SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
For the fiscal year ended
Date of event requiring this shell company report:
For the transition period from ____ to ____
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|(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)|
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Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of Each Class||Trading Symbol(s)||Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered|
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act: None
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer's classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report:
General Partner Units
9.00% Series A Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Units
8.75% Series B Fixed to Floating Rate Cumulative Redeemable Perpetual Preferred Units
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
|[_] Yes||[X] |
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|[_] Yes||[X] |
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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.
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).
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 definition of "large accelerated filer," "accelerated filer," and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
|Large accelerated filer [_]||Accelerated filer [ ]|
|Emerging growth company |
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the Registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.[_]
† The term "new or revised financial accounting standard" refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management's assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. ☐
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|[_] International Financial Reporting Standards as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board|
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|[_] Item 17|
|[_] Item 18|
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).
|[_] Yes||[X] |
(APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Sections 12, 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 subsequent to the distribution of securities under a plan confirmed by a court.
|[_] Yes||[_] No|
PRESENTATION OF INFORMATION IN THIS ANNUAL REPORT
This annual report on Form 20-F for the year ended December 31, 2022, or the annual report, should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and accompanying notes included in this annual report. Unless the context otherwise requires, references in this annual report to "Dynagas LNG Partners," the "Partnership," "we," "our," and "us" or similar terms refer to Dynagas LNG Partners LP and its wholly-owned subsidiaries, including Dynagas Operating LP. Dynagas Operating LP owns, directly or indirectly, a 100% interest in the entities that own the LNG carriers in our fleet that we refer to as our "Fleet." References in this annual report to our "General Partner" refer to Dynagas GP LLC, the general partner of Dynagas LNG Partners LP. References in this annual report to our "Sponsor" are to Dynagas Holding Ltd. and its subsidiaries other than us or our subsidiaries and references to our "Manager" refer to Dynagas Ltd., which is wholly owned by the chairman of our Board of Directors, Mr. Georgios Prokopiou. References in this annual report to the "Prokopiou Family" are to our Chairman, Mr. Georgios Prokopiou, and certain members of his family.
All references in this annual report to us for periods prior to our initial public offering, or IPO, on November 18, 2013, refer to our predecessor companies and their subsidiaries, which are former subsidiaries of our Sponsor that had interests in the Clean Energy, the Ob River, and the Amur River, collectively our "Initial Fleet."
All references in this annual report to "SEFE," "Equinor," and "Yamal" refer to SEFE Marketing and Trading Singapore Pte Ltd (formerly known as Gazprom Marketing & Trading Singapore Pte Ltd), Equinor ASA (formerly, Statoil ASA), and Yamal Trade Pte. Ltd., respectively.
Unless otherwise indicated, all references to "U.S. dollars," "dollars," and "$" in this annual report are to the lawful currency of the United States. We use the term "LNG" to refer to liquefied natural gas, and we use the term "cbm" to refer to cubic meters in describing the carrying capacity of our vessels.
References herein to the "Omnibus Agreement" refer to the Omnibus Agreement, as amended and restated and as currently in effect, with our Sponsor. The Omnibus Agreement provides us with the right, but not the obligation, to purchase from our Sponsor any LNG carriers acquired or placed under contracts with an initial term of four or more years, for so long as the Omnibus Agreement is in full force and effect. Please see “Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions.”
The "Yamal LNG Project" refers to the LNG production terminal on the Yamal Peninsula in Northern Russia. The terminal consists of three LNG trains with a total capacity of 16.5 million metric tons of LNG per year that require ice-class designated vessels to transport LNG from this facility, for which two of the vessels in our Fleet have been contracted. The Yamal LNG Project is a joint venture between NOVATEK (50.1%), TOTAL E&P Yamal (20%), China National Oil & Gas Exploration and Development Corporation (CNODC) (20%), and Yaym Limited (9.9%). Please see "Item 4. Information on the Partnership—B. Business Overview.”
FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS AND SUMMARY OF RISK FACTORS
This annual report contains certain forward-looking statements (as such term is defined in Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act) concerning future events and our operations, performance, and financial condition, including, in particular, the likelihood of our success in developing and expanding our business. The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, or the PSLRA, provides safe harbor protections for forward-looking statements in order to encourage companies to provide prospective information about their business.
We desire to take advantage of the safe harbor provisions of the PSLRA and are including this cautionary statement in connection with this safe harbor legislation. This report and any other written or oral statements made by us or on our behalf may include forward-looking statements, which reflect our current views with respect to future events and financial performance. Statements that are predictive in nature, that depend upon or refer to future events or conditions, or that include words such as "expects," "anticipates," "intends," "plans," "believes," "estimates," "projects," "likely," "would," "could," "seek," "continue," "possible," "might," "forecasts," "will," "may," "potential," "should," and similar expressions are forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements reflect management's current views only as of the date of this annual report and are not intended to give any assurance as to future results. As a result, unitholders are cautioned not to rely on any forward-looking statements.
