Greek owners grow share of Russian oil shipments (source: Tradewinds)

Hellenic heavyweights second only to Sovcomflot on the trade but seem to be pulling back in the Middle East Gulf.

Major Greek shipowners are taking an increasing share of tanker shipments out of Russian ports at the same time as its largest VLCC player is rotating away from the Middle East Gulf.

Major Hellenic owners occupy five of the top six positions in terms of oil shipments out of Russia, behind only state-owned giant Sovcomflot, according to a ton mile analysis by VesselsValue undertaken for TradeWinds.

Mood improves as Greek shipping seeks new directionTsakos Energy Navigation is second only to Sovcomflot in the region, the data, covering May 2016 to May 2017, shows.

Andreas Martinos-backed Minerva Maritime occupies third spot in terms of tanker ton miles from the region, with George Economou’s TMS Tankers, Diamantis Diamantidis’ Delta Tankers and Thenamaris, headed by Nikolas Martinos, next in line.

They are all ahead of Sovcomflot division Novoship, Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Maritime, John Fredriksen’s Frontline and another Greek owner, Arcadia Shipmanagement, according to the figures provided to TradeWinds.

Court Smith, an analyst at VesselsValue, says the Greek owners all have a larger ton mile presence out of Russia than in the last strong market of 2014 and 2015.

Smith explained: “Russia is almost completely an aframax export market. What you are seeing is the Greeks prefer aframaxes, which gives them flexibility to trade globally.

“Aframaxes are the workhorses of the tanker fleet. You can trade them in any part of the world. Not only do you have a vibrant spot market, you also have the flexibility depending on the age of the vessel different markets to trade it in.”

Top tanker owners in terms of ton miles out of Russian. (Source: VesselsValue)

May 2014 to May 2015 May 2017 to May 2018
Sovcomflot Sovcomflot
Minerva Maritime Tsakos Energy Navigation
Thenamaris Minerva Maritime
TMS Tankers TMS Tankers
Tsakos Energy Navigation Delta Tankers

In the West African market, George Procopiou’s Dynacom has the largest share of shipments, according to the ton mile figures.

China VLCC and Frontline occupy second and third place, while John Angelicoussis-backed Maran Tankers is ranked number four, ahead of DHT Holdings and Teekay.

Thanasis Martinos’ Eastern Mediterranean and Onassis company Olympic Shipping also make the top 10.

Smith notes the West Africa region is mostly a suezmax trade, with significant portion also shipped on VLCCs.

“Even though you see some of the Greek owners strongly represented, the newsworthy part is that China VLCC is number two,” Smith said.

“That is not limited to the contract volumes they move out of Angola. They are also buying some of the West Africa/Nigerian grades. Maybe it’s a warning to the Greek owners the Chinese are encroaching into once safe markets.”

Top tanker owners in terms of ton miles out of West Africa. (Source: VesselsValue)

May 2014 to May 2015 May 2017 to May 2018
China Shipping Energy Transportation Dynacom Tankers
Dynacom Tankers China VLCC
China VLCC Frontliine
Nordic American Tankers Maran Tankers
Delta Tankers DHT Holdings

The presence of major Greek players in West Africa is a far cry from the Middle East, where Maran is the only Hellenic name registered in the top 10 in terms of ton miles. Its seventh position is behind Bahri, MOL, Cosco, NITC, China VLCC and SK Shipping, according to the VesselsValue data.

During the last bull market in 2014 and 2015 Maran was ranked third on the list behind Bahri and MOL, and ahead of NITC, the data shows.

Smith says it is interesting that Maran is now has a lower exposure to the Middle East export market, which is also reflected in the larger slice of business it has in West Africa.

“The Greek owners tend to get more of the activity out of certain parts of West Africa and also the America’s and Brazil. They are increasing their activity in other markets,” he noted.

While Greek owners have the largest global share of the VLCC fleet with around 200 of the ships, he notes Maran is far and away the largest Greek owner in the segment. This means it is not necessarily surprising there are not more Greek owners in the top 10.

Top tanker owners in terms of ton miles out of the Middle East Gulf. (Source: VesselsValue)

May 2014 to May 2015 May 2017 to May 2018
Bahri Bahri
Maran Tankers Cosco Shipping Energy
SK Shipping China VLCC

However, he suggests the market conditions may also playing a part and influencing Greek owners to look to other markets. “As over-tonnaged as the VLCC markets are right now, you might find yourself with a lower utilisation rate, sitting around waiting for a cargo in the Arabian Gulf,” he said.

“The markets are bad everywhere, but they are not quite as bad in the Caribbean. The Caribbean to the Far East, those numbers have stayed higher on a TCE basis.

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“If you are going to trade in the AG, you are going to wait longer for cargo, you are going to be competing with people like Bahri and the Chinese.

“I think what that’s doing is higher returns and better prospects in other regions.”

Smith added: “The Greeks are very good at relationship type businesses. Their relationships with the trading companies and with the Indians makes them naturally suited participants in areas like the Caribbean and the US Gulf.”