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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549

 

 

FORM 20-F

 

(Mark One)

 

REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR (g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

   
 

OR

   

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

   

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020

   
 

OR

   

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

   

For the transition period from _________________ to _________________

   
 

OR

   

SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

   

Date of event requiring this shell company report _________________

 

Commission file number 001-37889

 

TOP SHIPS INC.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

 
 

(Translation of Registrant’s name into English)

 

Republic of the Marshall Islands

(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)

 

1 Vasilisis Sofias and Megalou Alexandrou Str, 15124 Maroussi, Greece

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

Alexandros Tsirikos, (Tel) +30 210 812 8107, info@topships.org

1 Vasilisis Sofias and Megalou Alexandrou Str, 15124 Maroussi, Greece

(Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)

 

 

 

 

Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act.

 

Title of each class

 

Trading Symbol(s)

 

Name of each exchange

on which registered

Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share

 

TOPS

 

Nasdaq Capital Market

Preferred Stock Purchase Rights

     

Nasdaq Capital Market

 

Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act.

 

NONE

(Title of class)

 

Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act.

 

NONE

(Title of class)

 

Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report.

 

As of December 31, 2020, 39,831,972 shares of common stock, par value $0.01 per share, were outstanding.

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.

 

Yes

No

 

 

If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

 

Yes

No

 

 

Note – Checking the box above will not relieve any registrant required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 from their obligations under those Sections.

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.

 

Yes

No

 

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (Sec.232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).

 

Yes

No

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or an emerging growth company.  See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):

 

Large accelerated filer  ☐

Accelerated filer  ☒

Non-accelerated filer  ☐

Emerging growth company ☐

 

If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐

† The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. ☒

 

Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:

 

U.S. GAAP

International Financial Reporting Standards as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board

Other

 

If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow:

 

  Item 17 Item 18

 

If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).

 

Yes

No

 

 

(APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Sections 12, 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 subsequent to the distribution of securities under a plan confirmed by a court.

 

Yes

No

 

 

 

 

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

PART I

  3

ITEM 1.

IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS 3

ITEM 2.

OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE 3

ITEM 3.

KEY INFORMATION 3

ITEM 4.

INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY 32

ITEM 4A.

UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS 51

ITEM 5.

OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS 51

ITEM 6.

DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES 65

ITEM 7.

MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS 68

ITEM 8.

FINANCIAL INFORMATION.  71

ITEM 9.

THE OFFER AND LISTING. 72

ITEM 10.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION 72

ITEM 11.

QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK 87

ITEM 12.

DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES 88

PART II

  88

ITEM 13.

DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES 88

ITEM 14.

MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS 88

ITEM 15.

CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES 88

ITEM 16A.

AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT 90

ITEM 16B.

CODE OF ETHICS 91

ITEM 16C.

PRINCIPAL AUDITOR AND SERVICES 91

ITEM 16D.

EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES 91

ITEM 16E.

PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS 91

ITEM 16F.

CHANGE IN REGISTRANT’S CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT 91

ITEM 16G.

CORPORATE GOVERNANCE 91

ITEM 16H.

MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE 92

PART III

  92

ITEM 17.

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS 92

ITEM 18.

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS 92

ITEM 19.

EXHIBITS 92

 

 

 

 

CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

 

Matters discussed in this report may constitute forward-looking statements. The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, or the PSLRA, provides safe harbor protections for forward-looking statements in order to encourage companies to provide prospective information about their business. Forward-looking statements include statements concerning plans, objectives, goals, strategies, future events or performance, and underlying assumptions and other statements, which are statements other than statements of historical facts.

 

TOP Ships Inc. desires to take advantage of the safe harbor provisions of the PSLRA and is including this cautionary statement in connection with this safe harbor legislation. This annual report and any other written or oral statements made by us or on our behalf may include forward-looking statements, which reflect our current views with respect to future events and financial performance. When used in this annual report, statements that are predictive in nature, that depend upon or refer to future events or conditions, or that include words such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “expect,” “intend,” “estimate,” “forecast,” “project,” “plan,” “potential,” “continue,” “possible,” “likely,” “may,” “should,” and similar expressions identify forward-looking statements.

 

The forward-looking statements in this annual report are based upon various assumptions, many of which are based, in turn, upon further assumptions, including without limitation, management’s examination of historical operating trends, data contained in our records and other data available from third parties. Although we believe that these assumptions were reasonable when made, because these assumptions are inherently subject to significant uncertainties and contingencies that are difficult or impossible to predict and are beyond our control, we cannot assure you that we will achieve or accomplish these expectations, beliefs or projections.

 

In addition to these assumptions and matters discussed elsewhere herein and in the documents incorporated by reference herein, important factors that, in our view, could cause actual results to differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements include the following:

 

 

our ability to maintain or develop new and existing customer relationships with major refined product importers and exporters, major crude oil companies and major commodity traders, including our ability to enter into long-term charters for our vessels;

 

 

our future operating and financial results;

 

 

our future vessel acquisitions, our business strategy and expected and unexpected capital spending or operating expenses, including any dry-docking, crewing, bunker costs and insurance costs;

 

 

our financial condition and liquidity, including our ability to obtain financing in the future to fund capital expenditures, acquisitions and other general corporate activities;

 

 

oil and chemical tanker industry trends, including fluctuations in charter rates and vessel values and factors affecting vessel supply and demand;

 

 

our ability to take delivery of, integrate into our fleet, and employ any newbuildings we may acquire or order in the future and the ability of shipyards to deliver vessels on a timely basis;

 

 

the aging of our vessels and resultant increases in operation and dry-docking costs;

 

 

the ability of our vessels to pass classification inspections and vetting inspections by oil majors and big chemical corporations;

 

 

significant changes in vessel performance, including increased vessel breakdowns;

 

 

the creditworthiness of our charterers and the ability of our contract counterparties to fulfill their obligations to us;

 

 

our ability to repay outstanding indebtedness, to obtain additional financing and to obtain replacement charters for our vessels, in each case, at commercially acceptable rates or at all;

 

 

changes to governmental rules and regulations or actions taken by regulatory authorities and the expected costs thereof;

 

 

our ability to comply with additional costs and risks related to our environmental, social and governance policies;

 

 

 

 

potential liability from litigation and our vessel operations, including discharge of pollutants;

 

 

changes in general economic and business conditions;

 

 

general domestic and international political conditions, potential disruption of shipping routes due to accidents, political events, including “trade wars,” piracy or acts by terrorists;

 

 

changes in production of or demand for oil and petroleum products and chemicals, either globally or in particular regions;

 

 

the strength of world economies and currencies, including fluctuations in charterhire rates and vessel values;

 

 

potential liability from future litigation and potential costs due to any environmental damage and vessel collisions;

 

 

the length and severity of epidemics and pandemics, including the ongoing global outbreak of the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) and its impact on the demand for commercial seaborne transportation and the condition of the financial markets; and

 

 

and other important factors described from time to time in the reports filed by us with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC.

 

You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements contained in this annual report because they are statements about events that are not certain to occur as described or at all. All forward-looking statements in this annual report are qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements contained in this annual report.

 

Any forward-looking statements contained herein are made only as of the date of this annual report, and except to the extent required by applicable law or regulation we undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statement or statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which such statement is made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. New factors emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for us to predict all or any of these factors. Further, we cannot assess the impact of each such factor on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to be materially different from those contained in any forward-looking statement.

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

PART I

 

ITEM 1.         IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS

 

Not Applicable.

 

ITEM 2.         OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE

 

Not Applicable.

 

ITEM 3.         KEY INFORMATION

 

Unless the context otherwise requires, as used in this annual report, the terms “Company,” “we,” “us,” and “our” refer to TOP Ships Inc. and all of its subsidiaries, and “TOP Ships Inc.” refers only to TOP Ships Inc. and not to its subsidiaries. We use the term deadweight ton, or dwt, in describing the size of vessels. Dwt, expressed in metric tons each of which is equivalent to 1,000 kilograms, refers to the maximum weight of cargo and supplies that a vessel can carry.  References to our “Fleet Manager” or “CSI” are to Central Shipping Inc, a related party of ours, which performs the day-to-day management of our fleet. Throughout this annual report, the conversion from Euros, or €, to U.S. dollars, or $, is based on the U.S. dollar/Euro exchange rate of 0.8141 as of December 31, 2020, unless otherwise specified.

 

A.         Selected Financial Data

 

The following table sets forth our selected Statement of Comprehensive (Loss)/Income and Balance Sheet Data (“historical consolidated financial information”) and other operating data as of and for the periods indicated. Our selected historical consolidated financial information as of December 31, 2019 and 2020 and for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2019 and 2020 is derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included in “Item 18. Financial Statements” herein. The selected historical consolidated financial information as of December 31, 2016, 2017 and 2018 and for the years ended December 31, 2016 and 2017 is derived from our audited consolidated financial statements that are not included in this annual report. Our consolidated financial statements are prepared and presented in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, or U.S. GAAP.

 

The information provided below should be read in conjunction with “Item 4. Information on the Company” and “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” and the consolidated financial statements, related notes and other financial information included herein.

 

Following the one-for-ten reverse stock split of our issued and outstanding common shares effective on February 22, 2016, a one-for-twenty reverse stock split of our issued and outstanding common shares effective on May 11, 2017, a one-for-fifteen reverse stock split of our issued and outstanding common shares effective on June 23, 2017, a one-for-thirty reverse stock split of our issued and outstanding common shares effective on August 3, 2017, a one-for-two reverse stock split of our issued and outstanding common shares effective on October 6, 2017, a one-for-ten reverse stock split of our issued and outstanding common shares effective on March 26, 2018, a one-for-twenty reverse stock split of our issued and outstanding common shares effective on August 22, 2019 and a one-for twenty-five reverse stock split of our issued and outstanding common shares effective on August 10, 2020, all share and per share amounts disclosed throughout this annual report, in the table below and in our consolidated financial statements have been retroactively updated to reflect this change in capital structure, unless otherwise indicated. Please see “Item 4. Information on the Company—History and Development of the Company”.

 

 

3

 

 

U.S. Dollars in thousands, except per share data

                                       

STATEMENT OF COMPREHENSIVE INCOME/(LOSS)

 

2016

   

2017

   

2018

   

2019

   

2020

 

Time charter revenues

    28,433       39,363       39,442       61,695       60,222  

Time charter revenues from related parties

    -       -       1,606       1,311       -  

Voyage charter revenue

    -       -       -       3,082       -  

Total charter revenue

    28,433       39,363       41,048       66,088       60,222  
                                         

Voyage expenses

    736       999       1,020       3,038       1,994  

Operating lease expense1

    -       -       -       7,054       755  

Bareboat charter hire expense1

    6,299       6,282       6,282       -       -  

Amortization of prepaid bareboat charter hire1

    1,577       1,657       1,657       -       -  

Vessel operating expenses

    9,913       13,444       14,826       22,786       21,024  

Dry-docking costs

    -       -       -       399       356  

Management fees-related parties

    1,824       4,730       7,765       2,443       5,627  

General and administrative expenses

    2,906       5,805       6,997       1,730       1,932  

Other operating (income)/loss

    (3,137

)

    (914

)

    -       -       4,800  

Vessel depreciation

    3,467       5,744       6,390       12,392       13,174  

Impairment on vessels

    -       -       -       12,310       -  

Loss on sale of vessels

    -       -       -       -       12,355  
                                         

Operating income/(loss)

    4,848       1,616       (3,889

)

    3,936       (1,795 )
                                         

Interest and finance costs

    (3,093

)

    (15,793

)

    (9,662

)

    (18,077 )     (20,956 )

(Loss)/gain on derivative financial instruments

    (698

)

    (301

)

    1,821       1,601       (814 )

Interest income

    -       13       130       133       34  

Equity (losses)/gains on investments

    -       (27

)

    291       778       713  

Other (expense)/income, net

    (5

)

    1,120       180       -       -  

Impairment on unconsolidated joint ventures

    -       -       -       (3,144 )     -  
                                         

Net income/(loss) and comprehensive income/(loss)

    1,052       (13,372

)

    (11,129

)

    (14,773 )     (22,818 )

Deemed dividend for beneficial conversion feature of Series B & E convertible preferred stock

    (1, 403

)

    -       -       (9,339 )     (1,067 )

Deemed dividend equivalents on outstanding Series E Preferred Shares related to redemption value

    -       -       -       (4,227 )     (3,099 )

Series E Preferred Shares Dividend

    -       -       -       (2,650 )     (1,796 )

Net loss attributable to common shareholders

    (351

)

    (13,372

)

    (11,129

)

    (30,989 )     (28,780 )

Attributable to:

                                       

Common stock holders

    (351

)

    (13,404

)

    (11,134

)

    (30,989 )     (28,780 )

Non-controlling interests

    -       32       5       -       -  
                                         

Loss per share, basic and diluted

  $ (351,000

)

  $ (6,302.00

)

  $ (306.20 )   $ (264.63 )   $ (1.22 )

Weighted average common shares outstanding, basic and diluted

    1       2,127       36,362       117,104       23,517,479  
                                         

Other comprehensive loss

                                       

Effective portion of changes in fair value of interest swap contracts

    -       -       -       (1,361 )     -  

Total other comprehensive loss

    (351

)

    (13,372

)

    (11,129

)

    (32,350 )     (28,780 )

Attributable to:

                                       

Common stock holders

    (351

)

    (13,404

)

    (11,134

)

    (32,350 )     (28,780 )

Non-controlling interests

    -       32       5       -          

 

 

 

(1) New guidance on Leases was implemented on January 1, 2019 and as permitted under the transition rules we elected not to restate comparative figures

 

4

 

U.S. dollars in thousands, unless otherwise stated

 

2016

   

2017

   

2018

   

2019

   

2020

 

BALANCE SHEET DATA

                                       

Current assets

    4,541       29,055       5,288       50,742       45,086  

Total assets

    143,317       220,448       258,488       444,890       293,032  

Current liabilities, including current portion of long-term debt

    20,033       25,581       36,819       75,417       25,414  

Non-current liabilities

    76,022       87,593       117,388       263,716       133,400  

Total debt

    84,539       103,949       140,655       309,007       104,619  

Stockholders’ and mezzanine equity

    45,521       107,274       104,281       105,757       134,218  

Preferred stock

    -       1       1       1       1  

Common stock

    -       -       -       3       398  

 

OTHER FINANCIAL DATA

 

   

2016

   

2017

   

2018

   

2019

   

2020

 

FLEET DATA

                                       

Total number of vessels at end of period (including leased vessels)

    6.0       7.0       8.0       12.0       6.0  

Average number of vessels(1)

    5.0       6.8       7.3       11.1       9.5  

Total calendar days for fleet(2)

    1,812       2,496       2,670       4,055       3,483  

Total available days for fleet(3)

    1,812       2,495       2,668       4,032       3,442  

Total operating days for fleet(4)

    1,799       2,491       2,663       3,959       3,363  

Total time charter days for fleet

    1,799       2,491       2,663       3,884       3,363  

Total spot (voyage) days for fleet

    -       -       -       75       -  

Fleet utilization(5)

    99.28

%

    99.81

%

    99.81

%

    98.17

%

    97.68 %

 

   

2016

   

2017

   

2018

   

2019

   

2020

 

AVERAGE DAILY RESULTS

                                       

Time charter equivalent(6)

  $ 15,396     $ 15,403     $ 15,031     $ 16,233     $ 17,314  

Vessel operating expenses(7)

  $ 5,470     $ 5,386     $ 5,552     $ 5,619     $ 6,037  

General and administrative expenses(8)

  $ 1,604     $ 2,323     $ 2,620     $ 427     $ 555  

 

U.S. dollars in thousands

 

2016

   

2017

   

2018

   

2019

   

2020

 

Adjusted EBITDA(9)

  $ 16,186     $ 16,405     $ 10,911     $ 36,470     $ 30,002  

 

(1) Average number of vessels is the number of vessels that constituted our fleet (including chartered in vessels) for the relevant period, as measured by the sum of the number of days each vessel was a part of our fleet during the period divided by the number of calendar days in that period.
(2) Calendar days are the total days the vessels were in our possession for the relevant period. Calendar days are an indicator of the size of our fleet over the relevant period and affect both the amount of revenues and expenses that we record during that period.
(3) Available days are the number of calendar days less the aggregate number of days that our vessels are off-hire due to scheduled repairs or scheduled guarantee inspections in the case of newbuildings, vessel upgrades or special or intermediate surveys and the aggregate amount of time that we spend positioning our vessels. Companies in the shipping industry generally use available days to measure the number of days in a period during which vessels should be capable of generating revenues. Our definition of Available days may not be the same as reported by other companies in the shipping industry or other industries.
(4) Operating days are the number of available days in a period less the aggregate number of days that our vessels are off-hire due to unforeseen technical circumstances. The shipping industry uses operating days to measure the aggregate number of days in a period that vessels actually generate revenue. Our definition of Operating days may not be the same as reported by other companies in the shipping industry or other industries.
(5) Fleet utilization is calculated by dividing the number of operating days during a period by the number of available days during that period. The shipping industry uses fleet utilization to measure a company’s efficiency in finding suitable employment for its vessels and minimizing the number of days that its vessels are off-hire for reasons other than scheduled repairs or scheduled guarantee inspections in the case of newbuildings, vessel upgrades, special or intermediate surveys and vessel positioning.
(6) Time charter equivalent rate, or TCE rate, is a measure of the average daily revenue performance of a vessel. Our definition of TCE may not be the same as reported by other companies in the shipping industry or other industries. Our method of calculating TCE rate is determined by dividing TCE revenues by operating days for the relevant time period. TCE revenues are revenues minus voyage expenses. Voyage expenses primarily consist of port, canal and fuel costs that are unique to a particular voyage, which would otherwise be paid by the charterer under a time charter contract, but are payable by us in the case of a voyage charter, as well as commissions. TCE revenues and TCE rate, which are non-U.S. GAAP measures, provide additional supplemental information in conjunction with shipping revenues, the most directly comparable U.S. GAAP measure. We use TCE rates and TCE revenues to compare period-to-period changes in our performance and it assists investors and our management in evaluating our financial performance. The following table below reflects the reconciliation of TCE revenues to revenues as reflected in the consolidated statements of operations and our calculation of TCE rates for the periods presented.

        

 

5

 

U.S. dollars in thousands, except average daily time charter equivalent and total operating days

 

2016

   

2017

   

2018

   

2019

   

2020

 

On a consolidated basis

                                       

Total Revenues

  $ 28,433     $ 39,363     $ 41,048     $ 66,088     $ 60,222  

Less:

                                       

Voyage expenses

    (736

)

    (999

)

    (1,020

)

    (3,038 )     (1,994 )

Time charter equivalent revenues

  $ 27,697     $ 38,364     $ 40,028     $ 63,050     $ 58,228  

Total operating days

    1,799       2,491       2,663       3,884       3,363  
                                         

Average Daily Time Charter Equivalent (TCE)

  $ 15,396     $ 15,403     $ 15,031     $ 16,233     $ 17,314  

 

(7) Daily vessel operating expenses, which include crew costs, provisions, deck and engine stores, lubricating oil, insurance, maintenance and repairs are calculated by dividing vessel operating expenses by fleet calendar days for the relevant time period.
(8) Daily general and administrative expenses are calculated by dividing general and administrative expenses by fleet calendar days for the relevant time period.
(9)

Adjusted Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, Amortization (Adjusted EBITDA), is not a measure prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP. We define Adjusted EBITDA as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, vessel bareboat charter hire expenses (including amortization of prepaid hire), operating lease expenses, losses on sale of vessels and other operating losses indirectly connected with sale of vessels (i.e. Time Charter Termination Fees), asset impairments, and gains/losses on derivative financial instruments. Adjusted EBITDA is a non-U.S. GAAP financial measure that is used as a supplemental financial measure by management and external users of financial statements, such as investors, to assess our financial and operating performance. We believe that this non-GAAP financial measure assists our management and investors by increasing the comparability of our performance from period to period. This is achieved by excluding the potentially disparate effects between periods of interest, gain/loss on financial instruments, depreciation and amortization, vessel bareboat charter hire expenses (including amortization of prepaid hire), operating lease expenses, losses on sale of vessels and other operating losses indirectly connected with sale of vessels (i.e. Time Charter Termination Fees), asset impairments and which items are affected by various and possibly changing financing methods, capital structure and historical cost basis and which items may significantly affect results of operations between periods. This non-U.S. GAAP measure should not be considered in isolation from, as a substitute for, or superior to financial measures prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP.  In evaluating Adjusted EBITDA, you should be aware that in the future we may incur expenses that are the same as or similar to some of the adjustments in this presentation. Our definition of Adjusted EBITDA may not be the same as reported by other companies in the shipping industry or other industries. Adjusted EBITDA does not represent and should not be considered as an alternative to operating income or cash flow from operations, as determined in accordance with U.S. GAAP.

 

U.S. dollars in thousands

 

2016

   

2017

   

2018

   

2019

   

2020

 

Net (loss)/income and comprehensive (loss)/income

    1,052       (13,372

)

    (11,129

)

    (14,773

)

    (22,818 )
                                         

Add: Bareboat charter hire expenses

    6,299       6,282       6,282       -       -  

Add: Amortization of prepaid bareboat charter hire

    1,577       1,657       1,657       -       -  

Add: Operating lease expense

    -       -       -       7,054       755  

Add: Vessel depreciation

    3,467       5,744       6,390       12,392       13,174  

Add: Impairment on vessel

    -       -       -       12,310       -  

Add: Impairment on unconsolidated joint ventures

    -       -       -       3,144       -  

Add: Interest and finance costs

    3,093       15,793       9,662       18,077       20,956  

Add: Loss/(gain) on derivative financial instruments

    698       301       (1,821

)

    (1,601

)

    814  

Add: Loss on sale of vessels

    -       -       -       -       12,355  

Add: Other operating loss (Time Charter Termination Fees)

    -       -       -       -       4,800  

Less: Interest income

    -       -       (130

)

    (133

)

    (34 )
                                         

Adjusted EBITDA

    16,186       16,405       10,911       36,470       30,002  

 

6

 

B.         Capitalization and Indebtedness

 

Not Applicable.

 

C.         Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds

 

Not Applicable.

 

D.         Risk Factors

 

The following risks relate principally to the industry in which we operate and our business in general. Any of these risk factors could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition or operating results and the trading price of our common shares.

 

Summary of Risk Factors

 

 

The international tanker industry has historically been both cyclical and volatile and this may lead to reductions and volatility in our charter rates, our vessel values, our revenues, earnings and cash flow results.

 

 

Our financial results may be adversely affected by the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, and the related governmental responses thereto.

 

 

Outbreaks of epidemic and pandemic diseases and governmental responses thereto could adversely affect our business

 

 

The international oil tanker industry has experienced volatile charter rates and vessel values and there can be no assurance that these charter rates and vessel values will not decrease in the near future.

 

 

Volatile economic conditions throughout the world could have an adverse impact on our operations and financial results.

 

 

The current state of the global financial markets and current economic conditions may adversely impact our results of operation, financial condition, cash flows and ability to obtain financing or refinance our existing and future credit facilities on acceptable terms, which may negatively impact our business.

 

 

Volatility of LIBOR and potential changes of the use of LIBOR as a benchmark could affect our profitability, earnings and cash flow.

 

 

We are subject to complex laws and regulations, including environmental regulations that can adversely affect the cost, manner or feasibility of doing business.

 

 

We are subject to international safety regulations and requirements imposed by classification societies and the failure to comply with these regulations may subject us to increased liability, may adversely affect our insurance coverage and may result in a denial of access to, or detention in, certain ports.

 

 

Climate change and greenhouse gas restrictions may adversely impact our operations and markets.

 

 

The market value of our vessels, and those we may acquire in the future, may fluctuate significantly, which could cause us to incur losses if we decide to sell them following a decline in their market values or we may be required to write down their carrying value, which will adversely affect our earnings.

 

 

An over-supply of tanker capacity may lead to reductions in charter hire rates and profitability.

 

 

If our vessels call on ports located in countries or territories that are the subject of sanctions or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government or other governmental authorities, it could lead to monetary fines or adversely affect our business, reputation and the market for our common shares.

 

 

Political instability, terrorist or other attacks, war, international hostilities and public health threats can affect the tanker industry, which may adversely affect our business.

 

 

The U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union may have a negative effect on global economic conditions, financial markets and our business.

 

 

Acts of piracy on ocean-going vessels could adversely affect our business.

 

 

An economic slowdown or changes in the economic and political environment in the Asia Pacific region could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

 

Increased inspection procedures and tighter import and export controls could increase costs and disrupt our business.

 

 

We rely on our information systems to conduct our business, and failure to protect these systems against security breaches could adversely affect our business and results of operations. Additionally, if these systems fail or become unavailable for any significant period of time, our business could be harmed.

 

 

We were recently subject to litigation and we may be subject to similar or other litigation in the future.

 

 

As of the date of this annual report our operating fleet consists of seven tankers. Any limitation in the availability or operation of these vessels could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

 

We expect to be dependent on a limited number of customers for a large part of our revenues, and failure of such counterparties to meet their obligations could cause us to suffer losses or negatively impact our results of operations and cash flows.

 

 

Newbuilding projects are subject to risks that could cause delays.

 

 

Our financing facilities contain restrictive covenants that may limit our liquidity and corporate activities, and could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

 

7

 

 

Servicing current and future debt, including financings committed under sale and leaseback (“SLB”) agreements, will limit funds available for other purposes and impair our ability to react to changes in our business.

 

 

If we fail to manage our planned growth properly, we may not be able to successfully expand our market share.

 

 

Our ability to obtain additional debt financing may be dependent on our ability to charter our vessels, the performance of our charters and the creditworthiness of our charterers.

 

 

The industry for the operation of tanker vessels and the transportation of oil, petroleum products and chemicals is highly competitive and we may not be able to compete for charters with new entrants or established companies with greater resources.

 

 

A limited number of financial institutions hold our cash.

 

 

Our President, Chief Executive Officer and Director, who may be deemed to beneficially own, directly or indirectly, 100% of our Series D Preferred Shares and our Series E Preferred Shares has control over us.

 

 

We may be unable to attract and retain key management personnel and other employees in the international tanker shipping industry, which may negatively impact the effectiveness of our management and our results of operations.

 

 

If labor interruptions are not resolved in a timely manner, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and available cash.

 

 

If we expand our business, we will need to improve our operations and financial systems and staff; if we cannot improve these systems or recruit suitable employees, our performance may be adversely affected.

 

 

A drop in spot charter rates may provide an incentive for some charterers to default on their charters, which could affect our cash flow and financial condition.

 

 

An increase in operating costs could decrease earnings and available cash.

 

 

The aging of our fleet may result in increased operating costs in the future, which could adversely affect our earnings.

