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Maxima Shipping is setting course to become a major commercial operator

Recognizing the existing gap in the Greek shipping market for commercial services and freight trading activities Mr. Nikos Nikiforos, who has followed a successful 25years career as senior executive of various shipping companies, decided to get involved more effectively through two pioneer business entities, Ariston Commercial & Maxima Shipping.
As Mr. Nikiforos pointed out in the interview that follows, there is a substantial gap in the Greek shipping community concerning the commercial exploitation of shipping operations and freight trading, that’s why he established Ariston Commercial Services 1.5 years ago and now  he introduced a new commercial scheme, Maxima Shipping.
Mr. Nikos Nikiforos who is assisted by Mrs. Christina Karalaki, also a skilled and experienced professional in the freight trading sector, replied to our questions for the plans of the new company, Maxima Shipping, and he commented on the latest developments of the shipping market.

Why did you set up Ariston and Maxima?

We have pointed out that Ariston’s target is to provide the Greek shipping market a platform to build transportation capacity and exploit freight markets away from the usual asset play. This is an activity that can be met mostly in North Europe and Far East. There is a substantial gap in the Greek shipping market concerning what is commonly known as “commercial operation” and “freight trading”. That’s why we established Ariston Commercial 1.5 years ago, and now we are pleased to introduce a new commercial operating company, Maxima Shipping, with the purpose to create a new trustworthy entity in this sector.

Could you please describe us in general the role and the mission of Maxima & Ariston? What is the difference between these two companies?

Maxima Shipping is a new worldwide transportation provider using time chartered ships in its fleet to perform its cargo commitments. Emphasis will be given in the physical side of the business while the FFAs will be used for hedging purposes only.  Ariston Commercial Services will provide the commercial management including marine operations and risk management. Therefore Maxima shipping is the main transportation vehicle and Ariston is the manager in a similar manner to ship owning and ship management companies.

What kind of vessels will you charter?

Maxima will operate in the worldwide market at the segments of handysize, supramax and panamax, taking over cargo contracts and executing them with its time chartered fleet. Maxima will try to establish itself quickly, but steadily, in an effort to create a sizeable operation and become a reliable operator in the dry bulk market.

Do you have the support of investors in this effort?

A number of Greek ship-owners have invested in Maxima’s concept, but we are prepared to accept more shipping related investors, ship-owners, shipbrokers etc to participate since this will enhance the capabilities of the company leading to a sizeable charterer sooner.  Notable is that the way this venture is structured gives the flexibility to have a broad base of shareholders. We believe it is in the interest of the Greek ship owning and shipping related community to participate in this kind of ventures since it complements their main activity and increase the capacity and value of our market.

Do you believe that is the right timing for the establishment of such a venture?

Generally this activity is not so much dependant on timing but we believe that it is the right time for such an operation to commence since the increased volatility and the relatively modest market levels will allow us to grow faster and exploit market opportunities more efficiently.

How will you face the risks that will arise due to the market uncertainty?

Maxima through Ariston will deploy all commercial management techniques including the use of proprietary risk management systems to create a risk-adjusted trading environment, which will allow us to maximize shareholder returns while minimizing our exposure to freight rate fluctuations. Ariston’s experience in commercial management is granted and proven. We have an experience of more than 20 years in chartering and freight trading while our team is consisted of highly specialized and competent professionals.

What are your expectations as far as the profitability and the performance of this new venture?

Maxima’s strategy aims to be profitable irrespective of market direction. The main focus at the beginning will be given on growth so we can reach a capacity allowing a better exploitation of the freight markets. This is not a new activity to the shipping business; it has been proved successful and is being adopted by most of the major shipping companies in the world. Therefore we are sure that we will respond to the market needs offering reliable and effective services to our counterparties along with profits to the shareholders.

What is the time table of Maxima?

In the first months of the year the shareholders scheme will be finalized and we estimate that towards the end of first quarter will commence operations. We endeavor to commence activities by establishing our basic transportation capacity and through extending our clientele base and volumes, expand our presence continuously. Although we will be operating worldwide, emphasis will be given to the key markets of North Europe, S. America, India and Far East.

Do you believe that Greek shipping market will be benefited by the involvement of a new business entity such as Maxima Shipping?

Greek related shipping enjoys a prominent role in the market; however this power is divided into many independent interests limiting the potentiality to expand commercially towards offering aggregated transportation capacity. We will try to fill this gap with Maxima so to provide accumulated and increased transportation services. We will establish our presence where important transportation contracts are negotiated and we will claim our share.

Do you believe that this initiative will be followed by other new operating schemes in the sector of commercial services & freight trading?

Generally I believe that this kind of activity is of strategic importance for our future.  Asset play has been an important contributor to our success however given the fact that we are not an industrialized country and we don’t have any shipbuilding capacity, we have to move towards creating large and well organized transportation schemes to secure our future. Industrialized nations and mainly China are aggressively getting in the ship owning which combined with their capacity as commercial operators(Charterers) aims to control  transportation exploiting the profits of the sector, as a result of this trend our leading position in shipping market could be seriously affected. Therefore I hope we move faster towards creating sizeable commercial operating schemes which will enhance our national competitiveness, it’s a huge market out there and our share is currently very small.

Could you give us your predictions for the future course of the shipping market? Do you expect that Maxima will be affected from any kind of fluctuations?

It has been proved that it is notoriously difficult to predict the freight markets. However we are sure that the effect of the new buildings’ arrival and possible adjustments in the pace of China’s growth will bring imbalances and excessive volatility in the freight market a small example of which we observed the last six months. Maxima’s strategy utilizes positively market’s fluctuations and is less dependent on market forecasting or market direction, which we consider a risky trading pattern. Instead Maxima focus on generating absolute returns irrespective of market direction, by exploiting persistent opportunities resulting from inefficiencies existing within the dry-bulk shipping market and application of advanced commercial management techniques through a worldwide strong presence.

January, 2010

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