Forward-looking statements appear in a number of places in this annual report and include statements with respect to, among other things:
|·||LNG market trends, including charter rates, factors affecting supply and demand, and opportunities for the profitable operations of LNG carriers;|
|·||our anticipated growth strategies, including potential expansion into and acquisition of assets and businesses in other sectors of the shipping industry;|
|·||the effect of a worldwide economic slowdown;|
|·||potential turmoil in the global financial markets;|
|·||fluctuations in currencies, interest rates, and foreign exchange rates, and the impact of the discontinuance of the London Interbank Offered Rate for U.S. Dollars, or LIBOR, after June 30, 2023, on any of our debt referencing LIBOR in the interest rate;|
|·||general market conditions, including fluctuations in charter hire rates and vessel values;|
|·||changes in our operating expenses, including dry-docking, surveys, upgrades, crewing and insurance costs, bunker prices, and fuel prices;|
|·||the adequacy of our insurance to cover our losses;|
|·||our ability to make cash distributions on the units or any increase or decrease in or elimination of our cash distributions;|
|·||our future financial condition or results of operations and our future revenues and expenses;|
|·||our ability to repay or refinance our existing debt and our settling of interest rate swaps (if any);|
|·||our ability to incur additional indebtedness on acceptable terms or at all, to access the public and private debt and equity markets, and to meet our restrictive covenants and other obligations under our credit facilities, including our $675 Million Credit Facility (as defined below);|
|·||planned capital expenditures and availability of capital resources to fund capital expenditures;|
|·||the impact of increasing scrutiny and changing expectations from investors, lenders, charterers, and other market participants with respect to our Environmental, Social, and Governance ("ESG") practices;|
|·||our ability to comply with additional costs and risks related to our ESG policies;|
|·||the effect of applicable sanctions or embargo laws;|
|·||our ability to maintain long-term relationships with major LNG traders;|
|·||our ability to leverage our Sponsor's relationships and reputation in the shipping industry;|
|·||our ability to realize the expected benefits from our vessel acquisitions;|
|·||our ability to acquire newbuildings and second-hand vessels on terms acceptable to us from our Sponsor or third parties and the timely deliveries of such vessels if and when acquired;|
|·||our ability to compete successfully for future chartering opportunities upon the expiration or termination of existing vessel employment arrangements;|
|·||acceptance of a vessel by its charterer;|
|·||termination dates and extensions of charters;|
|·||the expected cost of, and our ability to comply with, governmental regulations, including regulations relating to ballast water and fuel sulfur, maritime self-regulatory organization standards, as well as standard regulations imposed by our charterers applicable to our business;|
|·||availability of skilled labor, vessel crews, and management;|
|·||our anticipated incremental general and administrative expenses as a publicly traded limited partnership and our fees and expenses payable under the fleet management agreements and the administrative services agreement with our Manager;|
|·||our anticipated taxation and distributions to our unitholders;|
|·||estimated future maintenance and replacement capital expenditures;|
|·||our ability to retain key employees;|
|·||any non-compliance with the amendments by the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency for maritime safety and the prevention of pollution by vessels, or IMO (the amendments hereinafter referred to as IMO 2020), to Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto, collectively referred to as MARPOL 73/78 and herein as MARPOL, which reduced the maximum amount of sulfur that vessels may emit into the air and became effective January 1, 2020;|
|·||potential liability from any pending or future litigation and potential costs due to environmental damage and vessel collisions;|
|·||potential liability from future litigation related to claims raised by public-interest organizations or activism with regard to our failure to adapt or mitigate climate impact;|
|·||new environmental regulations and restrictions, whether at a global level stipulated by the International Maritime Organization, a regional level imposed by regional authorities such as the European Union, and/or a national level imposed by individual countries;|
|·||our ability to successfully compete for, enter into, and deliver our vessels under time charters or other employment arrangements for our existing vessels after our current charters expire and our ability to earn income in the spot market;|
|·||business disruptions, including supply chain congestion, due to climate conditions, political events, public health threats, and international hostilities and instability, including the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, piracy or acts by terrorists, or other disasters;|
|·||the impact of public health threats and outbreaks of highly communicable diseases;|
|·||the length and severity of epidemics and pandemics, including the worldwide novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak, and any consequent impacts across our business on demand;|
|·||the impact of adverse weather and natural disasters;|
|·||future sales of our common units in the public market;|
|·||any malfunction or disruption of information technology systems and networks that our operations rely on or any impact of a possible cybersecurity event;|
|·||our business strategy and other plans and objectives for future operations;|
|·||technology risks associated with energy transition and fleet and/or systems renewal, including in respect of alternative propulsion systems; and|
|·||other factors detailed in this annual report and from time to time included in our periodic reports.|
Forward-looking statements in this annual report are estimates reflecting the judgment of senior management and involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties. These forward-looking statements are based upon a number of assumptions and estimates that are inherently subject to significant uncertainties and contingencies, many of which are beyond our control. Actual results may not occur or differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Accordingly, these forward-looking statements should be considered in light of various important factors, including those set forth in this annual report under the heading "Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors." These factors and the other risk factors described in this annual report are not necessarily all of the important factors that could cause actual results or developments to differ materially from those expressed in any of our forward-looking statements. Given these uncertainties, prospective investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements.
