Kalimbassieris hails economic benefits of privatisation - 22/05/2006

In the decade and a half that Kalimbassieris Maritime has been doing business in the Black Sea region significant changes have taken place.

In the decade and a half that Kalimbassieris Maritime has been doing business in the Black Sea region significant changes have taken place.

As managing director Christina Kalimbassieris recalls: “When we started business was limited to hull and machinery surveys and some vetting work for a very few P&I clubs.

“Today we have four offices, including Constanza, Varna and Bourgas, servicing the majority of the IG group clubs and underwriters in the Norwegian, London and French markets.

“As a result there is very little that we have not seen in the Black Sea in the past two decades.”

In the early 1990s, she points out, Romania had a national fleet of around 200 ship and everything was government controlled.

“Today many key businesses are in private hands, and overall that has been beneficial to the economy,” says Mrs Kalimbassieris.

The port of Constantza has been a significant success story and there has been a dramatic increase in container calls in particular.

Shipbuilding and repairs have also been important in the development of the port, Mrs Kalimbassieris adds.

“As hull and machinery surveyors we have seen a number of large and complicated repairs carried out successfully over the past few years, making Constantza and Mangalia real competition for other yards in the east Mediterranean and Black Sea region,” she says.

Crewing is another key area of development highlighted by Mrs Kalimbassieris. She says a number of shipowners have opened their own manning agencies in Constantza, while NYK recently opened its own training centre there.

In comparison with Romania, Mrs Kalimbassieris believes that Bulgaria is lagging behind in terms of shipping.

“Port infrastructure and stevedoring services are still state-owned, and although the present government is trying to facilitate long-term concessions very few contracts have been actually signed,” she says.

“Moreover, while a few private shipowners have emerged, Navibulgar, the national carrier with a fleet of 85 vessels, remains state-owned despite years of talk about privatisation.”

In the shipbuilding and repair industry, a resounding success story for Mrs Kalimbassieris is the Russe Shipyard on the Danube, which since privatisation in 1999 has had a full orderbook for mainly German and British clients.

“The privatised Odessos yard continues steadily in shiprepair, while the Varna Shipbuilding Yard is recently starting to pick up after years of nearly no work and having laid off 4,000 out of the total 5,000 staff,” she adds.

She believes the expected entry into the European Union next year of Romania and Bulgaria will be a catalyst for increased development and activity.

“The anticipated increase of external and internal trade and the implementation of various infrastructure projects will have direct and indirect benefits to the shipping industry,” she suggests.