Banks don’t want your ships Denis Petropoulos tells Singapore conference Taken from: Tanker Shipping & Trade news desk, 18 October 2012
Day two of Riviera Maritime Media’s Tanker Safety Conference in Singapore assessed how tanker owners and operators can stay ‘commercially safe’.
Keynote speaker Denis Petropoulos of shipbroker Braemar (pictured) challenged a lot of pre-conceptions about today’s market: yes it’s tough he agreed, but it’s not as bad as the doomsayers would paint either.
“If you read the non-shipping press, any mention of shipping is followed swiftly by adjectives such as: depressed, in a crisis, and likely bankruptcies,” he told the assembled gathering of charterers, owners, suppliers and other industry colleagues.
Certainly, those companies and individuals who invested their hard earned cash at the height of the tanker markets will find they are having to answer some very difficult questions from their investors keen to see any return on their investments. But how many owners/operators have actually gone bankrupt? “I can think only of a few and a few more who have filed for Chapter 11 protection or equivalent.” Mr Petropoulos is also sceptical that banks will start foreclosing or owning businesses once the recession ends. “If they do they would have to migrate a lot of corporate losses onto their own bottom lines, and who would really benefit from this?” He also emphasised that banks have no experience or real interest running ships. Shipmanagers and owners might like to emphasise this in any negotiations, he added.
The popular presidential style sessions which debuted on day one were retained for day two. These saw formal presentations kept to a minimum in favour of unscripted discussion and debate. A session on managing cashflow in tough times proved lively. It brought together Berhard Schulte Shipmanagement’s chief executive officer Rajaish Bajpaee, DVB Group Merchant Bank’s senior vice president responsible for chemical, LPG and product tankers Domenik Nizet, and Maritime Strategies International Asia managing director Roger Bartlett.
One talking point was whether managing cash flow was a science or an art. Mr Bajpaee and Mr Bartlett put the case that it was a combination of the two and gave examples, although Mt Bartlett stressed the part that luck could play. Mr Nizet felt that it was an art. He cited how various studies by well placed analysts had failed to predict fluctuations in oil prices and the downturn, despite numerous studies.
Other sessions looked at capital efficiency versus operational efficiency versus safety and how companies can best protect their reputation. A concluding ‘crisis management’ session was led by director of Admiralty-Helix, Edward Ion. An anonymous case study from Mr Ion’s case files (with the names changed) was analysed and delegates were tasked with creating a ‘first response’ statement for the media. Far from a straight forward exercise, it powerfully showed how elusive finding the right balance between legitimate public interest and protecting company interest can be.
Riviera returns to Singapore in 2013. April will see the next in the series of its successful Ballast Water Treatment Technology Conference. September will see Riviera’s first Asian Offshore Support Journal Conference and first Asian Dynamic Positioning Conference held.