We undertake no obligation, and specifically decline any obligation, to update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise, except as may be required under applicable laws. New factors emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for us to predict all of these factors which may adversely affect our results. Further, we cannot assess the effect of each such factor on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to be materially different from those contained in any forward-looking statement. If one of more forward-looking statements are updated, no inference should be drawn that additional updates will be made with respect to those or other forward-looking statements.
We make no prediction or statement about the performance of our units or our debt securities. The various disclosures included in this annual report and in our other filings made with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, that attempt to advise interested parties of the risks and factors that may affect our business, prospects, and results of operations should be carefully reviewed and considered.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|ITEM 1.||IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS||1|
|ITEM 2.||OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE||1|
|ITEM 3.||KEY INFORMATION||1|
|ITEM 4.||INFORMATION ON THE PARTNERSHIP||50|
|ITEM 4A.||UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS||91|
|ITEM 5.||OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS||91|
|ITEM 6.||DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES||112|
|ITEM 7.||MAJOR UNITHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS||116|
|ITEM 8.||FINANCIAL INFORMATION||124|
|ITEM 9.||THE OFFER AND LISTING.||128|
|ITEM 10.||ADDITIONAL INFORMATION||128|
|ITEM 11.||QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK||137|
|ITEM 12.||DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES||138|
|ITEM 13.||DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES||138|
|ITEM 14.||MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS||138|
|ITEM 15.||CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES||139|
|ITEM 16A.||AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT||140|
|ITEM 16B.||CODE OF ETHICS||140|
|ITEM 16C.||PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES||140|
|ITEM 16D.||EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES||141|
|ITEM 16E.||PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS||141|
|ITEM 16F.||CHANGE IN REGISTRANTS' CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT||141|
|ITEM 16G.||CORPORATE GOVERNANCE||141|
|ITEM 16H.||MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE||142|
|ITEM 16I.||DISCLOSURE REGARDING FOREIGN JURISDICTIONS THAT PREVENT INSPECTIONS.||142|
|ITEM 16J.||INSIDER TRADING POLICIES.||142|
|ITEM 17.||FINANCIAL STATEMENTS||142|
|ITEM 18.||FINANCIAL STATEMENTS||142|
|ITEM 1.||IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS|
|ITEM 2.||OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE|
|ITEM 3.||KEY INFORMATION|
|B.||CAPITALIZATION AND INDEBTEDNESS|
|C.||REASONS FOR THE OFFER AND USE OF PROCEEDS|
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 ownership of our securities, including our common units, our 9.00% Series A Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Units or our Series A Preferred Units and our 8.75% Series B Fixed to Floating Rate Cumulative Redeemable Perpetual Preferred Units or our Series B Preferred Units. For a description of the changes to our general strategy, including the restriction on distributions to our common unitholders under the terms and subject to the conditions of the $675 Million Credit Facility, please see "Item 4. Information on the Partnership—B. Business Overview" and "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—B. Liquidity and Capital Resources—$675 Million Credit Facility." The occurrence of any of the events described in this section could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, operating results or cash available for distribution on our units and the trading price of our securities.
Risks Relating to our Partnership
Our Fleet consists of only six LNG carriers. Any limitation in the availability or operation of these vessels could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition and could significantly reduce or eliminate our ability to pay distributions on our outstanding units, including our preferred units.
Our Fleet consists of only six LNG carriers. If any of our vessels is unable to generate revenues as a result of off-hire time, early termination of the time charter in effect or failure to secure new charters at charter hire rates as favorable as our average historical rates or at all, our future liquidity, cash flows, results of operations, and ability to make quarterly and other distributions to the holders of our outstanding units, including the preferred units, could be materially adversely affected.
Our ability to grow may be adversely affected by cash distribution policy.
Our current business strategy is to focus our capital allocation on debt repayment, and to prioritize balance sheet strength in order to reposition ourselves for potential future growth if our cost of capital allows us to access debt and equity capital on acceptable terms. As such, our growth may not be as fast as that of businesses that reinvest their available cash to expand ongoing operations. Our cash distribution policy is consistent with the terms of our Partnership Agreement, which requires that we distribute all of our available cash quarterly. Under the terms of the $675 Million Credit Facility (as defined below), the Partnership is restricted from paying distributions to its common unitholders while borrowings are outstanding under the $675 Million Credit Facility. Subject to contractual restrictions, there is no guarantee that unitholders will receive quarterly distributions from us as our cash distribution policy is subject to certain restrictions and may be changed or eliminated at any time. In addition, our cash distribution policy may significantly impair our ability to meet our financial needs or to grow.
