Chinese tailwind may help Greeks weather storm

09:00, May 26, 2010      

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For George Procopiou, the founder and chairman of Greek tanker operator Dynacom Tankers Management Ltd, attracting foreign investment from countries including China could help Greece weather the current debt crisis which has sent shockwaves throughout the euro zone.

And his profession - shipping - offers a good start to move Greece and China in that direction, he said.

Chinese shipping heavyweight China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company (COSCO) had already said it would go ahead with investments in Greece's largest port of Piraeus despite the crisis, and it would not be long before Chinese banks, which are keen in expanding shipping-industry loans, to come and promote in Greece, said Procopiou.

His confidence in the Sino-Greek business partnership is also fully reflected in the orders he has been making from Chinese shipyards since 2005 - a combined fleet of 32 ships, mostly oil tankers, reaching a total investment of $2.3 billion.

After attending the ceremonies that saw four oil tankers named and delivered in two Chinese cities on Monday and Tuesday, Procopiou said so far 18 vessels had been delivered in China and the rest were to be finished by the middle of next year.

"If we add the total number of the ships (I ordered) in China, including those to be delivered, it is comparable to that in Japan or South Korea . This is impressive as we started with Japan much earlier," he said.

"We are open and willing to explore ways for permanent cooperation. It's our business plan to have long-term relationships with the Chinese companies," he said, adding that he felt proud that the company could be a part of the huge development and success story in China.

Figures released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in January this year showed China has overtaken the South Korea as the world's largest shipbuilding nation as Chinese shipbuilders outpaced South Korea competitors in both new orders and orders in hand.

China's shipbuilders received 26 million deadweight tons (DWT) in new orders last year, down 55 percent from a year earlier. But they received 61.6 percent of new orders worldwide in 2009, much higher than that of the South Korea.

There are also signs that Chinese shipyards are starting to recover from the economic meltdown.

Liu Haijin, general manager of New Times Shipbuilding Co, Ltd, one of the largest private Chinese shipyards located in Jingjiang, Jiangsu province, said new orders at the yard had been growing amid warming market sentiments.

"We didn't receive any new ship order in 2009, but since the beginning of this year, we have got 20 orders and our order book is now full until the end of 2012," said Liu, adding that the price of vessels is also starting to climb up.

Upbeat on the outlook for the industry, Liu said the company would push ahead with its plan to float shares in Singapore.

"The best time to invest is when the cycle is on the low side," said Procopiou. "Now ship value is almost half of what it used to be, so it's a good time for expansion for both ship owners and banks.

Source: China Daily


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