 

 

Unless we set aside reserves or are able to borrow funds for vessel replacement, our revenue will decline at the end of a vessel’s useful life, which would adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

 

Purchasing and operating secondhand vessels may result in increased operating costs and vessels off-hire, which could adversely affect our earnings.

 

 

We may not have adequate insurance to compensate us if we lose any vessels that we acquire.

 

 

We may be subject to increased premium payments, or calls, as we obtain some of our insurance through protection and indemnity associations.

 

 

Increasing scrutiny and changing expectations from investors, lenders and other market participants with respect to our Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) policies may impose additional costs on us or expose us to additional risks.

 

 

Technological innovation and quality and efficiency requirements from our customers could reduce our charter hire income and the value of our vessels.

 

 

The smuggling of drugs or other contraband onto our vessels may lead to governmental claims against us.

 

 

Maritime claimants could arrest our vessels or vessels we acquire, which could interrupt our cash flow.

 

 

Governments could requisition our vessels or vessels we acquire during a period of war or emergency, resulting in loss of earnings.

 

 

U.S. federal tax authorities could treat us as a “passive foreign investment company,” which could have adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. shareholders.

 

 

U.S. federal tax authorities could treat us as a “passive foreign investment company,” which could have adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. shareholders.

 

 

We are a “foreign private issuer,” which could make our common shares less attractive to some investors or otherwise harm our stock price.

 

 

Our share price may continue to be highly volatile, which could lead to a loss of all or part of a shareholder’s investment.

 

 

There is no guarantee of a continuing public market for you to resell our common shares.

 

 

Nasdaq may delist our common shares from its exchange which could limit your ability to make transactions in our securities and subject us to additional trading restrictions.

 

 

We issued 39,484,159 common shares during 2020 through various transactions. Shareholders may experience significant dilution as a result of our offerings.

 

 

Future issuances or sales, or the potential for future issuances or sales, of our common shares may cause the trading price of our securities to decline and could impair our ability to raise capital through subsequent equity offerings.

 

 

Future issuance of common shares may trigger anti-dilution provisions in our Series E Preferred Shares and affect the interests of our common shareholders.

 

 

We are incorporated in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which does not have a well-developed body of corporate law and as a result, shareholders may have fewer rights and protections under Marshall Islands law than under a typical jurisdiction in the United States.

 

 

It may not be possible for investors to serve process on or enforce U.S. judgments against us.

 

8

 

 

Our By-laws provide that the High Court of the Republic of Marshall Islands shall be the sole and exclusive forum for certain disputes between us and our shareholders, which could limit our shareholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or employees.

 

 

We may not achieve the intended benefits of having a forum selection provision if it is found to be unenforceable.

 

 

Anti-takeover provisions in our organizational documents could have the effect of discouraging, delaying or preventing a merger, amalgamation or acquisition, which could reduce the market price of our common shares.

 

 

We are dependent on our Fleet Manager to perform the day-to-day management of our fleet.

 

 

Our Fleet Manager is a privately held company and there may be limited or no publicly available information about it.

 

 

Our Fleet Manager may have conflicts of interest between us and its other clients.

 

RISKS RELATED TO OUR INDUSTRY

 

The international tanker industry has historically been both cyclical and volatile and this may lead to reductions and volatility in our charter rates, our vessel values, our revenues, earnings and cash flow results.

 

The international tanker industry in which we operate is cyclical, with attendant volatility in charter hire rates, vessel values and industry profitability. For tanker vessels, the degree of charter rate volatility has varied widely. Please see “—The international oil tanker industry has experienced volatile charter rates and vessel values and there can be no assurance that these charter rates and vessel values will not decrease in the near future.” Currently, all of our vessels are employed on time charters. However, changes in spot rates and time charter rates can affect the revenues we receive from operations in the event our charterers default or seek to renegotiate the charter hire, as well as the value of our vessels, even if our vessels are employed under long-term time charters. Our ability to re-charter our vessels on the expiration or termination of their time or bareboat charters and the charter rates payable under any renewal or replacement charters will depend upon, among other things, economic conditions in the tanker markets and several other factors outside of our control. If we enter into a charter when charter rates are low, our revenues and earnings will be adversely affected. A decline in charter hire rates will also likely cause the value of our vessels to decline.

 

Fluctuations in charter rates and vessel values result from changes in the supply and demand for vessels and changes in the supply and demand for oil, chemicals and other liquids our vessels carry. Factors affecting the supply and demand for our vessels are outside of our control and are unpredictable. The nature, timing, direction and degree of changes in the tanker industry conditions are also unpredictable.

 

Factors that influence demand for tanker vessel capacity include:

 

 

supply and demand for petroleum products and chemicals carried;

 

 

changes in oil production and refining capacity resulting in shifts in trade flows for oil products;

 

 

the distance petroleum products and chemicals are to be moved by sea;

 

 

global and regional economic and political conditions, including “trade wars” and developments in international trade, national oil reserves policies, fluctuations in industrial and agricultural production, armed conflicts and work stoppages;

 

 

increases in the production of oil in areas linked by pipelines to consuming areas, the extension of existing, or the development of new pipeline systems in markets we may serve, or the conversion of existing non-oil pipelines to oil pipelines in those markets;

 

 

environmental and other legal and regulatory developments;

 

 

economic slowdowns caused by public health events such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic;

 

 

currency exchange rates;

 

 

weather, natural disasters and other acts of God;

 

 

competition from alternative sources of energy, other shipping companies and other modes of transportation; and

 

 

international sanctions, embargoes, import and export restrictions, nationalizations, piracy and wars.

 

9

 

The factors that influence the supply of tanker capacity include:

 

 

the number of newbuilding deliveries;

 

 

current and expected newbuilding orders for vessels;

 

 

the scrapping rate of older vessels;

 

 

speed of vessel operation;

 

 

vessel freight rates, which are affected by factors that may affect the rate of newbuilding, swapping and laying up of vessels;

 

 

the price of steel and vessel equipment;

 

 

technological advances in the design and capacity of vessels;

 

 

potential conversion of vessels for alternative use;

 

 

changes in environmental and other regulations that may limit the useful lives of vessels;

 

 

port or canal congestion;

 

 

the number of vessels that are out of service at a given time, namely those that are laid-up, drydocked, awaiting repairs or otherwise not available for hire, including those that are in drydock for the purpose of installing exhaust gas cleaning systems, known as scrubbers; and

 

 

changes in global petroleum and chemical production.

 

The factors affecting the supply and demand for tankers have been volatile and are outside of our control, and the nature, timing and degree of changes in industry conditions are unpredictable. Market conditions have been volatile in recent years and continued volatility may reduce demand for transportation of oil, petroleum products and chemicals over longer distances and increase the supply of tankers, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, ability to pay dividends and existing contractual obligations.

 

Our financial results may be adversely affected by the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, and the related governmental responses thereto.

 

Since the beginning of calendar year 2020, the outbreak of COVID-19 that originated in China in late 2019 and that has spread to most nations around the globe has resulted in numerous actions taken by governments and governmental agencies in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the virus, including travel bans, quarantines, and other emergency public health measures, and a number of countries implemented lockdown measures. These measures have resulted in a significant reduction in global economic activity and extreme volatility in the global financial markets. If the COVID-19 pandemic continues on a prolonged basis or becomes more severe, the adverse impact on the global economy and the rate environment for tanker and other cargo vessels may deteriorate further and our operations and cash flows may be negatively impacted. Relatively weak global economic conditions during periods of volatility have and may continue to have a number of adverse consequences for tanker and other shipping sectors, including, among other things:

 

 

low charter rates, particularly for vessels employed on short-term time charters or in the spot market;

 

 

decreases in the market value of tanker vessels and limited second-hand market for the sale of vessels;

 

 

limited financing for vessels;

 

 

loan covenant defaults; and

 

 

declaration of bankruptcy by certain vessel operators, vessel owners, shipyards and charterers.

 

10

 

The COVID-19 pandemic and measures to contain its spread have negatively impacted regional and global economies and trade patterns in markets in which we operate, the way we operate our business, and the businesses of our charterers and suppliers. These negative impacts could continue or worsen, even after the pandemic itself diminishes or ends. Companies, including us or our Fleet Manager, have also taken precautions, such as requiring employees to work remotely and imposing travel restrictions, while some other businesses have been required to close entirely. Moreover, we face significant risks to our personnel and operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our crews face risk of exposure to COVID-19 as a result of travel to ports in which cases of COVID-19 have been reported. Our shore-based personnel likewise face risk of such exposure, as we maintain offices in areas that have been impacted by the spread of COVID-19.

 

Measures against COVID-19 in a number of countries have restricted crew rotations on our vessels, which may continue or become more severe. As a result, in 2020, we experienced and may continue to experience disruptions to our normal vessel operations caused by increased deviation time associated with positioning our vessels to countries in which we can undertake a crew rotation in compliance with such measures. Delays in crew rotations have led to issues with crew fatigue and may continue to do so, which may result in delays or other operational issues. We have had and expect to continue to have days in which our vessels are unable to earn revenue in order to deviate to certain ports on which we would ordinarily not call during a typical voyage. We may also incur additional expenses associated with testing, personal protective equipment, quarantines, and travel expenses such as airfare costs in order to perform crew rotations in the current environment. In 2020, delays in crew rotations have also caused us to incur additional costs related to crew bonuses paid to retain the existing crew members on board and may continue to do so.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic and measures in place against the spread of the virus have led to a more difficult environment in which to dispose of vessels given difficulty to physically inspect vessels. The impact of COVID-19 has also resulted in reduced industrial activity in China with temporary closures of factories and other facilities, labor shortages and restrictions on travel. We believe these disruptions along with other seasonal factors, including lower demand for some of the cargoes we carry, have contributed to lower tanker rates in 2020 and up to the date of this annual report.

 

Epidemics may also affect personnel operating payment systems through which we receive revenues from the chartering of our vessels or pay for our expenses, resulting in delays in payments. Organizations across industries, including ours, are rightly focusing on their employees’ well-being, whilst making sure that their operations continue undisrupted and at the same time, adapting to the new ways of operating. As such employees are encouraged or even required to operate remotely which significantly increases the risk of cyber security attacks.

 

While it is still too early to fully assess the overall impact that COVID-19 will have on our financial condition and operations and on the tanker industry in general, we assess that the tanker charter rates have been reduced significantly as a result of COVID-19 and that the tanker industry in general and our Company specifically are likely to continue to be exposed to volatility in the near term.

 

Further, containment measures and quarantine restrictions adopted by many countries worldwide have caused significant impact on our ability to embark and disembark crew members and on our seafarers themselves. As a result, since the outbreak of COVID-19 and as of the date of this annual report, we have encountered certain prolonged delays and surrounding complexities in embarking and disembarking crew onto our ships which further resulted in increased operational costs and decreased revenues by reason of off-hires associated with crew rotation, quarantine measures and related logistical complications associated with supplying our vessels with spares or other supplies.

 

The occurrence or continued occurrence of any of the foregoing events or other epidemics or an increase in the severity or duration of the COVID-19 or other epidemics could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition, value of our vessels, and ability to pay dividends.

 

Outbreaks of epidemic and pandemic diseases and governmental responses thereto could adversely affect our business

 

Public health threats, such as the COVID-19 outbreak (as described more fully above), influenza and other highly communicable diseases or viruses, outbreaks of which have from time to time occurred in various parts of the world in which we operate, including China, could adversely impact our operations, the timing of completion of any outstanding or future newbuilding projects, as well as the operations of our customers.

 

The international oil tanker industry has experienced volatile charter rates and vessel values and there can be no assurance that these charter rates and vessel values will not decrease in the near future.

 

The Baltic Dirty Tanker Index, or the BDTI, a U.S. dollar daily average of charter rates issued by the Baltic Exchange that takes into account input from brokers around the world regarding crude oil fixtures for various routes and oil tanker vessel sizes, has been volatile. For example, in 2020, the BDTI reached a high of 1,550 and a low of 403. The Baltic Clean Tanker Index, or BCTI, a comparable index to the BDTI but for petroleum product fixtures, has similarly been volatile. In 2020, the BCTI reached a high of 2,190 and a low of 309. Although the BDTI and BCTI were 600 and 515, respectively, as of April 20, 2021, there can be no assurance that the crude oil and petroleum products charter market will increase, and the market could again decline. This volatility in charter rates depends, among other factors, on (i) the demand for crude oil and petroleum products, (ii) the inventories of crude oil and petroleum products in the United States and in other industrialized nations, (iii) oil refining volumes, (iv) oil prices, and (v) any restrictions on crude oil production imposed by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, and non-OPEC oil producing countries.

 

11

 

If the charter rates in the oil tanker market decline from their current levels, our future earnings may be adversely affected, we may have to record impairment adjustments to the carrying values of our fleet and we may not be able to comply with the financial covenants in our loan agreements.

 

Volatile economic conditions throughout the world could have an adverse impact on our operations and financial results.

 

Among other factors, we face risks attendant to changes in economic environments, changes in interest rates, and instability in the banking and securities markets around the world.

 

The world economy continues to face a number of challenges. Concerns persist regarding the debt burden of certain European countries and their ability to meet future financial obligations and the overall stability of the euro. A renewed period of adverse development in the outlook for the financial stability of European countries, or market perceptions concerning these and related issues, could reduce the overall demand for oil and chemicals, and thus for shipping and our services, and thereby could affect our financial position, results of operations and cash available for distribution. In addition, turmoil and hostilities in the Middle East and other geographic areas and countries may negatively impact the world economy.

 

A general deterioration in the global economy may also cause a decrease in worldwide demand for certain goods and, thus, shipping. In the past, economic and governmental factors, together with concurrent declines in charter rates and vessel values, have had a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition and cash flows, causing the price of our common shares to decline.

 

European countries have recently experienced relatively slow growth. Over the past several years, the credit markets in Europe have experienced significant contraction, deleveraging and reduced liquidity, and European authorities continue to implement a broad variety of governmental action and/or new regulation of the financial markets. Worldwide economic conditions have in the past impacted, and could in the future impact, lenders’ willingness to provide credit to us and our customers. If economic conditions in Europe preclude or limit financing, we may not be able to obtain financing on terms that are acceptable to us, or at all, even if conditions outside Europe remain favorable for lending.

 

The current state of the global financial markets and current economic conditions may adversely impact our results of operation, financial condition, cash flows and ability to obtain financing or refinance our existing and future credit facilities on acceptable terms, which may negatively impact our business.

 

Global financial markets and economic conditions have been, and continue to be, volatile. Beginning in February 2020, due in part to fears associated with the spread of COVID-19 (as more fully described above), global financial markets experienced volatility and a steep and abrupt downturn, followed by a recovery, which volatility may continue as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Credit markets and the debt and equity capital markets have been distressed and the uncertainty surrounding the future of the global credit markets has resulted in reduced access to credit worldwide, particularly for the shipping industry. These issues, along with significant write-offs in the financial services sector, the re-pricing of credit risk and the uncertain economic conditions, have made, and may continue to make, it difficult to obtain additional financing. The current state of global financial markets and current economic conditions might adversely impact our ability to issue additional equity at prices that will not be dilutive to our existing shareholders or preclude us from issuing equity at all. Economic conditions and the economic slow-down resulting from COVID-19 and the intentional governmental responses to the virus may also adversely affect the market price of our common shares.

 

Also, as a result of concerns about the stability of financial markets generally, and the solvency of counterparties specifically, the availability and cost of obtaining money from the public and private equity and debt markets has become more difficult. Many lenders have increased interest rates, enacted tighter lending standards, refused to refinance existing debt at all or on terms similar to current debt, and reduced, and in some cases ceased, to provide funding to borrowers and other market participants, including equity and debt investors, and some have been unwilling to invest on attractive terms or even at all. Due to these factors, we cannot be certain that financing will be available if needed and to the extent required, or that we will be able to refinance our existing and future credit facilities, on acceptable terms or at all. If financing or refinancing is not available when needed, or is available only on unfavorable terms, we may be unable to meet our obligations as they come due or we may be unable to enhance our existing business, complete additional vessel acquisitions or otherwise take advantage of business opportunities as they arise. The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has negatively impacted, and may continue to negatively impact, global economic activity, demand for energy, and funds flows and sentiment in the global financial markets. Continued economic disruption caused by the continued failure to control the spread of the virus could significantly impact our ability to obtain additional debt financing.

 

12

 

Volatility of LIBOR and potential changes of the use of LIBOR as a benchmark could affect our profitability, earnings and cash flow.

 

The London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) is the subject of recent national, international and other regulatory guidance and proposals for reform. These reforms and other pressures may cause LIBOR to be eliminated or to perform differently than in the past. The consequences of these developments cannot be entirely predicted, but could include an increase in the cost of any of our future variable rate indebtedness and obligations. LIBOR has been volatile in the past, with the spread between LIBOR and the prime lending rate widening significantly at times. Currently only one of our debt facilities has interest rates that fluctuate with changes in LIBOR, however significant changes in LIBOR could have a material effect on the amount of interest payable on any future indebtedness, which in turn, could have an adverse effect on our financial condition.

 

Furthermore, the calculation of interest in most financing agreements in our industry has been based on published LIBOR rates. Due in part to uncertainty relating to the LIBOR calculation process, in recent years, it is likely that LIBOR will be phased out in the future. As a result, lenders have insisted on provisions that entitle the lenders, in their discretion, to replace published LIBOR as the base for the interest calculation with their cost-of-funds rate. If we are required to agree to such a provision in future financing agreements, our lending costs could increase significantly, which would have an adverse effect on our profitability, earnings and cash flow. In addition, the banks currently reporting information used to set LIBOR will likely stop such reporting after 2021, when their commitment to reporting information ends. The Alternative Reference Rate Committee, a committee convened by the Federal Reserve that includes major market participants, has proposed an alternative rate to replace U.S. Dollar LIBOR: the Secured Overnight Financing Rate, or “SOFR.” The impact of such a transition from LIBOR to SOFR could be significant for us.

 

In order to manage any future exposure to interest rate fluctuations, we may from time to time use interest rate derivatives to effectively fix any floating rate debt obligations. No assurance can however be given that the use of these derivative instruments, if any, may effectively protect us from adverse interest rate movements. The use of interest rate derivatives may affect our results through mark to market valuation of these derivatives. Also, adverse movements in interest rate derivatives may require us to post cash as collateral, which may impact our free cash position. Interest rate derivatives may also be impacted by the transition from LIBOR to SOFR or other alternative rates.

 

We are subject to complex laws and regulations, including environmental regulations that can adversely affect the cost, manner or feasibility of doing business.

 

Our operations are subject to numerous laws and regulations in the form of international conventions and treaties, national, state and local laws and national and international regulations in force in the jurisdictions in which our vessels will operate or are registered, which can significantly affect the operation of our vessels. These regulations include, but are not limited to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships of 1973, as from time to time amended and generally referred to as MARPOL, including the designation of Emission Control Areas, or ECAs, thereunder, the International Convention on Load Lines of 1966, the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage of 1969, generally referred to as CLC, the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, or Bunker Convention, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea of 1974, or SOLAS, the International Safety Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention, or ISM Code, the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, or the BWM Convention, the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990, or OPA, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA, the U.S. Clean Water Act, the U.S. Clean Air Act, the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the U.S. Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, or the MTSA, and European Union regulations. Compliance with such laws, regulations and standards, where applicable, may require installation of costly equipment or operational changes and may affect the resale value or useful lives of our vessels. We may also incur additional costs in order to comply with other existing and future regulatory obligations, including, but not limited to, costs relating to air emissions, the management of ballast waters, maintenance and inspection, development and implementation of emergency procedures and insurance coverage or other financial assurance of our ability to address pollution incidents. These costs could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition. A failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations may result in administrative and civil penalties, criminal sanctions or the suspension or termination of our operations.

 

Environmental laws often impose strict liability for remediation of spills and releases of oil and hazardous substances, which could subject us to liability without regard to whether we were negligent or at fault. Under OPA, for example, owners, operators and bareboat charterers are jointly and severally strictly liable for the discharge of oil within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone around the United States. Events such as the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent release of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, or other events, may result in further regulation of the shipping industry, and modifications to statutory liability schemes, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. An oil spill could result in significant liability, including fines, penalties and criminal liability and remediation costs for natural resource damages under other federal, state and local laws, as well as third-party damages. We are required to satisfy insurance and financial responsibility requirements for potential oil (including marine fuel) spills and other pollution incidents. Although insurance covers certain environmental risks, there can be no assurance that such insurance will be sufficient to cover all such risks or that any claims will not have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition and our ability to pay dividends, if any, in the future.

 

13

 

We are subject to international safety regulations and requirements imposed by classification societies and the failure to comply with these regulations may subject us to increased liability, may adversely affect our insurance coverage and may result in a denial of access to, or detention in, certain ports.

 

The operation of our vessels is affected by the requirements set forth in the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization’s International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and Pollution Prevention, or ISM Code. The ISM Code requires ship owners, ship managers and bareboat charterers to develop and maintain an extensive “Safety Management System” that includes the adoption of a safety and environmental protection policy setting forth instructions and procedures for safe operation and describing procedures for dealing with emergencies. We expect that any vessels that we acquire in the future will be ISM Code-certified when delivered to us. The failure of a shipowner or bareboat charterer to comply with the ISM Code may subject it to increased liability, may invalidate existing insurance or decrease available insurance coverage for the affected vessels and may result in a denial of access to, or detention in, certain ports, including United States and European Union ports.

 

In addition, the hull and machinery of every commercial vessel must be classed by a classification society authorized by its country of registry. The classification society certifies that a vessel is safe and seaworthy in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations of the country of registry of the vessel and the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea. If a vessel does not maintain its class and/or fails any annual survey, intermediate survey or special survey, the vessel will be unable to trade between ports and will be unemployable, which will negatively impact our revenues and results from operations.

 

Climate change and greenhouse gas restrictions may adversely impact our operations and markets.

 

Due to concern over the risk of climate change, a number of countries and the IMO have adopted, or are considering the adoption of, regulatory frameworks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These regulatory measures may include, among others, adoption of cap and trade regimes, carbon taxes, increased efficiency standards and incentives or mandates for renewable energy. More specifically, on October 27, 2016, the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (“MEPC”) announced its decision concerning the implementation of regulations mandating a reduction in sulfur emissions from 3.5% to 0.5% as of the beginning of January 1, 2020. Additionally, in April 2018, nations at the MEPC 72 adopted an initial strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships. The initial strategy identifies levels of ambition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including (1) decreasing the carbon intensity from ships through implementation of further phases of the EEDI for new ships; (2) reducing carbon dioxide emissions per transport work, as an average across international shipping, by at least 40% by 2030, pursuing efforts towards 70% by 2050, compared to 2008 emission levels; and (3) reducing the total annual greenhouse emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 while pursuing efforts towards phasing them out entirely.

 

Since January 1, 2020, ships have to either remove sulfur from emissions or buy fuel with low sulfur content, which may lead to increased costs and supplementary investments for ship owners. The interpretation of “fuel oil used on board” includes use in main engine, auxiliary engines and boilers. Shipowners may comply with this regulation by (i) using 0.5% sulfur fuels on board, which are available around the world but at a higher cost; (ii) installing scrubbers for cleaning of the exhaust gas; or (iii) by retrofitting vessels to be powered by liquefied natural gas, which may not be a viable option due to the lack of supply network and high costs involved in this process. While currently all our vessels except for one have scrubbers installed, costs of compliance with these regulatory changes for our non-scrubber vessel may be significant and may have a material adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position.

 

In addition, although the emissions of greenhouse gases from international shipping currently are not subject to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which required adopting countries to implement national programs to reduce emissions of certain gases, or the Paris Agreement (discussed further below), a new treaty may be adopted in the future that includes restrictions on shipping emissions. Compliance with changes in laws, regulations and obligations relating to climate change affects the propulsion options in subsequent vessel designs and could increase our costs related to acquiring new vessels, operating and maintaining our existing vessels and require us to install new emission controls, acquire allowances or pay taxes related to our greenhouse gas emissions or administer and manage a greenhouse gas emissions program. Revenue generation and strategic growth opportunities may also be adversely affected.

 

14

 

Adverse effects upon the oil and gas industry relating to climate change, including growing public concern about the environmental impact of climate change, may also adversely affect demand for our services. For example, increased regulation of greenhouse gases or other concerns relating to climate change may reduce the demand for oil and gas in the future or create greater incentives for use of alternative energy sources. In addition, the physical effects of climate change, including changes in weather patterns, extreme weather events, rising sea levels, scarcity of water resources, may negatively impact our operations. Any long-term material adverse effect on the oil and gas industry could have a significant financial and operational adverse impact on our business that we cannot predict with certainty at this time.

 

Our vessels may suffer damage due to the inherent operational risks of the tanker industry and we may experience unexpected dry-docking costs, which may adversely affect our business and financial condition.

 

The operation of an ocean-going vessel carries inherent risks. Our vessels and their cargoes are at risk of being damaged or lost because of events such as marine disasters, bad weather and other acts of God, business interruptions caused by mechanical failures, grounding, fire, explosions and collisions, human error, war, terrorism, piracy, diseases (such as the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19), quarantine and other circumstances or events. These hazards may result in death or injury to persons, loss of revenues or property, the payment of ransoms, environmental damage, higher insurance rates, damage to our customer relationships or delay or re-routing, which may also subject us to litigation. In addition, the operation of tankers has unique operational risks associated with the transportation of oil or chemicals. An oil or chemical spill may cause significant environmental damage, and the costs associated with a catastrophic spill could exceed the insurance coverage available to us. Compared to other types of vessels, tankers are exposed to a higher risk of damage and loss by fire, whether ignited by a terrorist attack, collision, or other cause, due to the high flammability and high volume of the oil and chemicals transported in such tankers.

 

If our vessels suffer damage, they may need to be repaired at a dry-docking facility. The costs of dry-dock repairs are unpredictable and may be substantial. We may have to pay dry-docking costs that our insurance does not cover in full. The loss of earnings while these vessels are being repaired and repositioned, as well as the actual cost of these repairs, would decrease our earnings. In addition, space at dry-docking facilities is sometimes limited and not all dry-docking facilities are conveniently located. We may be unable to find space at a suitable dry-docking facility or our vessels may be forced to travel to a dry-docking facility that is not conveniently located to our vessels’ positions. The loss of earnings while these vessels are forced to wait for space or to steam to more distant dry-docking facilities would decrease our earnings.

 

The market value of our vessels, and those we may acquire in the future, may fluctuate significantly, which could cause us to incur losses if we decide to sell them following a decline in their market values or we may be required to write down their carrying value, which will adversely affect our earnings.

 

The fair market value of our vessels may increase and decrease depending on the following factors:

 

 

general economic and market conditions affecting the shipping industry;

 

 

prevailing level of charter rates;

 

 

competition from other shipping companies;

 

 

types, sizes and ages of vessels;

 

 

the availability of other modes of transportation;

 

 

supply and demand for vessels;

 

 

shipyard capacity;

 

 

cost of newbuildings;

 

 

price of steel;

 

 

governmental or other regulations; and

 

 

technological advances.