We currently derive all our revenue and cash flow from a limited number of charterers and the loss of any of these charterers could cause us to suffer losses or otherwise adversely affect our business.
We have derived, and believe we will continue to derive, all of our revenues from a limited number of charterers, such as SEFE, Equinor, and Yamal. For the year ended December 31, 2022, during which we derived our operating revenues from three charterers, SEFE accounted for 43%, Yamal accounted for 41%, and Equinor accounted for 16% of our total revenues. All of the charters for our Fleet have fixed terms but may be terminated early due to certain events, including but not limited to the charterer's failure to make charter payments to us because of financial inability, disagreements with us, or otherwise. The ability of each of our counterparties to perform its respective obligations under a charter 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 LNG shipping industry, prevailing prices for natural gas, epidemics and pandemics, such as COVID-19, events in Russia and Ukraine or any resulting sanctions that may be imposed, and the overall financial condition of the counterparty. Should a counterparty fail to honor its obligations under an agreement with us, we may be unable to realize revenue under that charter and may sustain losses, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, cash flows, results of operations, and ability to pay any distributions, including reduced distributions, to our unitholders.
In addition, a charterer may exercise its right to terminate its charter if, among other things:
|·||the vessel suffers a total loss or is damaged beyond repair;|
|·||we default on our obligations under the charter, including prolonged periods of vessel off-hire;|
|·||war or hostilities significantly disrupt the free trade of the vessel;|
|·||the vessel is requisitioned by any governmental authority; or|
|·||a prolonged force majeure event occurs, such as war, political unrest, or a pandemic which prevents the chartering of the vessel, in each such event in accordance with the terms and conditions of the respective charter.|
In addition, the charter payments we receive may be reduced if the vessel does not perform according to certain contractual specifications. For example, charter hire may be reduced if the average vessel speed falls below the speed we have guaranteed or if the amount of fuel consumed to power the vessel exceeds the guaranteed amount.
Furthermore, in depressed market conditions, our charterers may no longer need a vessel that is then under charter or may be able to obtain a comparable vessel at lower rates. As a result, charterers may seek to renegotiate the terms of their existing charter agreements or avoid their obligations under those contracts. Furthermore, it is possible that third parties with whom we have charter contracts may be impacted by events in Russia and Ukraine or the resulting sanctions, which could adversely affect their ability to perform. If our charterers fail to meet their obligations to us or attempt to renegotiate our charter agreements, it may be difficult to secure substitute employment for such vessel, and any new charter arrangements we secure may be at lower rates and may not be acceptable by our lenders.
If any of our charters are terminated, we may be unable to re-deploy the related vessel on terms as favorable to us as our current charters, or at all. If we are unable to re-deploy a vessel for which the charter has been terminated, we will not receive any revenues from that vessel, and we may be required to pay ongoing expenses necessary to maintain the vessel in proper operating condition. Any of these factors may decrease our revenue and cash flows. Further, the loss of any of our charterers, charters, or vessels, or a decline in charter hire under any of our charters, could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition, and ability to make distributions to our unitholders and result in an event of default under our debt agreements.
Dry-dockings of our vessels require significant expenditures and result in loss of revenue as our vessels are off-hire during the dry-docking period. Any significant increase in either the number of off-hire days or in the costs of any repairs or investments carried out during the dry-docking period could have a material adverse effect on our profitability and our cash flows. Given the potential for unforeseen issues arising during dry-docking, we may not be able to predict accurately the time required to dry-dock any of our vessels. If one or more of our vessels is dry-docked longer than expected or if the cost of repairs is greater than we had budgeted, there may a material adverse effect on our results of operations and our cash flows, including any cash available for distribution to unitholders.
Due to the small size of our Fleet, any delay in the completion time of the dry-dockings or overrun of costs caused by additional days of work could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, and financial condition and could significantly reduce or eliminate our ability to pay any distributions on either or both of our common or preferred units.
The Clean Energy, Ob River, and Amur River completed their scheduled dry-docking, as well as the respective installation of the ballast water treatment systems (“BWTS”) in 2022. We expect that the next scheduled dry-dockings for our remaining vessels will be longer and more costly than normal as a result of the need to install BWTS on each vessel in order to comply with regulatory requirements.
Our ability to raise capital to repay or refinance our debt obligations or to fund our maintenance or growth capital expenditures will depend on certain financial, business and other factors, many of which are beyond our control. The value of our common units may make it difficult or impossible for us to access the equity or equity-linked capital markets. To the extent that we are unable to finance these obligations and expenditures with cash from operations or incremental bank loans or by issuing debt or equity securities, our ability to make cash distributions may be diminished, or our financial leverage may increase, or our unitholders may be diluted. Our business may be adversely affected if we need to access sources of funding which are more expensive and/or more restrictive.
