Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuers classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report.
As of December 31, 2018, there were 33,097,831 shares of common stock outstanding, par value $0.01 per share.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.Yes o No x
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 o No x
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 x No o
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 (§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 x No o
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 o
Accelerated filer x
Non-accelerated filer o
Emerging Growth Company o
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. o
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 which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
International Financial Reporting Standards as issued by the international Accounting Standards Board
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: o Item 17 o 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 o No x
The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provides safe harbor protections for forward-looking statements in order to encourage companies to provide prospective information about their business. We desire to take advantage of the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and are including this cautionary statement in connection with such 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 and assumptions with respect to future events and financial performance and are subject to risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements include statements concerning plans, objectives, goals, expectations, projections, strategies, beliefs about future events or performance, and underlying assumptions and other statements, which are other than statements of historical facts. In some cases, words such as believe, anticipate, intends, estimate, forecast, project, plan, potential, will, may, should, expect and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements but are not the exclusive means of identifying such statements.
Forward-looking statements in this Annual Report include, among others, such matters as:
our future operating or financial results;
global and regional economic and political conditions;
the strength of national economies and currencies;
general market conditions;
our vessel acquisitions and upgrades, our business strategy and expected capital spending or operating expenses, including bunker prices, drydocking and insurance costs;
competition in the tanker industry;
shipping market trends and general market conditions, including fluctuations in charter rates and vessel values and changes in demand for and the supply of tanker vessel capacity;
charter counterparty performance;
changes in governmental rules and regulations or actions taken by regulatory authorities;
our financial condition and liquidity, including our ability to obtain financing in the future to fund capital expenditures, acquisitions, refinancing of existing indebtedness and other general corporate activities;
our ability to comply with covenants in financing arrangements;
our exposure to inflation;
vessel breakdowns and instances of off-hires;
our ability to enter into fixed-rate charters in the future and our ability to earn income in the spot market;
our ability to comply with, and the affects of, regulatory requirements or maritime self-regulatory organizations requirements and the cost of such compliance, including, among other things, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) 2020 fuel regulations, the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and Load Lines Convention (LL Convention) standards, and guidelines for ballast water management systems (BWMS); and
our expectations of the availability of vessels to purchase, the time it may take to construct new vessels, and vessels useful lives.
Many of these statements are based on our assumptions about factors that are beyond our ability to control or predict and are subject to risks and uncertainties that are described more fully under the Risk Factors section of this Annual Report. Any of these factors or a combination of these factors could materially affect our business, results of operations and financial condition and the ultimate accuracy of the forward-looking statements. Factors that might cause future results to differ include, among others, the following:
changes in demand for and the supply of tanker vessel capacity;
fluctuations in oil prices;
changes in the markets in which we operate;
availability of financing and refinancing;
changes in general domestic and international political and trade conditions, including tariffs;
changes in governmental or maritime self-regulatory organizations rules and regulations or actions taken by regulatory authorities;
changes in economic and competitive conditions affecting our business, including market fluctuations in charter rates;
potential disruption of shipping routes due to accidents, piracy or political events;
potential liability from future litigation and potential costs due to environmental damage and vessel collisions;
the length and number of off-hire periods and dependence on third-party managers; and
other factors discussed under the Risk Factors section of this Annual Report.
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. These forward-looking statements are not guarantees of our future performance, and actual results and future developments may vary materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements.
Except to the extent required by applicable law or regulation, we undertake no obligation to release publicly any revisions to these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date of this Annual Report or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.
Item 1. Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisors
Item 2. Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable
Item 3. Key Information
Unless the context otherwise requires, when used in this Annual Report, the terms Ardmore, Ardmore Shipping, the Company, we, our, and us refer to Ardmore Shipping Corporation and its subsidiaries. Ardmore Shipping Corporation refers only to Ardmore Shipping Corporation and not its subsidiaries. Unless otherwise indicated, all references to dollars, U.S. dollars and $ in this annual report are to the lawful currency of the United States. Our consolidated financial statements are prepared in accordance with United States generally accepted accounting principles (or U.S. GAAP). We use the term deadweight tons, or dwt, expressed in metric tons, each of which is equivalent to 1,000 kilograms, in describing the size of tankers.
A. Selected Financial Data
The following table sets forth our selected consolidated financial data and other operating data. The selected financial data as of December 31, 2018 and 2017 and for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016 are derived from our audited consolidated financial statements, included elsewhere in this Annual Report. The selected consolidated financial data set forth below as of December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014 and for the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2014 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements, which are not included in this Annual Report. The financial statements have been prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP. The data set forth below should be read in conjunction with Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects.
INCOME STATEMENT DATA
For the years ended
Dec 31, 2018
Dec 31, 2017
Dec 31, 2016
Dec 31, 2015
Dec 31, 2014
Commissions and voyage expenses(1)
Vessel operating expenses
Amortization of deferred drydock expenditure
General and administrative expenses:
Commercial and chartering(2)
Total operating expenses
(Loss)/profit from operations
Interest expense and finance costs
Loss on disposal of vessels
Loss on vessel held for sale
(Loss)/profit before taxes
(Loss)/earnings per share, basic and diluted
Weighted average number of common shares outstanding, basic and diluted
Net cash provided by/(used in) financing activities
FLEET OPERATING DATA
For the years ended
Dec 31, 2018
Dec 31, 2017
Dec 31, 2016
Dec 31, 2015
Dec 31, 2014
Time Charter Equivalent(3)
MR Tankers Eco-design
MR Tankers Eco-mod
Chemical Tankers Eco-design
Chemical Tankers Eco-mod
Fleet weighted average TCE(4)
Fleet operating expenses per day(5)
Technical management fees per day(6)
Total fleet operating costs per day
Expenditures for drydock(7)
Voyage expenses are all expenses related to a particular voyage, including any bunker fuel expenses, port fees, cargo loading and unloading expenses, canal tolls and agency fees.
Commercial and chartering-related general and administrative expenses are the expenses attributable to our chartering and commercial operations department in connection with our spot trading activities.
Time Charter Equivalent (TCE) daily rate, represents net revenues divided by revenue days. Revenue days are the total number of calendar days the vessels are in our possession less off-hire days generally associated with drydocking or repairs, idle days or repositioning associated with vessels held for sale. For vessels employed on voyage charters, TCE is the net rate after deducting voyage expenses incurred, divided by revenue days, including among other expenses, all commissions and pool administration fees. MR Tankers Spot & Pool TCE is reported on a discharge to discharge basis.
Fleet weighted average TCE is total gross revenue for the fleet, after deducting voyage expenses incurred on voyage charters divided by the number of revenue days. Voyage expenses are all expenses related to a particular voyage, including any bunker fuel expenses, port fees, cargo loading and unloading expenses, canal tolls and agency fees.
Fleet operating expenses per day are routine operating expenses and include crewing, repairs and maintenance, insurance, stores, lube oils and communication costs. They do not include additional costs related to upgrading or enhancement of the vessels that are not capitalized.
Technical management fees per day are fees paid to any third-party technical manager as well as to our 50%-owned joint venture entity, Anglo Ardmore Ship Management Limited, which provides technical management services to some of our vessels.
Drydock costs, which include, among other things, costs for in-water surveys, represent direct costs that are incurred as part of vessel drydocking to meet regulatory requirements, expenditures during drydocking that add economic life to the vessel, and expenditures during drydocking that increase the vessels earnings capacity or improve the vessels operating efficiency.
On-hire utilization represents revenue days divided by net operating days (i.e. operating days less scheduled off-hire days).
Some of the following risks relate principally to the industry in which we operate and to our business in general. Other risks relate principally to the securities market and to ownership of our securities. The occurrence of any of the events described in this section could significantly and negatively affect our business, financial condition, operating results and ability to pay dividends on our shares, or the trading price of our shares.
RISKS RELATED TO OUR INDUSTRY
The tanker industry is cyclical and volatile in terms of charter rates and profitability, which may affect our results of operations.
The tanker industry is both cyclical and volatile in terms of charter rates and profitability. A prolonged downturn in the tanker industry could adversely affect our ability to charter our vessels or to sell them on the expiration or termination of any charters we may enter into. In addition, the rates payable in respect of any of our vessels operating in a commercial pool, or any renewal or replacement charters that we enter into, may not be sufficient for us to operate our vessels profitably. Fluctuations in charter rates and tanker values result from changes in the supply and demand for tanker capacity and changes in the supply and demand for oil, oil products and chemicals. The factors affecting the supply and demand for tankers are outside of our control, and the nature, timing and degree of changes in industry conditions are unpredictable.
Factors that influence demand for tanker capacity include:
supply of and demand for oil, oil products and chemicals;
regional availability of refining capacity;
global and regional economic and political conditions;
the distance oil, oil products and chemicals are to be moved by sea;
changes in seaborne and other transportation patterns;
environmental and other legal and regulatory developments;
weather and natural disasters;
competition from alternative sources of energy; and
international sanctions, tariffs embargoes, import and export restrictions, nationalizations and wars. Factors that influence the supply of tanker capacity include:
the number of newbuilding deliveries;
the scrapping rate of older vessels;
conversion of tankers to other uses;
the price of steel and other raw materials;
the number of vessels that are out of service; and
environmental concerns and regulations.
Historically, the tanker markets have been volatile as a result of a variety of conditions and factors that can affect the price, supply and demand for tanker capacity. Demand for transportation of oil products and chemicals over longer distances was significantly reduced during the last economic downturn. More recently, since 2015 vessel oversupply contributed to continuing low charter rates in the tanker industry. As at January 31, 2019, none of our vessels were on time charter, and 27 of our vessels operated in the spot market directly. If charter rates decline, we may be unable to achieve a level of charter hire sufficient for us to operate our vessels profitably or we may have to operate our vessels at a greater loss.
Any decrease in spot charter rates in the future or continuation of current rates may adversely affect our results of operations.
As at January 31, 2019, 27 of our vessels operated directly in the spot market. The earnings of these vessels are based on the spot market charter rates of the pool or the particular voyage charter.
We may employ in the spot charter market additional vessels that we may acquire in the future. Where we plan to employ a vessel in the spot charter market, we generally intend to employ the vessel in the spot market directly. Although spot chartering is common in the tanker industry, the spot charter market may fluctuate significantly based upon tanker and oil product/chemical supply and demand, and there have been periods when spot rates have declined below the operating cost of vessels. The successful operation of our vessels in the competitive spot charter market, including within commercial pools, depends upon, among other things, spot-charter rates and minimizing, to the extent possible, time spent waiting for charters and time spent traveling unladen to pick up cargo. If spot charter rates decline, we may be unable to operate our vessels trading in the spot market profitably or meet our obligations, including payments on indebtedness and finance lease obligations. A decline in spot charter rates may also affect our ability to pay dividends in the future. In addition, as charter rates for spot charters are fixed for a single voyage that may last up to several weeks, during periods in which spot charter rates are rising, we will generally experience delays in realizing the benefits from such increases.
Our ability to renew the charters on our vessels on the expiration or termination of our current charters, or to enter into charters on vessels that we may acquire in the future, the charter rates payable under any replacement charters and vessel values will depend upon, among other things, economic conditions in the sectors in which our vessels operate at that time, changes in the supply and demand for vessel capacity and changes in the supply and demand for the seaborne transportation of oil and chemical products.
Declines in oil prices may adversely affect our growth prospects and results of operations.
Global crude oil prices have previously experienced significant declines and such declines may reoccur. Any meaningful decrease in oil prices may adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition and our ability to service our indebtedness and pay dividends, as a result of, among other things:
a possible reduction in exploration for or development of new oil fields or energy projects, or the delay or cancelation of existing projects as energy companies lower their capital expenditures budgets, which may reduce our growth opportunities;
potential lower demand for tankers, which may reduce available charter rates and revenue to us upon chartering of our vessels;
customers failing to extend or renew contracts upon expiration;
the inability or refusal of customers to make charter payments to us due to financial constraints or otherwise; or
declines in vessel values, which may result in losses to us upon vessel sales or impairment charges against our earnings.