 

15

 

If we sell any vessel at a time when vessel prices have fallen, the sale price may be less than the vessel’s carrying amount in our financial statements, in which case we will realize a loss. Vessel prices can fluctuate significantly, and in the case where the market value falls below the carrying amount, we will evaluate the vessel for a potential impairment adjustment.  If the estimate of undiscounted cash flows, excluding interest charges, expected to be generated by the use of the vessel is less than its carrying amount, we may be required to write down the carrying amount of the vessel to its fair value in our financial statements and incur a loss and a reduction in earnings. During the year ended December 31, 2020, we incurred an aggregate loss of $12.4 million in connection with the sale of two of our vessels. See “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—A. Operating Results—Critical Accounting Policies—Impairment of Vessels.”

 

An over-supply of tanker capacity may lead to reductions in charter hire rates and profitability.

 

The market supply of tankers is affected by a number of factors such as demand for energy resources, crude oil, petroleum products and chemicals, as well as strong overall economic growth of the world economy. If the capacity of new tankers delivered exceeds the capacity of such tankers being scrapped and lost, vessel capacity will increase, which could lead to reductions in charter rates. As of April 20, 2021, newbuilding orders have been placed for an aggregate of approximately 8% of the existing global tanker fleet with the bulk of deliveries expected during 2022.

 

An over-supply of oil tankers has already resulted in an increase in oil tanker charter hire rate volatility. If this volatility persists, we may not be able to find profitable charters for our vessels, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and ability to pay dividends.

 

If our vessels call on ports located in countries or territories that are the subject of sanctions or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government or other governmental authorities, it could lead to monetary fines or adversely affect our business, reputation and the market for our common shares.

 

While our vessels have not called on ports located in countries or territories that are the subject of country-wide or territory-wide sanctions or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government or other governmental authorities (“Sanctioned Jurisdictions”) in violation of applicable sanctions or embargo laws, in 2020, and although we intend to maintain compliance with all applicable sanctions and embargo laws, and we endeavor to take precautions reasonably designed to ensure compliance with such laws, it is possible that, in the future, our vessels may call on ports in Sanctioned Jurisdictions on charterers' instructions and without our consent. If such activities result in a violation of sanctions or embargo laws, we could be subject to monetary fines, penalties, or other sanctions, and our reputation and the market for our common shares could adversely affected.

 

The U.S. sanctions and embargo laws and regulations vary in their application, as they do not all apply to the same covered persons or proscribe the same activities, and such sanctions and embargo laws and regulations may be amended or expanded over time.

 

Current or future counterparties of ours may be affiliated with persons or entities that are or may be in the future the subject of sanctions imposed by the governments of the U.S., European Union, and/or other international bodies. If we determine that such sanctions require us to terminate existing or future contracts to which we, or our subsidiaries, are party or if we are found to be in violation of such applicable sanctions, our results of operations may be adversely affected or we may suffer reputational harm.

 

Although we believe that we have been in compliance with all applicable sanctions and embargo laws and regulations, and intend to maintain such compliance, any such violation could result in fines, penalties or other sanctions that could severely impact our ability to access U.S. capital markets and conduct our business, and could result in some investors deciding, or being required, to divest their interest, or not to invest, in us. In addition, certain institutional investors may have investment policies or restrictions that prevent them from holding securities of companies that have contracts with countries identified by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism. The determination by these investors not to invest in, or to divest from, our common shares may adversely affect the price at which our common shares trade. Moreover, our charterers may violate applicable sanctions and embargo laws and regulations as a result of actions that do not involve us or our vessels, and those violations could in turn negatively affect our reputation. Investor perception of the value of our common shares may also be adversely affected by the consequences of war, the effects of terrorism, civil unrest and governmental actions in countries or territories that we operate in.

 

Political instability, terrorist or other attacks, war, international hostilities and public health threats can affect the tanker industry, which may adversely affect our business.

 

We conduct most of our operations outside of the United States, and our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and available cash may be adversely affected by changing economic, political and government conditions in the countries and regions where our vessels are employed or registered. Moreover, we operate in a sector of the economy that is likely to be adversely impacted by the effects of political conflicts, including the current political instability in the Middle East and the South China Sea region and other geographic countries and areas, geopolitical events such as the withdrawal of the U.K. from the European Union, or “Brexit,” terrorist or other attacks, and war (or threatened war) or international hostilities, such as those between the United States and North Korea.

 

16

 

Terrorist attacks such as those in Paris on November 13, 2015, Manchester on May 22, 2017, and the frequent incidents of terrorism in the Middle East, and the continuing response of the United States and others to these attacks, as well as the threat of future terrorist attacks around the world, continues to cause uncertainty in the world’s financial markets and may affect our business, operating results and financial condition. Continuing conflicts and recent developments in the Middle East, including increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran, as well as the presence of U.S. or other armed forces in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and various other regions, may lead to additional acts of terrorism and armed conflict around the world, which may contribute to further economic instability in the global financial markets. As a result of the above, insurers have increased premiums and reduced or restricted coverage for losses caused by terrorist acts generally. These uncertainties could also adversely affect our ability to obtain additional financing on terms acceptable to us or at all. Any of these occurrences could have a material adverse impact on our operating results, revenues and costs. Additionally, Brexit, or similar events in other jurisdictions, could impact global markets, including foreign exchange and securities markets; any resulting changes in currency exchange rates, tariffs, treaties and other regulatory matters could in turn adversely impact our business and operations.

 

Further, governments may turn to trade barriers to protect their domestic industries against foreign imports, thereby depressing shipping demand. In particular, leaders in the United States have indicated that the United States may seek to implement more protective trade measures. The results of the 2020 presidential election in the United States have created significant uncertainty about the future relationship between the United States, China and other exporting countries, including with respect to trade policies, treaties, government regulations and tariffs. For example, in March 2018, former President Trump announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum into the United States that could have a negative impact on international trade generally and in January 2019, the United States announced expanded sanctions against Venezuela, which may have an effect on its oil output and in turn affect global oil supply. However, it is not yet clear how the new United States administration under President Biden may deviate from the former administration’s protectionist foreign trade policies. Protectionist developments, or the perception that they may occur, may have a material adverse effect on global economic conditions, and may significantly reduce global trade. Moreover, increasing trade protectionism may cause an increase in (a) the cost of goods exported from regions globally, (b) the length of time required to transport goods and (c) the risks associated with exporting goods. Such increases may significantly affect the quantity of goods to be shipped, shipping time schedules, voyage costs and other associated costs, which could have an adverse impact on the shipping industry, and therefore our charterers and their business, operating results and financial condition and could thereby affect their ability to make timely charter hire payments to us and to renew and increase the number of their time charters with us. This could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and our ability to pay any cash distributions to our stockholders.

 

In January 2020, in response to certain perceived terrorist activity, the United States launched an airstrike in Baghdad that killed a high-ranking Iranian general, increasing hostilities between the U.S. and Iran. This attack or further escalations between the U.S. and Iran that may follow, could result in retaliation from Iran that could potentially affect the shipping industry, through increased attacks on vessels in the Strait of Hormuz (which already experienced an increased number of attacks on and seizures of vessels in 2020), or by potentially closing off or limiting access to the Strait of Hormuz, where a significant portion of the world’s oil supply passes through. Any restriction on access to the Strait of Hormuz, or increased attacks on vessels in the area, could negatively impact our earnings, cash flow and results of operations.

 

In the past, political instability has also resulted in attacks on vessels, mining of waterways and other efforts to disrupt international shipping, particularly in the Arabian Gulf region. Acts of terrorism and piracy have also affected vessels trading in regions such as the South China Sea and the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. Any of these occurrences could have a material adverse impact on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position.

 

In addition, public health threats, such as the coronavirus, influenza and other highly communicable diseases or viruses, outbreaks of which have from time to time occurred in various parts of the world in which we operate, including China, could adversely impact our operations, and the operations of our customers.

 

The U.K.s withdrawal from the European Union may have a negative effect on global economic conditions, financial markets and our business. On June 23, 2016, in a referendum vote commonly referred to as “Brexit” a majority of voters in the U.K. voted to exit the European Union. Since then, the U.K. and the EU negotiated the terms of a withdrawal agreement, which was approved in October 2019, ratified in January 2020 and effected in December 31, 2020. The U.K formally exited the European Union on January 31, 2020, although a transition period remained in place until December 2020 during which the U.K. was subject to the rules and regulations of the European Union while continuing to negotiate the parties’ relationship going forward, including trade deals. It is unclear what long-term economic, financial, trade and legal implications the withdrawal of the U.K. from the European Union would have and how such withdrawal would affect our business. In addition, Brexit may lead other European Union member countries to consider referendums regarding their European Union membership. Any of these events, along with any political, economic and regulatory changes that may occur could cause political and economic uncertainty and harm our business and financial results.

 

17

 

Brexit contributes to considerable uncertainty concerning the current and future economic environment. Brexit could adversely affect European or worldwide political, regulatory, economic or market conditions and could contribute to instability in global political institutions, regulatory agencies and financial markets.

 

Acts of piracy on ocean-going vessels could adversely affect our business.

 

Acts of piracy have historically affected ocean-going vessels trading in regions of the world such as the South China Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia, South China Sea, Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea, the Indian Ocean and in particular, the Gulf of Guinea, region off Nigeria, which has experienced increased incidents of privacy in recent years. Sea piracy incidents continue to occur. Acts of piracy could result in harm or danger to the crews that man our vessels.  If insurers or the Joint War Committee characterize the regions in which our vessels are deployed as “war risk” zones or “war and strikes” listed areas, respectively, premiums payable for insurance coverage could increase significantly and such coverage may be more difficult to obtain if available at all. In addition, crew costs, including costs that may be incurred to the extent we employ onboard security guards, could increase in such circumstances. We may not be adequately insured to cover losses from these incidents, least of all for bearing the cost of the applicable deductible(s) or unforeseen charges/costs, which could have a material adverse effect on us. In addition, hijacking as a result of an act of piracy against our vessels, or an increase in cost or unavailability of insurance for our vessels, could have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and ability to pay dividends and may result in loss of revenues, increased costs and decreased cash flows to our customers, which could impair their ability to make payments to us under our charters.

 

An economic slowdown or changes in the economic and political environment in the Asia Pacific region could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

We anticipate a significant number of the port calls made by our vessels will continue to involve the loading or discharging of cargoes in ports in the Asia Pacific region. As a result, any negative changes in economic conditions in any Asia Pacific country, particularly in China, may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations, as well as our future prospects. Before the global economic financial crisis that began in 2008, China had one of the world’s fastest growing economies in terms of gross domestic product, or GDP, which had a significant impact on shipping demand. The year-over-year growth rate of China’s GDP was approximately 2.3% for the year ended December 31, 2020, as compared to approximately 6.0 % for the year ended December 31, 2019, and continues to remain below pre-2008 levels. Furthermore, there is a rising threat of a Chinese financial crisis resulting from massive personal and corporate indebtedness and “trade wars”. The International Monetary Fund has warned that continuing geopolitical tensions, between the United States and China could derail recovery from the impacts of COVID-19. Although the United States and China signed a trade agreement in early 2020, as further described below, there is no assurance that the Chinese economy will not experience a significant contraction in the future.

 

Although state-owned enterprises still account for a substantial portion of the Chinese industrial output, in general, the Chinese government is reducing the level of direct control that it exercises over the economy through state plans and other measures. There is an increasing level of freedom and autonomy in areas such as allocation of resources, production, pricing and management and a gradual shift in emphasis to a “market economy” and enterprise reform. Limited price reforms were undertaken with the result that prices for certain refined petroleum products are principally determined by market forces. Many of the reforms are unprecedented or experimental and may be subject to revision, change or abolition based upon the outcome of such experiments. If the Chinese government does not continue to pursue a policy of economic reform, the level of imports to and exports from China could be adversely affected by changes to these economic reforms by the Chinese government, as well as by changes in political, economic and social conditions or other relevant policies of the Chinese government, such as changes in laws, regulations or export and import restrictions. Notwithstanding economic reform, the Chinese government may adopt policies that favor domestic shipping and tanker companies and may hinder our ability to compete with them effectively. For example, China imposes a tax for non-resident international transportation enterprises engaged in the provision of services of passengers or cargo, among other items, in and out of China using their own, chartered or leased vessels. The regulation may subject international transportation companies to Chinese enterprise income tax on profits generated from international transportation services passing through Chinese ports. This could have an adverse impact on our charterers’ business, operating results and financial condition and could thereby affect their ability to make timely charter hire payments to us and to renew and increase the number of their time charters with us. Moreover, an economic slowdown in the economies of the European Union and other Asian countries may further adversely affect economic growth in China and elsewhere.

 

In addition, concerns regarding the possibility of sovereign debt defaults by European Union member countries, including Greece, have in the past disrupted financial markets throughout the world, and may lead to weaker consumer demand in the European Union, the United States, and other parts of the world. The possibility of sovereign debt defaults by European Union member countries, including Greece, and the possibility of market reforms to float the Chinese renminbi, either of which development could weaken the Euro against the Chinese renminbi, could adversely affect consumer demand in the European Union. Moreover, the revaluation of the renminbi may negatively impact the United States’ demand for imported goods, many of which are shipped from China. Future weak economic conditions could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition and our ability to pay dividends to our stockholders. Our business, financial condition, results of operations, as well as our future prospects, will likely be materially and adversely affected by another economic downturn in any of the aforementioned countries and regions.

 

18

 

Increased inspection procedures and tighter import and export controls could increase costs and disrupt our business.

 

International shipping is subject to various security and customs inspection and related procedures in countries of origin and destination. Inspection procedures can result in the seizure of, delay in the loading, off-loading or delivery of, the contents of our vessels or the levying of customs duties, fines or other penalties against us. It is possible that changes to inspection procedures could impose additional financial and legal obligations on us. Furthermore, changes to inspection procedures could also impose additional costs and obligations on our customers and may, in certain cases, render the shipment of certain types of cargo uneconomical or impractical. Any such changes or developments may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.

 

We rely on our information systems to conduct our business, and failure to protect these systems against security breaches could adversely affect our business and results of operations. Additionally, if these systems fail or become unavailable for any significant period of time, our business could be harmed.

 

The efficient operation of our business is dependent on computer hardware and software systems both onboard our vessels and at our onshore offices. Information systems are vulnerable to security breaches by computer hackers and cyber terrorists. We rely on industry-accepted security measures and technology to securely maintain confidential and proprietary information kept on our information systems. However, these measures and technology may not adequately prevent cybersecurity breaches, the access, capture or alteration of information by criminals, the exposure or exploitation of potential security vulnerabilities, the installation of malware or ransomware, acts of vandalism, computer viruses, misplaced data or data loss. In addition, the unavailability of the information systems or the failure of these systems to perform as anticipated for any reason could disrupt our business and could result in decreased performance and increased operating costs, causing our business and results of operations to suffer. Any significant interruption or failure of our information systems or any significant breach of security could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition, as well as our cash flows, including cash available for dividends to our stockholders.

 

RISKS RELATED TO OUR COMPANY

 

We were recently subject to litigation and we may be subject to similar or other litigation in the future.

 

We and certain of our current executive officers were defendants in purported class-action lawsuits pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, brought on behalf of our shareholders. The lawsuits alleged violations of Sections 9, 10(b), 20(a) and/or 20A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 promulgated hereunder. In connection with these lawsuits, certain co-defendants requested that we indemnify and hold them harmless against all losses, including reasonable costs of defense, arising from the litigation, pursuant to the provisions of the Common Stock Purchase Agreement between us and Kalani.

 

On August 3, 2019 the Eastern District Court of New York dismissed the case with prejudice. On August 26, 2019, plaintiffs appealed the dismissal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. We filed our response briefs on November 26 and November 27, 2019, and plaintiffs/appellants filed their reply brief on December 11, 2019. The Court of Appeals held oral argument on March 10, 2020 and took the matter under advisement. On April 2, 2020, the Court of Appeals issued a summary order affirming the District Court’s decision dismissing Plaintiffs’ claims and denying leave to amend and the case is now finally concluded in our favor.

 

We may, from time to time, be a party to other litigation in the normal course of business. Monitoring and defending against legal actions, whether or not meritorious, is time-consuming for our management and detracts from our ability to fully focus our internal resources on our business activities. In addition, our legal fees and costs incurred in connection with such activities and any legal fees of co-defendants for which we are deemed responsible may be significant and we could, in the future, be subject to judgments or enter into settlements of claims for significant monetary damages. A decision adverse to our interests could result in the payment of substantial damages and could have a material adverse effect on our cash flow, results of operations and financial position.

 

With respect to any litigation, our insurance may not reimburse us or may not be sufficient to reimburse us for the expenses or losses we may suffer in contesting and concluding such lawsuit. Furthermore, our insurance does not cover legal fees associated with co-defendants. Substantial litigation costs, including the substantial self-insured retention that we are required to satisfy before any insurance applied to the claim, or an adverse result in any litigation may adversely impact our business, operating results or financial condition.

 

19

 

As of the date of this annual report our operating fleet consists of seven tankers. Any limitation in the availability or operation of these vessels could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

As of the date of this annual report, our operating fleet consists of four 50,000 dwt MR product tankers and three 157,000 dwt Suezmax crude oil tankers. Our MR product tanker fleet consists of M/T Nord Valiant, M/T Eco Marina Del Ray, M/T Eco Los Angeles and M/T Eco City of Angels. Our Suezmax fleet consists of M/T Eco Bel Air, M/T Eco Beverly Hills and M/T Eco West Coast. Furthermore, we have a 50% interest in M/T Eco Yosemite Park and M/T Eco Joshua Park, two 50,000 dwt product tankers. If these vessels are unable to generate revenue as a result of off hire time, early termination of the applicable time charter or otherwise, our business, results of operations, financial condition and ability to pay dividends on our common shares could be materially adversely affected.

 

We expect to be dependent on a limited number of customers for a large part of our revenues, and failure of such counterparties to meet their obligations could cause us to suffer losses or negatively impact our results of operations and cash flows.

 

During 2020, 100% of our revenues derived from six charterers, Stena Weco A/S, BP Shipping Limited (“BP”), Clearlake Shipping Pte Ltd (“Clearlake”), Trafigura Maritime Logistics Pte Ltd (“Trafigura”), Dampskibsselskabet NORDEN A/S (“DS Norden A/S”), Shell Tankers Singapore Private Limited (“Shell”) and Cargill International SA (“Cargill”). Such agreements subject us to counterparty risks. The ability of each of our counterparties to perform its obligations under a contract with us will depend on a number of factors that are beyond our control and may include, among other things, general economic conditions, the condition of the maritime industry, the overall financial condition of the counterparty, charter rates received for specific types of vessels, work stoppages or other labor disturbances, including as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and various expenses. The combination of a reduction of cash flow resulting from declines in world trade, a reduction in borrowing bases under reserve-based credit facilities and the lack of availability of debt or equity financing may result in a significant reduction in the ability of charterers to make charter payments to us. In addition, in depressed market conditions, charterers and customers may no longer need a vessel that is then under charter or contract or may be able to obtain a comparable vessel at lower rates. As a result, charterers and customers may seek to renegotiate the terms of their existing charter agreements or avoid their obligations under those contracts. Should one of our counterparties fail to honor its obligations under agreements with us, we could sustain significant losses that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

 

Newbuilding projects are subject to risks that could cause delays.

 

As of the date of this annual report, we own interests in four companies that are party to shipbuilding contracts for four newbuilding vessels scheduled to be delivered in the second quarter of 2021 and in the first quarter of 2022. Newbuilding construction projects are subject to risks of delay inherent in any large construction project caused by numerous factors, including shortages of equipment, materials or skilled labor, unscheduled delays in the delivery of ordered materials and equipment or shipyard construction, failure of equipment to meet quality and/or performance standards, financial or operating difficulties experienced by equipment vendors or the shipyard, unanticipated actual or purported change orders, inability to obtain required permits or approvals, design or engineering changes and work stoppages and other labor disputes, adverse weather conditions, bankruptcy or other financial crisis of the shipyard, a backlog of orders at the shipyard, or any other events of force majeure. A shipyard's failure to complete the project on time may result in the delay of revenue from the vessel. Any such failure or delay could have a material adverse effect on our operating results as we will continue to incur other costs to operate our business.

 

Furthermore, we may need to incur additional borrowings or raise capital through the sale of additional equity or debt securities to complete our newbuilding program or acquire any additional vessels in the future. Our ability to obtain bank financing or to access the capital markets for future offerings may be limited by our financial condition at the time of any such financing or offering as well as by adverse market conditions resulting from, among other things, general economic conditions and contingencies and uncertainties that are beyond our control. If we are not able to borrow additional funds, raise other capital or utilize available cash on hand, we may not be able to complete our newbuilding program or acquire other newbuilding or secondhand vessels, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. The capital commitments for the completion of our newbuilding program are non-recourse to us as the commitments are made by wholly owned subsidiaries whose performance is guaranteed by our Fleet Manager.

 

Our financing facilities contain restrictive covenants that may limit our liquidity and corporate activities, and could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.

 

Our financing facilities either in the form of the bareboat charters in connection with the SLBs of our fleet or senior secured loan agreements contain, and any future financing facilities we may enter into are expected to contain, customary covenants, events of default and termination event clauses, including cross-default provisions and restrictive covenants and performance requirements that may affect our operational and financial flexibility. Such restrictions could affect, and in many respects limit or prohibit, among other things, our ability to incur additional indebtedness, pay dividends, create liens, sell assets, or engage in mergers or acquisitions. These restrictions could also limit our ability to plan for or react to market conditions or meet extraordinary capital needs or otherwise restrict corporate activities. There can be no assurance that such restrictions will not adversely affect our ability to finance our future operations or capital needs.

 

20

 

Our financing facilities require us to maintain specified financial ratios, satisfy financial covenants and contain cross-default clauses and other representations, including the following:

 

 

maintain a consolidated leverage ratio of not more than 75%;

 

 

maintain market adjusted total assets minus total liabilities of at least $60 million,

 

 

maintain minimum free liquidity of $0.5 million per operating vessel tanker but not less than $4.0 million in aggregate; and

 

 

assure no change of control of the company takes place, except with the lessors prior written consent.

 

As of December 31, 2020, we are in compliance with all covenants in our financing facilities.

 

As a result of the restrictions in our financing facilities, or similar restrictions in our future financing facilities, we may need to seek permission from the owners of our leased vessels or banks that finance our vessels in order to engage in certain corporate actions. Their interests may be different from ours and we may not be able to obtain their permission when needed. This may prevent us from taking actions that we believe are in our best interest, which may adversely impact our revenues, results of operations and financial condition.

 

A failure by us to meet our payment and other obligations, including our financial covenant requirements, could lead to defaults under our financing facilities or any future financing facilities. If we are not in compliance with our covenants and we are not able to obtain covenant waivers or modifications, the current or future owners of our leased vessels or the banks that finance our current of future vessels, as appropriate, could retake possession of our vessels or require us to pay down our indebtedness to a level where we are in compliance with our covenants or sell vessels in our fleet. Events beyond our control, including changes in the economic and business conditions in the shipping markets in which we operate, interest rate developments, changes in the funding costs of our banks, changes in vessel earnings and asset valuations and outbreaks of epidemic and pandemic of diseases, such as the ongoing outbreak of COVID-9, may affect our ability to comply with these covenants. We could lose our vessels if we default on our financing facilities, which would negatively affect our revenues, results of operations and financial condition.

 

Servicing current and future debt (including SLBs) will limit funds available for other purposes and impair our ability to react to changes in our business.

 

We must dedicate a portion of our cash flow from operations to pay the principal and interest on our indebtedness. These payments limit funds otherwise available for working capital, capital expenditures and other purposes. As of December 31, 2020, we had a total indebtedness of $107.0 million, excluding deferred finance fees. Our current or future debt could have other significant consequences on our operations. For example, it could:

 

 

increase our vulnerability to general economic downturns and adverse competitive and industry conditions;

 

 

require us to dedicate a substantial portion, if not all, of our cash flow from operations to payments on our indebtedness, thereby reducing the availability of our cash flow to fund working capital, capital expenditures and other general corporate purposes;

 

 

limit our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and the industry in which we operate;

 

 

place us at a competitive disadvantage compared to competitors that have less debt or better access to capital;

 

 

limit our ability to raise additional financing on satisfactory terms or at all; and

 

 

adversely impact our ability to comply with the financial and other restrictive covenants of our current or future financing arrangements, which could result in an event of default under such agreements.

 

Furthermore, our current or future interest expense could increase if interest rates increase. If we do not have sufficient earnings, we may be required to refinance all or part of our current or future debt, sell assets, borrow more money or sell more securities, and we cannot guarantee that the resulting proceeds therefrom, if any, will be sufficient to meet our ongoing capital and operating needs.

 

21

 

If we fail to manage our planned growth properly, we may not be able to successfully expand our market share.

 

We intend to continue to grow our fleet in the future in line with our strategy. Our future growth will primarily depend on our ability to:

 

 

generate excess cash flow for investment without jeopardizing our ability to cover current and foreseeable working capital needs (including debt service);

 

 

raise equity and obtain required financing for our existing and new operations;

 

 

locate and acquire suitable vessels;

 

 

identify and consummate acquisitions or joint ventures;

 

 

integrate any acquired business successfully with our existing operations;

 

 

our manager’s ability to hire, train and retain qualified personnel and crew to manage and operate our growing business and fleet;

 

 

enhance our customer base; and

 

 

manage expansion.

 

Growing any business by acquisition presents numerous risks such as undisclosed liabilities and obligations, difficulty in obtaining additional qualified personnel, managing relationships with customers and suppliers and integrating newly acquired operations into existing infrastructures. We may not be successful in executing our growth plans and we may incur significant additional expenses and losses in connection therewith.

 

Our ability to obtain additional debt financing may be dependent on our ability to charter our vessels, the performance of our charters and the creditworthiness of our charterers.

 

Our inability to re-charter our vessels and the actual or perceived credit quality of our charterers, and any defaults by them, may materially affect our ability to obtain the additional capital resources that we will require to purchase additional vessels or may significantly increase our costs of obtaining such capital. Our inability to obtain financing, or receiving financing at a higher than anticipated cost, may materially affect our results of operation and our ability to implement our business strategy.

 

The industry for the operation of tanker vessels and the transportation of oil, petroleum products and chemicals is highly competitive and we may not be able to compete for charters with new entrants or established companies with greater resources.

 

We will employ our tankers and any additional vessels we may acquire in a highly competitive market that is capital intensive and highly fragmented. The operation of tanker vessels and the transportation of cargoes shipped in these vessels, as well as the shipping industry in general, is extremely competitive. Competition arises primarily from other vessel owners, including major oil companies as well as independent tanker shipping companies, some of whom have substantially greater resources than we do. Competition for the transportation of oil, petroleum products and chemicals can be intense and depends on price, location, size, age, condition and the acceptability of the vessel and its operators to the charterers. Due in part to the highly fragmented market, competitors with greater resources could enter and operate larger fleets through consolidations or acquisitions that may be able to offer better prices and fleets than us.