To fund our existing and future debt obligations and capital expenditures and any future growth, we may be required to use cash from operations, incur borrowings, and/or seek to access other financing sources including the capital markets. Our access to potential funding sources and our future financial and operating performance will be affected by prevailing economic conditions and financial, business, regulatory and other factors, many of which are beyond our control. If we are unable to access the capital markets or raise additional bank financing or generate sufficient cash flow to meet our debt, capital expenditure and other business requirements, we may be forced to take actions such as:
|·||restructuring our debt;|
|·||seeking additional debt or equity capital;|
|·||reducing distributions relating to our preferred units;|
|·||reducing, delaying or cancelling our business activities, acquisitions, investments or capital expenditures; or|
|·||seeking bankruptcy protection.|
Such measures might not be successful, available on acceptable terms or enable us to meet our debt, capital expenditure and other obligations. Some of these measures may adversely affect our business and reputation. In addition, our financing agreements may restrict our ability to implement some of these measures. Use of cash from operations and possible future sale of certain assets will reduce cash available for distribution to unitholders. Our ability to obtain bank financing or to access the capital markets may be limited by our financial condition at the time of any such financing or offering as well as by adverse market conditions. The value of our common units may not enable us able to access the equity or equity-linked capital markets. Even if we are successful in obtaining the necessary funds, the terms of such future financings could limit our ability to pay cash distributions to our unitholders or operate our business as currently conducted. In addition, incurring additional debt may significantly increase our interest expense and financial leverage, and issuing additional equity securities may result in significant unitholder dilution and would increase the aggregate amount of cash required to maintain our quarterly distributions, which we currently only make to our preferred unitholders.
Major outbreaks of diseases (such as COVID-19) and governmental responses thereto could adversely affect our business.
Since the beginning of calendar year 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected economic conditions, the supply chain, the labor market, the demand for shipping regionally, as well as globally, and may continue to impact our operations and the operations of our customers and suppliers. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in numerous actions taken by governments and governmental agencies in an attempt to mitigate the spread any resurgence of the virus, including travel bans, quarantines, and other emergency public health measures, and a number of countries implemented lockdown measures. These measures have resulted in a significant reduction in global economic activity and extreme volatility in the global financial markets. If we experience a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the adverse impact on the global economy and the rate environment for LNG carriers may deteriorate and our operations and cash flows may be negatively impacted. The extent of a pandemic's impact on our financial and operational results, which could be material, will depend on the length of time that the pandemic continues and whether subsequent waves of the infection happen. Uncertainties regarding the economic impact of the a pandemic are likely to result in sustained market turmoil, which could also negatively impact our business, financial condition and cash flows. Governments approved large stimulus packages to mitigate the effects of the sudden decline in economic activity caused by the pandemic; however, we cannot predict the extent to which these measures will be sufficient to sustain the business and financial condition of companies in the shipping industry.
We have experienced some logistical challenges across our fleet due to the COVID-19 outbreak, however, as of December 31, 2022, we have not experienced any material negative financial impacts to our results of operations or financial position as a result of COVID-19. Effects of the most recent pandemic included, among others:
|·||deterioration of economic conditions and activity and of demand for shipping;|
|·||operational disruptions to us or our customers due to worker health risks and the effects of new regulations, directives or practices implemented in response to the pandemic (such as travel restrictions for individuals and vessels and quarantining and physical distancing);|
|·||potential delays in (a) the loading and discharging of cargo on or from our vessels, (b) vessel inspections and related certifications by class societies, customers or government agencies and (c) maintenance, modifications or repairs to, or drydocking of, our existing vessels due to worker health or other business disruptions;|
|·||reduced cash flow and financial condition, including potential liquidity constraints;|
|·||credit tightening or declines in global financial markets, including to the prices of our publicly traded securities and the securities of our peers, could make it more difficult for us to access capital, including to finance our existing debt obligations;|
|·||potential reduced ability to opportunistically sell any of our vessels on the second-hand market, either as a result of a lack of buyers or a general decline in the value of second-hand vessels;|
|·||potential decreases in the market values of our vessels and any related impairment charges or breaches relating to vessel-to-loan financial covenants;|
|·||potential disruptions, delays or cancellations in the construction of new vessels, which could reduce our future growth opportunities;|
|·||due to quarantine restrictions placed on persons and additional procedures using commercial aviation and other forms of public transportation, our crew may have difficulty embarking and disembarking on our ships. Restrictions have in certain cases delayed crew embarking and disembarking on our ships, although they have not functionally affected our ability to crew our vessels;|
|·||international transportation of personnel could be limited or otherwise disrupted. In particular, our crews generally work on a rotation basis, relying largely on international air transport for crew changes plan fulfilment. Any such disruptions could impact the cost of rotating our crew, and possibly impact our ability to maintain a full crew synthesis onboard all our vessels at any given time. It may also be difficult for our in-house technical teams to travel to ship yards to observe vessel maintenance, and we may need to hire local experts, which local experts may vary in skill and are difficult to supervise remotely for work we ordinarily address in-house; and|
|·||potential non-performance by counterparties relying on force majeure clauses and potential deterioration in the financial condition and prospects of our customers, joint venture partners or other business partners.|
The COVID-19 pandemic and measures to contain its spread have negatively impacted regional and global economies and trade patterns in markets in which we operate, the way we operate our business, and the businesses of our charterers and suppliers. These negative impacts could continue or worsen, even after the pandemic itself diminishes or ends. Companies, including us, took precautions, such as requiring employees to work remotely and imposing travel restrictions, while some other businesses were required to close entirely. Moreover, we face significant risks to our personnel and operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our crews face risk of exposure to COVID-19 as a result of travel to ports in which cases of COVID-19 have been reported. Our shore-based personnel likewise face risk of such exposure, as we maintain offices in areas that have been impacted by the spread of COVID-19.