We have limited current liquidity.
As at December 31, 2018, we had total liquidity of $56.9 million in cash and cash equivalents. Our short-term liquidity requirements include the payment of operating expenses, drydocking expenditures, debt servicing costs lease payments, any dividends on our shares of common stock, scheduled repayments of long-term debt, as well as funding our other working capital requirements. Our short-term spot charters, including our participation in spot charter pooling arrangements, contribute to the volatility of our net operating cash flow, and thus our ability to generate sufficient cash flows to meet our short-term liquidity needs. We expect to manage our near- term liquidity needs from our working capital, together with expected cash flows from operations and availability under credit facilities. Our existing long-term debt facilities and certain of our finance leases require, among other things, that we maintain minimum cash and cash equivalents based on the greater of a set amount per number of vessels owned and 5% of outstanding debt. The required minimum cash balance as of December 31, 2018, was $23.5 million. Should we not meet this financial covenant or
other covenants in our debt facilities, the lenders may declare our obligations under the applicable agreements immediately due and payable, and terminate any further loan commitments, which would significantly affect our short-term liquidity requirements. A default under financing agreements could also result in foreclosure on any of our vessels and other assets securing the related loans or a loss of our rights as a lessee under our finance leases.
Declines in charter rates and other market deterioration could cause us to incur impairment charges.
We evaluate the carrying amounts of our vessels to determine if events have occurred that would require an impairment of their carrying amounts. The recoverable amount of vessels is reviewed based on events and changes in circumstances that would indicate that the carrying amount of the assets might not be recovered. The review for potential impairment indicators and projection of future cash flows related to our vessels is complex and requires us to make various estimates, including future charter rates, operating expenses and drydock costs. Historically, each of these items has been volatile. An impairment charge is recognized if the carrying value is in excess of the estimated future undiscounted net operating cash flows. The impairment loss is measured based on the excess of the carrying amount over the fair market value of the asset. An impairment loss could adversely affect our results of operations.
The market values of our vessels may decrease, which could cause us to breach covenants in our credit facilities and lease arrangements or result in impairment charges, and we may incur a loss if we sell vessels following a decline in their market value.
The market values of tankers have historically experienced high volatility. The market prices for tankers declined significantly from historically high levels reached in early 2008 and remain at relatively low levels. The market value of our vessels will fluctuate depending on general economic and market conditions affecting the shipping industry and prevailing charter hire rates, competition from other shipping companies and other modes of transportation, the types, sizes and ages of vessels, applicable governmental regulations and the cost of new buildings. If the market value of our fleet declines, we may not be able to obtain other financing or to incur debt on terms that are acceptable to us or at all. A decrease in vessel values could also cause us to breach certain loan-to-value covenants that are contained in our credit facilities and lease arrangements and in future financing agreements that we may enter into from time to time. If we breach such covenants due to decreased vessel values and we are unable to remedy the relevant breach, our lenders could accelerate our debt and foreclose on vessels in our fleet or we may lose our rights as a lessee under our finance leases, which would adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
In addition, if we sell one or more of our vessels at a time when vessel prices have fallen, the sale price may be less than the vessels carrying value on our consolidated financial statements, resulting in a loss on sale or an impairment loss being recognized, leading to a reduction in earnings. Also, if vessel values fall significantly, this could indicate a decrease in the estimated future undiscounted net operating cash flows for the vessel, which may result in an impairment adjustment in our financial statements, which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
An over-supply of tanker capacity may lead to reductions in charter rates, vessel values, and profitability.
The market supply of tankers is affected by a number of factors, such as demand for energy resources, oil, petroleum and chemical products, as well as the level of global and regional economic growth. If the capacity of new ships delivered exceeds the capacity of tankers being scrapped and lost, tanker capacity will increase. In addition, the global newbuilding orderbook for LR product tankers, which extends to 2021, and the global newbuilding orderbooks for MR product tankers and chemical tankers, which each extend to 2020, equaled approximately 7.0%, 5.7% and 5.7% of their respective fleets as of January 16, 2019. These orderbooks may also increase further in proportion to their respective existing fleets. If the supply of LR product, MR product or chemical tanker capacity increases and if the demand for such respective tanker capacity does not increase correspondingly, charter rates and vessel values could materially decline. A reduction in charter rates and the value of our vessels may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
In addition, product tankers currently used to transport crude oil and other dirty products may be cleaned up and reintroduced into the product tanker market, which would increase the available product tanker
tonnage which may affect the supply and demand balance for product tankers. This could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial position.
The current state of global financial markets and economic conditions may adversely impact our ability to obtain additional financing or refinance our existing obligations on acceptable terms, if at all, and otherwise negatively impact our business.
Global financial markets and economic conditions have been, and continue to be, volatile. In the last economic downturn, operating businesses in the global economy faced tightening credit, weakening demand for goods and services, deteriorating international liquidity conditions and declining markets. There was a general decline in the willingness of banks and other financial institutions to extend credit, particularly in the shipping industry due to the historically volatile asset values of vessels. Since 2008, lending by financial institutions worldwide decreased significantly compared to the period preceding 2008 and lending to the shipping industry remains restrictive. As the shipping industry is highly dependent on the availability of credit to finance and expand operations, it was negatively affected by this decline.
Also, as a result of concerns about the stability of financial markets generally and the solvency of counterparties specifically, the cost of borrowing funds during the last economic downturn increased as many lenders increased interest rates, enacted tighter lending standards, refused to refinance existing debt on similar terms and, in some cases, ceased to provide funding to borrowers. Due to these factors, additional financing may not be available if needed by us on acceptable terms or at all. If additional financing 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.
Changes in fuel, or bunkers, prices may adversely affect our results of operation.
Fuel, or bunkers, is a significant expense for our vessels employed in the spot market and can have a significant impact on pool earnings. For any vessels which may be employed on time charters, the charterer is generally responsible for the cost and supply of fuel; however, such cost may affect the charter rates we may be able to negotiate for our vessels. Changes in the price of fuel may adversely affect our profitability. The imposition of stringent vessel air emissions requirements, such as the IMOs requirement to reduce the amount of sulfur in fuel globally by 2020, could lead to marine fuel shortages and substantial increases in marine fuel prices. The price and supply of fuel is unpredictable and fluctuates based on events outside our control, including geopolitical developments, supply and demand for oil and gas, actions by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other oil and gas producers, war and unrest in oil producing countries and regions, regional production patterns and environmental concerns. In addition, fuel price increases may reduce the profitability and competitiveness of our business versus other forms of transportation, such as truck or rail.
Changes in the oil, oil products and chemical markets could result in decreased demand for our vessels and services.
Demand for our vessels and services in transporting oil, oil products and chemicals depends upon world and regional oil markets. Any decrease in shipments of oil, oil products and chemicals in those markets could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Historically, those markets have been volatile as a result of the many conditions and events that affect the price, production and transport of oil, oil products and chemicals, including competition from alternative energy sources. Past slowdowns of the U.S. and world economies have resulted in reduced consumption of oil and oil products and decreased demand for our vessels and services, which reduced vessel earnings. Additional slowdowns could have similar effects on our operating results and may limit our ability to expand our fleet.
We are subject to complex laws and regulations, including environmental laws and regulations, which can adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
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 operate or are registered, which can significantly affect the ownership and operation of our
vessels. Compliance with such laws and regulations, where applicable, may require installation of costly equipment or operational changes and may affect the resale value or useful lives of our vessels. For example, the IMO set January 1, 2020 as the implementation date for vessels to comply with its low sulfur fuel requirement. We may comply with this requirement by either using fuel with low sulfur content, which is more expensive than standard marine fuel, or by upgrading our vessels to provide cleaner exhaust emissions. Cost of compliance with these regulatory changes may be significant. We may also incur additional costs in order to comply with other existing and future regulatory obligations, including costs relating to, among other things: air emissions including greenhouse gases; the management of ballast and bilge waters; maintenance and inspection; elimination of tin-based paint; development and implementation of emergency procedures, Eco-Mod upgrades of secondhand vessels and insurance coverage or other financial assurance of our ability to address pollution incidents. Environmental or other initiatives or incidents (such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico) may result in additional regulatory initiatives or statutes or changes to existing laws that may affect our operations or require us to incur additional expenses to comply with such regulatory initiatives, statutes or laws. These costs could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
A failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations may, among other things, result in administrative and civil penalties, criminal sanctions or the suspension or termination of our operations. Environmental laws often impose strict, joint and several 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 the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990, for example, owners, operators and bareboat charterers are jointly, severally and strictly liable for the discharge of oil in U.S. waters, including the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone around the United States. An oil spill could also result in significant liability, including fines, penalties, criminal liability, remediation costs and natural resource damages under international and U.S. federal, state and local laws, as well as third-party damages, and could harm our reputation with current or potential charterers of our tankers. We are required to satisfy insurance and financial responsibility requirements for potential oil (including marine fuel) spills and other pollution incidents. Although we have arranged insurance to cover 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 and financial condition.
If we fail to comply with international safety regulations, we may be subject to increased liability, which 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 IMOs International Safety Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and Pollution Prevention (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 safety and environmental protection policies setting forth instructions and procedures for safe operation and describing procedures for dealing with emergencies. If we fail to comply with the ISM Code or similar regulations, we may be subject to increased liability or our existing insurance coverage may be invalidated or decreased for our affected vessels. Such failure may also result in a denial of access to, or detention of our vessels in, certain ports. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) and European Union (EU) authorities have indicated that vessels not in compliance with the ISM Code will be prohibited from trading in U.S. and EU ports, which could have an adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position.
If our vessels suffer damage due to the inherent operational risks of the shipping industry, we may experience unexpected drydocking costs and delays or total loss of our vessels, which may adversely affect our business and financial condition.
The operation of an ocean-going vessel carries inherent risks. Our vessels and their cargoes will be at risk of being damaged or lost because of events, such as marine disasters, bad weather, business interruptions caused by mechanical failures, grounding, fire, explosions, collisions, human error, war, terrorism, piracy, cyber attack, latent defects, acts of God climate change and other circumstances or events. Changing economic, regulatory and political conditions in some countries, including political and military conflicts, have from time
to time resulted in attacks on vessels, mining of waterways, piracy, terrorism, labor strikes and boycotts. These hazards may result in death or injury to persons, loss of revenues or property, environmental damage, higher insurance rates, damage to our customer relationships, market disruptions, delays or rerouting. In addition, the operation of tankers has unique operational risks associated with the transportation of oil and chemical products. An oil or chemical spill may cause significant environmental damage and the associated costs 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 causes, due to the high flammability and high volume of the oil or chemicals transported in tankers.
If our vessels suffer damage, they may need to be repaired at a drydocking facility. The costs of drydock repairs are unpredictable and may be substantial. We may have to pay drydocking costs if our insurance does not cover them in full. The loss of revenues while these vessels are being repaired and repositioned, as well as the actual cost of these repairs, may adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. In addition, space at drydocking facilities is sometimes limited and not all drydocking facilities are conveniently located. We may be unable to find space at a suitable drydocking facility or our vessels may be forced to travel to a drydocking facility that is not conveniently located to our vessels positions. The loss of earnings while such vessels wait for space or travel or are towed to more distant drydocking facilities may be significant. The total loss of any of our vessels could harm our reputation as a safe and reliable vessel owner and operator. If we are unable to adequately maintain or safeguard our vessels, we may be unable to prevent any such damage, costs or loss which could negatively impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We operate our vessels worldwide and, as a result, our vessels are exposed to international risks which may reduce revenue or increase expenses.
Changing economic, regulatory and political conditions in some countries, including political and military conflicts, have from time to time resulted in attacks on vessels, mining of waterways, piracy, terrorism, labor strikes and boycotts. These sorts of events could interfere with shipping routes and result in market disruptions, which may reduce our revenue and increase our expenses. Our worldwide operations also expose us to the risk that an increase in restrictions on global trade will harm our business. The rise of populist or nationalist political parties and leaders in the United States, Europe and elsewhere may lead to increased trade barriers, trade protectionism and restrictions on trade. The adoption of trade barriers and imposition of tariffs by governments may reduce global shipping demand and reduce our revenue.
In addition, international shipping is subject to various security and customs inspection and related procedures in countries of origin and destination and transhipment points. Inspection procedures can result in the seizure of the cargo or vessels, delays in the loading, offloading or delivery and the levying of customs duties, fines or other penalties against vessel owners. It is possible that changes to inspection procedures could impose additional financial and legal obligations on us. In addition, 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, results of operations and financial condition.
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 Indian Ocean and in the Gulf of Aden. Sea piracy incidents continue to occur, particularly in the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, off the coast of West Africa, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Guinea, Venezuela, and in certain areas of the Middle East, with tankers particularly vulnerable to such attacks. If piracy attacks result in the characterization of regions in which our vessels are deployed as war risk zones or Joint War Committee war and strikes listed areas by insurers, premiums payable for such coverage could increase significantly and such insurance coverage may be more difficult to obtain. In addition, crew costs, including costs which 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, which could have a material adverse effect on us. In addition, detention or 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 and financial condition 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.
Political instability, terrorist or other attacks, war or international hostilities 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 the effects of political instability, terrorist or other attacks, war or international hostilities. Continuing conflicts and recent developments in the Middle East, and the presence of the United States and other armed forces in regions of conflict, may lead to additional acts of terrorism and armed conflict around the world, which may contribute to further world economic instability and uncertainty in global financial markets. As a result of these factors, insurers have increased premiums and reduced or restricted coverage for losses caused by terrorist acts generally. Future terrorist attacks could result in increased volatility of the financial markets and negatively impact the United States and global economy. These uncertainties could also adversely affect our ability to obtain additional financing on terms acceptable to us or at all. 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 West of Africa, South China Sea, South-East Asia and the Gulf of Aden including off the coast of Somalia. Any of these occurrences could have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
If our vessels call on ports located in countries that are subject to restrictions imposed by the U.S. government, our reputation and the market for our securities could be adversely affected.
Although no vessels owned or operated by us have called on ports located in countries subject to country-wide or territory-wide sanctions and embargoes imposed by the U.S. government, such as Iran, North Korea, Syria, the Crimea region, or Cuba, and other authorities or countries identified by the U.S. government or other authorities as state sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran, Sudan, Syria and North Korea, in the future our vessels may call on ports in these countries from time to time on charterers instructions in violation of contractual provisions that prohibit them from doing so. 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 strengthened over time.
Although we believe that we have been in compliance with all applicable sanctions and embargo laws and regulations, and intend to maintain such compliance, there can be no assurance that we will be in compliance in the future, particularly as the scope of certain laws may be unclear and may be subject to changing interpretations. Any such violation could result in fines, penalties or other sanctions that could severely impact the market for our common shares, 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.
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 or the ability of our charterers to meet their obligations to us or result in fines, penalties or sanctions.
The smuggling of drugs or other contraband onto our vessels may lead to governmental claims against us.
We expect that our vessels will call on 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 which could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Maritime claimants could arrest our vessels, which would have a negative effect on our business and results of operations.
Crew members, suppliers of goods and services to a vessel, shippers of cargo and other parties may be entitled to a maritime lien against a vessel for unsatisfied debts, claims or damages. In many jurisdictions, a
maritime lien holder may enforce its lien by arresting or attaching a vessel through foreclosure proceedings. The arrest or attachment of one or more of our vessels could interrupt our business or require us to pay significant amounts to have the arrest lifted.
In addition, in some jurisdictions, such as South Africa, under the sister ship theory of liability, a claimant may arrest both the vessel that is subject to the claimants maritime lien and any associated vessel, which is any vessel owned or controlled by the same owner. Claimants could try to assert sister ship liability against one vessel in our fleet for claims relating to another of our vessels.
Governments could requisition our vessels during a period of war or emergency, which may adversely affect our business and results of operations.
A government could requisition for title or seize our vessels. Requisition for title occurs when a government takes control of a vessel and becomes the owner. Also, a government could requisition our vessels for hire. 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 one or more of our vessels could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Technological innovation could reduce our charter hire income and the value of our vessels.
The charter hire rates and the value and operational life of a vessel are determined by a number of factors, including the vessels 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 various harbors and ports, utilize related docking facilities and pass through canals and straits. The length of a vessels physical life is related to its original design and construction, its maintenance and the impact of the stress of operations. If new tankers 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, if any, we receive for our vessels once existing charters expire and the resale value of our vessels could significantly decrease. As a result, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected.
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, including processing, transmitting and storing electronic and financial information, is dependent on computer hardware and software systems. 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 maintained on our information systems. However, these measures and technology may not adequately prevent security breaches. 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.
If labor or other interruptions are not resolved in a timely manner, they could have a material adverse effect on our business.
We, indirectly through our technical managers, employ masters, officers and crews to operate our vessels, exposing us to the risk that industrial actions or other labor unrest may occur. A significant portion of the seafarers that crew our vessels are employed under collective bargaining agreements. We may suffer labor disruptions if relationships deteriorate with the seafarers or the unions that represent them. The collective bargaining agreements may not prevent labor disruptions, particularly when the agreements are being renegotiated. 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 and financial condition.
We will be required to make substantial capital expenditures to expand the number of vessels in our fleet and to maintain all our vessels, which will depend on our ability to obtain additional financing.
Our business strategy is based in part upon the expansion of our fleet through the purchase and ordering of additional vessels. We will be required to make substantial capital expenditures to expand the size of our fleet. We also have incurred significant capital expenditures in previous years to upgrade secondhand vessels we have acquired to Eco-Mod standards.
In addition, we will incur significant maintenance and capital costs for our current fleet and any additional vessels we acquire. A newbuilding vessel must be drydocked within five years of its delivery from a shipyard and vessels are typically drydocked every 30 to 60 months thereafter depending on the vessel, not including any unexpected repairs. We estimate the cost to drydock a vessel is between $0.75 million and $1.5 million, depending on the size and condition of the vessel and the location of drydocking relative to the location of the vessel.
We may be required to incur additional debt or raise capital through the sale of equity securities to fund the purchasing of vessels or for drydocking costs from time to time. However, we may be unable to access the required financing if conditions change and we may be unsuccessful in obtaining financing for future fleet growth. Use of cash from operations will reduce available cash. 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 finance our expenditures by incurring additional debt, our financial leverage could increase. If we finance our expenditures by issuing equity securities, our shareholders ownership interest in us could be diluted.
We will not be able to take advantage of favorable opportunities in the spot market with respect to vessels employed on medium to long-term time charters, if any.
As at January 31, 2019, none of our vessels were employed under fixed rate time charter agreements. However, in the future we may enter into fixed rate time charter agreements with respect to our vessels. Vessels committed to medium and long-term time charters may not be available for spot charters during periods of increasing charter hire rates, when spot charters might be more profitable.
If we do not identify suitable vessels or shipping companies for acquisition or successfully integrate any acquired vessels or shipping companies, we may not be able to grow or effectively manage our growth.
One of our principal strategies is to continue expanding our operations and our fleet. Our future growth will depend upon a number of factors, some of which may not be within our control. These factors include our ability to:
identify suitable tankers and/or shipping companies for acquisitions at attractive prices;
identify businesses engaged in managing, operating or owning tankers for acquisitions or joint ventures;
integrate any acquired tankers or businesses successfully with our existing operations;
hire, train and retain qualified personnel and crew to manage and operate our growing business and fleet;
identify additional new markets;
improve or expand our operating, financial and accounting systems and controls; and
obtain required financing for our existing and new vessels and operations.
Our failure to effectively identify, purchase, develop and integrate any tankers or businesses could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. The number of employees that perform services for us and our current operating and financial systems may not be adequate as we implement our plan to expand the size of our fleet and we may not be able to effectively hire more employees or adequately
improve those systems. In addition, acquisitions may require additional equity issuances or the incurrence of additional debt (which may require additional amortization payments or impose more restrictive covenants). If we are unable to successfully accommodate any growth, our business, results of operations and financial condition may be adversely affected.
Growing any business by acquisition presents numerous risks such as undisclosed liabilities and obligations, difficulty in obtaining additional qualified personnel and managing relationships with customers and suppliers and integrating newly acquired vessels and operations into existing infrastructures. The expansion of our fleet may impose significant additional responsibilities on our management and staff, and the management and staff of our technical managers, and may necessitate that we, and they, increase the number of personnel to support such expansion. We may not be successful in executing our growth plans and we may incur significant expenses and losses in connection with such growth plans.
Delays in deliveries of vessels we may purchase or order, our decision to cancel an order for purchase of a vessel or our inability to otherwise complete the acquisitions of additional vessels for our fleet, could harm our operating results.
Although we currently have no vessels on order, under construction or subject to purchase agreements, we expect to purchase and order additional vessels from time to time. The delivery of these vessels could be delayed, not completed or cancelled, which would delay or eliminate our expected receipt of revenues from the employment of these vessels. The seller could fail to deliver these vessels to us as agreed, or we could cancel a purchase contract because the seller has not met its obligations. The delivery of any vessels we may propose to acquire could be delayed because of, among other things, hostilities or political disturbances, non-performance of the purchase agreement with respect to the vessels by the seller, our inability to obtain requisite permits, approvals or financings or damage to or destruction of vessels while being operated by the seller prior to the delivery date.
If the delivery of any vessel is materially delayed or cancelled, especially if we have committed the vessel to a charter under which we become responsible for substantial liquidated damages to the customer as a result of the delay or cancellation, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.
The delivery of vessels we may purchase or order could be delayed because of, among other things:
work stoppages or other labor disturbances or other events that disrupt the operations of the shipyard building the vessels;
quality or other engineering problems;
changes in governmental regulations or maritime self-regulatory organization standards;
lack of raw materials;
bankruptcy or other financial crisis of the shipyard building the vessels;
our inability to obtain requisite financing or make timely payments;
a backlog of orders at the shipyard building the vessels;
hostilities or political or economic disturbances in the countries where the vessels are being built;
weather interference or catastrophic event, such as a major earthquake or fire;
our requests for changes to the original vessel specifications;
shortages or delays in the receipt of necessary construction materials, such as steel;
our inability to obtain requisite permits or approvals; or
If we purchase and operate second-hand vessels, we will be exposed to increased operating costs that could adversely affect our earnings and, as our fleet ages, the risks associated with older vessels could adversely affect our ability to obtain profitable charters.
Our current business strategy includes additional growth through the acquisition of new and second-hand vessels. While we typically inspect second-hand vessels prior to purchase, this does not provide us with the same knowledge about their condition that we would have had if these vessels had been built for and operated exclusively by us. Generally, we do not receive the benefit of warranties from the builders of the second-hand vessels that we acquire. These factors could increase the ultimate cost of any second-hand vessel acquisitions by us.
In general, the costs to maintain a vessel in good operating condition increase with the age of the vessel. Older vessels are typically less fuel-efficient than more recently constructed vessels due to improvements in engine technology. Cargo insurance rates increase with the age of a vessel, making older vessels less desirable to charterers.
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.
An increase in operating or voyage expenses would decrease our earnings and cash flows.
As at January 31, 2019, none of our vessels were employed under fixed rate time charter agreements. However, in the future we may enter into fixed rate time charter agreements with respect to our vessels. For all vessels operating under time charters, the charterer is primarily responsible for voyage expenses and we are responsible for the vessel operating expenses. Under spot chartering arrangements, we will be responsible for all cost associated with operating the vessel, including operating expenses, voyage expenses, bunkers, port and canal costs.
Our vessel operating expenses include the costs of crew, provisions, deck and engine stores, insurance and maintenance, repairs and spares, which depend on a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. If our vessels suffer damage, they may need to be repaired at a drydocking facility. The costs of drydocking repairs are unpredictable and can be substantial. Increases in any of these expenses would decrease earnings and cash flow.
We may be unsuccessful in competing in the highly competitive international tanker market, which would negatively affect our results of operations and financial condition and our ability to expand our business.
The operation of tanker vessels and transportation of petroleum and chemical products is extremely competitive, and our industry is capital intensive and highly fragmented. Competition arises primarily from other tanker owners, including major oil companies as well as independent tanker companies, some of which have substantially greater resources than we do. Competition for the transportation of oil products and chemicals can be intense and depends on price, location, size, age, condition and the acceptability of the tanker and its operators to the charterers. We may be unable to compete effectively with other tanker owners, including major oil companies and independent tanker companies.
Our market share may decrease in the future. We may not be able to compete profitably as we seek to expand our business into new geographic regions or provide new services. New markets may require different skills, knowledge or strategies than those we use in our current markets, and the competitors in those new markets may have greater financial strength and capital resources than we do.
We derive a significant portion of our revenues from a limited number of customers, and the loss of any such customers could result in a significant loss of revenues and cash flow.
We have derived, and we may continue to derive, a significant portion of our revenues and cash flow from a limited number of customers. Vitol Group accounted for more than 10% of our consolidated revenues from continuing operations during 2018; Vitol Group also accounted for more than 10% of our consolidated revenues from continuing operations during 2017; and each of Vitol Group, Navig8 Group and Trafigura
accounted for more than 10% of our consolidated revenues from continuing operations during 2016. No other customer accounted for 10% or more of revenues from continuing operations during any of these periods. The identity of customers which may account for 10% or more of revenues from continuing operations may vary from time to time.
If we lose a key customer or if a customer exercises its right under some charters to terminate the charter, we may be unable to enter into an adequate replacement charter for the applicable vessel or vessels. The loss of any of our significant customers or a reduction in revenues from them could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition.
Our charterers may terminate or default on their charters, which could adversely affect our business, results of operations and cash flow.
Our charters may terminate earlier than their scheduled expirations. The terms of our existing or future charters may vary as to which events or occurrences will cause a charter to terminate or give the charterer the option to terminate the charter, but these may include: a total or constructive loss of the relevant vessel; or the failure of the relevant vessel to meet specified performance criteria. In addition, the ability of each of our charterers to perform its obligations under a charter will depend on a number of factors that are beyond our control. These factors may include general economic conditions, the condition of the tanker industry, the charter rates received for specific types of vessels and various operating expenses. The costs and delays associated with the default by a charterer under a charter of a vessel may be considerable and may adversely affect our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition and our available cash.
To the extent we enter into time charters for our vessels, we cannot predict whether our charterers will, upon the expiration of their charters, re-charter our vessels on favorable terms or at all. If our charterers are unable or decide not to re-charter our vessels, we may not be able to re-charter them on terms similar to our current charters or at all. In addition, the ability and willingness of each of our counterparties to perform its obligations under a time charter agreement 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 tanker shipping industry and the overall financial condition of the counterparties. Charterers are sensitive to the commodity markets and may be impacted by market forces affecting commodities. In depressed market conditions, there have been reports of charterers renegotiating their charters or defaulting on their obligations under charters. Our customers may fail to pay charter hire or attempt to renegotiate charter rates. If a counterparty fails to honor its obligations under agreements with us, it may be difficult for us to secure substitute employment for such vessel, and any new charter arrangements we secure in the spot market or on time charters may be at lower rates. Any failure by our charterers to meet their obligations to us or any renegotiation of our charter agreements could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our ability to obtain additional debt financing may be dependent on the performance of our then-existing charters and the creditworthiness of our charterers.
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 additional financing at all or at a higher than anticipated cost may materially affect our results of operations and our ability to implement our business strategy.
Our debt levels and lease obligations may limit our flexibility in obtaining additional financing and in pursuing other business opportunities.
As of December 31, 2018, we had $469.8 million in aggregate principal amount of outstanding indebtedness and finance lease obligations. In addition, in the future we may enter into new debt arrangements, issue debt securities or incur additional finance lease obligations. Our level of debt and lease obligations could have important consequences to us, including the following:
our ability to obtain additional financing, if necessary, for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions or other purposes may be impaired or such financing may not be available on favorable terms;
we may need to use a substantial portion of our cash from operations to make principal and interest payments relating to our debt obligations, reducing the funds that would otherwise be available for operations and future business opportunities;
our debt level could make us more vulnerable than our competitors with less debt to competitive pressures or a downturn in our business or the economy generally; and
our debt level may limit our flexibility in responding to changing business and economic conditions.
Servicing our current or future indebtedness and lease obligations limits funds available for other purposes and if we cannot service our debt, we may lose our vessels.
Borrowing under our existing credit facilities and obligations under our lease arrangements require us to dedicate a significant part of our cash flow from operations to paying principal and interest on our indebtedness under such facilities or obligations under our lease obligations, and we intend to incur additional debt in the future. These payments limit funds available for working capital, capital expenditures and other purposes.
Amounts borrowed under our credit facilities bear interest at variable rates. Increases in prevailing rates could increase the amounts that we would have to pay to our lenders, even though the outstanding principal amount remains the same, and our net income and cash flows would decrease. Currently, we do not have any hedge arrangements in place to reduce our exposure to interest rate variability on variable rate debt and lease obligations.
Our ability to service our debt and lease obligations will depend upon, among other things, our financial and operating performance, which will be affected by prevailing economic and industry conditions and financial, business, regulatory and other factors, some of which are beyond our control. If our results of operations and cash reserves are not sufficient to service our current or future indebtedness and lease obligations, we may be forced to:
seek to raise additional capital;
seek to refinance or restructure our debt;
reduce or delay our business activities, capital expenditures, investments or acquisitions; or
seek bankruptcy protection.
We may be unable to effect any of these remedies, if necessary, on satisfactory terms, and these remedies may not be sufficient to allow us to meet our debt or lease obligations. If we are unable to meet our debt or lease obligations or if some other default occurs under our credit facilities or lease arrangements, our lenders could elect to declare our debt, together with accrued interest and fees, to be immediately due and payable and proceed against the collateral vessels securing that debt or our lessors could terminate our rights under our finance leases.
We are a holding company and depend on the ability of our subsidiaries to distribute funds to us in order to satisfy our financial obligations and to make dividend payments.
We are a holding company and our subsidiaries which are all directly and indirectly wholly owned by us, conduct our operations and own all of our operating assets. As a result, our ability to satisfy our financial obligations and to pay dividends to our shareholders depends on the ability of our subsidiaries to generate profits available for distribution to us and, to the extent that they are unable to generate profits, we will be unable to pay our creditors or dividends to our shareholders.
Our ability to grow may be adversely affected by our dividend policy.
Under our dividend policy, we expect to distribute on a quarterly basis as dividends on our shares of common stock an amount equal to 60% of Earnings from Continuing Operations (which represents our earnings per share reported under U.S. GAAP as adjusted for unrealized and realized gains and losses and extraordinary items). Accordingly, our growth, if any, may not be as fast as businesses that do not distribute quarterly dividends. To the extent we do not have sufficient cash reserves or are unable to obtain financing from external sources, our dividend policy may significantly impair our ability to meet our financial needs or to grow. Since August 31, 2016, when we paid a cash dividend of $0.11 per share for the quarter ended June 30, 2016, we have not paid cash dividends on our shares of common stock due to losses from continuing operations. Our board of directors may review and amend our dividend policy from time to time in light of our plans for future growth and other factors.
Our credit facilities and lease arrangements contain restrictive covenants which among other things, limit the amount of cash that we may use for other corporate activities, which could negatively affect our growth and cause our financial performance to suffer. Our credit facilities and lease arrangements impose operating and financial restrictions on us. These restrictions may limit our ability, or the ability of our subsidiaries to, among other things:
pay dividends and make capital expenditures if we do not repay amounts drawn under our credit facilities or if there is another default under our credit facilities;
incur additional indebtedness, including the issuance of guarantees;
to incur additional lease obligations;
create liens on our assets;
change the flag, class or management of our vessels or terminate or materially amend the management agreement relating to each vessel;
sell our vessels;
merge or consolidate with, or transfer all or substantially all our assets to, another person; or
enter into a new line of business.
Certain of our credit facilities and lease obligations require us to maintain specified financial ratios and satisfy financial covenants. These financial ratios and covenants require us, among other things, to maintain minimum solvency, cash and cash equivalents, corporate net worth, working capital, loan-to-value levels and to avoid exceeding corporate leverage maximum.
As a result of these restrictions, we may need to seek consent from our lenders in order to engage in some corporate actions. Our lenders interests may be different from ours and we may not be able to obtain consent when needed. This may limit our ability to finance our future operations or capital requirements, make acquisitions or pursue business opportunities. Our ability to comply with covenants and restrictions contained in debt instruments and lease arrangements may be affected by events beyond our control, including prevailing economic, financial and industry conditions. If market or other economic conditions deteriorate, we may fail to comply with these covenants. If we breach any of the restrictions, covenants, ratios or tests in our financing agreements, our obligations may become immediately due and payable, we could be subject to increased rates or fees, and the lenders commitment under our credit facilities, if any, to make further loans may terminate. A
default under financing agreements or lease arrangements could also result in foreclosure on any of our vessels and other assets securing related loans or a loss of our rights as a lessee under our finance leases.
If interest rates increase, it will affect the interest rates under our credit facilities and finance lease facilities, which could affect our results of operations.
Amounts borrowed under our existing credit facilities bear interest at an annual rate ranging from 2.50% to 3.50% above LIBOR. Certain of our finance leases bear interest at an annual rate ranging from 3.00% to 4.50% above LIBOR. Interest rates have recently been at relatively low levels and any increase in interest rates would lead to an increase in LIBOR, which would affect the amount of interest payable on amounts that we borrow under our credit facilities and the amount of our obligations under certain of our finance leases, which in turn could have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
There is uncertainty as to the continued use of LIBOR in the future.
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 our variable rate indebtedness and obligations.
If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting, we may not be able to accurately report our financial results or prevent fraud. As a result, shareholders could lose confidence in our financial and other public reporting, which would harm our business and the trading price of our common stock.
Effective internal controls over financial reporting are necessary for us to provide reliable financial reports and, together with adequate disclosure controls and procedures, are designed to prevent fraud. Any failure to implement required new or improved controls, or difficulties encountered in their implementation, could cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations. In addition, any testing we conduct in connection with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, or any testing conducted by our independent registered public accounting firm, may reveal deficiencies in our internal controls over financial reporting that are deemed to be material weaknesses or that may require prospective or retroactive changes to our financial statements or identify other areas for further attention or improvement. Inferior internal controls could also cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information, which could have a negative effect on the trading price of our securities.
We are subject to certain risks with respect to our counterparties on contracts, and failure of such counterparties to meet their obligations could cause us to suffer losses or otherwise adversely affect our results of operations.
We have entered into spot charter contracts, commercial pool agreements, ship management agreements, credit facilities and finance lease arrangements and other commercial arrangements. Such agreements and arrangements subject us to counterparty risks. The ability and willingness 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 and offshore industries, the overall financial condition of the counterparty, charter rates received for specific types of vessels, and various expenses. In addition, in depressed market conditions, our charterers and customers may no longer need a vessel that is currently 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 a counterparty fail to honor its obligations under agreements with us, we could sustain significant losses, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business depends upon key members of our senior management team who may not necessarily continue to work for us.
Our future success depends to a significant extent upon certain members of our senior management team. Our management team includes members who have substantial experience in the product tanker and chemical shipping industries and have worked with us since inception. Our management team is crucial to the execution
of our business strategies and to the growth and development of our business. If the individuals were no longer affiliated with us, we may be unable to recruit other employees with equivalent talent and experience, and our business and financial condition may suffer as a result.
Our insurance may not be adequate to cover our losses that may result from our operations due to the inherent risks of the tanker industry.
We carry insurance to protect us against most of the accident-related risks involved in the conduct of our business, including marine hull and machinery insurance, protection and indemnity insurance, which includes pollution risks, crew insurance and war risk insurance. However, we may not be adequately insured to cover losses from our operational risks, which could have a material adverse effect on us. Additionally, our insurers may refuse to pay particular claims and our insurance may be voidable by the insurers if we take, or fail to take, certain action, such as failing to maintain certification of our vessels with applicable maritime regulatory organizations. Any significant uninsured or under-insured loss or liability could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. In addition, we may not be able to obtain adequate insurance coverage at reasonable rates in the future during adverse insurance market conditions. Changes in the insurance markets attributable to terrorist attacks may also make certain types of insurance more difficult for us to obtain due to increased premiums or reduced or restricted coverage for losses caused by terrorist acts generally.
Because we obtain some of our insurance through protection and indemnity associations, we may be required to make additional premium payments.
We receive insurance coverage for tort liability, including pollution-related liability, from protection and indemnity associations. We may be subject to increased premium payments, or calls, in amounts based on our claim records, the claim records of our managers, as well as the claim records of other members of the protection and indemnity associations. 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.
Exposure to currency exchange rate fluctuations could result in fluctuations in our operating results.
We operate within the international shipping market, which utilizes the U.S. Dollar as its functional currency. As a consequence, the majority of our revenues and the majority of our expenses are in U.S. Dollars.
However, we incur certain general and operating expenses, including vessel operating expenses and general and administrative expenses, in foreign currencies, the most significant of which are the Euro, Singapore Dollar, and British Pound Sterling. This partial mismatch in revenues and expenses could lead to fluctuations in net income due to changes in the value of the U.S. Dollar relative to other currencies.
Climate change and greenhouse gas restrictions may adversely affect our operating results.
A number of countries have adopted, or are considering the adoption of, international, national or local regulatory frameworks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to the concern about climate change. These regulatory measures in various jurisdictions include the adoption of cap and trade regimes, carbon taxes, increased efficiency standards, and incentives or mandates for renewable energy. In November 2016, the Paris Agreement that deals with greenhouse gas emission reduction measures and targets to limit global temperature increases came into force, which could result in additional regulation on the shipping industry (although it does not directly limit greenhouse gas emissions from ships at this time).
Compliance with changes in laws, regulations and obligations relating to climate change, including as a result of such international negotiations, could increase our costs related to operating and maintaining our 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.
The effects upon the oil industry relating to climate change and the resulting regulations may also include declining demand for our services. We do not expect that demand for oil will lessen dramatically over the
short-term, but in the long-term climate change may reduce the demand for oil or increased regulation of greenhouse gases may create greater incentives for use of alternative energy sources. Any long-term material adverse effect on the oil industry could adversely affect the financial and operational aspects of our business, which we cannot predict with certainty at this time.
Regulations relating to ballast water discharge coming into effect during September 2019 may adversely affect our revenues and profitability.
The IMO has imposed updated guidelines for ballast water management systems specifying the maximum amount of viable organisms allowed to be discharged from a vessels ballast water. Depending on the date of the International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) renewal survey, existing vessels constructed before September 8, 2017 must comply with the updated D-2 standard on or after September 8, 2019. For most vessels, compliance with the D-2 standard will involve installing on-board systems to treat ballast water and eliminate unwanted organisms. Ships constructed on or after September 8, 2017 have been required to comply with the D-2 standards since September 8, 2017. As of January 31, 2019, we currently have 17 vessels that will be required to comply with the updated guidelines beginning September 8, 2019 and that are not currently in compliance. The costs of compliance, and bringing the non-compliant vessels into compliance, may be substantial and may adversely affect our revenues and profitability.
We are incorporated in the Marshall Islands, which does not have a well-developed body of corporate case law or bankruptcy 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 articles of incorporation and bylaws and by the Marshall Islands Business Corporations Act (the 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 Marshall Islands interpreting the BCA. The rights and fiduciary responsibilities of directors under the law 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 U.S. 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 shareholders may have more
difficulty in protecting their interests in the face of actions by management, directors or controlling shareholders than would shareholders of a corporation incorporated in a U.S. jurisdiction. In addition, the Marshall Islands does not have a well-developed body of bankruptcy law. As such, in the case of a bankruptcy involving us, there may be a delay of bankruptcy proceedings and the ability of securityholders and creditors to receive recovery after a bankruptcy proceeding, and any such recovery may be less predictable.
It may be difficult to serve process on or enforce a U.S. judgment against us, our officers and our directors.
We are a Marshall Islands corporation and several of our executive offices are located outside of the United States. Most of our directors and officers reside outside the United States. In addition, a substantial portion of our assets and the assets of our directors, officers and experts are located outside of the United States. As a result, you may have difficulty serving legal process upon us or any of these persons within the United States. You may also have difficulty enforcing, both in and outside the United States, judgments you may obtain in U.S. courts against us or any of these persons in any action, including actions based upon the civil liability provisions of U.S. federal or state securities laws. In addition, there is substantial doubt that the courts of the Marshall Islands or of non-U.S. jurisdictions in which our offices are located would enter judgments in original actions brought in those courts predicated on U.S. federal or state securities laws.
Our ability to pay dividends may be limited by the amount of cash we generate from operations following the payment of fees and expenses, by the establishment of any reserves by our board of directors and by additional factors unrelated to our profitability.
Although we generally intend to pay regular quarterly dividends on our common shares, we have not paid dividends on our common stock since August 31, 2016, when we paid a cash dividend of $0.11 per share for the quarter ended June 30, 2016, and we may not pay dividends in the future. The amount of dividends we
pay will depend in part upon the amount of cash we generate from our operations. We may not, however, have sufficient cash available each quarter to pay dividends, as a result of insufficient levels of profit, restrictions on the payment of dividends contained in our financing arrangements or under applicable law and the decisions of our management and directors. The amount of cash we have available for dividends may fluctuate upon, among other things:
the rates we obtain from our charters, as well as the rates obtained following expiration of our existing charters;
the level of our operating costs;
the number of unscheduled off-hire days and the timing of, and number of days required for, scheduled drydocking of our vessels;
vessel acquisitions and related financings, such as restrictions in our credit facilities, lease arrangements and in any future financing arrangements;
prevailing global and regional economic and political conditions;
the effect of governmental regulations and maritime self-regulatory organization standards, including with respect to environmental and safety matters, on the conduct of our business; and
changes in the bases of taxation of our activities in various jurisdictions.
The actual amount of cash we will have available for dividends will also depend on many factors, including:
changes in our operating cash flows, capital expenditure requirements, working capital requirements and other cash needs;
our fleet expansion strategy and associated uses of our cash and our financing requirements;
modification or revocation of our dividend policy by our board of directors;
the amount of any cash reserves established by our board of directors; and
restrictions under our financing agreements and Marshall Islands law.
The amount of cash we generate from our operations may differ materially from our net income or loss for the period, which may be affected by non-cash items. We may incur other expenses or liabilities that could reduce or eliminate the cash available for distribution as dividends. Our credit facilities and obligations under our lease arrangements also restrict our ability to declare and pay dividends if an event of default has occurred and is continuing or if the payment of the dividend would result in an event of default. In addition, Marshall Islands law generally prohibits the payment of dividends other than from surplus (retained earnings in excess of consideration received for the sale of stock above the par value of the stock), or while a company is insolvent or if it would be rendered insolvent by the payment of such a dividend, and any dividend may be discontinued at the discretion of our board of directors. As a result of these or other factors, we may pay dividends during periods when we record losses and may not pay dividends during periods when we record income.
Future sales of our common shares could cause the market price of our common shares to decline.
The market price for our common shares could decline as a result of sales by existing shareholders of large numbers of our common shares, or as a result of the perception that such sales may occur. Sales of our common shares by these shareholders also might make it more difficult for us to sell equity or equity-related securities in the future at a time and at the prices that we deem appropriate.
Anti-takeover provisions in our charter documents could make it difficult for our shareholders to replace or remove our current board of directors or could have the effect of discouraging, delaying or preventing a merger or acquisition, which could adversely affect the market price of our common shares.
Several provisions of our articles of incorporation and bylaws 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 the 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 two-thirds of the outstanding shares of our common stock entitled to vote for the directors;
limiting the persons who may call special meetings of shareholders; and
establishing advance notice requirements for nominating candidates for election to our board of directors or for proposing matters that can be acted on by shareholders at shareholder meetings.
These anti-takeover provisions could substantially impede the ability of public shareholders to benefit from a change in control and, as a result, may adversely affect the market price of our common stock and your ability to realize any potential change of control premium.
U.S. tax authorities could treat us as a passive foreign investment company, which could have adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences to U.S. holders.
A foreign corporation will be treated as a passive foreign investment company (PFIC), for U.S. federal income tax purposes if either (1) at least 75% of its gross income for any taxable year consists of passive income or (2) at least 50% of the average value of the corporations assets produce or are held for the production of passive income. For purposes of these tests, passive income generally includes dividends, interest, and 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. For purposes of these tests, income derived from the performance of services generally does not constitute passive income. U.S. shareholders of a PFIC are subject to an adverse 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.
Based upon our operations as described herein, we do not have material income from time charters, however we may have income from time charters in future taxable years. We do not believe that our income from such time charters should be treated as passive income for purposes of determining whether we are a PFIC. Consequently, the assets that we own and operate in connection with the production of that income should not constitute passive assets. Accordingly, based on our current operations, we do not believe we will be treated as a PFIC with respect to any taxable year.
There is substantial legal authority supporting this position consisting of case law and U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), pronouncements concerning the characterization of income derived from time charters and voyage charters as services income for other tax purposes. However, there is also authority which characterizes time charter income as rental income rather than services income for other tax purposes.
Accordingly, no assurance can be given that the IRS or a court of law will accept this 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 the nature and extent of our operations change.
If the IRS were successful in asserting that we are or have been a PFIC for any taxable year, U.S. shareholders would face adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences. Under the PFIC rules, unless a shareholder makes an election available under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, (the Code), (which election could itself have adverse consequences for such shareholders, as discussed below under Item 10.E (Taxation of Holders U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations U.S. Federal Income Taxation of United States Holders), excess distributions and any gain from the disposition of such
shareholders common shares would be allocated ratably over the shareholders holding period of the common shares and the amounts allocated to the taxable year of the excess distribution or sale or other disposition and to any year before we became a PFIC would be taxed as ordinary income. The amount allocated to each other taxable year would be subject to tax at the highest rate in effect for individuals or corporations, as appropriate, for that taxable year, and an interest charge would be imposed with respect to such tax. See Item 10.E (Taxation of Holders U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations U.S. Federal Income Taxation of United States Holders) for a more comprehensive discussion of the U.S. federal income tax consequences to United States shareholders if we are treated as a PFIC.
We may have to pay tax on U.S. source shipping income, which would reduce our earnings.
Under the Code, 50% of the gross shipping income of a corporation that owns or charters vessels, as we and our subsidiaries do, that is attributable to transportation that begins or ends, but that does not both begin and end, in the United States will be 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 and the applicable Treasury Regulations promulgated thereunder or that corporation is entitled to an exemption from such tax under an applicable U.S. income tax treaty.
We intend to take the position that we qualified for this statutory exemption for U.S. federal income tax return reporting purposes for our 2018 taxable year and we intend to so qualify for future taxable years. However, there are factual circumstances beyond our control that could cause us to lose the benefit of this tax exemption and thereby cause us to become subject to U.S. federal income tax on our U.S. source shipping income. For example, there is a risk that we could no longer qualify for exemption under Section 883 of the Code for a particular taxable year if non-qualified shareholders with a 5% or greater interest in our stock were, in combination with each other, to own 50% or more of the outstanding shares of our stock on more than half the days during the taxable year. Due to the factual nature of the issues involved, we can give no assurances on our tax-exempt status or that of any of our subsidiaries.
If we or our subsidiaries were not entitled to exemption under Section 883 of the Code for any taxable year, we or our subsidiaries would be subject for such year to an effective 4% U.S. federal income tax on the shipping income we or our subsidiaries derive during the year which is attributable to the transport of cargoes to or from the United States. The imposition of this taxation would have a negative effect on our business and would decrease our earnings available for distribution to our shareholders.
We may be subject to additional taxes, which could adversely impact our business and financial results.
We and our subsidiaries are subject to tax in certain jurisdictions in which we or our subsidiaries are organized, own assets or have operations. In computing our tax obligations in these jurisdictions, we are required to take various tax accounting and reporting positions on matters that are not entirely free from doubt and for which we have not received rulings from the governing authorities. We cannot assure you that, upon review of these positions, the applicable authorities will agree with our positions. A successful challenge by a tax authority could result in additional tax imposed on us or our subsidiaries, which could adversely impact our business and financial results.
We are Ardmore Shipping. We provide seaborne transportation of petroleum products and chemicals worldwide to oil majors, national oil companies, oil and chemical traders, and chemical companies, with our modern, fuel-efficient fleet of mid-size product and chemical tankers. As at January 31, 2019, our current fleet consists of 27 vessels, all of which are in operation.
Ardmore Shipping Corporation was incorporated under the laws of the Republic of the Marshall Islands on May 14, 2013. We commenced business operations through our predecessor company, Ardmore Shipping LLC, on April 15, 2010. On August 6, 2013, we completed our initial public offering (IPO) of 10,000,000 shares of our common stock. Prior to our IPO, GA Holdings LLC, who was our sole shareholder, exchanged its 100% interest in Ardmore Shipping LLC for 8,049,500 shares of Ardmore Shipping Corporation, and Ardmore Shipping LLC became a wholly owned subsidiary of Ardmore Shipping Corporation. In March 2014, we completed a follow-on public offering of 8,050,000 common shares. In November 2015, GA Holdings LLC sold 4,000,000 of its shares of our common stock in an underwritten public offering. In June 2016, we completed a public offering of 7,500,000 common shares, of which GA Holdings LLC purchased 1,277,250 shares. In November 2017, GA Holdings LLC disposed the balance of its remaining 5,787,942 common shares. As of January 31, 2019, 33,097,831 shares of our common stock were outstanding.
We have 50 wholly owned subsidiaries, the substantial majority of which represent single ship-owning companies for our fleet, and a 50%-owned joint venture entity, Anglo Ardmore Ship Management Limited (AASML), which provides technical management services to the majority of our fleet. A list of our subsidiaries is included as Exhibit 8.1 to this Annual Report.
We maintain our principal executive and management offices at Belvedere Building, 69 Pitts Bay Road, Ground Floor, Pembroke, HM08, Bermuda. Our telephone number at these offices is +1 441 405 7800. Ardmore Shipping (Bermuda) Limited (ASBL), a wholly-owned subsidiary incorporated in Bermuda, carries out our management services and associated functions. Ardmore Shipping Services (Ireland) Limited (ASSIL), a wholly-owned subsidiary incorporated in Ireland, provides our corporate, accounting, fleet administration and operations services. Ardmore Shipping (Asia) Pte. Limited (ASA), a wholly-owned subsidiary incorporated in Singapore, and Ardmore Shipping (Americas) LLC (ASUSA), a wholly-owned subsidiary incorporated in Delaware, each perform commercial management and chartering services for us.
The SEC maintains an Internet site at www.sec.gov, that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC. Our website address is www.ardmoreshipping.com. The information contained on our website is not part of this annual report.
Vessel Acquisitions and Capital Expenditures
As at January 31, 2019, our current fleet consists of 27 double-hulled product and chemical tankers, all of which are in operation. We acquired 13 of our vessels as second-hand vessels, seven of which we have upgraded to increase efficiency and improve performance. In 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 we paid an aggregate of $232.5 million, $174.0 million, $0.4 million and $16.8 million ($1.6 million of which was paid as a deposit in 2017) respectively, in capital expenditures for vessel acquisitions, vessel equipment, and newbuilding orders.
As of December 31, 2010, our operating fleet consisted of four vessels. From 2011 to 2015, we acquired or took delivery (on a net basis) of 20 vessels respectively. In 2016 we acquired (on a net basis) three vessels and in 2017 we did not acquire any vessels, but paid a deposit for a vessel, Ardmore Sealancer, which we took delivery of in January 2018.
During 2018, the Ardmore Seatrader was classified as held for sale. The vessel was delivered to the buyer in January 2019. On February 1, 2019, we agreed to terms for the sale of the Ardmore Seamaster. The vessel is expected to be delivered to the buyer in February 2019.
We commenced business operations in April 2010 with the goal of building an enduring product and chemical tanker company that emphasizes disciplined capital allocation, service excellence, innovation, and operational efficiency through our focus on high quality, fuel-efficient vessels. We are led by a team of experienced senior managers who have previously held senior management positions with highly regarded public shipping companies and financial institutions.
We are strategically focused on modern, fuel-efficient, mid-size product and chemical tankers. We actively pursue opportunities to exploit the overlap we believe exists between the clean petroleum product (CPP) and chemical sectors in order to enhance earnings, and also seek to engage in more complex CPP trades, such as multi-grade and multi-port loading and discharging operations, where our knowledge of chemical operations is beneficial to our CPP customers.
Our fuel-efficient operations are designed to enhance our investment returns and provide value-added service to our customers. We believe we are at the forefront of fuel efficiency and emissions reduction trends and are well positioned to capitalize on these developments with our fleet of Eco-design and Eco-mod vessels. Our acquisition strategy is to continue to build our fleet with Eco-design newbuildings and modern second-hand vessels that can be upgraded to Eco-mod.
We are an integrated shipping company. The majority of our fleet is technically managed by a combination of ASSIL and AASML and we also retain a third-party technical manager for some of our vessels. We have a resolute focus on both high-quality service and efficient operations, and we believe that our corporate overhead and operating expenses are among the lowest of our peers.
Moreover, we are commercially independent, as we have no blanket employment arrangements with third-party or related-party commercial managers. Through our in-house chartering and commercial team, we market our services directly to a broad range of customers, including oil majors, national oil companies, oil and chemical traders, chemical companies, and pooling service providers. We monitor the tanker markets to understand and best utilize our vessels and may change our chartering strategy to take advantage of changing market conditions.
We have no related-party transactions concerning our vessel operations or vessel sale and purchase activities. Certain of our wholly-owned subsidiaries carry out our management and administrative services, with ASBL being our principal executive office and providing us with corporate and executive management services and associated functions, ASSIL providing corporate and accounting administrative services, as well as technical operations services and fleet administration, and ASA and ASUSA providing our commercial management and chartering services.
We believe that the market for mid-size product and chemical tankers is recovering from cyclical lows, resulting from strong underlying demand growth driven by both cyclical and secular trends, as well as a reduction in the supply overhang due to reduced ordering activity and an extended period of fleet growth at a rate below that of demand growth. We believe that we are well positioned to benefit from a market recovery with a modern, fuel-efficient fleet, access to capital for growth, a diverse and high-quality customer base, an emphasis on service excellence in an increasingly demanding regulatory environment and a relative cost advantage in assets, operations and corporate overhead.
As at January 31, 2019, our current fleet consists of 27 vessels, including 21 Eco-design and six Eco-mod vessels, all of which are in operation. The average age of our vessels at January 31, 2019, was 6.1 years.
On February 1, 2019, the Company agreed terms for the sale of the Ardmore Seamaster. The vessel is expected to be delivered to the buyer in February 2019.
C. Business Strategy
Our objective is to solidify our position as a market leader in modern, fuel-efficient, mid-size product and chemical tankers by engaging in well-timed growth and utilizing our operational expertise and quality-focused approach to provide value-added services to our customers. The key elements of our business strategy include:
Disciplined capital allocation and well-timed growth. We have a diligent and patient approach to capital allocation and expanding our fleet and we are selective as to the quality of ships we seek to acquire. We believe that our commitment and selectivity in growing our fleet has been instrumental in building our reputation for quality and service excellence. We also believe that financial flexibility and well-timed growth of quality ships is key to delivering superior returns for shareholders.
Focus on modern high quality, mid-size product and chemical tankers. We maintain a very modern fleet, with all vessels built in high quality yards in South Korea or Japan. The average sizes of our product and chemical tankers are substantially similar to the median sizes of the global fleets for product tankers and chemical tankers. We have developed our strategic focus around mainstream tanker sizes that are readily employed and actively traded worldwide in broad and deep markets.
Additionally, as a result of the overlap between the product and chemical sectors, we believe that our fleet composition enables us to take advantage of opportunities, both operationally and strategically, while also providing investment diversification.
Optimizing Fuel Efficiency. The shipping industry is experiencing a steady increase in fuel efficiency, and we intend to remain at the forefront of this development. Our Eco-design vessels incorporate many of the latest technological improvements, such as electronically-controlled engines, more efficient hull forms matched with energy efficient propellers, and decreased water resistance. Our Eco-mod vessels have improved propulsion efficiency and decreased water resistance. In addition, we achieve further improvements through engine diagnostics and operational performance monitoring.
Commercial independence, flexibility and customer service. Through our in-house chartering and commercial team and our ship management joint venture arrangement, we have an integrated operating platform resulting in leading commercial and operational performance. We maintain a broad range of existing and potential spot customers, as well as pooling alternatives and potential time-charter customers, to maximize commercial flexibility and customer diversification. Maintaining outstanding customer service is a cornerstone of our business and we seek customers who value our active approach to fuel efficiency and service delivery.
Low cost structure. We have established a solid foundation for growth while cost-effectively managing our operating expenses and corporate overhead. We intend to grow our staff as needed and to realize further economies of scale as our fleet expands. At the core of our business philosophy is the belief that well-run companies can deliver high quality service and achieve efficiency simultaneously, through hands-on management, effective communication with employees, and constant re-evaluation of budgets and operational performance.
Corporate Officers, Staff and Seafarers
Biographical information with respect to each of our directors and executive officers is set forth in Item 6 (Directors, Senior Management and Employees) of this Annual Report.
As at December 31, 2018, we employed 49 permanent full-time staff and 3 part-time staff onshore. Through AASML, our 50%-owned joint venture ship manager, and Thome Ship Management, our third party technical manager, we currently employ approximately 1,076 seafarers, including 711 officers and cadets and 365 crew.
Commercial management is provided directly by our in-house chartering and commercial team, and by third-party commercial pool managers, in the case of vessels participating in pooling arrangements. Commercial pools can provide many benefits for vessels operating in the spot market, including the ability to generate higher returns due to the economies of scale derived by operating a larger fleet.
Our customers include national, regional, and international companies and our fleet is employed directly on the tanker spot market through our in-house chartering and commercial team. We may in the future seek to deploy our vessels on time charter arrangements or on the tanker spot market via third party commercial pool employment. We believe that developing strong relationships with the end users of our services allows us to better satisfy their needs with appropriate and capable vessels.
A prospective charterers financial condition, creditworthiness, and reliability track record are important factors in negotiating our vessels employment.
We operate in markets that are highly competitive and based primarily on supply and demand. We compete for charters on the basis of price, vessel location, size, age and condition of the vessel, as well as our reputation. Ownership of tanker vessels is highly fragmented and is divided among publicly listed companies, state-controlled owners and private ship-owners.
The International Product and Chemical Tanker Industry
The information and data contained in this section relating to the international product and chemical tanker shipping industries have been provided by Drewry Maritime Research (Drewry), and is taken from Drewrys database and other sources. Drewry has advised that: (i) some information in their database is derived from estimates or subjective judgments; and (ii) the information in the databases of other maritime data collection agencies may differ from the information in their database. We believe that all third-party data provided in this section, The International Product and Chemical Tanker Industry, is reliable.
The world tanker fleet is generally divided into four main categories of vessels based on the main type of cargo carried. These categories are crude oil, refined petroleum products (both clean and dirty products), hereinafter referred to as products, chemicals, (including vegetable oils and fats) and specialist products such as bitumen. There is some overlap between the main tanker types and the cargoes carried which is explained in the table below.
Principal Tanker Types and Main Cargoes Carried
Ship Size Dwt
Refined Products Dirty
Refined Products Dirty
Long Range 3 (LR3)
Crude; Chemicals/Veg Oils
Long Range 2 (LR2)
Crude; Chemicals/Veg Oils
Long Range 1 (LR1)
Crude; Chemicals/Veg Oils
Medium Range (MR)
Short Range (SR)
Stainless Steel Tankers
Various e.g. Bitumen
In the product and chemical sectors, there are a number of vessels that possess the ability to carry both products and some chemicals. These vessels, therefore, represent a swing element in supply in both of these markets. However, in practice many vessels will tend to trade in either refined products or chemicals/vegetable oils and fats.
In 2018, a total of 3,414 million tons of crude oil, oil products and chemicals were moved by sea. The marginal increase of 1.0% from 3,381 million tons in 2017 is the result of inventory drawdown to meet the crude oil demand as the OPEC producers chose to keep a cap on supply and crude oil trade grew by a nominal 0.6% in 2018. Over the period from 2008 to 2018, seaborne trade in oil products grew at an annual average rate of 3.2% and in 2018 totalled 1,053 million tons. Provisional estimates indicate seaborne products trade growth at 2.0% in 2018 compared with 2.9% in 2017 because of inventory drawdown as well as lower growth in oil demand compared to the previous year.
Between 2013 and 2018, seaborne trade grew by an annual rate of 2.0% for crude oil, 3.1% for oil products, and 2.7% for chemicals. Over the period from 2013 to 2018, seaborne trade in refined products and chemicals were two of the fastest growing sectors of international tanker shipping. Changes in world seaborne tanker trade volumes in the period 2008 to 2018 are shown in the table below.
While crude oil tankers transport crude oil from points of production to points of consumption typically oil refineries in consuming countries product tankers can carry both refined and unrefined petroleum products, including some crude oil, as well as fuel oil and vacuum gas oil (often referred to as dirty products) and gas oil, gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene and naphtha (often referred to as clean products). Tankers with no International Maritime Organization (IMO) certification but with coated cargo tanks are designed to carry products, while tankers with IMO certification (normally IMO 2 or IMO 3) and coated cargo tanks are capable of carrying both products and chemicals/vegetable oils and fats. Given the above, a tanker with IMO 2 certification and with an average tank size in excess of 3,000 cubic metres is normally classified as a product tanker, while a tanker with IMO 2 certification and an average tank size of less than 3,000 cubic metres is normally categorized as a chemical tanker.
In essence, products can be carried in coated non IMO tankers and IMO rated coated tankers. By this definition, the product capable tanker fleet comprises nearly 45% of the total tanker fleet (above 10,000 dwt) in numbers terms, and therefore plays a key part in the global tanker market.
Demand for product tankers is determined by world oil demand and trade, which is influenced by various factors including economic activity, geographic changes in oil production, consumption and refinery capacity, oil prices, the availability of transport alternatives (such as pipelines) and inventory policies of nations and oil trading companies. Tanker demand is a product of (i) the volume of cargo transported in tankers, multiplied by (ii) the distance that cargo is transported.
Oil demand growth and the changing location of oil supply have altered the structure of the tanker market in recent years. Between 2003 and 2008, more than half of new crude oil production was located in the Middle East and Africa. These two regions still produce approximately one third of global supply in 2018. However, in recent years, the United States (U.S.) and Canadian crude oil production have increased as a result of the development of shale oil deposits, with the U.S. now the largest producer of crude in the world. This has reduced the U.S. seaborne crude import demand, but is resulting in greater oil product volumes becoming available for export from the U.S. Gulf, because refiners have access to plentiful supplies of competitively priced feedstock.
New technologies such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have triggered a shale oil revolution in the U.S., and in 2013, for the first time in the last two decades, the U.S. produced more oil than it imported. In view of the rising surplus in oil production, in 2015 the U.S. Congress lifted a 40 year-old ban on crude oil exports that was put in place after the Arab oil embargo in 1973, thereby allowing U.S. oil producers access to international markets.
The first shipments of the U.S. crude were sent to Europe immediately after the lifting of the ban, and since then other destinations have followed. The U.S. exported nearly 0.5 mbpd of crude oil in 2015 and 2016. However, 2017 marked a very important development for the U.S. crude producers as the country exported crude to every major importer including China, India, South Korea and several European countries. Consequently, the U.S. crude oil exports averaged 1.1 mbpd in 2017, with increasing production encouraging greater loadings in the Gulf of Mexico. In November 2018, the U.S. crude exports surpassed 3 mbpd. Provisional estimates indicate the U.S. crude exports grew by nearly 90% to 2.1 mbpd in 2018. However, this is still well below the exports of major exporters such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and other key Middle Eastern countries.
Additionally, in 2014, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in the U.S. began classifying exports of U.S. treated condensate as kerosene and light gas oils in its Petroleum Supply Monthly report. This followed on from a decision by the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to allow the export of distilled condensate as a refined product. Field condensate, which can be fed into a refinery or used as a chemical plant feedstock, had until 2014 been considered as an upstream product and therefore restricted for export under the U.S. law. However, the BIS ruling that field stabilization processing changes condensate enough that it becomes a new product, which has opened up further export opportunities. In short, changes in the U.S. oil market have had a very positive impact on product tanker demand because the U.S. product exports have risen sharply since 2009 as indicated by the chart given below.
The US Crude Oil Production and Product Exports
Much of the increase in U.S. exports have gone to satisfy growing South American and African demand for oil products while other U.S. exports have been moving transatlantic into Europe, where local refinery shutdowns have supported the rise in the import of products.
In terms of ton-mile demand, a notable development in the patterns of world refining over the last five years has been the shift towards crude oil producing regions developing their own refinery capacity, while at the same time, poor refinery margins have led to closures of refineries in the developed world, most notably in Europe and on the U.S. East Coast. In this context it is already apparent that the closures of refining capacity in the developed world are prompting long haul imports to cater for product demand, for instance on routes such as the West Coast India to the U.S. eastern seaboard and Europe. Refinery closures close to consuming regions elsewhere in the world will also help to support product import demand. For example, in Australia, trade from Singapore has become increasingly important to compensate for the conversion of local producing refineries into storage depots. This is part of a general increase in intra-Asian trade which is already boosting product tanker demand.
The shift in the location of global oil production is also being accompanied by a shift in the location of global refinery capacity and throughput. In short, capacity and throughput are moving from the developed to the developing world. Between 2008 and 2018, refinery throughput in the OECD Americas moved up by 7.9% to 19.4 mbpd. Whereas, total OECD refining throughput in the same period increased marginally by 0.3%, despite cutbacks in OECD Europe and OECD Asia Oceania mainly on account of expansion in OECD Americas. In 2018, refining throughput of OECD countries stood at 38.5 mbpd and accounted for 46.8% of global refinery throughput.
Refinery Throughput(1) 2008 2018
(000 Barrels Per Day)
OECD Asia Oceania
The difference between oil consumption and refinery throughput is accounted for by condensates, output gains; direct burning of crude oil and other non-gas liquids.
Asia and the Middle East have steadily increased their export-oriented refinery capacity in the last few years. As a result of these developments countries such as India and Saudi Arabia have consolidated their positions as major exporters of products. It is also the case that export-oriented refineries in India and the Middle East, coupled with the closure of refining capacity in the developed world, have promoted greater long-haul shipments to cater for product demand.
New refining capacity of 1.3 mbpd came online in 2018 and further new refinery capacity is currently scheduled for both the Middle East and Asia in the period 2019 to 2023. In the period 2019 to 2023, anticipated additions to refinery capacity on a regional basis amount to 7.7 mbpd, or 7.7% of existing refinery capacity.
In developed economies, such as Europe, refinery capacity is on the decline and this trend is likely to continue as refinery development plans are concentrated in areas such as Asia and the Middle East or close to oil producing centres and where the new capacity coming on stream is export orientated. These new refineries are more competitive, as they can process sour crude oil and are technically more advanced as well as more environment friendly compared with existing European refineries. It is also the case that few new refineries or expansions are planned for Europe. By contrast, Chinese and Indian refinery capacity, for example, has grown at faster rates than any other global region in the last decade, due to strong domestic oil consumption, and the construction of export-orientated refineries. In the period 2008 to 2018, Chinese refining capacity increased by 76.3% and for India, the growth was 65.9%.
Capacity for 2019 to 2021 assumes all announced plans go ahead as scheduled
As a result of the growth in trade and the changes in the location of refinery capacity, demand for product tankers expressed in terms of tonne-miles grew at a CAGR of 3.2% between 2008 and 2018. Generally, growth in products trade and product tanker demand is more consistent and less volatile than crude oil trade.
The global product tanker fleet is classified as any non stainless steel/specialized tanker between 10,000 dwt and 60,000 dwt, as well as coated and other product-capable vessels over 60,000 dwt. As of January 16, 2019, the world product tanker capable fleet consisted of 3,849 vessels with a combined capacity of 179.6 million dwt. Within the total tanker fleet, MR vessels account for 32.6% of total ship numbers, and in the global product tanker fleet, they account for 55.9% of total ship numbers. MR vessels are considered the workhorses of the fleet.
As of January 16, 2019, the MR product tanker orderbook was 123 vessels totalling 6.1 million dwt. The MR orderbook as a percentage of the existing MR fleet in terms of number of vessels was 5.7%, compared with close to 50% at the last peak in 2008. Based on scheduled deliveries, 76 MR product tankers are due for delivery in the remainder of 2019 and a further 41 MR vessels in 2020. Approximately 60% of the vessels on order in the MR category are scheduled to be delivered in 2019 and this would increase the MR fleet by 3.5%, assuming no vessel scrapping. However, in recent years, the orderbook has been affected by the non-delivery of vessels or slippage as it is sometimes referred to. Current estimates suggest that in 2018, approximately 30% of vessels across the entire tanker orderbook scheduled for delivery in 2018 were not delivered during the year. Some of the non-delivery was a result of delays, either through mutual agreement or through shipyard problems, while some were due to vessel cancellations. Slippage is likely to remain an issue going forward and will continue to affect fleet growth.
The other factor that will affect future supply is vessel scrapping. The volume of scrapping is primarily a function of the age profile of the fleet, scrap prices in relation to current and prospective charter market conditions, as well as operating, repair and survey costs. In 2016, a total of 32 tankers of a combined capacity of 2.3 million dwt were sold for scrap, of which 17 tankers of approximately 0.7 million dwt were in the MR size range. In comparison, 84 tankers with a combined capacity of 10.4 million dwt of tonnage were scrapped in 2017, of which 19 tankers with a total capacity of 0.8 million dwt were in the MR size range. Low freight rates in a weak tanker market in 2018 encouraged greater demolitions and provisional data suggests that 156 tankers of a combined capacity of 20.7 million dwt were sold to scrapyards, of which 34 tankers with an aggregate capacity of 1.4 million dwt were MR tankers.
World Tanker Fleet & Orderbook: January 16, 2019
% Fleet No. of Vessels
Orderbook Delivery Schedule (No. of Vessels)
Long Range 3 (LR3)
Long Range 2 (LR2)
Long Range 1 (LR1)
LR Product Tankers
Coated IMO 2
Coated IMO 3 & Non IMO Coated/Uncoated
Stainless Steel Tankers
Total All Tankers
Two other important factors are likely to affect product tanker supply in the future. The first is the requirement to retrofit Ballast Water Management Systems (BWMS) to existing vessels. In February 2004, the IMO adopted the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments. The IMO Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention contains an environmentally protective numeric
standard for the treatment of a ships ballast water before it is discharged. This standard, detailed in Regulation D-2 of the BWM Convention, sets out the numbers of organisms allowed in specific volumes of treated discharge water. The IMO D-2 standard is also the standard that has been adopted by the US Coast Guards ballast water regulations and the US EPAs Vessel General Permit. The BWM Convention also contains an implementation schedule for the installation of IMO member state type approved treatment systems in existing ships and in new vessels, requirements for the development of vessel ballast water management plans, requirements for the safe removal of sediments from ballast tanks, and guidelines for the testing and type approval of ballast water treatment technologies. In July 2017, the IMO extended the regulatory requirement of compliance to BWM Convention from September 8, 2017, to September 8, 2019. Vessels trading internationally will have to comply with the BWM Convention upon their next special survey after that date and for an MR2 tanker, the retrofit cost could be as much as $1.0 million per vessel including labour. Expenditure of this kind will be another factor impacting the decision to scrap older vessels once the extended BWM Convention comes into force in September 2019.
The second factor that is likely to impact future vessel supply is the drive to introduce low sulfur fuels. For many years, high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) has been the main fuel of the shipping industry. It is relatively inexpensive and widely available, but it is dirty from an environmental point of view.
The IMO, the governing body of international shipping, has made a decisive effort to diversify the industry away from HSFO into cleaner fuels that have less harmful effects on the environment and human health. Effective in 2015, ships operating within the Emission Control Areas (ECAs) covering the Economic Exclusive Zone of North America, the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, and the English Channel are required to use marine gas oil with allowable sulfur content up to 0.1%. From January 1, 2020, ships sailing outside ECAs will switch to an alternate fuel with permitted sulfur content up to 0.5%. This will create openings for a variety of compliant fuels (with estimates indicating that demand for compliant fuels, such as marine gas oil, will increase by 2.5 3 mbpd), and/or require major capital expenditures for costly scrubbers to be retrofitted on existing ships and as such the rules will be another factor hastening the demise of older ships.
The Product Tanker Freight Market
Between 2003 and early 2008, the differential between demand and supply for tankers remained narrow and rates were generally very firm. Following the global financial crisis in 2009, tanker demand nosedived, coinciding with substantial tonnage entering the fleet, driving earnings down until the market started to recover in 2014. Product tanker fleet growth in 2015 was approximately 5.0% in capacity terms and with demand growing by approximately 6.0% improved utilization rates in the sector have led to much stronger freight rates. The specific factors which have led to improved market conditions include:
increased trade due to higher stocking activity and improved demand for oil products
longer voyage distances because of refining capacity additions in Asia
product tankers are also carrying crude oil encouraged by firm freight rates for dirty tankers
lower bunker prices have also been a factor contributing to higher net earnings
The average time charter equivalent (TCE) of the spot rate for a Medium Range (MR) product tanker in 2015 was $18,375/day, compared with an average of $9,833/day in 2014. On a one-year time charter rate basis, average MR rates rose from $14,438/day in 2014 to $17,271/day in 2015. However, the surge in newbuild deliveries in 2016 had a negative impact on vessel earnings, with average freight rates in the spot and one year time charter markets falling to $9,767/day and $15,125/day respectively. Another round of newbuilding deliveries in 2017 had an adverse effect on supply-demand dynamics and freight rates for product tankers declined further. In 2017, average one year time charter rate for MR tankers was $13,188/day, while on TCE basis the average rate during 2017 was $9,158/day. The product tanker market remained weak in 2018 and TCE rates and one year time charter rates averaged at $9,299/day and $13,175/day respectively. However, the freight rates improved significantly in the closing month of the year.
It should be noted that these rates are based on standard five year old MR vessels, and there is some evidence that modern fuel efficient vessels with Eco specifications are commanding an additional premium of up to 10% over the freight rate realized by these vessels.
Product tanker asset values have also fluctuated over time, and there is a relationship between changes in asset values and the charter market. Newbuilding prices increased significantly between 2003 and early 2008, primarily as a result of increased tanker demand and rising freight rates. Current newbuilding prices are significantly below the peaks reported at the height of the market in 2008. In December 2018, the newbuilding price for an MR product tanker was estimated at $36.0 million.
The second-hand sale and purchase market has traditionally been relatively liquid, with tankers changing hands between owners on a regular basis. Second-hand prices peaked over the summer of 2008 and have since followed a similar path to both freight rates and newbuilding prices. In December 2018, a five year old MR product tanker was estimated to have a value of $27.0 million. The trend in newbuilding prices, second-hand values and freight rates for an MR tanker in the period 2008 to December 2018 are summarized in the table below.
MR Product Tankers: Freight Rate and Asset Value Summary
The world chemical industry is one of the largest and most diversified industries in the world with more than 1,000 large and medium-sized companies manufacturing over 70,000 different product lines. Although most specialist chemicals are used locally, world trade is becoming an increasingly prominent part of the global chemical industry for a number of reasons ranging from local stock imbalances to a lack of local production of particular chemicals in various parts of the world. In broad terms, seaborne trade growth in bulk liquid chemicals has tracked trends in economic activity and globalization.
The seaborne transportation of chemicals is technically and logistically complex compared with the transportation of crude oil and oil products, with cargoes ranging from hazardous and noxious chemicals to products such as edible oils and fats. Consequently, the chemical tanker sector comprises a wide array of specially constructed small and medium sized tankers designed to carry chemical products in various stages of production.
Chemical Tanker Demand
Demand for chemicals is affected by, among other things, general economic conditions (including increases and decreases in industrial production and transportation), chemical prices, feedstock costs and chemical production capacity. Given their industrial usage, chemical demand, and as a result demand for seaborne transport, is strongly correlated with global GDP. Seaborne trade in chemicals is characterized by a wide range of individual cargoes and a relatively regionalized structure compared with crude and products. Given the geographical complexity and the diversity of cargoes involved and the way in which some cargoes are transported, estimating total seaborne trade in chemicals is difficult. Essentially, there are four main types of chemicals transported by sea: i) organic chemicals, ii) inorganic chemicals, iii) vegetable oils and fats and iv) other commodities such as molasses.
The U.S. is the largest exporter of organic chemicals, accounting for approximately 25% of all exports, while China accounts for approximately one-third of total organic chemical imports. The four organic chemicals most frequently traded by sea are methanol, styrene, benzene and para-xylene. Inorganic chemical trade accounts for approximately 10 15% of total seaborne movements. They are not traded geographically as wide as organic chemicals and they also present several transport problems; not only are they very dense, they are also highly corrosive. Palm oil accounts for about half of this, with the next top two commodities in this sector traded by sea being soybean oil and sunflower seed oil.
From a regional perspective, activity is focused on three main geographical areas. Europe is a mature, established producing region, contributing over one quarter of total chemical production. Much of Europes production serves domestic requirements. This manifests itself in increased demand for short-sea services, rather than deep-sea trades. North American (predominantly the US) manufacturers produce approximately one fifth of the major chemical products in the world. Although the majority of the US production is for domestic use, particularly where gasoline additives are involved, the country also produces above domestic requirements, which results in significant export volumes.
In the U.S., the chemicals industry will be affected by the development of shale gas. Increased supplies of natural gas in the U.S. have already served to push down domestic gas prices and the fall in natural gas prices has had a beneficial impact on feedstock costs for the petrochemical industry. In particular, the cost of ethane has fallen significantly since 2011, thereby increasing the competitiveness of the U.S. petrochemical industry within a global perspective. Accordingly, U.S. ethylene production costs have fallen to levels where the U.S. can now compete with Middle Eastern suppliers, and this opens up new opportunities to expand U.S. ethylene cracking capacity and subsequently petrochemical capacity. Ethylene cracker utilization in the U.S. has improved and prior to the fall in oil prices in late 2014, plans had been announced for a number of new petrochemical plants. Ethylene is a precursor for many of the organic chemicals shipped by sea (e.g. ethylene dichloride, ethylene glycol), so increased production would lead to increased availability of downstream chemical products for export from the U.S. Although the Middle East will continue to be the largest supplier of organic chemicals, the U.S. will be a major exporter of methanol and ethylene derivatives to the Far East market. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Irans new methanol projects have had a significant impact on global seaborne chemical trade.
Chemical Tanker Supply
Chemical tankers are characterized mainly by cargo containment systems which are technically more sophisticated than those found in conventional oil and product tankers. Since chemical tankers are often required to carry many products, which are typically hazardous and easily contaminated, cargo segregation and containment is an essential feature of these tankers.
Chemicals can only be carried in a tanker which has a current IMO Certificate of Fitness. The IMO regulates the carriage of chemicals by sea under the auspices of the International Bulk Chemical Code (IBC), which classifies potentially dangerous cargoes into three categories, typically referred to as IMO 1, IMO 2 and IMO 3. Specific IMO conventions govern the requirements for particular tanks to be classified as each grading, with the pertinent features of each tank being the internal volume and its proximity to the sides and bottom of the vessels hull.
The carriage of 18 cargoes is restricted to IMO Type 1 classified vessels, while the majority of cargoes require IMO 2 vessels, including vegetable oils and palm oils. One concession to the IBC Code regulations is an allowance that IMO 3 tankers may carry other edible oils, an exemption introduced because of the tendency for such cargoes to be shipped in large bulk parcels. This often requires ships of up to MR size. Despite this exemption, these vessels are not true chemical tankers in the general sense of the word, as they are not able to carry IMO 2 cargoes.
As well as defining the chemical tanker fleet in terms of IMO type, it is also possible to further define the fleet according to the degree of tank segregation, tank size and tank coating as detailed below.
Chemical parcel tankers: Over 75% of the tanks are segregated with an average tank size less than 3,000 cbm, all of which are stainless steel. A typical chemical parcel tanker might be IMO 2 with a capacity of 20,000 dwt and have twenty fully segregated tanks which are of stainless steel.
Chemical bulk tankers: Vessels with a lower level of tank segregations (below 75%), with an average tank size below 3,000 cbm, and with coated tanks. A typical chemical bulk tanker might be 17,000 dwt with 16 coated tanks but 8 segregations and be IMO 2.
Given the above, a broad definition of a chemical tanker is any vessel with a current IMO certificate of fitness with coated/and or stainless steel tanks and an average tank size of less than 3,000 cbm.
Overall, within the product and chemical tanker fleets, it is important to recognize that there are a group of swing ships which can trade in either products or in chemicals, vegetable oils and fats. For example, a product tanker with IMO 2 certification may trade from time to time in easy chemicals such as caustic soda. Equally, an IMO 2 chemical tanker can in theory carry in products. The sector in which these swing ships trade will depend on a number of factors, with the main influences being the exact technical specifications of the ship, the last cargo carried, the state of the freight market in each sector and the operating policy of the ship owner/operator.
As of January 16, 2019, the world IMO 2 Coated and Stainless Steel tanker fleet consisted of 1,677 vessels with a combined capacity of 36.3 million dwt. The orderbook consisted of 95 vessels with an aggregate capacity of 2.4 million dwt, or 5.7% of the existing fleet. In 2018, provisional data suggests that only seven MR chemical tankers totalling 0.3 million dwt were sent for demolition. In addition, chemical tankers are relatively complex vessel types to build and this increases the barriers to entry for shipyards and the pool of yards that owners are willing to consider is small.
World Coated IMO 2 and Stainless Steel Tanker Fleet and Orderbook: January 16, 2019