 

A limited number of financial institutions hold our cash.

 

A limited number of financial institutions, including institutions located in Greece, hold all of our cash. Our cash balances have been deposited from time to time with banks in Germany, Holland, Greece and Switzerland amongst others. Our cash balances are not covered by insurance in the event of default by these financial institutions. The occurrence of such a default could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, and we may lose part or all of our cash that we deposit with such banks.

 

22

 

Our President, Chief Executive Officer and Director, who may be deemed to beneficially own, directly or indirectly, 100% of our Series D Preferred Shares and our Series E Preferred Shares has control over us.

 

As of the date of this annual report, the Lax Trust, which is an irrevocable trust established for the benefit of certain family members of our President, Chief Executive Officer and Director, Mr. Evangelos J. Pistiolis, through Tankers Family Inc., may be deemed to beneficially own, directly or indirectly, all of the 100,000 outstanding Series D Preferred Shares. Each Series D Preferred Share carries 1,000 votes. In addition, the Lax Trust, through Family Trading Inc., a company related to Mr. Evangelos J. Pistiolis, our President, Chief Executive Officer and Director, or Family Trading., may be deemed to beneficially own 11,264 Series E Perpetual Convertible Preferred Shares (“Series E Preferred Shares”) held by Family Trading, which represent all of the Series E Preferred Shares that are currently outstanding. Each Series E Preferred Share carries 1,000 votes.

 

By its beneficial ownership of 100% of our Series D Preferred Shares and Series E Preferred Shares, as of the date of this annual report, the Lax Trust may be deemed to beneficially own 73.7% of our total voting power and has control over our actions and to effectively control the outcome of matters on which our shareholders are entitled to vote, including the election of our directors and other significant corporate actions. The interests of the Lax Trust or the family of Mr. Pistiolis may be different from your interests.

 

As a prerequisite for the Navigare Lease (defined below), Mr. Pistiolis personally guaranteed the performance of the bareboat charters connected to the lease, under certain circumstances, and in exchange, we, among other things, amended the Certificate of Designations governing the terms of the Series D Preferred Shares, to adjust the voting rights per share of Series D Preferred Shares such that during the term of the Navigare Lease, the combined voting power controlled by Mr. Pistiolis and the Lax Trust does not fall below a majority of our total voting power, irrespective of any new common or preferred stock issuances, and thereby complying with a relevant covenant of the bareboat charters entered in connection with the Navigare Lease.

 

As of April 20, 2021, the Series E Preferred Shares are convertible into 10,147,748 common shares under certain circumstances. Pursuant to a Standstill Agreement, dated August 20, 2020, Family Trading agreed not to convert any of its Series E Preferred Shares into common shares until August 20, 2021, other than in connection with a change of control of us.

 

We may be unable to attract and retain key management personnel and other employees in the international tanker shipping industry, which may negatively impact the effectiveness of our management and our results of operations.

 

Our success depends to a significant extent upon the abilities and efforts of our management team. All of our executive officers are employees of Central Mare Inc., or Central Mare, a related party affiliated with the family of Mr. Evangelos J. Pistiolis, our President, Chief Executive Officer and Director, and we have entered into agreements with Central Mare for the compensation of Mr. Evangelos J. Pistiolis; Alexandros Tsirikos, our Chief Financial Officer and Director; Vangelis G. Ikonomou our Chief Operating Officer and Konstantinos Patis, our Chief Technical Officer. The loss of any of these individuals could adversely affect our business prospects and financial condition. Difficulty in hiring and retaining personnel could adversely affect our results of operations. We do not maintain “key man” life insurance on any of our officers.

 

If labor interruptions are not resolved in a timely manner, they could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and available cash.

 

Our Fleet Manager, is responsible for recruiting, mainly through a crewing agent, the senior officers and all other crew members for our vessels and all other vessels we may acquire. If not resolved in a timely and cost-effective manner, industrial action or other labor unrest could prevent or hinder our operations from being carried out as we expect and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and available cash.

 

If we expand our business, we will need to improve our operations and financial systems and staff; if we cannot improve these systems or recruit suitable employees, our performance may be adversely affected.

 

Our current operating and financial systems may not be adequate if we implement a plan to expand the size of our fleet, and our attempts to improve those systems may be ineffective. If we are unable to operate our financial and operations systems effectively or to recruit suitable employees as we expand our fleet, our performance may be adversely affected.

 

A drop in spot charter rates may provide an incentive for some charterers to default on their charters, which could affect our cash flow and financial condition.

 

When we enter into a time charter or bareboat charter, rates under that charter are fixed throughout the term of the charter. If the spot charter rates in the tanker shipping industry become significantly lower than the time charter equivalent rates that some of our charterers are obligated to pay us under our then existing charters, the charterers may have incentive to default under that charter or attempt to renegotiate the charter. If our charterers fail to pay their obligations, we would have to attempt to re-charter our vessels at lower charter rates, and as a result we could sustain significant losses which could have a material adverse effect on our cash flow and financial condition, which would affect our ability to meet our current or future loans or current leaseback obligations. If our current or future lenders choose to accelerate our indebtedness and foreclose their liens, or if the owners of our leased vessels choose to repossess vessels in our fleet as a result of a default under the SLBs, our ability to continue to conduct our business would be impaired.

 

23

 

An increase in operating costs could decrease earnings and available cash.

 

Vessel operating costs include the costs of crew, fuel (for spot chartered vessels), provisions, deck and engine stores, insurance and maintenance and repairs, which depend on a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. Some of these costs, primarily relating to insurance and enhanced security measures, have been increasing. If any vessels we have or will acquire suffer damage, they may need to be repaired at a dry-docking facility. The costs of dry-docking repairs are unpredictable and can be substantial. Increases in any of these expenses could decrease our earnings and available cash.

 

The aging of our fleet may result in increased operating costs in the future, which could adversely affect our earnings.

 

In general, the cost of maintaining a vessel in good operating condition increases with the age of the vessel. As our fleet ages, operating and other costs will increase. In the case of bareboat charters, operating costs are borne by the bareboat charterer. Cargo insurance rates also increase with the age of a vessel, making older vessels less desirable to charterers. Governmental regulations, including environmental regulations, safety or other equipment standards related to the age of vessels may require expenditures for alterations or the addition of new equipment to our vessels and may restrict the type of activities in which our vessels may engage. As our fleet ages, market conditions might not justify those expenditures or enable us to operate our vessels profitably during the remainder of their useful lives.

 

Unless we set aside reserves or are able to borrow funds for vessel replacement, our revenue will decline at the end of a vessels useful life, which would adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

Unless we maintain reserves or are able to borrow or raise funds for vessel replacement, we will be unable to replace the vessels in our fleet upon the expiration of their remaining useful lives, which we estimate to be 25 years from the date of initial delivery from the shipyard. Our cash flows and income are dependent on the revenues earned by the chartering of our vessels to customers. If we are unable to replace the vessels in our fleet upon the expiration of their useful lives, our business, results of operations and financial condition will be materially and adversely affected.

 

Purchasing and operating secondhand vessels may result in increased operating costs and vessels off-hire, which could adversely affect our earnings.

 

We may expand our fleet through the acquisition of secondhand vessels. While we rigorously inspect previously owned or secondhand vessels prior to purchase, this does not normally provide us with the same knowledge about their condition and cost of any required (or anticipated) repairs that we would have had if these vessels had been built for and operated exclusively by us. Accordingly, we may not discover defects or other problems with such vessels prior to purchase. Any such hidden defects or problems, when detected, may be expensive to repair, and if not detected, may result in accidents or other incidents for which we may become liable to third parties. Also, when purchasing previously owned vessels, we do not receive the benefit of warranties from the builders if the vessels we buy are older than one year. In general, the costs to maintain a vessel in good operating condition increase with the age and type of the vessel. In the case of chartered-in vessels, we run the same risks.

 

Governmental regulations, safety or other equipment standards related to the age of vessels may require expenditures for alterations, or the addition of new equipment, to our vessels and may restrict the type of activities in which the vessels may engage. As our vessels age, market conditions may not justify those expenditures or enable us to operate our vessels profitably during the remainder of their useful lives.

 

We may not have adequate insurance to compensate us if we lose any vessels that we acquire.

 

We carry insurance for all vessels we acquire against those types of risks commonly insured against by vessel owners and operators. These insurances include hull and machinery insurance, protection and indemnity insurance (which includes environmental damage and pollution insurance coverage), freight demurrage and defense and war risk insurance. Reasonable insurance rates can best be obtained when the size and the age/trading profile of the fleet is attractive. As a result, rates become less competitive as a fleet downsizes.

 

In the future, we may not be able to obtain adequate insurance coverage at reasonable rates for the vessels we acquire. The insurers may not pay particular claims. Our insurance policies also contain deductibles for which we will be responsible as well as limitations and exclusions that may increase our costs or lower our revenue.

 

24

 

We may be subject to increased premium payments, or calls, as we obtain some of our insurance through protection and indemnity associations.

 

We may be subject to increased premium payments, or calls, in amounts based on our claim records and the claim records of our Fleet Manager as well as the claim records of other members of the protection and indemnity associations through which we receive insurance coverage for tort liability, including pollution-related liability. In addition, our protection and indemnity associations may not have enough resources to cover claims made against them. Our payment of these calls could result in significant expense to us, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

 

Increasing scrutiny and changing expectations from investors, lenders and other market participants with respect to our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies may impose additional costs on us or expose us to additional risks.

 

Companies across all industries are facing increasing scrutiny relating to their ESG policies. Investor advocacy groups, certain institutional investors, investment funds, lenders and other market participants are increasingly focused on ESG practices and in recent years have placed increasing importance on the implications and social cost of their investments. The increased focus and activism related to ESG and similar matters may hinder access to capital, as investors and lenders may decide to reallocate capital or to not commit capital as a result of their assessment of a company’s ESG practices. Companies which do not adapt to or comply with investor, lender or other industry shareholder expectations and standards, which are evolving, or which are perceived to have not responded appropriately to the growing concern for ESG issues, regardless of whether there is a legal requirement to do so, may suffer from reputational damage and the business, financial condition, and/or stock price of such a company could be materially and adversely affected.

 

We may face increasing pressures from investors, lenders and other market participants, who are increasingly focused on climate change, to prioritize sustainable energy practices, reduce our carbon footprint and promote sustainability. As a result, we may be required to implement more stringent ESG procedures or standards so that our existing and future investors and lenders remain invested in us and make further investments in us. If we do not meet these standards, our business and/or our ability to access capital could be harmed.

 

Additionally, certain investors and lenders may exclude shipping companies, such as us, from their investing portfolios altogether due to environmental, social and governance factors.  These limitations in both the debt and equity capital markets may affect our ability to develop as our plans for growth may include accessing the equity and debt capital markets.  If those markets are unavailable, or if we are unable to access alternative means of financing on acceptable terms, or at all, we may be unable to implement our business strategy, which would have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations and impair our ability to service our indebtedness. Further, it is likely that we will incur additional costs and require additional resources to monitor, report and comply with wide ranging ESG requirements.  The occurrence of any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition.

 

Technological innovation and quality and efficiency requirements from our customers could reduce our charter hire income and the value of our vessels.

 

Our customers, in particular those in the oil industry, have a high and increasing focus on quality and compliance standards with their suppliers across the entire supply chain, including the shipping and transportation segment. Our continued compliance with these standards and quality requirements is vital for our operations. Charter hire rates and the value and operational life of a vessel are determined by a number of factors including the vessel’s efficiency, operational flexibility and physical life. Efficiency includes speed, fuel economy and the ability to load and discharge cargo quickly. Flexibility includes the ability to enter harbors, utilize related docking facilities and pass through canals and straits. The length of a vessel’s physical life is related to its original design and construction, its maintenance and the impact of the stress of operations. If new vessels are built that are more efficient or more flexible or have longer physical lives than our vessels, competition from these more technologically advanced vessels could adversely affect the amount of charter hire payments we receive for our vessels, and the resale value of our vessels could significantly decrease which may have a material adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position.

 

The smuggling of drugs or other contraband onto our vessels may lead to governmental claims against us.

 

Our vessels may call in ports where smugglers may attempt to hide drugs and other contraband on vessels, with or without the knowledge of crew members. To the extent our vessels are found with contraband, whether inside or attached to the hull of our vessel and whether with or without the knowledge of any of our crew, we may face governmental or other regulatory claims that could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and ability to pay dividends.

 

Maritime claimants could arrest our vessels or vessels we acquire, which could interrupt our cash flow.

 

Crew members, suppliers of goods and services to a vessel, shippers of cargo and other parties may be entitled to a maritime lien against that vessel for unsatisfied debts, claims or damages. In many jurisdictions, a maritime lienholder may enforce its lien by “arresting” or “attaching” a vessel through foreclosure proceedings. The arrest or attachment of one or more of our vessels or vessels we acquire could result in a significant loss of earnings for the related off-hired period. In addition, in jurisdictions where the “sister ship” theory of liability applies, a claimant may arrest the vessel which is subject to the claimant’s maritime lien and any “associated” vessel, which is any vessel owned or controlled by the same owner. In countries with “sister ship” liability laws, claims might be asserted against us or any of our vessels for liabilities of other vessels that we own.

 

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Governments could requisition our vessels or vessels we acquire during a period of war or emergency, resulting in loss of earnings.

 

A government could requisition vessels for title or hire. Requisition for title occurs when a government takes control of a vessel and becomes the owner. Requisition for hire occurs when a government takes control of a vessel and effectively becomes the charterer at dictated charter rates. Generally, requisitions occur during a period of war or emergency. Government requisition of any of our vessels or vessels we acquire could negatively impact our revenues should we not receive adequate compensation.

 

U.S. federal tax authorities could treat us as apassive foreign investment company,which could have adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. shareholders.

 

A foreign corporation will be treated as a “passive foreign investment company,” or PFIC, for U.S. federal income tax purposes if either (1) at least 75% of its gross income for any taxable year consists of certain types of “passive income” or (2) at least 50% of the average value of the corporation’s assets produce or are held for the production of those types of “passive income.” For purposes of these tests, “passive income” includes dividends, interest, gains from the sale or exchange of investment property and rents and royalties other than rents and royalties which are received from unrelated parties in connection with the active conduct of a trade or business. Income derived from the performance of services does not constitute “passive income” for this purpose. U.S. shareholders of a PFIC are subject to a disadvantageous U.S. federal income tax regime with respect to the income derived by the PFIC, the distributions they receive from the PFIC and the gain, if any, they derive from the sale or other disposition of their shares in the PFIC.

 

In general, income derived from the bareboat charter of a vessel should be treated as “passive income” for purposes of determining whether a foreign corporation is a PFIC, and such vessel should be treated as an asset which produces or is held for the production of “passive income.”  On the other hand, income derived from the time charter of a vessel should not be treated as “passive income” for such purpose, but rather should be treated as services income; likewise, a time chartered vessel should generally not be treated as an asset which produces or is held for the production of “passive income.”

 

We believe that we were not a PFIC for our 2014 through 2020 taxable years and do not expect to be treated as a PFIC in subsequent taxable years. In this regard, we intend to treat the gross income we derive or are deemed to derive from our time chartering activities as services income, rather than rental income. Accordingly, we believe that our income from our time chartering activities does not constitute ‘‘passive income,’’ and the assets that we own and operate in connection with the production of that income do not constitute passive assets.

 

There is, however, no direct legal authority under the PFIC rules addressing our proposed method of operation. Accordingly, no assurance can be given that the United States Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, or a court of law will accept our position, and there is a risk that the IRS or a court of law could determine that we are a PFIC. Moreover, no assurance can be given that we would not constitute a PFIC for any future taxable year if there were to be changes in the nature and extent of our operations.

 

Our U.S. shareholders may face adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences and certain information reporting obligations as a result of us being treated as a PFIC.  Under the PFIC rules, unless those shareholders make an election available under the Code (which election could itself have adverse consequences for such shareholders, as discussed below under “Taxation– U.S. Federal Income Consequences—U.S. Federal Income Taxation of U.S. Holders”), such shareholders would be liable to pay U.S. federal income tax at the then prevailing income tax rates on ordinary income plus interest upon excess distributions and upon any gain from the disposition of their common shares, as if the excess distribution or gain had been recognized ratably over the shareholder’s holding period of the common shares.  See “Taxation —U.S. Federal Income Consequences—U.S. Federal Income Taxation of U.S. Holders” for a more comprehensive discussion of the U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. shareholders as a result of our status as a PFIC.

 

We may have to pay tax on U.S. source income, which would reduce our earnings.

 

Under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or the Code, 50% of the gross shipping income of a vessel owning or chartering corporation, such as ourselves and our subsidiaries, that is attributable to transportation that begins or ends, but that does not begin and end, in the United States is characterized as U.S. source shipping income and such income is subject to a 4% U.S. federal income tax without allowance for deduction, unless that corporation qualifies for exemption from tax under Section 883 of the Code. Although we have qualified for this statutory exemption in previous taxable years and have taken this position for U.S. federal income tax return reporting purposes in such taxable year, there are factual circumstances beyond our control that could cause us to lose the benefit of the exemption and thereby become subject to U.S. federal income tax on our U.S. source shipping income. Due to the factual nature of the issues involved, we may not qualify for exemption under Section 883 of the Code for any future taxable year. We intend to take the position for U.S. federal income tax reporting purposes that we are not subject to U.S. federal income taxation for the 2020 taxable year.

 

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We are aforeign private issuer,which could make our common shares less attractive to some investors or otherwise harm our stock price.

 

We are a “foreign private issuer,” as such term is defined in Rule 405 under the Securities Act. As a “foreign private issuer” the rules governing the information that we disclose differ from those governing U.S. corporations pursuant to the Exchange Act. We are not required to file quarterly reports on Form 10-Q or provide current reports on Form 8-K disclosing significant events within four days of their occurrence. In addition, our officers and directors are exempt from the reporting and “short-swing” profit recovery provisions of Section 16 of the Exchange Act and related rules with respect to their purchase and sales of our securities. Our exemption from the rules of Section 16 of the Exchange Act regarding sales of common shares by insiders means that you will have less data in this regard than shareholders of U.S. companies that are subject to the Exchange Act. Moreover, we are exempt from the proxy rules, and proxy statements that we distribute will not be subject to review by the SEC. Accordingly there may be less publicly available information concerning us than there is for other U.S. public companies. These factors could make our common shares less attractive to some investors or otherwise harm our stock price.

 

RISKS RELATED TO OUR COMMON SHARES

 

Our share price may continue to be highly volatile, which could lead to a loss of all or part of a shareholders investment.

 

The market price of our common shares has fluctuated widely since our common shares began trading in July of 2004 on the Nasdaq Stock Market LLC, or Nasdaq. Over the last few years, the stock market has experienced price and volume fluctuations, especially due to factors relating to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19. This volatility has sometimes been unrelated to the operating performance of particular companies. During 2020, the price of our common shares experienced a high of $28.75 in January and a low of $0.95 in September. This market and share price volatility relating to the effects of COVID -19, as well as general economic, market or political conditions, has and could further reduce the market price of our common shares in spite of our operating performance and could also increase our cost of capital, which could prevent us from accessing debt and equity capital on terms acceptable to us or at all.

 

The market price of our common shares is affected by a variety of factors, including:

 

 

fluctuations in interest rates;

 

 

fluctuations in the availability or the price of oil and chemicals;

 

 

fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates;

 

 

announcements by us or our competitors;

 

 

changes in our relationships with customers or suppliers;

 

 

actual or anticipated fluctuations in our semi-annual and annual results and those of other public companies in our industry;

 

 

changes in United States or foreign tax laws;

 

 

actual or anticipated fluctuations in our operating results from period to period;

 

 

shortfalls in our operating results from levels forecast by securities analysts;

 

 

market conditions in the shipping industry and the general state of the securities markets;

 

 

business interruptions caused by the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19;

 

 

mergers and strategic alliances in the shipping industry;

 

 

changes in government regulation;

 

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a general or industry-specific decline in the demand for, and price of, shares of our common shares resulting from capital market conditions independent of our operating performance;

 

 

the loss of any of our key management personnel;

 

 

our failure to successfully implement our business plan;

 

 

issuance of shares; and

 

 

stock splits / reverse stock splits.

 

There is no guarantee of a continuing public market for you to resell our common shares.

 

Our common shares currently trade on the Nasdaq Capital Market. We cannot assure you that an active and liquid public market for our common shares will continue and you may not be able to sell your common shares in the future at the price that you paid for them or at all. The price of our common shares may be volatile and may fluctuate due to factors such as:

 

 

actual or anticipated fluctuations in our quarterly and annual results and those of other public companies in our industry;

 

 

mergers and strategic alliances in the shipping industry;

 

 

market conditions in the shipping industry and the general state of the securities markets;

 

 

changes in government regulation;

 

 

shortfalls in our operating results from levels forecast by securities analysts; and

 

 

announcements concerning us or our competitors.

 

Further, a lack of trading volume in our stock may affect investors’ ability to sell their shares. Our common shares have been experiencing low daily trading volumes in the market. As a result, investors may be unable to sell all or any of their shares in the desired time period, or may only be able to sell such shares at a significant discount to the previous closing price.

 

Nasdaq may delist our common shares from its exchange which could limit your ability to make transactions in our securities and subject us to additional trading restrictions.

 

On July 27, 2016, we transferred our Nasdaq listing from the Nasdaq Global Select Market to the Nasdaq Capital Market. Our common shares continue to trade on Nasdaq under the symbol “TOPS”. The Nasdaq Capital Market is a continuous trading market that operates in substantially the same manner as the Nasdaq Global Select Market. We then fulfilled the listing requirements of the Nasdaq Capital Market and the approval of the transfer cured our deficiency under Nasdaq Listing Rule 5450(b)(1)(C).

 

On June 27, 2017, we received written notification from Nasdaq, indicating that because the closing bid price of our common shares for the last 30 consecutive business days was below $1.00 per share, we no longer met the minimum bid price requirement for the Nasdaq Capital Market, set forth in Nasdaq Listing Rule 5450(a)(1). Pursuant to the Nasdaq Listing Rules, the applicable grace period to regain compliance was 180 days, or until December 26, 2017. We regained compliance on August 17, 2017.

 

On October 10, 2017, we received written notification from Nasdaq indicating that because the closing bid price of our common shares for the last 30 consecutive business days was below $1.00 per share, we no longer met the minimum bid price requirement for the Nasdaq Capital Market, set forth in Nasdaq Listing Rule 5450(a)(1). Pursuant to the Nasdaq Listing Rules, the applicable grace period to regain compliance was 180 days, or until April 9, 2018. After requesting a grace period from Nasdaq, we regained compliance on April 11, 2018.

 

On March 11, 2019, we received written notification from Nasdaq, indicating that because the closing bid price of our common shares for the last 30 consecutive business days was below $1.00 per share, we no longer met the minimum bid price requirement for the Nasdaq Capital Market, set forth in Nasdaq Listing Rule 5450(a)(1). Pursuant to the Nasdaq Listing Rules, the applicable grace period to regain compliance was 180 days, or until September 9, 2019.

 

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On August 22, 2019 we effectuated a 20 to 1 reverse stock split in order to regain compliance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5450(a)(1). As a result, we regained compliance on September 5, 2019.

 

On December 26, 2019, we received a written notification from Nasdaq indicating that because the closing bid price of our common shares for the last 30 consecutive business days was below $1.00 per share, we no longer met the minimum bid price requirement under Nasdaq rules. On April 17, 2020 we received a written notification from Nasdaq granting an extension to the grace period for regaining compliance. On August 7, 2020 we effectuated a 25 to 1 reverse stock split in order to regain compliance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5450(a)(1). As a result, we regained compliance on August 25, 2020.

 

A continued decline in the closing price of our common shares on Nasdaq could result in suspension or delisting procedures in respect of our common shares. The commencement of suspension or delisting procedures by an exchange remains, at all times, at the discretion of such exchange and would be publicly announced by the exchange. If a suspension or delisting were to occur, there would be significantly less liquidity in the suspended or delisted securities. In addition, our ability to raise additional necessary capital through equity or debt financing would be greatly impaired. Furthermore, with respect to any suspended or delisted common shares, we would expect decreases in institutional and other investor demand, analyst coverage, market making activity and information available concerning trading prices and volume, and fewer broker-dealers would be willing to execute trades with respect to such common shares. A suspension or delisting would likely decrease the attractiveness of our common shares to investors, will constitute a breach under certain of our credit agreements and constitute an event of default under certain classes of our preferred stock and cause the trading volume of our common shares to decline, which could result in a further decline in the market price of our common shares.

 

Finally, if the volatility in the market continues or worsens, it could have a further adverse effect on the market price of our common shares, regardless of our operating performance.

 

We issued 39,484,159 common shares during 2020 through various transactions. Shareholders may experience significant dilution as a result of our offerings.

 

We have already sold large quantities of our common shares pursuant to previous public and private offerings of our equity and equity-linked securities. We currently have an effective registration statement on Form F-3 (333-234281), for the registered sale of $200 million of our securities, of which we have sold $129.7 million. We also have 11,264 Series E Preferred Shares outstanding, which are convertible into approximately 10,147,748 shares as of April 20, 2021, under certain circumstances, and the Class B Warrants, discussed in “Item 4. Information on the Company—A. History and Development of the Company” and “Item 10. Additional Information—B. Memorandum and Articles of Association—2019 Class A Warrants and Class B Warrants” below, exercisable into 168,000 common shares. All of the Series E Preferred Shares are held by Family Trading. Pursuant to a Standstill Agreement, dated August 20, 2020, Family Trading agreed not to convert any of its Series E Preferred Shares into common shares until August 20, 2021, other than in connection with a change of control of us.

 

Purchasers of the common shares we sell, as well as our existing shareholders, will experience significant dilution if we sell shares at prices significantly below the price at which they invested. In addition, we may issue additional common shares or other equity securities of equal or senior rank in the future in connection with, among other things, debt prepayments, future vessel acquisitions, redemptions of our Series E Preferred Shares, or any future equity incentive plan, without shareholder approval, in a number of circumstances. Our existing shareholders may experience significant dilution if we issue shares in the future at prices below the price at which previous shareholders invested.

 

Our issuance of additional shares of common shares or other equity securities of equal or senior rank would have the following effects:

 

 

our existing shareholders’ proportionate ownership interest in us will decrease;

 

 

the amount of cash available for dividends payable on the shares of our common shares may decrease;

 

 

the relative voting strength of each previously outstanding common share may be diminished; and

 

 

the market price of the shares of our common shares may decline.

 

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Future issuances or sales, or the potential for future issuances or sales, of our common shares may cause the trading price of our securities to decline and could impair our ability to raise capital through subsequent equity offerings.

 

We have issued a significant number of our common shares and we may do so in the future. Shares to be issued in future equity offerings could cause the market price of our common shares to decline, and could have an adverse effect on our earnings per share if and when we become profitable. In addition, future sales of our common shares or other securities in the public markets, or the perception that these sales may occur, could cause the market price of our common shares to decline, and could materially impair our ability to raise capital through the sale of additional securities.

 

The market price of our common shares could decline due to sales, or the announcements of proposed sales, of a large number of common shares in the market, including sales of common shares by our large shareholders, or the perception that these sales could occur. These sales or the perception that these sales could occur could also depress the market price of our common shares and impair our ability to raise capital through the sale of additional equity securities or make it more difficult or impossible for us to sell equity securities in the future at a time and price that we deem appropriate. We cannot predict the effect that future sales of common shares or other equity-related securities would have on the market price of our common shares.

 

Our Third Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation, as amended, authorize our Board of Directors to, among other things, issue additional shares of common or preferred stock or securities convertible or exchangeable into equity securities, without shareholder approval. We may issue such additional equity or convertible securities to raise additional capital. The issuance of any additional shares of common or preferred stock or convertible securities could be substantially dilutive to our shareholders. Moreover, to the extent that we issue restricted stock units, stock appreciation rights, options or warrants to purchase our common shares in the future and those stock appreciation rights, options or warrants are exercised or as the restricted stock units vest, our shareholders may experience further dilution. Holders of shares of our common shares have no preemptive rights that entitle such holders to purchase their pro rata share of any offering of shares of any class or series and, therefore, such sales or offerings could result in increased dilution to our shareholders.

 

Future issuance of common shares may trigger anti-dilution provisions in our Series E Preferred Shares and affect the interests of our common shareholders.

 

The Series E Preferred Shares contain anti-dilution provisions that have been triggered by securities we have issued, including common shares, convertible preferred shares, and warrants, and could further be triggered by future issuances of the same or similar types of securities, depending on the offering price of equity issuances, the conversion price or formula of convertible shares or the exercise price or formula of warrants. Any issuance below the then applicable conversion price of the Series E Preferred Shares, could result in an adjustment downward of the Series E Preferred Shares conversion price and an increase in the number of common shares each Series E Share is converted into. These adjustments could affect the interests of our common shareholders and the trading price for our common shares. Furthermore the Series E Preferred Shares holders have the option to replace the fixed conversion price with a variable conversion price, namely 80% of the lowest daily Volume-Weighted Average Price (“VWAP”) of our common shares over the 20 consecutive trading days expiring on the trading day immediately prior to the date of delivery of a conversion notice (but in no event can this variable conversion price be less than the Floor Price, please see Item 10. Additional Information - B. Memorandum and Articles of Association - Description of Series E Convertible Preferred Stock) and purchase such proportionate number of shares based on the variable conversion price in effect on the date of conversion. If using the variable conversion price of the Series E Preferred Shares, as of April 20, 2021, the Series E Preferred Shares have a conversion price of $1.11 and are convertible into 10,147,748 common shares per Series E Share under certain circumstances, as may be further adjusted. Moreover, future issuance of other equity or debt convertible into or issuable or exchangeable for common shares at a price per share less than the then current conversion price of the Series E Preferred Shares would result in similar adjustments. Pursuant to a Standstill Agreement, dated August 20, 2020, Family Trading agreed not to convert any of its Series E Preferred Shares into common shares until August 20, 2021, other than in connection with a change of control of us.

 

We are incorporated in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which does not have a well-developed body of corporate law and as a result, shareholders may have fewer rights and protections under Marshall Islands law than under a typical jurisdiction in the United States.

 

Our corporate affairs are governed by Our Third Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation and Amended and Restated By-laws, as further amended, and by the Marshall Islands Business Corporations Act, or BCA. The provisions of the BCA resemble provisions of the corporation laws of a number of states in the United States. However, there have been few judicial cases in the Republic of the Marshall Islands interpreting the BCA. The rights and fiduciary responsibilities of directors under the law of the Republic of the Marshall Islands are not as clearly established as the rights and fiduciary responsibilities of directors under statutes or judicial precedent in existence in certain United States jurisdictions. Shareholder rights may differ as well. While the BCA does specifically incorporate the non-statutory law, or judicial case law, of the State of Delaware and other states with substantially similar legislative provisions, our public shareholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests in the face of actions by the management, directors or controlling shareholders than would shareholders of a corporation incorporated in a United States jurisdiction.

 

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It may not be possible for investors to serve process on or enforce U.S. judgments against us.

 

We and all of our subsidiaries are incorporated in jurisdictions outside the U.S. and substantially all of our assets and those of our subsidiaries are located outside the U.S. In addition, all of our directors and officers are non-residents of the U.S., and all or a substantial portion of the assets of these non-residents are located outside the U.S. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for U.S. investors to serve process within the U.S. upon us, our subsidiaries or our directors and officers or to enforce a judgment against us for civil liabilities in U.S. courts. In addition, you should not assume that courts in the countries in which we or our subsidiaries are incorporated or where our assets or the assets of our subsidiaries are located (1) would enforce judgments of U.S. courts obtained in actions against us or our subsidiaries based upon the civil liability provisions of applicable U.S. federal and state securities laws or (2) would enforce, in original actions, liabilities against us or our subsidiaries based on those laws.

 

Our By-laws provide that the High Court of the Republic of Marshall Islands shall be the sole and exclusive forum for certain disputes between us and our shareholders, which could limit our shareholdersability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or employees.

 

Our By-laws provide that, unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, the High Court of the Republic of Marshall Islands, shall be the sole and exclusive forum for (i) any shareholders’ derivative action or proceeding brought on behalf of the Corporation, (ii) any action asserting a claim of breach of a fiduciary duty owed by any director, officer or other employee of the Corporation to the Corporation or the Corporation’s shareholders, (iii) any action asserting a claim arising pursuant to any provision of the Business Corporations Act of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or (iv) any action asserting a claim governed by the internal affairs doctrine.  This forum selection provision may limit a shareholder’s ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that it finds favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or other employees, which may discourage lawsuits with respect to such claims.

 

We may not achieve the intended benefits of having a forum selection provision if it is found to be unenforceable.

 

Our By-laws include a forum selection provision as under the section herein entitled “Item 10. Additional Information—B. Memorandum and Articles of Association. However, the enforceability of similar forum selection provisions in other companies’ governing documents has been challenged in legal proceedings, and it is possible that in connection with any action a court could find the forum selection provision contained in our By-laws to be inapplicable or unenforceable in such action. If a court were to find the forum selection provision to be inapplicable to, or unenforceable in respect of, one or more of the specified types of actions or proceedings, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

Anti-takeover provisions in our organizational documents could have the effect of discouraging, delaying or preventing a merger, amalgamation or acquisition, which could reduce the market price of our common shares.

 

Several provisions of our Third Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation and Amended and Restated By-laws, as further amended, could make it difficult for our shareholders to change the composition of our Board of Directors in any one year, preventing them from changing the composition of management. In addition, the same provisions may discourage, delay or prevent a merger or acquisition that shareholders may consider favorable.

 

These provisions include:

 

 

authorizing our Board of Directors to issue “blank check” preferred stock without shareholder approval;

 

 

providing for a classified Board of Directors with staggered, three-year terms;

 

 

prohibiting cumulative voting in the election of directors;

 

 

authorizing the removal of directors only for cause and only upon the affirmative vote of the holders of at least 80% of the outstanding shares of our capital stock entitled to vote for the directors;

 

 

prohibiting shareholder action by written consent unless the written consent is signed by all shareholders entitled to vote on the action;

 

 

limiting the persons who may call special meetings of shareholders; and

 

 

establishing advance notice requirements for nominations for election to our Board of Directors or for proposing matters that can be acted on by shareholders at shareholder meetings.

 

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In addition, we have entered into a stockholders rights agreement, or the Stockholders Rights Agreement, that makes it more difficult for a third-party to acquire us without the support of our Board of Directors. See “Item 10. Additional Information—B. Memorandum and Articles of Association—Stockholders Rights Agreement.” These anti-takeover provisions could substantially impede the ability of public shareholders to benefit from a change in control and, as a result, may reduce the market price of our common shares and your ability to realize any potential change of control premium.

 

RISKS RELATED TO OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR FLEET MANAGER AND ITS AFFILIATES

 

We are dependent on our Fleet Manager to perform the day-to-day management of our fleet.

 

Our executive management team, provided by Central Mare, consists of Evangelos J. Pistiolis; Alexandros Tsirikos, our Chief Financial Officer and Director; Vangelis G. Ikonomou our Chief Operating Officer and Konstantinos Patis, our Chief Technical Officer. We subcontract the day-to-day vessel management of our fleet, including crewing, maintenance and repair to our Fleet Manager. Furthermore, upon delivery of any vessels we may acquire, we expect to subcontract their day-to-day management to our Fleet Manager. Our Fleet Manager is a related party affiliated with the family of Mr. Pistiolis. We are dependent on our Fleet Manager for the technical and commercial operation of our fleet as well as for all accounting and reporting functions and the loss of our Fleet Manager’s services or its failure to perform obligations to us could materially and adversely affect the results of our operations. If our Fleet Manager suffers material damage to its reputation or relationships it may harm our ability to:

 

 

continue to operate our vessels and service our customers;

 

 

renew existing charters upon their expiration;

 

 

obtain new charters;

 

 

obtain financing on commercially acceptable terms;

 

 

obtain insurance on commercially acceptable terms;

 

 

maintain satisfactory relationships with our customers and suppliers; and

 

 

successfully execute our growth strategy.

 

Our Fleet Manager is a privately held company and there may be limited or no publicly available information about it.

 

Our Fleet Manager is a privately held company. The ability of our Fleet Manager to provide services for our benefit will depend in part on its own financial strength. Circumstances beyond our control could impair our Fleet Manager’s financial strength, and there may be limited publicly available information about its financial condition. As a result, an investor in our common shares might have little advance warning of problems affecting our Fleet Manager, even though these problems could have a material adverse effect on us.

 

Our Fleet Manager may have conflicts of interest between us and its other clients.

 

We subcontract the day-to-day vessel management of our fleet, including crewing, maintenance and repair to our Fleet Manager. Our Fleet Manager may provide similar services for vessels owned by other shipping companies, and it also may provide similar services to companies with which our Fleet Manager is affiliated. These responsibilities and relationships could create conflicts of interest between our Fleet Manager’s performance of its obligations to us, on the one hand, and our Fleet Manager’s performance of its obligations to its other clients, on the other hand. These conflicts may arise in connection with the crewing, supply provisioning and operations of the vessels in our fleet versus vessels owned by other clients of our Fleet Manager. In particular, our Fleet Manager may give preferential treatment to vessels owned by other clients whose arrangements provide for greater economic benefit to our Fleet Manager. These conflicts of interest may have an adverse effect on our results of operations.

 

ITEM 4.         INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY

 

A.         History and Development of the Company

 

Our predecessor, Ocean Holdings Inc., was formed as a corporation in January 2000 under the laws of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and renamed Top Tankers Inc. in May 2004. In December 2007, Top Tankers Inc. was renamed TOP Ships Inc. Our common shares are currently listed on Nasdaq under the symbol "TOPS." The current address of our principal executive office is 1 Vasilisis Sofias and Megalou Alexandrou Str, 15124 Maroussi, Greece. The telephone number of our registered office is +30 210 812 8000. The SEC maintains an Internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC. The address of the SEC's Internet site is http://www.sec.gov. The address of our Internet site is https://www.topships.org.

 

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On January 2, 2018, the Compensation Committee recommended to our board of directors and the board of directors approved an award of $2.25 million, in cash as incentive compensation to Mr. Evangelos J. Pistiolis, or his nominee, to be distributed at his own discretion amongst executives.

 

On January 2, 2018, the Compensation Committee recommended to our board of directors and the board of directors approved an award of $1.25 million in cash as incentive compensation to CSM.

 

On January 5, 2018, we entered into an Amendment to the Note Purchase Agreement with Crede, pursuant to which we issued an unsecured promissory note in the original principal amount of $5.369 million with a single revolving option for an additional $4.631 million. On February 9, 2018 the Note Purchase Agreement was further amended to increase the last revolving option to $6.4 million and on the same date we exercised the said option in full.

 

On January 31, 2018, we acquired:

 

 

100% of the issued and outstanding shares of PCH Dreaming Inc., a Marshall Islands company that had entered into a new building contract for a high specification 50,000 dwt Medium Range (“MR”) product/chemical tanker, M/T Eco Marina Del Ray, delivered from Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co., Ltd. in South Korea in March 2019. We acquired the shares from an entity affiliated with our Chief Executive Officer for an aggregate purchase price of $3.95 million.

 

 

100% of the issued and outstanding shares of South California Inc., a Marshall Islands company that has entered into a new building contract for a high specification, scrubber-equipped, 157,000 dwt Suezmax Crude Oil Carrier (M/T Eco Bel Air) delivered from Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. in South Korea in April 2019. We acquired the shares from an entity affiliated with our Chief Executive Officer for an aggregate purchase price of $8.95 million.

 

 

100% of the issued outstanding shares of Malibu Warrior Inc., a Marshall Islands company that has entered into a new building contract for a high specification, scrubber-equipped, 157,000 dwt Suezmax Crude Oil Carrier (M/T Eco Beverly Hills) delivered from Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. in South Korea and in May 2019. We acquired the shares from an entity affiliated with our Chief Executive Officer for an aggregate purchase price of $8.95 million.

 

 

10% of the issued and outstanding shares of Eco Seven Inc., a Marshall Islands company that owned M/T Stena Elegance, a high specification 50,000 dwt MR product/chemical tanker delivered in February 2017 from Hyundai Vinashin. We acquired the shares from an entity affiliated with our Chief Executive Officer for an aggregate purchase price of $1.6 million.  As a result of the transaction we own 100% of the issued and outstanding shares of Eco Seven Inc.

 

Each of the acquisitions was approved by a special committee of our board of directors, (the “Transaction Committee”), of which all of the directors were independent. In the course of its deliberations, the Transaction Committee hired and obtained an opinion on the fairness of the consideration of this transaction from two independent financial advisors.

 

On February 20, 2018 we appointed AST as our new transfer agent and registrar. All of our directly held common shares have been transferred from Computershare to AST’s platform, with no action required by any shareholder regarding the change in our transfer agent. (AST can be reached as follows: American Stock Transfer & Trust Company, 55 Challenger Road Ridgefield Park, NJ 07660, Office: 201-806-4181).

 

On March 15, 2018, our 50% owned subsidiary City of Athens took delivery of M/T Eco Holmby Hills, a 50,000 dwt newbuilding product/chemical tanker constructed at the Hyundai Mipo Vinashin shipyard. On March 20, 2018 the vessel commenced its time charter agreement with Clearlake Shipping Pte Ltd.

 

On March 26, 2018, we effected a 1-for-10 reverse stock split.

 

In April of 2018, we extended the firm period of the time charter of M/T Eco Fleet with BP Shipping Limited for six months.

 

On May 25, 2018, we entered into an Equity Distribution Agreement, or the Equity Distribution Agreement, with Maxim Group LLC, or Maxim, as sales agent, under which we were permitted to offer and sell, from time to time through Maxim, up to $14.25 million of our common shares, par value $0.01 per share. On July 23, 2018, we terminated the Equity Distribution Agreement. During the term of the Equity Distribution Agreement, we sold an aggregate of 4,982 common shares for aggregate gross proceeds of $2.8 million.

 

33

 

On May 23, 2018, we took delivery of our 50% owned 49,703 dwt newbuilding product/chemical tanker M/T Eco Palm Springs, constructed at the Hyundai Mipo Vinashin shipyard and on May 26, 2018 the vessel commenced its three year time charter employment with Clearlake Shipping Pte Ltd.

 

On June 29, 2018, we entered into a SLB and a 5 year time charter with Cargill, for our vessel M/T Eco Marina Del Ray.

 

On September 7, 2018 we took delivery of M/T Eco Palm Desert, a 50,000 dwt newbuilding product/chemical tanker constructed at the Hyundai Mipo Vinashin shipyard.

 

On October 24, 2018, we entered into a Securities Purchase Agreement with one institutional investor, pursuant to which we sold 4,000 of our common shares in a registered direct offering. We also issued warrants to purchase up to 7,000 shares at an exercise price of $750 per share (the “2018 Warrants”). Maxim Group LLC acted as the exclusive placement agent for the offering.

 

In October 2018, we agreed to enter into a three year time charter employment with Clearlake Shipping Pte Ltd for our product/chemical tanker M/T Eco Fleet.

 

In November 2018, we agreed a new time charter employment contract for 2 years with BP Shipping Ltd for our product/chemical tanker M/T Eco Revolution, which commenced in January 2019. In January 2020, we sold this vessel (see below for further information).

 

On December 3, 2018 we entered into an SLB with China Merchants Bank Financial Leasing (“CMBFL”), a non-affiliated party, for M/T Eco Bel Air and M/T Eco Beverly Hills. Consummation of the SLB took place in April and May 2019 respectively. Following the sale, we bareboat chartered back the vessels for a period of seven years at a bareboat hire of $1.5 million per quarter per vessel. As part of this transaction, we had continuous options to buy back the vessels at purchase prices stipulated in the bareboat agreement depending on when the option is exercised. The gross proceeds from the sale were $91.4 million for both vessels.

 

On December 21, 2018 we entered into an SLB with Bank of Communications Financial Leasing Company (“BoComm Leasing”), a non-affiliated party, for M/T Nord Valiant and M/T Eco California. Consummation of the SLB took place on January 17, 2019 for M/T Nord Valiant and on January 30, 2019 for M/T Eco California. Following the sale, we bareboat chartered back M/T Nord Valiant for five years and for the M/T Eco California for seven years at a bareboat hire of $5,875 per day and $6,550 per day respectively. As part of this transaction, we have continuous options to buy back the vessels at purchase prices stipulated in the bareboat agreement depending on when the option is exercised. The gross proceeds from the sale were $21.7 million for M/T Nord Valiant and $24.1 million for M/T Eco California. We used $18.5 million of the SLB proceeds to prepay in full the outstanding loan on M/T Nord Valiant at that time (Tranche C of the ABN Facility).

 

On January 11, 2019, we entered into a warrant exchange agreement with the sole holder of the 2018 Warrants for the reduction of the exercise price of said warrants from $750 to $510. On the same date 300,000 2018 Warrants were exercised into 600 common shares. On February 5, 2019, we entered an amendment of the 2018 Warrants for the reduction of the exercise price of said warrants from $510 to $350. On the same date 714,285 2018 Warrants were exercised into 1,429 common shares. Between February 21 and February 25, 2019 the remaining 932,715 2018 Warrants were exercised into 1,865 common shares.

 

On January 30, 2019, we took delivery of M/T Eco California. On February 4, 2019 the vessel commenced its’ time charter agreement with Shell Tankers Singapore Private Limited (“Shell”). In November 2020, we sold this vessel (see below for further information.

 

On March 11, 2019, we received written notification from Nasdaq, indicating that because the closing bid price of our common shares for the last 30 consecutive business days was below $1.00 per share, we no longer met the minimum bid price requirement for the Nasdaq Capital Market, set forth in Nasdaq Listing Rule 5450(a)(1). We regained compliance on September 9, 2019.

 

On March 13, 2019, we took delivery of M/T Eco Marina Del Ray. On March 18, 2019 the vessel commenced its time charter agreement with Cargill and concurrently agreements were consummated for the vessel’s SLB to Cargill.

 

On April 1, 2019, we announced the sale of 27,129 newly issued Series E Preferred Shares at a price of $1,000 per share to Family Trading, in exchange for the full and final settlement of the loan facility between us and Family Trading dated December 23, 2015, as amended. For more information please see “Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions” and “Item 10. Additional Information—B. Memorandum and Articles of Association.”

 

34

 

On April 5, 2019, we announced the delivery to us of the 157,000 dwt newbuilding Suezmax vessel M/T Eco Bel Air, constructed at the Hyundai Samho shipyard in South Korea.

 

On May 9, 2019, we announced the delivery to us of the 157,000 dwt newbuilding Suezmax vessel M/T Eco Beverly Hills, constructed at the Hyundai Samho shipyard in South Korea.

 

On July 15, 2019, we entered into SLBs with Oriental Fleet International Company Limited, a non-affiliated party, for M/T Stenaweco Excellence, and on August 30, 2019 for M/T Stenaweco Energy and M/T Stenaweco Evolution. The sale of the M/T Stenaweco Excellence took place on July 15, 2019 and the sales of the M/T Stenaweco Energy and M/T Stenaweco Evolution took place on November 20, 2019. Prior to the aforementioned sale and lease backs, on November 20, 2019, we exercised the purchase options on the operating leases of the M/T Stenaweco Energy and M/T Stenaweco Evolution for a total of $47.9 million. Following the sales, we bareboat chartered back the three vessels for periods of ten years at bareboat hire rates comprising of financing principal based on straight-line amortization with a balloon payment at maturity plus interest based on the three months Libor plus 3.90% per day. As part of this transaction, we had continuous options to buy back the vessels at purchase prices stipulated in the bareboat agreements depending on when the option is exercised and at the end of the ten-year period we have an obligation to purchase the vessels. The gross proceeds from the sale of the M/T Stenaweco Excellence were $25.6 million and the total gross proceeds for the M/T Stenaweco Energy and M/T Stenaweco Evolution were $45.8 million.

 

From July 25, 2019 to March 19, 2020, we redeemed 33,798 of Series E Preferred Shares for an aggregate purchase price of $38.9 million.

 

On July 31, 2019, all outstanding warrants that we issued on July 11, 2014 (the “2014 Warrants”) expired.

 

On August 22, 2019, we effected a 1-for-20 reverse stock split of our common shares. There was no change in the number of our authorized common shares. All share amounts in this report, not including amounts incorporated by reference, have been retroactively adjusted to reflect this reverse stock split.

 

On September 13, 2019, we closed an underwritten public offering of an aggregate of 63,200 common shares (or pre-funded warrants to purchase common shares in lieu thereof, the Pre-Funded Warrants), warrants, or the Traditional Warrants, to purchase up to 71,600 of our common shares and an overallotment option of up to 9,480 shares, together the September 2019 Transaction. This resulted in gross proceeds of $10.5 million before deducting underwriting discounts, commissions and other offering expenses. The gross proceeds include the partial exercise of 3,400 common shares of the underwriter’s over-allotment option granted in connection with the offering. From September 13 to December 31, 2019, 49,803 common shares were issued pursuant to the cashless exercise of 1,778,700 Traditional Warrants. The Traditional Warrants expired on December 31, 2019.

 

On October 14, 2019, we entered into a deed of Amendment for the AT Bank Bridge Facility Note dated March 22, 2019 in the amount of $10.5 million, or the AT Note, which among other things, extended the maturity date of the AT Bank Bridge Note for one year to March 31, 2021.

 

On November 6, 2019, we entered into a placement agent agreement with Maxim Group LLC relating to the sale of our securities, or the November 2019 Placement Agent Agreement. Pursuant to the November 2019 Placement Agent Agreement, we entered into a Securities Purchase Agreement, or the November 2019 Purchase Agreement, with certain institutional investors in connection with a registered direct offering of an aggregate of 168,000 of our common shares at a public offering price of $50.00 per share, registered on our Registration Statement on Form F-3 (333-215577), or the November 2019 Registered Offering. Concurrently with the November 2019 Registered Offering and pursuant to the November 2019 Purchase Agreement, we also commenced a private placement whereby we issued and sold Class A warrants to purchase up to 168,000 of our common shares, or the Class A Warrants, and Class B warrants to purchase up to 168,000 of our common shares, or the Class B Warrants.

 

On December 18, 2019, we purchased 100% of the issued and outstanding shares of Santa Catalina Inc., a Marshall Islands company that had entered into a new building contract for a high specification scrubber-equipped, 50,000 dwt MR product/chemical tanker to be named Eco Los Angeles delivered on February 10, 2020 from Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co., Ltd. in South Korea. We acquired the shares from an entity affiliated with our Chief Executive Officer for an aggregate purchase price of $7.2 million. We also purchased 100% of the issued and outstanding shares of Santa Monica Inc., a Marshall Islands company that had entered into a new building contract for a high specification scrubber-equipped, 50,000 dwt MR product/chemical named Eco City of Angels delivered on February 17, 2020 from Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co., Ltd. in South Korea. We acquired the shares from an entity affiliated with our Chief Executive Officer for an aggregate purchase price of $7.2 million. Following their delivery, both vessels entered into time charters with Trafigura for a firm duration of three years, with charterer’s option to extend for two additional years.

 

On December 26, 2019, we received a written notification from Nasdaq indicating that because the closing bid price of our common shares for the last 30 consecutive business days was below $1.00 per share, we no longer met the minimum bid price requirement under Nasdaq rules. On April 17, 2020 we received a written notification from Nasdaq granting an extension to the grace period for regaining compliance. On August 7, 2020 we effectuated a 25 to 1 reverse stock split in order to regain compliance with Nasdaq Listing Rule 5450(a)(1). As a result, we regained compliance on August 25, 2020.

 

35

 

On January 3, 2020, we announced that we agreed to sell two MR1 Product Tankers, the M/T Eco Fleet and the M/T Eco Revolution (each weighing 39,000 dwt) to unaffiliated third parties.  On January 14, 2020, the M/T Eco Revolution was delivered to its buyer and we received gross proceeds of $23.0 million, part of which were used to prepay in full the outstanding amount of $15.1 million under tranche A of our loan facility with ABN AMRO, or the ABN Facility.  On January 21, 2020, the M/T Eco Fleet was delivered to its buyer and we received $21.0 million, part of which were used to prepay in full the outstanding amount of $14.4 million under tranche B of the ABN Facility, resulting in the full prepayment of the ABN Facility. 

 

On February 10 and February 17, 2020 we took delivery of M/T Eco Los Angeles and M/T Eco City of Angels from the Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co., Ltd. in South Korea respectively.

 

Between January 22 and February 21, 2020, all of the Class A Warrants (4,200,000 warrants) were exercised on a cashless basis into 67,200 of our common shares.

 

On February 12, 2020, we entered into an Equity Distribution Agreement with Maxim Group LLC, as sales agent, under which we could offer and sell, from time to time through Maxim, up to $5.0 million of our common shares. We completed the offering on March 4, 2020 and sold a total of 585,485 common shares.

 

On February 17, 2020, we announced the issuance of 16,004 Series E Preferred Shares to Family Trading, as settlement of the consideration outstanding for the purchase of the M/T Eco City of Angels and M/T Eco Los Angeles from Mr. Pistiolis, our President, Chief Executive Officer and Director, and for dividends payable to Family Trading Inc. under already outstanding Series E Preferred Shares.