Measures against epidemics, such as COVID-19, in a number of countries may restrict crew rotations on our vessels. Delays in crew rotations have led to issues with crew fatigue, which may result in delays and additional costs relating to crew wages paid to retain the existing crew members on board or other operational issues. We have incurred and may also incur additional expenses associated with testing, personal protective equipment, quarantines, and travel expenses such as airfare costs in order to perform crew rotations in the current environment.
Epidemics may also affect personnel operating payment systems through which we receive revenues from the chartering of our vessels or pay for our expenses, resulting in delays in payments. Organizations across industries, including ours, are rightly focusing on their employees' well-being, whilst making sure that their operations continue undisrupted and at the same time, adapting to the new ways of operating. As such employees are encouraged or even required to operate remotely which significantly increases the risk of cyber security attacks.
The occurrence or continued occurrence of any of the foregoing events or other epidemics or a resurgence, or an increase in the severity or duration of the COVID-19 or other epidemics could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition, value of our vessels, and ability to pay distributions.
The failure to consummate or integrate acquisitions that we undertake in a timely and cost-effective manner, or at all, could have an adverse effect on our business, our plans for growth and our financial condition and results of operations.
Future acquisitions (if any) are dependent on, among other things, our continuing relationship with our Sponsor and other factors related to that relationship, many of which are beyond our control including our ability to (i) maintain a potential drop-down pipeline of existing or newbuild vessels from our Sponsor, (ii) obtain the required consents from lenders and charterers in connection with any potential acquisition of vessels from our Sponsor, and (iii) finance our business through equity and debt capital markets transactions at terms that are favorable to us, which is highly dependent on favorable market conditions. We currently have no rights to acquire any vessel assets that are owned by our Sponsor.
Though our stock price has recovered to some extent, in light of recent master limited partnership ("MLP") market volatility and the decrease in the value of our common units and preferred units, it may be more difficult for us to complete an accretive acquisition.
We believe that other acquisition opportunities with parties that are related to our Sponsor and third-parties may arise from time to time, and any such acquisition could be significant. Any acquisition of a vessel or business may not be profitable at or after the time of such acquisition and may be cash flow negative or may not generate sufficient cash flow to justify the investment. In addition, any potential acquisition or investment opportunity may expose us to risks that may harm or have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and ability to make cash distributions (reduced or at all) to our unitholders, including risks that we may:
|·||fail to realize anticipated benefits, such as new customer relationships, cost-savings or cash flow enhancements;|
|·||be unable to attract, hire, train or retain qualified shore and seafaring personnel to manage and operate our growing business and Fleet;|
|·||decrease our liquidity by using a significant portion of available cash or borrowing capacity to finance acquisitions;|
|·||significantly increase our interest expense or financial leverage if we incur additional debt to finance acquisitions;|
|·||incur or assume unanticipated liabilities, losses or costs associated with the business or vessels acquired; or|
|·||incur other significant charges, such as impairment of goodwill or other intangible assets, asset devaluation or restructuring charges.|
Such acquisition and investment opportunities may not result in the consummation of a transaction. In addition, we may not be able to obtain acceptable terms for the required financing for any such acquisition or investment that arises. We cannot predict the effect, if any, that any announcement or consummation of an acquisition would have on the trading price of our common units or preferred units.
Any future acquisitions could present a number of anticipated as well as unanticipated risks, including the risk of incorrect assumptions regarding the future results of acquired vessels or businesses or expected cost reductions or other synergies expected to be realized as a result of acquiring vessels or businesses, the risk of failing to successfully and timely integrate the operations or management of any acquired vessels or businesses and the risk of diverting management's attention from existing operations or other priorities. We may also be subject to additional costs and expenses related to compliance with various international or domestic laws in connection with such acquisition. If we fail to consummate and integrate our acquisitions from our Sponsor, in a timely and cost-effective manner, or at all, our business, plans for future growth, financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution could be materially and adversely affected.
