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Dry-bulk venture set up in Piraeus

Two ex-Oceanbulk heads are going it alone with a chartering outfit.

A new bulker-chartering operation is set to open its doors in Piraeus with ambitious plans to become Greece's first major player in the sector.

Maxima Shipping is the brainchild of Ariston Shipping, headed by former Oceanbulk executives Nikos Nikiforos and Christina Karalaki. The new venture is set to concentrate its efforts on the handysize and panamax markets.

Nikiforos is keeping a tight lid on details but says the company will be officially launched within the next few months and that it is backed by a number of owners and investors. Ariston holds a partnership stake in Maxima after committing an undisclosed amount of capital and will also manage it.

Nikiforos sidesteps questions about the size of the new operation, saying only "it will be developed into a substantial player in the world markets".

He concedes that any new operator will be viewed with some scepticism, especially after the highly publicised collapses of similar outfits since last year. A number of owners, among them Greeks, are still licking their wounds from the collapse of Atlas Shipping, Armada, Eastwind Maritime's Probulk and Daewoo Logistics, to name a few. Just last week, local owner Mediterranean Maritime emerged with financial troubles directly attributed to the collapse of Atlas.

It is critical, Nikiforos says, that any new charter operator is established with a clean record and no debt pressure. The failure of others has created a market void that Maxima is seeking to fill, while the charter market is expected to record significant volatility over the coming year. Nikiforos argues that any tool that will offer a stable income and risk management will be welcomed by owners in these unpredictable times.

The timing of Maxima's launch is also strategic, Nikiforos says. Current low charter rates, he adds, means that it will be able to take advantage of the potentially large growth in tonnage volumes.

Ariston is a relatively new outfit on the Piraeus scene. It was launched in early 2008 after Nikiforos and Karalaki left Oceanbulk, where they had run the bulker-chartering operation for years but decided to try their hand at building up their own commercial operation. Since then, Ariston has set up a number of small shipping ventures in which both owners and charterers participate.

TradeWinds - October 8th, 2009

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