 

On February 21, 2020, we announced that our 50% owned subsidiaries which own M/T Holmby Hills and M/T Palm Springs entered into agreements to sell both vessels to unaffiliated third parties. On March 30, 2020, we announced the delivery of M/T Holmby Hills to an unaffiliated party.

 

On February 6, 2020, we announced that we agreed to sell two MR2 Product Tankers, the M/T Stenaweco Elegance and the M/T Palm Desert (each weighing 50,000 dwt) to unaffiliated third parties. On February 25, 2020, we announced the closing of the sale of the M/T Stenaweco Elegance and on March 23, 2020, we announced the conclusion of the sale of the M/T Palm Desert.

 

On March 11, 2020, we entered into an Equity Distribution Agreement with Maxim Group LLC, as sales agent, under which we could offer and sell, from time to time through Maxim, up to $5.0 million of our common shares.  We completed the offering on March 27, 2020 and sold a total of 2,107,708 common shares.

 

On March 30, April 15, April 27, April 28, May 14, May 19, June 7, June 10, June 14, June 23 and July 6, 2020, we closed registered direct offerings for the sale of an aggregate of 36,723,765 of our common shares for gross proceeds of $119.7 million with unaffiliated investors. Maxim acted as a placement agent for all of these registered direct offerings.

 

On April 20, 2020, we announced the closing of the sale of the MR Product Tanker, M/T Palm Springs, by our 50% owned subsidiary, Eco Nine Pte.

 

On April 24, 2020, we announced the purchase of 50% interests in two MR Product Tankers, M/T Yosemite Park and M/T Joshua Park from entities affiliated with our Chief Executive Officer for $27 million. Both vessels were delivered in March 2020 from Hyundai Mipo shipyard in South Korea.

 

On May 6, 2020 we purchased a 100% ownership interest in three Marshall Islands companies that each owned 100% interests in one scrubber-fitted 50,000 dwt one MR Product Tanker under construction in Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea, with attached time charters from entities affiliated with our Chief Executive Officer. The consideration amounted to $18 million and was scheduled to be paid in installments through the vessels’ delivery dates. The vessels, M/T Eco Van Nuys (Hull No 2789), M/T Eco Santa Monica (Hull No 2790) and M/T Eco Venice Beach (Hull No 2791) were scheduled to be delivered in the first quarter of 2021. In January 2021, we sold these three shipowning companies, as described below under “Recent Developments”

 

On May 28, 2020, we acquired for $22 million from a company affiliated with our Chief Executive Officer, or the Suezmax Seller, a 50% ownership interest in two Marshall Island companies that each had a newbuilding contract for the construction of one scrubber-fitted 157,000 dwt eco Suezmax tanker, M/T Eco West Coast (Hull No 865) and M/T Eco Malibu (Hull No 866), under construction in Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard in South Korea, with attached time charters. The M/T Eco West Coast was delivered to us in March 2021 and commenced its time charter upon delivery. The M/T Eco Malibu is scheduled to be delivered in May 2021. We had the option to acquire the other 50% ownership interest in both vessels from the Suezmax Seller at the same price until July 15, 2020. On June 18, 2020, we exercised both purchase options for a consideration of $22 million.

 

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On August 7, 2020, we effected a 1-for-25 reverse stock split of our common shares. There was no change in the number of our authorized common shares. All share amounts in this report, not including amounts incorporated by reference, have been retroactively adjusted to reflect this reverse stock split.

 

On August 17, 2020, we announced the authorization by our Board of Directors of a share repurchase program under which we could repurchase up to $5.1 million of our outstanding common shares, representing approximately 10% of our market capitalization as of August 14, 2020, for a period of three months (the “Repurchase Program”). No common stock purchases took place under the Repurchase Program.

 

On August 20, 2020, we announced that a company affiliated with our Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Pistiolis, purchased an aggregate of 100,000 of our common shares in the open market. In addition, we committed until August 21, 2021 that we would not (i) conduct any equity offerings, public or private; (ii) conduct any reverse stock splits; or (iii) pay any bonuses to our executive management. We also entered into a standstill agreement with Family Trading, pursuant to which Family Trading agreed not to convert any of its Series E Preferred Shares into common shares, other than in connection with a change of control of us.

 

On October 19, 2020, we announced the sale of M/T Stenaweco Excellence to an unaffiliated third party. The respective loan for which the vessel was collateral was fully prepaid.

 

On October 30, 2020, we announced the sale of M/T Stenaweco Energy to an unaffiliated third party. The respective loan for which the vessel was collateral was fully prepaid.

 

On November 6, 2020, we announced the sale of M/T Stenaweco Evolution to an unaffiliated third party. The respective loan for which the vessel was collateral was fully prepaid.

 

On November 13, 2020, we announced the sale of M/T Eco California to an unaffiliated third party. The respective loan for which the vessel was collateral was fully prepaid.

 

On December 4, 2020, we announced the entrance into a refinancing facility for M/T Eco Beverly Hills and M/T Eco Bel Air pursuant to which the vessels were sold to unaffiliated third parties and leased back through bareboat charters for a period of 5 years.

 

Recent Developments

 

On January 6, 2021, we sold to a related party affiliated with Mr. Evangelos J. Pistiolis (the “Buyer”) the three shipowning companies that own M/T Eco Van Nuys (Hull No 2789), M/T Eco Santa Monica (Hull No 2790) and M/T Eco Venice Beach (Hull No 2791) in exchange for:

 

 

$10.0 million in cash.

 

 

100% ownership in a Marshall Islands company that is a party to a shipbuilding contract for a high specification scrubber fitted Suezmax Tanker currently under construction at Hyundai Samho shipyard with expected delivery in February 2022. The shipowning company is party to a time charter, starting from the vessel’s delivery, with a company affiliated with Mr. Evangelos J. Pistiolis, for a firm duration of five years at a gross daily rate of $32,450, with a charterer’s option to extend for two additional years at $33,950 and $35,450.

 

 

35% ownership in one Marshall Islands company that is a party to a shipbuilding contract for a high specification scrubber fitted VLCC tanker currently under construction at Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard with expected delivery in January 2022. The shipowning company is party to a time charter, starting from the vessel’s delivery, with a major oil trader, for a firm duration of three years at a gross daily rate of $36,000, with a charterer’s option to extend for two additional years at $39,000 and $41,500.

 

 

35% ownership in one Marshall Islands company that is a party to a shipbuilding contract for a high specification scrubber fitted VLCC tanker currently under construction at Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyard with expected delivery in February 2022. The shipowning company is party to a time charter, starting from the vessel’s delivery, with a major oil trader, for a firm duration of three years at a gross daily rate of $35,750, with a charterer’s option to extend for two additional years at $39,000 and $41,500.

 

 

A forgiveness of $1.2 million in payables to the Buyer.

 

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The Buyer will remain the guarantor on the shipbuilding contracts towards the shipyard and in addition the Buyer will provide us with an option for a credit line up to 10% of the total shipbuilding cost at market terms, amounting to $23.8 million. The transaction was approved by a special committee composed of independent members of our board of directors, (the “Transaction Committee”). The Transaction Committee obtained a fairness opinion relating to this transaction from an independent financial advisor.

 

On March 17, 2021, we signed a commitment letter with Alpha Bank for a senior debt facility of up to $38 million for the financing of the vessel M/T Eco Malibu (Hull No 866) due for delivery in May of 2021. The credit facility remains subject to the agreement and the execution of customary legal documentation. The loan will be payable in 12 consecutive quarterly installments of $0.75 million followed by 12 consecutive quarterly installments of $0.63 million, commencing three months from draw down, and a balloon payment of $21.5 million payable together with the last installment. The credit facility will bear interest at LIBOR plus a fixed margin and a commitment fee will be payable quarterly in arrears over the committed and undrawn portion of the facility, starting from the date of signing the commitment letter.

 

On March 18, 2021, we entered into a credit facility with ABN Amro for $36.8 million for the financing of the vessel M/T Eco West Coast (Hull No 866). This facility was drawn down in full. The credit facility is repayable in 24 consecutive quarterly installments of $0.62 million commencing in June 2021, plus a balloon installment of $22.0 million payable together with the last installment. The facility contains various covenants, including (i) an asset cover ratio of 125%, (ii) a ratio of total net debt to the aggregate market value of our fleet, current or future, of no more than 75% (iii) minimum free liquidity of $0.5 million per delivered vessel owned/operated by us and (iv) our market adjusted total assets minus our total liabilities to be at least $60.0 million. Additionally, the facility contains restrictions on the shipowning company incurring further indebtedness or guarantees. It also restricts the shipowning company from paying dividends if such a payment will result in an event of default or in a breach of covenants under the loan agreement. The facility bears interest at LIBOR plus a margin of 2.50%.

 

B.         Business Overview

 

We are an international owner and operator of modern, fuel efficient eco tanker vessels focusing on the transportation of crude oil, petroleum products (clean and dirty) and bulk liquid chemicals. Our operating fleet has a total capacity of 672,396 deadweight tonnes (“dwt”). As of the date of this annual report, our operating fleet consists of four 50,000 dwt product/chemical tankers, M/T Nord Valiant, M/T Eco Marina Del Ray, M/T Eco Los Angeles and M/T Eco City of Angels and three 157,000 dwt Suezmax tankers, the M/T Eco Bel Air, M/T Eco Beverly Hills and M/T Eco West Coast and we also own 50% interest in two 50,000 dwt product tankers, M/T Eco Yosemite Park and M/T Joshua Park. All of our vessels are IMO certified and are capable of carrying a wide variety of oil products including chemical cargos which we believe make our vessels attractive to a wide base of charterers.

 

Additionally, we have, or have a partial interest in, contracts for the construction of four newbuilding vessels as described in the below table:

 

Name

 

Deadweight

 

Delivery date

Shipyard

M/T Eco Malibu

  157,286  

May 2021

HHI S. Korea

M/T Eco Oceano CA

  157,000  

February 2022

Hyundai Samho S. Korea

VLCC Julius Caesar*

  300,000  

January 2022

HHI S. Korea

VLCC Legio X Equestris*

  300,000  

January 2022

HHI S. Korea

* 35% owned

 

For more information, please see “Item 4. Information on the Company—A. History and Development of the Company—Recent Developments.”

 

We intend to continue to review the market in order to identify potential acquisition targets in line with our strategy.

 

We believe we have established a reputation in the international ocean transport industry for operating and maintaining vessels with high standards of performance, reliability and safety. We have assembled a management team comprised of executives who have extensive experience operating large and diversified fleets of tankers and who have strong ties to a number of national, regional and international oil companies, charterers and traders.

 

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Our Fleet

 

The following tables present our fleet list as of the date of this annual report:

 

Operating MR Tanker vessels on SLBs (treated as financings):

 

Name

Deadweight

Charterer

End of firm period

Charterers Optional Periods

Gross Rate fixed period/ options

M/T Nord Valiant

49,737

DS Norden A/S

August 2021

1+1 years

$16,800 / $17,600 / $18,400

M/T Eco Marina Del Ray

50,267

Cargill

March 2024

-

$15,100

M/T Eco Los Angeles

50,267

Trafigura

February 2023

1+1 years

$17,500 / $18,750 / $20,000

M/T Eco City of Angels

50,267

Trafigura

February 2023

1+1 years

$17,500 / $18,750 / $20,000

 

Operating Suezmax Vessels on SLBs (treated as operating leases):

 

Name

Deadweight

Charterer

End of firm period

Charterers Optional Periods

Gross Rate fixed period/ options

M/T Eco Bel Air

157,286

BP Shipping Limited

April 2022

1+1 years

$24,500 / $27,500 / $29,000

M/T Eco Beverly Hills

157,286

BP Shipping Limited

May 2022

1+1 years

$24,500 / $27,500 / $29,000

 

Operating Suezmax Vessels financed via senior loan facilities:

Name

Deadweight

Charterer

End of firm period

Charterers Optional Periods

Gross Rate fixed period/ options

M/T Eco West Coast

157,286

Clearlake

March 2024

1+1 years

$33,950 / $34,750 / $36,750

 

Vessels under construction

Name

Deadweight

Delivery date

Shipyard

Charterer

End of firm period

Charterers Optional Periods

Gross Rate fixed period/ options

M/T Eco Malibu

157,286

May 2021

HHI S. Korea

Clearlake

May 2024

1+1 years

$33,950 / $34,750 / $36,750

M/T Eco Oceano CA

157,000

February 2022

Hyundai Samho S. Korea

Central Tankers Chartering Inc.

March 2027

1+1 years

$32,450 / $33,950 / $35,450

VLCC Julius Caesar*

300,000

January 2022

HHI S. Korea

Trafigura

January 2025

1+1 years

$36,000 / $39,000 / $41,500

VLCC Legio X Equestris*

300,000

January 2022

HHI S. Korea

Trafigura

January 2025

1+1 years

$35,750 / $39,000 / $41,500

* 35% owned

 

Operating Joint Venture MR Tanker fleet (50% owned):

 

Name

Deadweight

Charterer

End of firm period

Charterers Optional Periods

Gross Rate fixed period/ options

M/T Eco Yosemite Park

50,000

Clearlake

March 2025

5+1+1 years

$17,400 / $18,650 / $19,900

M/T Eco Joshua Park

50,000

Clearlake

March 2025

5+1+1 years

$17,400 / $18,650 / $19,900

 

All the vessels in our fleet are equipped with engines of modern design and with improvements in the hull, propellers and other parts of the vessel to decrease fuel consumption and reduce emissions. Vessels with this combination of technologies, introduced from certain shipyards, are commonly referred to as eco vessels. We believe that recent advances in shipbuilding design and technology should make these latest generation vessels more fuel-efficient than older vessels in the global fleet that compete with our vessels for charters, providing us with a competitive advantage.  Furthermore, all of our vessels are fitted with ballast water treatment equipment and all of our vessels, except M/T Nord Valiant, have scrubbers installed.

 

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Management of our Fleet

 

Our Fleet Manager provides all operational, technical and commercial management services for our fleet. Please see “Item 18. Financial Statements—Note 5—Transactions with Related Parties”.

 

Officers, Crewing and Employees

 

As of the date of this annual report we employ directly only one shore-based employee. Our executive officers and a number of administrative employees are provided according to an agreement with Central Mare. Please see “Item 18. Financial Statements—Note 5—Transactions with Related Parties”. In addition, our Fleet Manager is responsible for recruiting, mainly through a crewing agent, the senior officers and all other crew members for our vessels. We believe the streamlining of crewing arrangements will ensure that all our vessels will be crewed with experienced seamen that have the qualifications and licenses required by international regulations and shipping conventions.

 

The International Shipping Industry

 

The seaborne transportation industry is a vital link in international trade, with ocean going vessels representing the most efficient and often the only method of transporting large volumes of basic commodities and finished products. Demand for tankers is dictated by world oil demand and trade, which is influenced by many factors, including international economic activity; geographic changes in oil production, processing, and consumption; oil price levels; inventory policies of the major oil and oil trading companies; and strategic inventory policies of countries such as the United States, China and India.

 

Shipping demand, measured in tonne-miles, is a product of (a) the amount of cargo transported in ocean going vessels, multiplied by (b) the distance over which this cargo is transported. The distance is the more variable element of the tonne-mile demand equation and is determined by seaborne trading patterns, which are principally influenced by the locations of production and consumption. Seaborne trading patterns are also periodically influenced by geo-political events that divert vessels from normal trading patterns, as well as by inter-regional trading activity created by commodity supply and demand imbalances. Tonnage of oil shipped is primarily a function of global oil consumption, which is driven by economic activity as well as the long-term impact of oil prices on the location and related volume of oil production. Tonnage of oil shipped is also influenced by transportation alternatives (such as pipelines) and the output of refineries.

 

Demand for tankers and tonnage of oil shipped is primarily a function of global oil consumption, which is driven by economic activity, as well as the long-term impact of oil prices on the location and related volume of oil production. Global oil demand returned to limited growth in 2010 and has since been expanding at a modest pace, as a steady rise in Asia has outweighed decreasing demand in Europe and in the United States, with a notable exception for 2020 in which year the COVID 19 epidemic dramatically reduced oil demand. According to the International Energy Agency, global oil demand for 2020 has decreased to approximately 91 million barrels/day compared to approximately 100 million barrels/day during 2019.

 

We strategically monitor developments in the tanker industry on a regular basis and, subject to market demand, will seek to enter into shorter or longer time or bareboat charters according to prevailing market conditions.

 

We will compete for charters on the basis of price, vessel location, size, age and condition of the vessel, as well as on our reputation as an operator. We will arrange our time charters and bareboat charters through the use of brokers, who negotiate the terms of the charters based on market conditions. We will compete primarily with owners of tankers in the MR Product Tanker, Suezmax and VLCC class sizes. Ownership of tankers is highly fragmented and is divided among major oil companies and independent vessel owners.

 

Seasonality

 

We operate our tankers in markets that have historically exhibited seasonal variations in demand and, therefore, charter rates. This seasonality may affect operating results. However, to the extent that our vessels are chartered at fixed rates on a long-term basis, seasonal factors will not have a significant direct effect on our business.

 

Risk of Loss and Liability Insurance

 

General

 

The operation of any cargo vessel includes risks such as mechanical failure, physical damage, collision, property loss, cargo loss or damage and business interruption due to political circumstances in foreign countries, piracy incidents, hostilities and labor strikes. In addition, there is always an inherent possibility of marine disaster, including oil spills and other environmental mishaps, and the liabilities arising from owning and operating vessels in international trade. OPA, which imposes virtually unlimited liability upon shipowners, operators and bareboat charterers of any vessel trading in the exclusive economic zone of the United States for certain oil pollution accidents in the United States, has made liability insurance more expensive for shipowners and operators trading in the United States market. We carry insurance coverage as customary in the shipping industry. However, not all risks can be insured, specific claims may be rejected, and we might not be always able to obtain adequate insurance coverage at reasonable rates.

 

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Hull and Machinery Insurance

 

We procure hull and machinery insurance, protection and indemnity insurance, which includes environmental damage and pollution insurance and war risk insurance and freight, demurrage and defense insurance for our fleet. We generally do not maintain insurance against loss of hire (except for certain charters for which we consider it appropriate), which covers business interruptions that result in the loss of use of a vessel.

 

Protection and Indemnity Insurance

 

Protection and indemnity insurance is provided by mutual protection and indemnity associations, or “P&I Associations,” and covers our third-party liabilities in connection with our shipping activities. This includes third-party liability and other related expenses of injury or death of crew, passengers and other third parties, loss or damage to cargo, claims arising from collisions with other vessels, damage to other third-party property, pollution arising from oil or other substances and salvage, towing and other related costs, including wreck removal. Protection and indemnity insurance is a form of mutual indemnity insurance, extended by protection and indemnity mutual associations, or “clubs.”

 

Our current protection and indemnity insurance coverage for pollution is $1 billion per vessel per incident. The 13 P&I Associations that comprise the International Group insure approximately 90% of the world’s commercial tonnage and have entered into a pooling agreement to reinsure each association’s liabilities. The International Group’s website states that the Pool provides a mechanism for sharing all claims in excess of US $10 million up to, currently, approximately US$8.2 billion. As a member of a P&I Association, which is a member of the International Group, we are subject to calls payable to the associations based on our claim records as well as the claim records of all other members of the individual associations and members of the shipping pool of P&I Associations comprising the International Group.

 

Environmental and Other Regulations in the Shipping Industry

 

Government regulation and laws significantly affect the ownership and operation of our fleet. We are subject to international conventions and treaties, national, state and local laws and regulations in force in the countries in which our vessels may operate or are registered relating to safety and health and environmental protection including the storage, handling, emission, transportation and discharge of hazardous and non-hazardous materials, and the remediation of contamination and liability for damage to natural resources. Compliance with such laws, regulations and other requirements entails significant expense, including vessel modifications and implementation of certain operating procedures.

 

A variety of government and private entities subject our vessels to both scheduled and unscheduled inspections. These entities include the local port authorities (applicable national authorities such as the United States Coast Guard (“USCG”), harbor master or equivalent), classification societies, flag state administrations (countries of registry) and charterers, particularly terminal operators. Certain of these entities require us to obtain permits, licenses, certificates and other authorizations for the operation of our vessels. Failure to maintain necessary permits or approvals could require us to incur substantial costs or result in the temporary suspension of the operation of one or more of our vessels.

 

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Increasing environmental concerns have created a demand for vessels that conform to stricter environmental standards. We are required to maintain operating standards for all of our vessels that emphasize operational safety, quality maintenance, continuous training of our officers and crews and compliance with United States and international regulations. We believe that the operation of our vessels is in substantial compliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations and that our vessels have all material permits, licenses, certificates or other authorizations necessary for the conduct of our operations. However, because such laws and regulations frequently change and may impose increasingly stricter requirements, we cannot predict the ultimate cost of complying with these requirements, or the impact of these requirements on the resale value or useful lives of our vessels. In addition, a future serious marine incident that causes significant adverse environmental impact could result in additional legislation or regulation that could negatively affect our profitability.

 

International Maritime Organization

 

The International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency for maritime safety and the prevention of pollution by vessels (the “IMO”), has adopted the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto, collectively referred to as MARPOL 73/78 and herein as “MARPOL,” the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea of 1974 (“SOLAS Convention”), and the International Convention on Load Lines of 1966 (the “LL Convention”). MARPOL establishes environmental standards relating to oil leakage or spilling, garbage management, sewage, air emissions, handling and disposal of noxious liquids and the handling of harmful substances in packaged forms. MARPOL is applicable to drybulk, tanker and LNG carriers, among other vessels, and is divided into six Annexes, each of which regulates a different source of pollution. Annex I relates to oil leakage or spilling; Annexes II and III relate to harmful substances carried in bulk, in liquid or in packaged form, respectively; Annexes IV and V relate to sewage and garbage management, respectively; and Annex VI, lastly, relates to air emissions. Annex VI was separately adopted by the IMO in September of 1997; new emissions standards, titled IMO-2020, took effect on January 1, 2020.

 

In 2012, the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee, or the “MEPC,” adopted a resolution amending the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk, or the “IBC Code.” The provisions of the IBC Code are mandatory under MARPOL and the SOLAS Convention. These amendments, which entered into force in June 2014, pertain to revised international certificates of fitness for the carriage of dangerous chemicals in bulk and identifying new products that fall under the IBC Code. Compliance with the IBC Code amendments has already been effected.

 

In 2013, the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee, or the “MEPC,” adopted a resolution amending MARPOL Annex I Condition Assessment Scheme, or “CAS.” These amendments became effective on October 1, 2014, and require compliance with the 2011 International Code on the Enhanced Programme of Inspections during Surveys of Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers, or “ESP Code,” which provides for enhanced inspection programs. All of our vessels comply with ESH Code requirements.

 

Air Emissions

 

In September of 1997, the IMO adopted Annex VI to MARPOL to address air pollution from vessels. Effective May 2005, Annex VI sets limits on sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from all commercial vessel exhausts and prohibits “deliberate emissions” of ozone depleting substances (such as halons and chlorofluorocarbons), emissions of volatile compounds from cargo tanks and the shipboard incineration of specific substances. Annex VI also includes a global cap on the sulfur content of fuel oil and allows for special areas to be established with more stringent controls on sulfur emissions, as explained below. Emissions of “volatile organic compounds” from certain vessels, and the shipboard incineration (from incinerators installed after January 1, 2000) of certain substances (such as polychlorinated biphenyls, or “PCBs”) are also prohibited. All our vessels are currently compliant in all material respects with these regulations.

 

The Marine Environment Protection Committee, or “MEPC,” adopted amendments to Annex VI regarding emissions of sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and ozone depleting substances, which entered into force on July 1, 2010. The amended Annex VI seeks to further reduce air pollution by, among other things, implementing a progressive reduction of the amount of sulfur contained in any fuel oil used on board ships. On October 27, 2016, at its 70th session, the MEPC agreed to implement a global 0.5% m/m sulfur oxide emissions limit (reduced from 3.50%) starting from January 1, 2020. This limitation can be met by using low-sulfur compliant fuel oil, alternative fuels or certain exhaust gas cleaning systems. Since the implementation of the cap, ships are required to obtain bunker delivery notes and International Air Pollution Prevention (“IAPP”) Certificates from their flag states that specify sulfur content. Additionally, at MEPC 73, amendments to Annex VI to prohibit the carriage of bunkers above 0.5% sulfur on ships were adopted and entered into force on March 1, 2020. In November 2020, MEPC 75 adopted amendments to Annex VI which, among other things, added new paragraphs related to in-use and onboard fuel oil sampling and testing. These paragraphs would require one or more sampling points to be fitted or designated for the purpose of taking representative samples of the fuel oil being used or carried for use on board the ship. These amendments are expected to enter into force on April 1, 2022. These regulations subject ocean-going vessels to stringent emissions controls, and may cause us to incur substantial costs.

 

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Sulfur content standards are even stricter within certain “Emission Control Areas,” or (“ECAs”). As of January 1, 2015, ships operating within an ECA were not permitted to use fuel with sulfur content in excess of 0.1% m/m. Amended Annex VI establishes procedures for designating new ECAs. Currently, the IMO has designated four ECAs, including specified portions of the Baltic Sea area, North Sea area, North American area and United States Caribbean area. Ocean-going vessels in these areas will be subject to stringent emission controls and may cause us to incur additional costs. Other areas in China are subject to local regulations that impose stricter emission controls. If other ECAs are approved by the IMO, or other new or more stringent requirements relating to emissions from marine diesel engines or port operations by vessels are adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) or the states where we operate, compliance with these regulations could entail significant capital expenditures or otherwise increase the costs of our operations.

 

Amended Annex VI also establishes new tiers of stringent nitrogen oxide emissions standards for marine diesel engines, depending on their date of installation. At the MEPC meeting held from March to April 2014, amendments to Annex VI were adopted which address the date on which Tier III Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) standards in ECAs will go into effect. Under the amendments, Tier III NOx standards apply to ships that operate in the North American and U.S. Caribbean Sea ECAs designed for the control of NOx produced by vessels with a marine diesel engine installed and constructed on or after January 1, 2016. Tier III requirements could apply to areas that will be designated for Tier III NOx in the future. At MEPC 70 and MEPC 71, the MEPC approved the North Sea and Baltic Sea as ECAs for nitrogen oxide for ships built on or after January 1, 2021. The EPA promulgated equivalent (and in some senses stricter) emissions standards in 2010. As a result of these designations or similar future designations, we may be required to incur additional operating or other costs.

 

As determined at the MEPC 70, the new Regulation 22A of MARPOL Annex VI became effective as of March 1, 2018 and requires ships above 5,000 gross tonnage to collect and report annual data on fuel oil consumption to an IMO database, with the first year of data collection having commenced on January 1, 2019. The IMO intends to use such data as the first step in its roadmap (through 2023) for developing its strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships, as discussed further below.

 

As of January 1, 2013, MARPOL made mandatory certain measures relating to energy efficiency for ships. All ships are now required to develop and implement Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans (“SEEMPS”), and new ships must be designed in compliance with minimum energy efficiency levels per capacity mile as defined by the Energy Efficiency Design Index (“EEDI”). Under these measures, by 2025, all new ships built will be 30% more energy efficient than those built in 2014. Notably, MEPC 75 adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex VI which brings forward the effective date of the EEDI’s “phase 3” requirements from January 1, 2025 to April 1, 2022 for several ship types, including gas carriers, general cargo ships, and LNG carriers.

 

Additionally, MEPC 75 introduced draft amendments to Annex VI which impose new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships. These amendments introduce requirements to assess and measure the energy efficiency of all ships and set the required attainment values, with the goal of reducing the carbon intensity of international shipping. The requirements include (1) a technical requirement to reduce carbon intensity based on a new Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (“EEXI”), and (2) operational carbon intensity reduction requirements, based on a new operational carbon intensity indicator (“CII”). The attained EEXI is required to be calculated for ships of 400 gross tonnage and above, in accordance with different values set for ship types and categories. With respect to the CII, the draft amendments would require ships of 5,000 gross tonnage to document and verify their actual annual operational CII achieved against a determined required annual operational CII. Additionally, MEPC 75 proposed draft amendments requiring that, on or before January 1, 2023, all ships above 400 gross tonnage must have an approved SEEMP on board. For ships above 5,000 gross tonnage, the SEEMP would need to include certain mandatory content. MEPC 75 also approved draft amendments to MARPOL Annex I to prohibit the use and carriage for use as fuel of heavy fuel oil (“HFO”) by ships in Arctic waters on and after July 1, 2024. The draft amendments introduced at MEPC 75 may be adopted at the MEPC 76 session, to be held during 2021.

 

We may incur costs to comply with these revised standards. Additional or new conventions, laws and regulations may be adopted that could require the installation of expensive emission control systems and could adversely affect our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition.

 

Safety Management System Requirements

 

The SOLAS Convention was amended to address the safe manning of vessels and emergency training drills.  The Convention of Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (the “LLMC”) sets limitations of liability for a loss of life or personal injury claim or a property claim against ship owners. We believe that our vessels are in substantial compliance with SOLAS and LLMC standards.

 

Under Chapter IX of the SOLAS Convention, or the International Safety Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (the “ISM Code”), our operations are also subject to environmental standards and requirements. The ISM Code requires the party with operational control of a vessel to develop an extensive safety management system that includes, among other things, the adoption of a safety and environmental protection policy setting forth instructions and procedures for operating its vessels safely and describing procedures for responding to emergencies. We rely upon the safety management system that we and our technical management team have developed for compliance with the ISM Code. The failure of a vessel owner or bareboat charterer to comply with the ISM Code may subject such party to increased liability, may decrease available insurance coverage for the affected vessels and may result in a denial of access to, or detention in, certain ports.

 

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The ISM Code requires that vessel operators obtain a safety management certificate for each vessel they operate. This certificate evidences compliance by a vessel’s management with the ISM Code requirements for a safety management system. No vessel can obtain a safety management certificate unless its manager has been awarded a document of compliance, issued by each flag state, under the ISM Code. We have obtained applicable documents of compliance for our offices and safety management certificates for all of our vessels for which the certificates are required by the IMO. The document of compliance and safety management certificate are renewed as required.

 

Regulation II-1/3-10 of the SOLAS Convention governs ship construction and stipulates that ships over 150 meters in length must have adequate strength, integrity and stability to minimize risk of loss or pollution. Goal-based standards amendments in SOLAS regulation II-1/3-10 entered into force in 2012, with July 1, 2016 set for application to new oil tankers and bulk carriers. The SOLAS Convention regulation II-1/3-10 on goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers, which entered into force on January 1, 2012, requires that all oil tankers and bulk carriers of 150 meters in length and above, for which the building contract is placed on or after July 1, 2016, satisfy applicable structural requirements conforming to the functional requirements of the International Goal-based Ship Construction Standards for Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers (“GBS Standards”).

 

Amendments to the SOLAS Convention Chapter VII apply to vessels transporting dangerous goods and require those vessels be in compliance with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (“IMDG Code”). Effective January 1, 2018, the IMDG Code includes (1) updates to the provisions for radioactive material, reflecting the latest provisions from the International Atomic Energy Agency, (2) new marking, packing and classification requirements for dangerous goods and (3) new mandatory training requirements. Amendments which took effect on January 1, 2020 also reflect the latest material from the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, including (1) new provisions regarding IMO type 9 tank, (2) new abbreviations for segregation groups, and (3) special provisions for carriage of lithium batteries and of vehicles powered by flammable liquid or gas. IMDG Code is not applicable to our fleet vessels as of the date of this annual report.

 

The IMO has also adopted the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (“STCW”). As of February 2017, all seafarers are required to meet the STCW standards and be in possession of a valid STCW certificate. Flag states that have ratified SOLAS and STCW generally employ the classification societies, which have incorporated SOLAS and STCW requirements into their class rules, to undertake surveys to confirm compliance.

 

The IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee and MEPC, respectively, each adopted relevant parts of the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Water (the “Polar Code”). The Polar Code, which entered into force on January 1, 2017, covers design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue as well as environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in the waters surrounding the two poles. It also includes mandatory measures regarding safety and pollution prevention as well as recommendatory provisions. The Polar Code applies to new ships constructed after January 1, 2017, and after January 1, 2018, ships constructed before January 1, 2017 are required to meet the relevant requirements by the earlier of their first intermediate or renewal survey.

 

Furthermore, recent action by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee and United States agencies indicates that cybersecurity regulations for the maritime industry are likely to be further developed in the near future in an attempt to combat cybersecurity threats. For example, cyber-risk management systems must be incorporated by ship-owners and managers by 2021. This might cause companies to create additional procedures for monitoring cybersecurity, which could require additional expenses and/or capital expenditures. The impact of such regulations is hard to predict at this time.

 

Pollution Control and Liability Requirements

 

The IMO has negotiated international conventions that impose liability for pollution in international waters and the territorial waters of the signatories to such conventions. For example, the IMO adopted an International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (the “BWM Convention”) in 2004. The BWM Convention entered into force on September 8, 2017. The BWM Convention requires ships to manage their ballast water to remove, render harmless or avoid the uptake or discharge of new or invasive aquatic organisms and pathogens within ballast water and sediments. The BWM Convention’s implementing regulations call for a phased introduction of mandatory ballast water exchange requirements, to be replaced in time with mandatory concentration limits, and require all ships to carry a ballast water record book and an international ballast water management certificate. All of our vessels comply with BWM Convention.

 

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On December 4, 2013, the IMO Assembly passed a resolution revising the application dates of the BWM Convention so that the dates are triggered by the entry into force date and not the dates originally in the BWM Convention. This, in effect, makes all vessels delivered before the entry into force date “existing vessels” and allows for the installation of ballast water management systems on such vessels at the first International Oil Pollution Prevention (“IOPP”) renewal survey following entry into force of the convention. The MEPC adopted updated guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems (G8) at MEPC 70. At MEPC 71, the schedule regarding the BWM Convention’s implementation dates was also discussed and amendments were introduced to extend the date existing vessels are subject to certain ballast water standards. Those changes were adopted at MEPC 72. Ships over 400 gross tons generally must comply with a “D-1 standard,” requiring the exchange of ballast water only in open seas and away from coastal waters. The “D-2 standard” specifies the maximum amount of viable organisms allowed to be discharged, and compliance dates vary depending on the IOPP renewal dates. Depending on the date of the IOPP renewal survey, existing vessels must comply with the D-2 standard on or after September 8, 2019. For most ships, compliance with the D-2 standard will involve installing on-board systems to treat ballast water and eliminate unwanted organisms. Ballast water management systems, which include systems that make use of chemical, biocides, organisms or biological mechanisms, or which alter the chemical or physical characteristics of the ballast water, must be approved in accordance with IMO Guidelines (Regulation D-3). As of October 13, 2019, MEPC 72’s amendments to the BWM Convention took effect, making the Code for Approval of Ballast Water Management Systems, which governs assessment of ballast water management systems, mandatory rather than permissive, and formalized an implementation schedule for the D-2 standard. Under these amendments, all ships must meet the D-2 standard by September 8, 2024. All of our vessels comply with this standard. Additionally, in November 2020, MEPC 75 adopted amendments to the BWM Convention which would require a commissioning test of the ballast water management system for the initial survey or when performing an additional survey for retrofits. This analysis will not apply to ships that already have an installed BWM system certified under the BWM Convention. These amendments are expected to enter into force on June 1, 2022.

 

Once mid-ocean exchange ballast water treatment requirements become mandatory under the BWM Convention, the cost of compliance could increase for ocean carriers and may have a material effect on our operations. However, many countries already regulate the discharge of ballast water carried by vessels from country to country to prevent the introduction of invasive and harmful species via such discharges. The U.S., for example, requires vessels entering its waters from another country to conduct mid-ocean ballast exchange, or undertake some alternate measure, and to comply with certain reporting requirements. All of our vessels comply with BWM Convention.

 

The IMO adopted the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage of 1969, as amended by different Protocols in 1976, 1984 and 1992, and amended in 2000 (“the CLC”). Under the CLC and depending on whether the country in which the damage results is a party to the 1992 Protocol to the CLC, a vessel’s registered owner may be strictly liable for pollution damage caused in the territorial waters of a contracting state by discharge of persistent oil, subject to certain exceptions. The 1992 Protocol changed certain limits on liability expressed using the International Monetary Fund currency unit, the Special Drawing Rights. The limits on liability have since been amended so that the compensation limits on liability were raised. The right to limit liability is forfeited under the CLC where the spill is caused by the shipowner’s actual fault and under the 1992 Protocol where the spill is caused by the shipowner’s intentional or reckless act or omission where the shipowner knew pollution damage would probably result. The CLC requires ships over 2,000 tons covered by it to maintain insurance covering the liability of the owner in a sum equivalent to an owner’s liability for a single incident. We have protection and indemnity insurance for environmental incidents. P&I Clubs in the International Group issue the required Bunkers Convention “Blue Cards” to enable signatory states to issue certificates. All of our vessels are in possession of a CLC State issued certificate attesting that the required insurance coverage is in force.

 

The IMO also adopted the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (the “Bunker Convention”) to impose strict liability on ship owners (including the registered owner, bareboat charterer, manager or operator) for pollution damage in jurisdictional waters of ratifying states caused by discharges of bunker fuel. The Bunker Convention requires registered owners of ships over 1,000 gross tons to maintain insurance for pollution damage in an amount equal to the limits of liability under the applicable national or international limitation regime (but not exceeding the amount calculated in accordance with the LLMC). With respect to non-ratifying states, liability for spills or releases of oil carried as fuel in ship’s bunkers typically is determined by the national or other domestic laws in the jurisdiction where the events or damages occur.

 

Ships are required to maintain a certificate attesting that they maintain adequate insurance to cover an incident. In jurisdictions, such as the United States where the CLC or the Bunker Convention has not been adopted, various legislative schemes or common law govern, and liability is imposed either on the basis of fault or on a strict-liability basis. All of our vessels are in possession of CLC for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage issued Certificate attesting that the required insurance coverage is in force.

 

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AntiFouling Requirements

 

In 2001, the IMO adopted the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti‑fouling Systems on Ships, or the “Anti‑fouling Convention.” The Anti‑fouling Convention, which entered into force on September 17, 2008, prohibits the use of organotin compound coatings to prevent the attachment of mollusks and other sea life to the hulls of vessels. Vessels of over 400 gross tons engaged in international voyages will also be required to undergo an initial survey before the vessel is put into service or before an International Anti‑fouling System Certificate is issued for the first time; and subsequent surveys when the anti‑fouling systems are altered or replaced. We have obtained Anti‑fouling System Certificates for all of our vessels that are subject to the Anti‑fouling Convention. In November 2020, MEPC 75 approved draft amendments to the Anti-fouling Convention to prohibit anti-fouling systems containing cybutryne, which would apply to ships from January 1, 2023, or, for ships already bearing such an anti-fouling system, at the next scheduled renewal of the system after that date, but no later than 60 months following the last application to the ship of such a system. These amendments may be formally adopted at MEPC 76.

 

Compliance Enforcement

 

Noncompliance with the ISM Code or other IMO regulations may subject the ship owner or bareboat charterer to increased liability, may lead to decreases in available insurance coverage for affected vessels and may result in the denial of access to, or detention in, some ports. The USCG and European Union authorities have indicated that vessels not in compliance with the ISM Code by applicable deadlines will be prohibited from trading in U.S. and European Union ports, respectively. As of the date of this report, each of our vessels is ISM Code certified. However, there can be no assurance that such certificates will be maintained in the future. The IMO continues to review and introduce new regulations. It is impossible to predict what additional regulations, if any, may be passed by the IMO and what effect, if any, such regulations might have on our operations.

 

United States Regulations

 

The U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act

 

The U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”) established an extensive regulatory and liability regime for the protection and cleanup of the environment from oil spills. OPA affects all “owners and operators” whose vessels trade or operate within the U.S., its territories and possessions or whose vessels operate in U.S. waters, which includes the U.S.’s territorial sea and its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone around the U.S. The U.S. has also enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), which applies to the discharge of hazardous substances other than oil, except in limited circumstances, whether on land or at sea. OPA and CERCLA both define “owner and operator” in the case of a vessel as any person owning, operating or chartering by demise, the vessel. Both OPA and CERCLA impact our operations.

 

Under OPA, vessel owners and operators are “responsible parties” and are jointly, severally and strictly liable (unless the spill results solely from the act or omission of a third party, an act of God or an act of war) for all containment and clean-up costs and other damages arising from discharges or threatened discharges of oil from their vessels, including bunkers (fuel). OPA defines these other damages broadly to include:

 

(i)         injury to, destruction or loss of, or loss of use of, natural resources and related assessment costs;

 

(ii)         injury to, or economic losses resulting from, the destruction of real and personal property;

 

(iv)         loss of subsistence use of natural resources that are injured, destroyed or lost;

 

(iii)         net loss of taxes, royalties, rents, fees or net profit revenues resulting from injury, destruction or loss of real or personal property, or natural resources;

 

(v)          lost profits or impairment of earning capacity due to injury, destruction or loss of real or personal property or natural resources; and

 

(vi)         net cost of increased or additional public services necessitated by removal activities following a discharge of oil, such as protection from fire, safety or health hazards, and loss of subsistence use of natural resources.

 

OPA contains statutory caps on liability and damages; such caps do not apply to direct cleanup costs. Effective November 12, 2019, the USCG adjusted the limits of OPA liability for a tank vessel, other than a single-hull tank vessel, over 3,000 gross tons liability to the greater of $2,300 per gross ton or $19,943,400 (subject to periodic adjustment for inflation).  These limits of liability do not apply if an incident was proximately caused by the violation of an applicable U.S. federal safety, construction or operating regulation by a responsible party (or its agent, employee or a person acting pursuant to a contractual relationship) or a responsible party’s gross negligence or willful misconduct. The limitation on liability similarly does not apply if the responsible party fails or refuses to (i) report the incident as required by law where the responsible party knows or has reason to know of the incident; (ii) reasonably cooperate and assist as requested in connection with oil removal activities; or (iii) without sufficient cause, comply with an order issued under the Federal Water Pollution Act (Section 311 (c), (e)) or the Intervention on the High Seas Act.

 

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CERCLA contains a similar liability regime whereby owners and operators of vessels are liable for cleanup, removal and remedial costs, as well as damages for injury to, or destruction or loss of, natural resources, including the reasonable costs associated with assessing the same, and health assessments or health effects studies. There is no liability if the discharge of a hazardous substance results solely from the act or omission of a third party, an act of God or an act of war. Liability under CERCLA is limited to the greater of $300 per gross ton or $5.0 million for vessels carrying a hazardous substance as cargo and the greater of $300 per gross ton or $500,000 for any other vessel. These limits do not apply (rendering the responsible person liable for the total cost of response and damages) if the release or threat of release of a hazardous substance resulted from willful misconduct or negligence, or the primary cause of the release was a violation of applicable safety, construction or operating standards or regulations. The limitation on liability also does not apply if the responsible person fails or refused to provide all reasonable cooperation and assistance as requested in connection with response activities where the vessel is subject to OPA.

 

OPA and CERCLA each preserve the right to recover damages under existing law, including maritime tort law. OPA and CERCLA both require owners and operators of vessels to establish and maintain with the USCG evidence of financial responsibility sufficient to meet the maximum amount of liability to which the particular responsible person may be subject. Vessel owners and operators may satisfy their financial responsibility obligations by providing a proof of insurance, a surety bond, qualification as a self-insurer or a guarantee. We comply and plan to comply going forward with the USCG’s financial responsibility regulations by providing applicable certificates of financial responsibility.

 

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in additional regulatory initiatives or statutes, including higher liability caps under OPA, new regulations regarding offshore oil and gas drilling and a pilot inspection program for offshore facilities. However, several of these initiatives and regulations have been or may be revised. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (“BSEE”) revised Production Safety Systems Rule (“PSSR”), effective December 27, 2018, modified and relaxed certain environmental and safety protections under the 2016 PSSR. Additionally, the BSEE amended the Well Control Rule, effective July 15, 2019, which rolled back certain reforms regarding the safety of drilling operations, and the former U.S. President Trump had proposed leasing new sections of U.S. waters to oil and gas companies for offshore drilling. Recently, current U.S. President Biden signed an executive order temporarily blocking new leases for oil and gas drilling in federal waters. The effects of these changes and proposals are currently unknown. Compliance with any new requirements of OPA and future legislation or regulations applicable to the operation of our vessels could impact the cost of our operations and adversely affect our business.

 

OPA specifically permits individual states to impose their own liability regimes with regard to oil pollution incidents occurring within their boundaries, provided they accept, at a minimum, the levels of liability established under OPA and some states have enacted legislation providing for unlimited liability for oil spills. Many U.S. states that border a navigable waterway have enacted environmental pollution laws that impose strict liability on a person for removal costs and damages resulting from a discharge of oil or a release of a hazardous substance. These laws may be more stringent than U.S. federal law. Moreover, some states have enacted legislation providing for unlimited liability for discharge of pollutants within their waters, although in some cases, states which have enacted this type of legislation have not yet issued implementing regulations defining vessel owners’ responsibilities under these laws. We comply with all applicable state regulations in the ports where our vessels call.

 

We currently maintain pollution liability coverage insurance in the amount of $1 billion per incident for each of our vessels. If the damages from a catastrophic spill were to exceed our insurance coverage, it could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operation.

 

Other United States Environmental Initiatives

 

The U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970 (including its amendments of 1977 and 1990) (“CAA”) requires the EPA to promulgate standards applicable to emissions of volatile organic compounds and other air contaminants. Our vessels are subject to vapor control and recovery requirements for certain cargoes when loading, unloading, ballasting, cleaning and conducting other operations in regulated port areas. The CAA also requires states to draft State Implementation Plans, or “SIPs,” designed to attain national health-based air quality standards in each state. Although state-specific, SIPs may include regulations concerning emissions resulting from vessel loading and unloading operations by requiring the installation of vapor control equipment. Our vessels operating in such regulated port areas with restricted cargoes are equipped with vapor recovery systems that satisfy these existing requirements.

 

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The U.S. Clean Water Act (“CWA”) prohibits the discharge of oil, hazardous substances and ballast water in U.S. navigable waters unless authorized by a duly-issued permit or exemption, and imposes strict liability in the form of penalties for any unauthorized discharges. The CWA also imposes substantial liability for the costs of removal, remediation and damages and complements the remedies available under OPA and CERCLA. In 2015, the EPA expanded the definition of “waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”), thereby expanding federal authority under the CWA. Following litigation on the revised WOTUS rule, in December 2018, the EPA and Department of the Army proposed a revised, limited definition of “waters of the United States.” The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on February 14, 2019 and was subject to public comment. On October 22, 2019, the agencies published a final rule repealing the 2015 Rule defining “waters of the United States” and recodified the regulatory text that existed prior to 2015 Rule. The final rule became effective on December 23, 2019. On January 23, 2020, the EPA published the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” which replaces the rule published on October 22, 2019, and redefines “waters of the United States.” This rule became effective on June 22, 2020, although the effective date has been stayed in at least one U.S. state pursuant to court order. The effect of this rule is currently unknown.

 

The EPA and the USCG have also enacted rules relating to ballast water discharge, compliance with which requires the installation of equipment on our vessels to treat ballast water before it is discharged or the implementation of other port facility disposal arrangements or procedures at potentially substantial costs, and/or otherwise restrict our vessels from entering U.S. Waters.  The EPA will regulate these ballast water discharges and other discharges incidental to the normal operation of certain vessels within United States waters pursuant to the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (“VIDA”), which was signed into law on December 4, 2018 and replaces the 2013 Vessel General Permit (“VGP”) program (which authorizes discharges incidental to operations of commercial vessels and contains numeric ballast water discharge limits for most vessels to reduce the risk of invasive species in U.S. waters, stringent requirements for exhaust gas scrubbers, and requirements for the use of environmentally acceptable lubricants) and current Coast Guard ballast water management regulations adopted under the U.S. National Invasive Species Act (“NISA”), such as mid-ocean ballast exchange programs and installation of approved USCG technology for all vessels equipped with ballast water tanks bound for U.S. ports or entering U.S. waters.  VIDA establishes a new framework for the regulation of vessel incidental discharges under Clean Water Act (CWA), requires the EPA to develop performance standards for those discharges within two years of enactment, and requires the U.S. Coast Guard to develop implementation, compliance and enforcement regulations within two years of EPA’s promulgation of standards.  Under VIDA, all provisions of the 2013 VGP and USCG regulations regarding ballast water treatment remain in force and effect until the EPA and U.S. Coast Guard regulations are finalized.  Non-military, non-recreational vessels greater than 79 feet in length must continue to comply with the requirements of the VGP, including submission of a Notice of Intent (“NOI”) or retention of a PARI form and submission of annual reports. We have submitted NOIs for all our vessels where required. Compliance with the EPA, U.S. Coast Guard and state regulations could require the implementation of other port facility disposal procedures at potentially substantial cost, or may otherwise restrict our vessels from entering U.S. waters. We believe we would be in compliance with any such regulations as our vessels are fitted with ballast water treatment equipment.

 

European Union Regulations

 

In October 2009, the European Union amended a directive to impose criminal sanctions for illicit ship-source discharges of polluting substances, including minor discharges, if committed with intent, recklessly or with serious negligence and the discharges individually or in the aggregate result in deterioration of the quality of water. Aiding and abetting the discharge of a polluting substance may also lead to criminal penalties. The directive applies to all types of vessels, irrespective of their flag, but certain exceptions apply to warships or where human safety or that of the ship is in danger. Criminal liability for pollution may result in substantial penalties or fines and increased civil liability claims. Regulation (EU) 2015/757 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2015 (amending EU Directive 2009/16/EC) governs the monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport, and, subject to some exclusions, requires companies with ships over 5,000 gross tonnage to monitor and report carbon dioxide emissions annually, which may cause us to incur additional expenses.

 

The European Union has adopted several regulations and directives requiring, among other things, more frequent inspections of high-risk ships, as determined by type, age and flag as well as the number of times the ship has been detained. The European Union also adopted and extended a ban on substandard ships and enacted a minimum ban period and a definitive ban for repeated offenses. The regulation also provided the European Union with greater authority and control over classification societies, by imposing more requirements on classification societies and providing for fines or penalty payments for organizations that failed to comply. Furthermore, the EU has implemented regulations requiring vessels to use reduced sulfur content fuel for their main and auxiliary engines. The EU Directive 2005/33/EC (amending Directive 1999/32/EC) introduced requirements parallel to those in Annex VI relating to the sulfur content of marine fuels. In addition, the EU imposed a 0.1% maximum sulfur requirement for fuel used by ships at berth in the Baltic, the North Sea and the English Channel (the so called “SOx-Emission Control Area”). As of January 2020, EU member states must also have to ensure that ships in all EU waters, except the SOx-Emission Control Area, use fuels with a 0.5% maximum sulfur content.

 

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On September 15, 2020, the European Parliament voted to include greenhouse gas emissions from the maritime sector in the European Union’s carbon market from 2022. This will require shipowners to buy permits to cover these emissions. Contingent on another formal approval vote, specific regulations are forthcoming and are expected to be prosed by 2021.

 

International Labour Organization

 

The International Labor Organization (the “ILO”) is a specialized agency of the UN that has adopted the Maritime Labor Convention 2006 (“MLC 2006”). A Maritime Labor Certificate and a Declaration of Maritime Labor Compliance is required to ensure compliance with the MLC 2006 for all ships that are 500 gross tonnage or over and are either engaged in international voyages or flying the flag of a Member and operating from a port, or between ports, in another country. We believe that our vessels are in substantial compliance with and are certified to meet MLC 2006.

 

Greenhouse Gas Regulation

 

Currently, the emissions of greenhouse gases from international shipping are not subject to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which entered into force in 2005 and pursuant to which adopting countries have been required to implement national programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with targets extended through 2020. International negotiations are continuing with respect to a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, and restrictions on shipping emissions may be included in any new treaty. In December 2009, more than 27 nations, including the U.S. and China, signed the Copenhagen Accord, which includes a non-binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris resulted in the Paris Agreement, which entered into force on November 4, 2016 and does not directly limit greenhouse gas emissions from ships. The U.S. initially entered into the agreement, but on June 1, 2017, former U.S. President Trump announced that the United States intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and the withdrawal became effective on November 4, 2020. On January 20, 2021, U.S. President Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris Agreement which took effect on February 19, 2021.

 

At MEPC 70 and MEPC 71, a draft outline of the structure of the initial strategy for developing a comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships was approved. In accordance with this roadmap, in April 2018, nations at the MEPC 72 adopted an initial strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships. The initial strategy identifies “levels of ambition” to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including (1) decreasing the carbon intensity from ships through implementation of further phases of the EEDI for new ships; (2) reducing carbon dioxide emissions per transport work, as an average across international shipping, by at least 40% by 2030, pursuing efforts towards 70% by 2050, compared to 2008 emission levels; and (3) reducing the total annual greenhouse emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 while pursuing efforts towards phasing them out entirely. The initial strategy notes that technological innovation, alternative fuels and/or energy sources for international shipping will be integral to achieve the overall ambition. These regulations could cause us to incur additional substantial expenses.

 

The EU made a unilateral commitment to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from its member states from 20% of 1990 levels by 2020. The EU also committed to reduce its emissions by 20% under the Kyoto Protocol’s second period from 2013 to 2020. Starting in January 2018, large ships over 5,000 gross tonnage calling at EU ports are required to collect and publish data on carbon dioxide emissions and other information. As previously discussed, regulations relating to the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions from the maritime sector in the European Union’s carbon market are also forthcoming.

 

In the United States, the EPA issued a finding that greenhouse gases endanger the public health and safety, adopted regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from certain mobile sources and proposed regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from large stationary sources. However, in March 2017, former U.S. President Trump signed an executive order to review and possibly eliminate the EPA’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and in August 2019, the Administration announced plans to weaken regulations for methane emissions and on August 13, 2020, the EPA released rules rolling back standards to control methane and volatile organic compound emissions from new oil and gas facilities. However, U.S. President Biden recently directed the EPA to publish a proposed rule suspending, revising, or rescinding certain of these rules. The EPA or individual U.S. states could enact environmental regulations that would affect our operations.

 

Any passage of climate control legislation or other regulatory initiatives by the IMO, the EU, the U.S. or other countries where we operate, or any treaty adopted at the international level to succeed the Kyoto Protocol or Paris Agreement, that restricts emissions of greenhouse gases could require us to make significant financial expenditures which we cannot predict with certainty at this time. Even in the absence of climate control legislation, our business may be indirectly affected to the extent that climate change may result in sea level changes or certain weather events.

 

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Vessel Security Regulations

 

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States, there have been a variety of initiatives intended to enhance vessel security such as the U.S. Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (“MTSA”). To implement certain portions of the MTSA, the USCG issued regulations requiring the implementation of certain security requirements aboard vessels operating in waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and at certain ports and facilities, some of which are regulated by the EPA.

 

Similarly, Chapter XI-2 of the SOLAS Convention imposes detailed security obligations on vessels and port authorities and mandates compliance with the International Ship and Port Facilities Security Code (“the ISPS Code”). The ISPS Code is designed to enhance the security of ports and ships against terrorism. To trade internationally, a vessel must attain an International Ship Security Certificate (“ISSC”) from a recognized security organization approved by the vessel’s flag state. Ships operating without a valid certificate may be detained, expelled from or refused entry at port until they obtain an ISSC. The various requirements, some of which are found in the SOLAS Convention, include, for example, on-board installation of automatic identification systems to provide a means for the automatic transmission of safety-related information from among similarly equipped ships and shore stations, including information on a ship’s identity, position, course, speed and navigational status; on-board installation of ship security alert systems, which do not sound on the vessel but only alert the authorities on shore and our Fleet Manager; the development of vessel security plans; ship identification number to be permanently marked on a vessel’s hull; a continuous synopsis record kept onboard showing a vessel’s history including the name of the ship, the state whose flag the ship is entitled to fly, the date on which the ship was registered with that state, the ship’s identification number, the port at which the ship is registered and the name of the registered owner(s) and their registered address; and compliance with flag state security certification requirements.

 

The USCG regulations, intended to align with international maritime security standards, exempt non-U.S. vessels from MTSA vessel security measures, provided such vessels have on board a valid ISSC that attests to the vessel’s compliance with the SOLAS Convention security requirements and the ISPS Code. Future security measures could have a significant financial impact on us. All of our vessels comply with the various security measures addressed by MTSA, the SOLAS Convention and the ISPS Code.

 

The cost of vessel security measures has also been affected by the escalation in the frequency of acts of piracy against ships, notably off the coast of Somalia, including the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea area. Substantial loss of revenue and other costs may be incurred as a result of detention of a vessel or additional security measures, and the risk of uninsured losses could significantly affect our business. Costs are incurred in taking additional security measures in accordance with Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy, notably those contained in the BMP4 industry standard.

 

Inspection by Classification Societies

 

The hull and machinery of every commercial vessel must be classed by a classification society authorized by its country of registry. The classification society certifies that a vessel is safe and seaworthy in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations of the country of registry of the vessel and SOLAS. Most insurance underwriters make it a condition for insurance coverage and lending that a vessel be certified “in class” by a classification society which is a member of the International Association of Classification Societies, the IACS. The IACS has adopted harmonized Common Structural Rules, or “the Rules,” which apply to oil tankers and bulk carriers contracted for construction on or after July 1, 2015. The Rules attempt to create a level of consistency between IACS Societies. All of our vessels are certified as being “in class” by all the applicable Classification Societies (e.g., DNV GL, American Bureau of Shipping, Lloyd’s Register of Shipping).

 

A vessel must undergo annual surveys, intermediate surveys, drydockings and special surveys. In lieu of a special survey, a vessel’s machinery may be on a continuous survey cycle, under which the machinery would be surveyed periodically over a five-year period. Every vessel is also required to be drydocked every 30 to 36 months for inspection of the underwater parts of the vessel. If any vessel does not maintain its class and/or fails any annual survey, intermediate survey, drydocking or special survey, the vessel will be unable to carry cargo between ports and will be unemployable and uninsurable which could cause us to be in violation of certain covenants in our loan agreements. Any such inability to carry cargo or be employed, or any such violation of covenants, could have a material adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations.

 

C.         Organizational Structure

 

We are a Marshall Islands corporation with principal executive offices located at 1 Vasilisis Sofias and Megalou Alexandrou Str, 15124 Maroussi, Greece. Our significant wholly-owned subsidiaries as of December 31, 2020 are listed in Exhibit 8.1 to this annual report on Form 20-F.

 

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D.         Property, Plants and Equipment

 

For a list of the vessels of our fleet, please see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Our Fleet” above and for a description of our major encumbrances on our fleet please see “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—B. Liquidity and Capital Resources—Debt Facilities”.

 

We do not own any real estate property.

 

ITEM 4A.         UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

 

None.

 

ITEM 5.         OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS

 

The following presentation of management’s discussion and analysis is intended to discuss our financial condition, changes in financial condition and results of operations, and should be read in conjunction with our historical consolidated financial statements and their notes included in this annual report.

 

For a discussion of our results for the year ended December 31, 2019 compared to the year ended December 31, 2018, please see "Item 5 – Operating and Financial Review and Prospects – A. Operating Results – Results of Operations for the Fiscal Years Ended December 31, 2018 and 2019" contained in our annual report on Form 20-F for the year ended December 31, 2019, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 10, 2020.

 

This discussion contains forward-looking statements that reflect our current views with respect to future events and financial performance. Our actual results may differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of certain factors, such as those set forth in “Item 3. Key Information—Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this report.

 

A.          Operating Results

 

Factors Affecting our Results of Operations

 

We believe that the important measures for analyzing trends in the results of our operations consist of the following:

 

 

Calendar days. We define calendar days as the total number of days the vessels were in our possession for the relevant period. Calendar days are an indicator of the size of our fleet during the relevant period and affect both the amount of revenues and expenses that we record during that period.

 

 

Available days. We define available days as the number of calendar days less the aggregate number of days that our vessels are off-hire due to scheduled repairs, or scheduled guarantee inspections in the case of newbuildings, vessel upgrades or special or intermediate surveys and the aggregate amount of time that we spend positioning our vessels. Companies in the shipping industry generally use available days to measure the number of days in a period during which vessels should be capable of generating revenues. Our definition of Available days may not be the same as reported by other companies in the shipping industry or other industries.

 

 

Operating days. We define operating days as the number of available days in a period less the aggregate number of days that our vessels are off-hire due to unforeseen technical circumstances. The shipping industry uses operating days to measure the aggregate number of days in a period that vessels actually generate revenues. Our definition of Operating days may not be the same as reported by other companies in the shipping industry or other industries.

 

 

Fleet utilization. We calculate fleet utilization by dividing the number of operating days during a period by the number of available days during that period. The shipping industry uses fleet utilization to measure a company’s efficiency in finding suitable employment for its vessels and minimizing the number of days that its vessels are off-hire for reasons other than scheduled repairs or scheduled guarantee inspections in the case of newbuildings, vessel upgrades, special or intermediate surveys and vessel positioning.

 

 

TCE Revenues / TCE Rates. We define TCE revenues as revenues minus voyage expenses. Voyage expenses primarily consist of port, canal and fuel costs that are unique to a particular voyage, which would otherwise be paid by a charterer under a time charter, as well as commissions. We believe that presenting revenues net of voyage expenses neutralizes the variability created by unique costs associated with particular voyages or the deployment of vessels on the spot market and facilitates comparisons between periods on a consistent basis. We calculate daily TCE rates by dividing TCE revenues by operating days for the relevant time period. TCE revenues include demurrage revenue, which represents fees charged to charterers associated with our spot market voyages when the charterer exceeds the agreed upon time required to load or discharge a cargo. Our definition of TCE may not be the same as reported by other companies in the shipping industry or other industries.

 

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In the shipping industry, economic decisions are based on vessels’ deployment upon anticipated TCE rates, and industry analysts typically measure shipping freight rates in terms of TCE rates. This is because under time-charter and bareboat contracts the customer usually pays the voyage expenses, while under voyage charters the ship-owner usually pays the voyage expenses, which typically are added to the hire rate at an approximate cost. Consistent with industry practice, we use TCE rates because it provides a means of comparison between different types of vessel employment and, therefore, assists our decision-making process.

 

In evaluating our financial condition, we focus on the below measures to assess our historical operating performance and we use future estimates of the same measures to assess our future financial performance. In assessing the future performance of our fleet, the greatest uncertainty relates to future charter rates at the expiration of a vessel’s present period employment, whether under a time charter or a bareboat charter. Decisions about future purchases and sales of vessels are based on the availability of excess internal funds, the availability of financing and the financial and operational evaluation of such actions and depend on the overall state of the shipping market and the availability of relevant purchase candidates.

 

Time Charter Revenues

 

Our Time charter revenues are driven primarily by the number of vessels in our fleet, the number of operating days during which our vessels generate revenues and the amount of daily charter hire that our vessels earn under charters, which, in turn, are affected by a number of factors, including our decisions relating to vessel acquisitions and disposals, the amount of time that we spend positioning our vessels, the amount of time that our vessels spend in dry-dock undergoing repairs, maintenance and upgrade work, the duration of the charter, the age, condition and specifications of our vessels, levels of supply and demand in the global transportation market for oil and oil products and other factors affecting spot market charter rates such as vessel supply and demand imbalances.

 

Vessels operating on period charters, time charters or bareboat charters provide more predictable cash flows, but can yield lower profit margins than vessels operating in the short-term, or spot, charter market during periods characterized by favorable market conditions. Vessels operating in the spot charter market, either directly or through a pool arrangement, could generate revenues that are less predictable, but could enable us to capture increased profit margins during periods of improvements in charter rates, although we could be exposed to the risk of declining charter rates, which could have a materially adverse impact on our financial performance. If we employ vessels on period charters, future spot market rates may be higher or lower than the rates at which we have employed our vessels on period time charters.

 

Under a time charter, the charterer typically pays us a fixed daily charter hire rate and bears all voyage expenses, including the cost of bunkers (fuel oil) and port and canal charges. We remain responsible for paying the chartered vessel’s operating expenses, including the cost of crewing, insuring, repairing and maintaining the vessel, the costs of spares and consumable stores, tonnage taxes and other miscellaneous expenses, and we also pay commissions to CSI, one or more unaffiliated ship brokers and to in-house brokers associated with the charterer for the arrangement of the relevant charter.

 

Under a bareboat charter, the vessel is chartered for a stipulated period of time, which gives the charterer possession and control of the vessel, including the right to appoint the master and the crew. Under bareboat charters, all voyage and operating costs are paid by the charterer.

 

As of the date of this annual report, we have four MR product/chemical tankers and three suezmax crude oil tankers. We may in the future operate vessels in the spot market until the vessels have been chartered under appropriate medium to long-term charters.

 

Voyage charters

 

In a voyage charter contract, the charterer hires the vessel to transport a specific agreed-upon cargo for a single voyage, which may contain multiple load ports and discharge ports. The consideration in such a contract is determined on the basis of a freight rate per metric ton of cargo carried or occasionally on a lump sum basis. The charter party generally has a minimum amount of cargo. The charterer is liable for any short loading of cargo or “dead” freight. The voyage contract generally has standard payment terms of 95% freight paid within three days after completion of loading. The voyage charter party generally has a “demurrage” or “despatch” clause. As per this clause, the charterer reimburses us for any potential delays exceeding the allowed laytime as per the charter party clause at the ports visited, which is recorded as demurrage revenue. Conversely, the charterer is given credit if the loading/discharging activities happen within the allowed laytime known as despatch resulting in a reduction in revenue. In a voyage charter contract, the performance obligations begin to be satisfied once the vessel begins loading the cargo. We have determined that our voyage charter contracts consist of a single performance obligation of transporting the cargo within a specified time period. Therefore, the performance obligation is met evenly as the voyage progresses and the revenue is recognized on a straight- line basis over the voyage days from the commencement of the loading of cargo to completion of discharge.

 

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We entered into a voyage charter from January 2019 to May 2019. There were no voyage charters in the year ended December 2020.

 

Voyage Expenses

 

Voyage expenses primarily consist of port charges, including canal dues, bunkers (fuel costs) and commissions. All these expenses, except commissions, are paid by the charterer under a time charter or bareboat charter contract. The amount of voyage expenses are primarily driven by the routes that the vessels travel, the amount of ports called on, the canals crossed and the price of bunker fuels paid.

 

Charter Hire Expenses/Operating Lease Expenses

 

Charter hire expenses represent operating lease payments for vessels we bareboat chartered-in via operating lease agreements. Pursuant to the implementation of the new lease accounting standard (ASC 842) effective from January 1, 2019, we are required to present all expenses relating to operating leases in one line item under “Operating lease expenses”. Hence for the year ended December 31, 2019 “Operating lease expenses” is equal to the aggregate of “Bareboat charterhire expenses” and “Amortization of prepaid bareboat charter hire”, that referred to the same operating leases, as those that were presented under the previous accounting standard (ASC 840) in the year ended December 31, 2018.

 

On January 29, 2015 and March 31, 2015, we entered into SLBs for the M/T Stenaweco Energy and the M/T Stenaweco Evolution, respectively, with a duration of seven years. These SLBs were accounted for as operating leases. On December 18 and 20, 2019 we exercised the purchase options and terminated the operating leases on M/T Stenaweco Energy and M/T Stenaweco Evolution respectively and at the same time we consummated SLB agreements for both vessels with Oriental Fleet International Company Limited (“OFI”) that we accounted for as financings.

 

On December 1 and December 10, 2020, we sold and leased back M/T Eco Beverly Hills and M/T Eco Bel Air respectively to a third non-affiliated party (the “Navigare Lease”). Each vessel was chartered back on a bareboat basis for five years. Since we do not have any option nor obligation to buy back the vessels we have accounted for the Navigare Lease as an operating lease.

 

Vessel Operating Expenses

 

Vessel operating expenses include crew wages and related costs, the cost of insurance, expenses relating to repairs and maintenance, the costs of spares and consumable stores, tonnage taxes and value added tax, or VAT, and other miscellaneous expenses. We analyze vessel operating expenses on a U.S. dollar per day basis. Additionally, vessel operating expenses can fluctuate due to factors beyond our control, such as unplanned repairs and maintenance attributable to damages or regulatory compliance and factors which may affect the shipping industry in general, such as developments relating to insurance premiums, or developments relating to the availability of crew.

 

Dry-docking Costs

 

Dry-docking costs relate to regularly scheduled intermediate survey or special survey dry-docking necessary to preserve the quality of our vessels as well as to comply with international shipping standards and environmental laws and regulations. Dry-docking costs can vary according to the age of the vessel, the location where the dry-dock takes place, shipyard availability, local availability of manpower and material, and the billing currency of the yard. Please see “Item 18. Financial Statements—Note 2—Significant Accounting Policies.” In the case of tankers, dry-docking costs may also be affected by new rules and regulations. For further information please see “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Environmental Regulations.”

 

Management FeesRelated Parties

 

As from January 1, 2019, we have outsourced to CSI a related party controlled by the family of Mr. Evangelos J. Pistiolis, all operational, technical and commercial functions relating to the chartering and operation of our vessels. We outsourced the above functions pursuant to a letter agreement between CSI and Top Ships Inc. and management agreements between CSI and our vessel-owning subsidiaries on the same date, and each new vessel that entered our fleet after that date entered into a management agreement with CSI. See “Item 18. Financial Statements—Note 5—Transactions with Related Parties”.

 

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General and Administrative Expenses

 

Our general and administrative expenses include executive compensation paid to Central Mare for the compensation of our executive officers and a number of administrative staff, office rent, legal and auditing costs, regulatory compliance costs, other miscellaneous office expenses, non-cash stock compensation, and corporate overhead. Central Mare provides the services of the individuals who serve in the position of Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technical Officer as well as a number of administrative employees. For further information please see “Item 18. Financial Statements—Note 5—Transactions with Related Parties.”

 

A portion of our general and administrative expenses are denominated in Euros and are therefore affected by the conversion rate of the U.S. dollar versus the Euro.

 

Interest and Finance Costs

 

We incur interest expense on outstanding indebtedness under our loans and SLBs, which we include in interest and finance costs. We also incur finance costs in establishing those debt facilities and SLBs which are deferred and amortized over the period of the respective facility. The amortization of the finance costs is presented in interest and finance costs.

 

Inflation

 

Inflation has not had a material effect on our expenses. In the event that significant global inflationary pressures appear, these pressures would increase our operating, voyage, administrative and financing costs.

 

Main components of managing our business and main drivers of profitability

 

The management of financial, general and administrative elements involved in the conduct of our business and ownership of our vessels requires the following main components:

 

 

management of our financial resources, including banking relationships, i.e., administration of bank loans and bank accounts;

 

 

management of our accounting system and records and financial reporting;

 

 

administration of the legal and regulatory requirements affecting our business and assets; and

 

 

management of the relationships with our service providers and customers.

 

The principal factors that affect our profitability, cash flows and shareholders’ return on investment include:

 

 

charter rates and periods of charter hire for our tankers;

 

 

utilization of our tankers (earnings efficiency);

 

 

levels of our tanker’s operating expenses and dry-docking costs;

 

 

depreciation and amortization expenses;

 

 

financing costs; and

 

 

fluctuations in foreign exchange rates.

 

54

 

RESULTS OF OPERATIONS FOR THE FISCAL YEARS ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2019 AND 2020

 

The following table depicts changes in the results of operations for 2020 compared to 2019.

 

   

Year Ended December 31,

   

change

 
   

2019

   

2020

   

YE20 v YE19

 
   

($ in thousands)

       $    

%

 

Total charter revenues

    66,088       60,222       (5,866 )     -9 %

Voyage expenses

    3,038       1,994       (1,044 )     -34 %

Operating Lease Expense

    7,054       755       (6,299 )     -89 %

Vessel operating expenses

    22,786       21,024       (1,762 )     -8 %

Dry-docking costs

    399       356       (43 )     -11 %

Vessel Depreciation

    12,392       13,174       782       6 %

Management fees-related parties

    2,443       5,627       3,184       130 %

Other operating loss (Charter Termination Fees)

    -       4,800       4,800       100 %

General and administrative expenses

    1,730       1,932       202       12 %

Loss on sale of vessels

    -       12,355       12,355       100 %

Vessels Impairment charge

    12,310       -       (12,310 )     -100 %

Operating income/(loss)

    3,936       (1,795 )     (5,731 )     -146 %

Interest and finance costs

    (18,077 )     (20,956 )     (2,879 )     16 %

Gain/(loss) on financial instruments

    1,601       (814 )     (2,415 )     -151 %

Interest income

    133       34       (99 )     -74 %

Impairment on unconsolidated joint ventures

    (3,144 )     -       3,144       -100 %

Equity gain in unconsolidated joint ventures

    778       713       (65 )     -8 %

Total other expenses, net

    (18,709 )     (21,023 )     (2,314 )     12 %

Net loss

    (14,773 )     (22,818 )     (8,045 )     54 %

 

Year on Year Comparison of Operating Results

 

 

1.

Revenues, Voyage expenses and Other vessel operating expenses

 

Revenues, Voyage expenses and Other vessel operating expenses decreased mainly due to the decrease in the number of vessels employed over the two comparable periods. During the year ended December 31, 2019 we employed on average 11.1 vessels, whilst in the same period of 2020 we employed on average 9.5 vessels, that resulted in decreases in all vessel related revenues and expenses.

 

 

2.

Operating lease expenses

 

During the year ended December 31, 2020, Operating lease expenses decreased by $6.3 million, or 89%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2019. This decrease was mainly due to the fact that during 2019 the operating lease expense referred to the operating leases on M/T Stenaweco Energy and M/T Stenaweco Evolution covering the period from January to November 2019, when the lease was terminated, while in 2020 operating lease expense refers to the Navigare Lease that started in December 2020.

 

 

3.

Management feesrelated parties

 

During the year ended December 31, 2020, management fees to related parties increased by $3.2 million, or 130%, compared to the same period in 2019. This increase was mainly due to $3.4 million relating to purchase commissions as per our management agreement with Central Shipping Inc (“CSI”), a related party affiliated with the family of Mr. Evangelos J. Pistiolis that were absent in 2019. These increases were partially offset by a $0.2 million decrease in management fees relating mainly to the reduction of the number of vessels in our fleet, due to sales of vessels (please see below).

 

 

4.

Vessel depreciation

 

During the year ended December 31, 2020, vessel depreciation increased by $0.8 million, or 6%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2019 mainly due to an increase of $2.5 million in depreciation expense from the operation of vessels that we took delivery in 2020 (namely M/T Eco Los Angeles and M/T Eco City of Angels), an increase of $1.6 million in depreciation expense from the operation of vessels that we purchased in 2019 that were in operation throughout 2020 (namely M/T Stenaweco Energy and M/T Stenaweco Evolution) and an increase of $1.3 million in depreciation expense from the operation of vessels that we took delivery in 2019 that were in operation throughout 2020 (namely M/T Eco Marina Del Ray, M/T Eco Bel Air and M/T Eco Beverly Hills). These increases were partially offset by $4.6 million less depreciation expense, due to the fact that we sold 10 vessels in 2020 (please see below).

 

 

5.

Interest and Finance Costs

 

During the year ended December 31, 2020, interest and finance costs increased by $2.9 million, or 16%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2019 mainly due to an increase of $5.0 million in amortization of deferred finance fees due to the fact that in the year ended December 31, 2020 we accelerated the amortization of the unamortized balance of deferred financing fees of the AT Bank Facility, the AT Bridge Note, the ABN Facility, the Alpha Bank & Alpha Bank Top-Up facilities, the OFI Facility, the CMBFL Facility and the portion relating to M/T Eco California of the BoComm Leasing Facility due to their prepayment in 2020 ($5.5 million of accelerated deferred financing fees in total), while in 2019 we accelerated the amortization of the unamortized balance of deferred financing fees of Tranche C of the ABN Facility and of the NORD/LB Facility as part of its refinancing in July 2019 ($0.5 million of accelerated deferred financing fees in total).

 

55

 

The abovementioned increase was partially offset by a $1.3 million decrease in interest expense and a decrease of $0.5 million in amortization of deferred financing fees mainly relating to the vessels we sold in 2020 and a decrease of $0.3 million in amortization of debt discount due to the fact that in the year ended December 31, 2019 we recognized debt discount amortization relating to the convertibility features of the Family Trading Loan amounting to $0.3 million, absent in the respective period of 2020.

 

 

6.

(Loss)/Gain on derivative financial instruments

 

During the year ended December 31, 2020, fair value gain/(loss) on derivative financial instruments decreased by $2.4 million, or 151%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2019, mainly to due to $1.3 of swap termination losses due to the unwinding of our ABN and Alpha Bank swaps relating to the prepayment of the respective loan facilities in 2020 and due to the fact that in 2020 we realized no gains from the valuation of our 2014 Warrants (which expired in July 2019), while in 2019 we recognized $1.6 million of gains from said warrants. These losses were partially offset by a fair value gain on derivative financial instruments of $0.5 million from the valuation of our Class B Warrants we recorded in 2020.

 

 

7.

Vessels Impairment charge

 

 

As at December 12, 2019, the M/T Eco Fleet and M/T Eco Revolution met the criteria to be classified as assets held for sale according to guidance in ASC 360. Consequently, we treated the vessels including their inventories on board as assets held for sale and have classified them as a current asset measured at the lower of the carrying amounts and fair values less costs to sell, resulting in an impairment charge of $6.8 million for the M/T Eco Fleet and $5.5 million for the M/T Eco Revolution.

 

 

8.

Impairment on unconsolidated joint ventures

 

In December 2019, we wrote down our Investments in unconsolidated joint ventures to their fair value less costs to sell, resulting in an impairment charge of $3.1 million, pursuant to the Joint Ventures’ plan to sell the vessels.

 

 

9.

Loss on sale of vessels

 

During 2020 we sold the following vessels to unaffiliated third parties:

 

Vessel

Date Sold

 M/T Stenaweco Energy

29/10/2020

 M/T Stenaweco Evolution

03/11/2020

 M/T Ecofleet

21/01/2020

 M/T Eco Revolution

14/01/2020

 M/T Stenaweco Excellence

14/10/2020

 M/T Stenaweco Elegance

21/02/2020

 M/T Eco Palm Desert

19/03/2020

 M/T Eco California

09/11/2020

 M/T Eco Bel Air

10/12/2020

 M/T Eco Beverly Hills

01/12/2020

 

As a result of the abovementioned sales we recognized a loss from the disposal of vessels amounting to $12.4 million (Please see "Item 18. Financial Statements—Note 19— Loss on sale of vessels").

 

 

10.

Other operating loss

 

In connection with the abovementioned vessel sales, on January 15, January 21, March 9 and October 20, 2020 we terminated the time charters of M/T Eco Fleet, M/T Stenaweco Elegance, M/T Eco Palm Desert and M/T Eco California and incurred time charter termination fees amounting to $0.5 million, $1.9 million, $1.7 million and $0.7 million respectively.

 

56

 

Our FleetIllustrative Comparison of Possible Excess of Carrying Value Over Estimated Charter-Free Market Value of Certain Vessels

 

In Note 2 to our consolidated financial statements included herein we discuss our policy for impairing the carrying values of our vessels. During the past few years, the market values of vessels have experienced particular volatility, with substantial declines in many vessel classes. As a result, the charter-free market value, or basic market value, of certain of our vessels may have declined below those vessels’ carrying value. However, we would not impair those vessels’ carrying value under our accounting impairment policy due to our belief that future undiscounted cash flows expected to be earned by such vessels over their operating lives would exceed such vessels’ carrying amounts. Furthermore during the year ended December 31, 2020 tanker values have been relatively stable.

 

As of December 31, 2020, we believe that the basic charter-free market values of our owned vessels held for use are higher than the vessels carrying value by approximately 1.6%.

 

Our estimates of basic charter-free market value assume that our vessels are all in good and seaworthy condition without need for repair and if inspected would be certified in class without notations of any kind. Our estimates are based on information available from various industry sources, including:

 

 

reports by industry analysts and data providers that focus on our industry and related dynamics affecting vessel values;

 

 

news and industry reports of similar vessel sales;

 

 

news and industry reports of sales of vessels that are not similar to our vessels where we have made certain adjustments in an attempt to derive information that can be used as part of our estimates;