We are subject to certain risks with respect to our contractual counterparties, and failure of such counterparties to perform their obligations under such contracts could cause us to sustain significant losses, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We have entered, and may enter in the future, into contracts, charters, newbuilding and conversion contracts with shipyards, debt agreements with financial institutions, our Sponsor and other counterparts, interest rate swaps, foreign currency swaps, equity swaps and other agreements. Such agreements subject us to counterparty risks. The ability of each of our counterparties to perform its obligations under a contract with us will depend on a number of factors that are beyond our control and may include, among other things, general economic conditions, the overall financial condition of the counterparty and work stoppages or other labor disturbances, including as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 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, results of operations and cash flows. Furthermore, it is possible that third parties with whom we have financing arrangements or charter contracts may be impacted by events in Russia and Ukraine or any resulting sanctions that may be imposed which could adversely affect their ability to perform under such contracts. On April 6, 2022, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") designated Amsterdam Trade Bank NV (“ATB”) as a Specially Designated National (“SDN”) pursuant to Executive Order 14024. ATB was among several lenders to our $675 Million Credit Facility representing an approximately 3.6% lender participation. On October 12, 2022 and pursuant to the designation of ATB an SDN, the Partnership, in agreement with all lenders of the $675 Million Credit Facility, made a voluntary prepayment of $18.73 million which was applied in prepayment of the entire participation of ATB to the $675 Million Credit Facility. An amount equal to the above-mentioned prepayment was released from the Cash Collateral Account, which was presented as Non- current Restricted Cash in the Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2022 (see Note 5 to our consolidated financial statements included under "Item 18. Financial Statements" of this annual report) thereunder in order to make the prepayment.
We currently have a limited number of lending arrangements and derive all our revenue and cash flow from a limited number of charterers and the loss of any of these lending counterparties, including in connection with the prepayment of any of our outstanding indebtedness, or our charterers could cause us to suffer losses or otherwise adversely affect our business.
We may not have sufficient cash from operations following the establishment of cash reserves and payment of fees and expenses to enable us to pay distributions on our outstanding units.
Our Board of Directors makes determinations regarding the payment of distributions in its sole discretion and in accordance with our Partnership Agreement and applicable law, and there is no guarantee that we will make or continue to make distributions to our unitholders in the same amount that we have in prior quarters or at all in the future. In addition, the markets in which we operate our vessels are volatile and we cannot predict with certainty the amount of cash, if any, that will be available for distribution in any period and thus, we may pay distributions in a lower amount or not all. The level of future cash distributions to our unitholders, which have been suspended with respect to our common units by the Board of Directors of the Partnership will be subject to, among other factors, including, without limitation, the terms and conditions contained in our existing or future debt agreements, market conditions and the cash we generate from operations. Pursuant to the terms of the $675 Million Credit Facility, the Partnership is prohibited from paying distributions on its common units. In the event of a default under the $675 Million Credit Facility, the Partnership is prohibited from paying distributions to its preferred unitholders.
As noted above, the amount of cash we can distribute on our common and preferred units depends in part on the amount of cash we generate from our operations, which may fluctuate from quarter to quarter based on the risks described in this section, including, among other things:
|·||the rates we obtain from our charters;|
|·||the level of our operating costs, such as the cost of crews and insurance;|
|·||the continued availability of natural gas production;|
|·||demand for LNG;|
|·||supply of LNG carriers;|
|·||prevailing global and regional economic and political conditions, including the any economic downturns caused by the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus;|
|·||currency exchange rate fluctuations; and|
|·||the effect of governmental regulations and maritime self-regulatory organization standards on the conduct of our business.|
In addition, the actual amount of cash available for distribution to our unitholders will depend on other factors, including:
|·||the level of capital expenditures we make, including for maintaining or replacing vessels, building new vessels, acquiring second-hand vessels and complying with regulations;|
|·||the number of unscheduled off-hire days for our Fleet and the timing of, and number of days required for, scheduled dry-docking of our vessels;|
|·||our debt service requirements and restrictions on distributions contained in our debt instruments;|
|·||the level of debt we will incur to fund future acquisitions;|
|·||fluctuations in interest rates;|
|·||fluctuations in our working capital needs;|
|·||variable tax rates;|
|·||the expected cost of and our ability to comply with environmental and regulatory requirements, including with respect to emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, as well as future changes in such requirements or other actions taken by regulatory authorities, governmental organizations, classification societies and standards imposed by our charterers applicable to our business;|
|·||our ability to make, and the level of, working capital borrowings;|
|·||the performance of our subsidiaries and their ability to distribute cash to us; and|
|·||the amount of any cash reserves established by our Board of Directors.|
The amount of cash we generate from our operations may differ materially from our profit or loss for the period, which will be affected by non-cash items. We may also incur expenses or liabilities or be subject to other circumstances in the future that reduce or eliminate the amount of cash that we have available for distributions. As a result of this and the other factors mentioned above, we may make cash distributions during periods when we record losses and may not make cash distributions during periods when we record earnings.
Our future operational success depends on our ability to expand relationships with our existing charterers, establish relationships with new charterers and obtain new time charter contracts, for which we will face substantial competition from established companies with significant resources and potential new entrants.
