Taking advantage of its longstanding 60-year shipping tradition and its ambition to operate eco-friendly vessels, Safe Bulkers which is listed in NYSE since May 2008 has created wealth for its shareholders following a policy of fleet renewal, deleveraging and environmental protection. It must be noted that on 26th February 2019 the company inaugurated the Safe Bulkers Tower in Limassol that reflects a new era of continuous growth and its commitment to the potential of the Cyprus flag as Safe Bulkers is the largest owner in the Cyprus Shipping Registry. The company is operating from Limassol enjoying a transparent and stable business environment in a modern city while maintaining fully operational at company’s office in Athens, Voula. In the interview that follows Polys V. Hajioannou, CEO of Safe Bulkers Inc., refers to the company’s main challenges and great prospects of the Cypriot Shipping Registry and describes the policy of its company to operate a young modern fleet providing high quality services to first class charterers.
Polys V. Hajioannou, CEO of Safe Bulkers Inc.
– Describe the objectives of the Maritime Cyprus 2019 conference and what is your organisation’s involvement in this significant event.
Cyprus is a nation with strong maritime tradition, well-developed shipping infrastructures and a strong shipping community. The objectives of the Maritime Cyprus conferences are to enhance these merits and to promote these invaluable assets both for Europe and for the international shipping community in general. Being the largest ship-owner flying the Cyprus flag, with a strong presence in dry-bulk shipping and ship management activities based in Limassol, we are supportive to the efforts spent by the local shipping
community to achieve these objectives. We collaborate closely both with the Deputy Ministry of Shipping and with the Cyprus Union of Ship-owners in order to contribute towards a successful and value added event which will hopefully result in strengthening Cyprus’ share as an international shipping hub.
– What are the main challenges of the Cypriot Shipping Registry? How do you face the need of the abolition of the Turkish embargo and the adoption of realistic policies on crucial shipping issues within the EU?
Competitiveness and growth are among the main challenges of the Cypriot Shipping Registry. During the years, it has proved to be a shipping business orientated registry catering to the needs of the international shipping community. The hands on work of the Deputy Ministry of Shipping in collaboration with the shipping community have led to impressive results. It is worth noting, that the ship-management revenues constitute 5% of the regional GDP while the international profile of the shipping community is ever expanding. Presently three highly reputable shipping companies listed in the NYSE have offices in Limassol, German ship-owners constitute 44% of shipping related revenues, large Norwegian ship managers are exclusively managing their fleets out of Cyprus whilst the market share of the Singaporean companies has doubled to 6%. The impressive expansion comes at a time when demanding international environmental regulations are being implemented and the need of a friendly flag administration is more important than ever. Cyprus stance regarding shipping related issue with Turkey has not altered neither is of great concern during the recent years. Our trade activities are not affected by this embargo and we will continue to be strong supporters of the Cyprus flag irrespective of the developments on this front.
– How do you ensure the smooth compliance with the new environmental rules (Sulphur cap, MRV, BWMS)?
Safe Bulkers Inc. in the context of its Environment Social Responsibility policies is committed to fully comply with all forthcoming environmental regulations. In this regard, the company has undertaken substantial environmental investments both in complying with the Ballast Water Treatment regulations and the IMO Sulfur Cap 2020. As to the former, the company has entered into a global agreement with Erma First, since 2017, for the installation of the US Coast Guard approved ballast water treatment plant in its entire fleet. As of today 15 vessels have completed installation and commissioning of this system and another 8 vessels will have installed it by the end of 2019. The IMO Sulfur Cap 2020 regulation will find Safe Bulkers Inc. well-prepared and committed to its timely implementation. We are retrofitting scrubbers, within 2019, in about half of our fleet, targeting to compete for such vessels based on the expected price differential between the low and high sulfur content fuel. By the end of August we had retrofitted scrubbers on 5 vessels; four post-panamaxes namely MV Martine, MV Venus Horizon, MV Venus History, MV Andreas K and one kamsarmax the MV Pedhoulas Cherry. Five more vessels are being completed these days. For the remaining fleet which consists mainly of fuel efficient Eco ships, we are speeding up tank cleaning procedures and we intend to compete on the basis of fuel efficiency.
– Cyprus offers a complete shipping infrastructure and a highly educated labour human force. What is the key to continue developing a sound and a strong maritime client base in the future?
The Deputy Ministry of Shipping is constantly working towards the implementation of a shipping orientated environment. In the recent years the government is offering incentives in order to promote naval engineering professions as well as oceangoing carriers which constitute the core of the shipping business. Furthermore, Cyprus has been traditionally offering high standards of services in the legal and accounting sectors specializing in shipping. We are strong supporters of this initiative. Having recently developed our ship-management activities in Cyprus, employing more than 50 highly educated individuals, we find that Cypriots are ambitious, highly educated and hardworking professionals on whom we can rely to provide the utmost service to our clients. Furthermore, being listed in the New York Stock Exchange, we are pleased to offer our employees experience to challenging business areas which are seldom available in this industry and can be a valuable asset in their careers.
– Describe the profile of your vessels and the potential to expand your fleet during the next years. Safe Bulkers Inc., owns an operational fleet comprised of 41 drybulk vessels, 11 of which eco-design, with an average age of 8.5 years and an aggregate carrying capacity of 3,777,000 million dwt. The fleet consists of 14 Panamax class vessels, 10 Kamsarmax class vessels, 13 post- Panamax class vessels and 4 Capesize class vessels, all built from 2003 onwards. The entire fleet, apart from two vessels, is flying the Cyprus flag whilst about the two thirds of the fleet is managed from Safe Bulkers Management Ltd based in Limassol. It is a longstanding policy of the company to operate a young, modern and well maintained fleet, which meet the needs of our first class Charterers. Going forward our intention is to stick to our policy and renew our fleet with modern vessels, either second hand of up to 5 years of age or resales built in top class shipyards, avoiding additions to the orderbook.
MV Kypros Spirit, 78.000mt dwt bulkcarrier, built 2016 in Japan
– Do you believe that the regulatory measures are a product of necessity or pressure from the public opinion? How do you intend to keep the competitiveness of your fleet in this complex new environment?
The global environmental regulatory system is always a compromise between the available technical solutions and the necessity for a cleaner environment in all aspects of human activities. In shipping, IMO and MEPC are working to create new environmental
regulations and subsequently enforce them to the maritime community. For example IMO 2020 is related to the emissions of sulfur oxides, which are very hazardous polluters. On the other hand, substantial work is presently done in the area of Green House Gases and decarbonization which will alter the shipping industry in the next decade. We at Safe Bulkers strongly believe that environmental regulatory measures are a necessity to reduce our industry’s environmental footprint and as a result we have developed comprehensive Environmental Social Responsibility Policies. Such regulations dictate the level playing field to all, and the shipping community cannot afford to bypass them. As far as we are concerned we will continue to be committed to the protection of the environment and we will seek to reduce the emissions of our fleet even further. We are supporting scientific studies and we have invested in high end and expensive environmental equipment.
– Can you refer to the future projects of your company?
There are several priorities, fleet renewal, deleveraging, creating wealth for our shareholders and we pursue all these intensively with fresh ideas each time. Of course, at this moment our main focus is the smooth transition to the market’s new era with the demanding environmental regulations and especially with the IMO Sulfur Cap 2020. What I always like to say is that an investment as difficult or expensive as it may be, its benefits (environmental, financial, human development, social contribution, etc.), are derived from the successful implementation and operation in the long run.
Interview: Stefanos Papandreou
Source: ELNAVI SEPT 2019