Red Lighthouse, officially Jeffrey’s Hook Light, is located by the New York pillar of the bridge and can be seen on the pictures taken from New Jersey; pictures of the lighthouse were taken from the road-level of the bridge, above, by the New York pillar.

The bridge has recently been in the news under the ‘Bridgegate’ heading.


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Winters sunset in New York on Year’s Day: Facing south the Hudson River; Manhattan skyline on the left, New Jersey to the right. One World Trade Center and 432 Park Avenue towers stand out. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Winters sunset in New York on Year’s Day: Facing south the Hudson River; Manhattan skyline on the left, New Jersey to the right. One World Trade Center and 432 Park Avenue towers stand out. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Winter’s sunset in New York on Year’s Day: Facing south the Hudson River; Manhattan skyline on the left, New Jersey to the right. One World Trade Center and 432 Park Avenue towers stand out. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Winter’s sunset in New York on Year’s Day: Facing south the Hudson River; Manhattan skyline on the left, New Jersey to the right. One World Trade Center and 432 Park Avenue towers stand out. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Winter’s sunset in New York on Year’s Day: Facing south the Hudson River; Manhattan skyline on the left, New Jersey to the right. One World Trade Center and 432 Park Avenue towers stand out. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Little Red Lighthouse as seen from above, at the road level of the Washington Bridge at the New York shore. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Winter’s sunset in New York on Year’s Day: Facing south the Hudson River; Manhattan skyline on the left, New Jersey to the right. One World Trade Center and 432 Park Avenue towers stand out. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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George Washington Bridge, South Sidewalk, facing east (toward New York). Image credit: Karatzas Images

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George Washington Bridge, South Sidewalk, facing west (toward New Jersey). Image credit: Karatzas Images

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George Washington Bridge, facing east (New York). Little Red Light can be seen at the foot of the bridge. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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George Washington Bridge as seen from Fort Lee Historic Park in NJ. Little Red Light can be seen at the foot of the New York suspense tower. Heavy lift vessel MV ‘Industrial Skipper’ northbound passing under the bridge. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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George Washington Bridge as seen from Fort Lee Historic Park in NJ. Little Red Light can be seen at the foot of the New York suspense tower. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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Panoramic view of George Washington Bridge (GWB) as seen from Fort Lee Historic Park in NJ. Little Red Light can be seen at the foot of the New York suspense tower. Image credit: Karatzas Images

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George Washington Bridge as seen from Fort Lee Historic Park in NJ. Little Red Light can be seen at the foot of the New York suspense tower. Heavy lift vessel MV ‘Industrial Skipper’ northbound passing under the bridge. Image credit: Karatzas Images


© 2013 – present Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Images.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information here within has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.

The ‘Joneses’ and the Keystone Pipeline: Not so Strange Bedfellows

The Keystone XL pipeline, bringing primarily Canadian heavy crude from the oil sands of Alberta and West Canada to the US Gulf, celebrated recently its fifth anniversary in the … planning stage.  Like anything energy-related, it’s an expensive (estimated construction cost of more than $7 billion), big scale project (2,100 miles of pipeline with eventual daily capacity of 830,000 barrels of oil or about 10% of the present import oil needs of the US) that would slice through the middle of the US (environmental concerns to be addressed) and potentially serious geo-political implications (between the cheap, plentiful and politically-stable production from Canada and the so-called ‘oil glut’ of domestic production, the ‘Saudi America’ could afford in the future to be more self-centered geo-politically.)

Expected approval for the construction of the pipeline has recently faced renewed, strong opposition, and president Obama – the ultimate decision maker in this case – has set a high hurdle for the approval: it has to be proven that the pipeline will be emissions-neutral in order to get approval; a fairly high order for an energy project, since by definition energy projects suppose to create energy and (most unfortunately emissions; that’s how humans have learned to make energy.)   For now, any decision has been pushed back for the spring next year, but some smart money has started hedging their bets.

The Keystone XL pipeline, whether it gets built or not, whether sooner or later or maybe never, can have implications in the shipping industry, whether for the international flag or Jones Act tanker markets.

Canadian and U.S. Crude Oil Pipelines and Proposal (Source: Courtesy of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers)

Canadian and U.S. Crude Oil Pipelines and Proposal (Source: Courtesy of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers)

In a previous post, we discussed the possibility that the Canadians may augment and add new mileage to the pipeline system from West Canada / Alberta heading west to the open sea in an effort to sell their oil to the international market (read China). Kinder Morgan has been working on the TM Expansion to Burnaby (BC) / Anacontes, but the new pipeline project of Enbridge Gateway seems to be running against its own wave of (environmental concerns and) opposition.  The proposed TransCanada Energy East pipeline project (mostly based on converting natural gas pipelines to crude oil pipelines, about 2,800 miles of pipeline, and 1.1 million b/d) could bring Canadian oil eastward and along the border with the US to Québec City and St John, for local processing partially, but mostly for international exports. The TransCanada project could be technically more challenging going through harsh terrain and given the length of the project, the cost of building up the pipeline can be very expensive.  There have been rail routes with substantial spare capacity going both west and east of Alberta, that can theoretically substitute for the pipelines, and they have been doing terrifically in the short term, in terms of capacity and also allowing rail companies to show superb earnings reports.  Canadian oil heading west or east, whether through a pipeline or in rail cars, it will be a positive development of the international tanker industry, as such oil could be loaded on international flag tankers to head west (China and the Pacific Rim, possibly benefiting VLCC and Suezmax tankers), and possibly in smaller quantities moving south onto the few refineries on the US West Coast (USWC), likely benefiting aframax sized tankers.  Crude oil from East Canada, most likely would – given its heavy nature – find buyers in the refineries of the US Gulf Coast (USGC) and international flagged aframax tankers likely would be the main beneficiaries.

Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline likely will be a great benefactor of the Jones Act tanker and the international flag product tankers.  Unlike crude oil produced in the US that cannot be exported according to US law, Canadian oil reaching the USGC through the Keystone XL pipeline can be exported (of course, depriving the US of the benefit of accessing plentiful oil.)  However, based on the economics of the business, given that Canadian oil is heavy and refineries along the USGC are geared toward processing heavy oils (and that’s how they achieve superior margins), Canadian oil coming out of the Keystone pipeline most likely will end getting processed domestically, depriving international flagged crude oil tankers of the potentially new trade.   However, the Jones Act trade, whether for crude oil or refined products would benefit having to move bigger volumes along the Gulf Coast, around Florida, and the Atlantic and East Coasts.  Also, international flagged product tankers would be the other beneficiary of the pipeline based on additional refined product exports.  However, for international product tankers, this may be a mixed blessing and minor negative trade-off from their currently great state where USGC refineries process more West Texas Intermediate (WTI), Louisiana Light Sweet (LLS) and other top quality grades, resulting in higher production of diesel and a better (triangulating) export trade with Europe, as discussed in previous post.

© 2013 Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.

No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders.