Limassol: Cyprus remains near the top of the world’s news agenda, its dramatic financial fall putting the Eurozone area on edge. Maritime CEO speaks today to one of the grand names of European shipping based on the island to discuss Cyprus’s future as well as interesting shipowning development plans.
Captain Eberhard Koch, a German national, is chairman and managing partner of Österreichischer Lloyd Seereederei (Cyprus), a company whose lineage stretches back to 1836, and was at the turn of the 20th century in charge of one of the biggest fleets afloat. Nowadays, Österreichischer Lloyd has nine ships.
On the debt crisis, Koch is hopeful the new administration is being more proactive.
“After the former president of the republic was not eager to decide on anything for a long time,” he says, “for me the ability of the new government to reach an agreement and to listen seems crucial.”
The package of measures announced intends to restore the viability of the financial sector and sound public finances over the coming years.
“Cyprus has rightly agreed that the local financial sector will be downsized and additional measures include the resolution of the second largest bank and the recapitalisation of the country's biggest bank. In this way, Cyprus will remain an attractive international business centre and shipowners who are residents on the island might even be able – although in small steps only – to conclude ship financing in the future,” he reckons.
The shipping industry, now already contributing 7% of Cyprus’ GDP, will increase their part once "the stormy weather" has calmed down and a balance of supply and demand has been reached, Koch says. “Up to now, I have not heard of a single shipowner intending to leave this lovely island, and needless to say, that is a right decision,” he says.
Österreichischer Lloyd has nine multipurpose vessels at the moment, five of which are geared. The total fleet is young, with an average age of just 5.65 years and its size totals 55,400 dwt.
“No newbuildings are presently on order although we are always seeking new investment opportunities in our fragmented segment,” Koch says.
The chairman says his company is interested in the slightly larger MPP vessels (10,000 to 35,000dwt), either Chinese newbuildings or decent second-hand tonnage. All of this, however, is pursuant, Koch says, to when the financing sector has recovered or strong investors have been found.
Österreichischer Lloyd is also looking at getting like-minded partners involved in the company.
“We are willing to review variable partnership synergy options, but, of course, would also definitely need to experience more favourable markets with improved returns as an incentive to invest again in the future,” Koch says.
“Smaller, family-orientated shipowners such as myself, with nine vessels, will have no real future in the totally changed financing scenario, going it alone,” Koch warns, “although we are very proud to have secured a sale and lease back offer from China recently.”
Österreichischer Lloyd was originally founded in 1836. With the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, it ceased to exist and was reborn shortly after the Second World War as a shipowning company.
NEED TO KNOW: Österreichischer Lloyd
Founded in 1836, became one of the world’s leading shipowners by the turn of the 20th century. Nowadays, headquartered in Cyprus and owns nine multipurpose vessels.