We have secured an estimated contract backlog of $1.0 billion for the vessels in our Fleet as of the date of this annual report, $0.13 billion of which is a variable hire element contained in certain time charter contracts with Yamal. The hire rate on these time charter contracts with Yamal is calculated based on two components—a capital cost component and an operating cost component. The capital cost component is a fixed daily amount. The daily amount of the operating cost component, which is intended to pass the operating costs of the vessel to the charterer in their entirety including dry-docking costs, is set annually and adjusted at the end of each year to compensate us for the actual costs we incur in operating the vessel. Dry-docking expenses are budgeted in advance within the year of the dry-dock and are reimbursed by Yamal immediately following a dry-docking. The actual amount of revenues earned in respect of such variable hire rate may therefore differ from the amounts included in the revenue backlog estimate, which is calculated based on the budget agreed at the inception of the contract, due to the yearly variations in the respective vessels' operating costs. Notwithstanding our current estimated contracted backlog, one of our principal objectives is to enter into additional multi-year time charters upon the expiration or early termination of our existing charter arrangements, and we may also seek to enter into additional multi-year time charter contracts in connection with an expansion of our Fleet. The process of obtaining multi-year charters for LNG carriers is highly competitive and generally involves an intensive screening procedure and competitive bids, which often extends for several months. We believe LNG carrier time charters are awarded based upon a variety of factors relating to the ship and the ship operator, including:
|·||size, age, technical specifications and condition of the ship;|
|·||efficiency of ship operation and reputation for operation of highly specialized vessels;|
|·||LNG shipping experience and quality of ship operations;|
|·||shipping industry relationships and reputation for customer service;|
|·||technical ability and reputation for operation of highly specialized ships;|
|·||quality and experience of officers and crew;|
|·||the ability to finance ships at competitive rates and financial stability generally;|
|·||relationships with shipyards and the ability to get suitable berths;|
|·||its willingness to assume operational risks;|
|·||construction management experience, including the ability to obtain on-time delivery of new ships according to customer specifications; and|
|·||competitiveness of the bid in terms of overall price.|
We expect substantial competition for providing marine transportation services for potential LNG projects from a number of experienced companies, including other independent ship owners as well as state-sponsored entities and major energy companies that own and operate LNG carriers and may compete with independent owners by using their fleets to carry LNG for third-parties. Some of these competitors have significantly greater financial resources and larger fleets than we have. A number of marine transportation companies, including companies with strong reputations and extensive resources and experience, have entered the LNG transportation market in recent years, and there are other ship owners and managers who may also attempt to participate in the LNG market in the future. This increased competition may cause greater price competition for time charters. As a result of these factors, we may be unable to expand our relationships with existing charterers or to obtain new time charter contracts on a profitable basis, if at all, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, including cash available for distributions to our unitholders.
Any charter termination would likely have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Our vessels are employed with only three different charterers. Our existing and future charterers have and will likely have the right to terminate our current or future charters in certain circumstances, such as loss of the ship or damage to it beyond repair, defaults by us in our obligations under the charter, or off-hire beyond allowances contained in the charter agreement. In addition, one of our charterers, Yamal, trades primarily from LNG ports and to the best of our knowledge is owned or controlled by Russian entities. Due to the recent ongoing conflicts between Russia and Ukraine, the United States (“U.S.”), European Union (“E.U.”), Canada and other Western countries and organizations announced and enacted from February 2022 until the date of this report, numerous sanctions against Russia. The war between Russia and Ukraine is, however, still ongoing, which may result in the imposition of further economic sanctions in addition to the ones already announced by the United States, Europe, amongst other countries which could adversely affect our charterers and result to the early termination of our time charter contracts with Yamal.
A termination right under one vessel's time charter would not automatically give the charterer the right to terminate its other charter contracts with us. However, a charter termination could materially affect our relationship with the customer and our reputation in the LNG shipping industry, and in some circumstances the event giving rise to the termination right could potentially impact multiple charters that we have entered with the same charterer. Accordingly, the existence of any right of termination could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, including cash available for distribution to our common and preferred unitholders.
Our future capital needs are uncertain and we may need to raise additional funds in the future.
Our future funding requirements will depend on many factors, including the cost and timing of vessel acquisitions, the cost of retrofitting or modifying existing ships as a result of technological advances, changes in applicable environmental or other regulations or standards, customer requirements or otherwise. 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 that are beyond our control.
Obtaining additional funds on acceptable terms may not be possible. If we raise additional funds by issuing equity or equity-linked securities, our unitholders may experience dilution or reduced or no distributions per unit. Debt financing, if available, may involve covenants restricting our operations or our ability to incur additional debt, or to pay distributions consistent with our past practices or otherwise. In addition, we are subject to a number of restrictions in our existing debt agreement, which include, among others, a restriction from paying distributions to our common unitholders while borrowings under the facility are outstanding, and our preferred unitholders, if there is an event of default while the facility remains outstanding. Pursuant to the terms of the $675 million Credit Facility, it is considered a change of control, which could allow the lenders to declare the facility payable within ten days, if, among other things, (i) Dynagas Holdings Ltd. ceases to own 30% of our total common units outstanding, (ii) any person or persons acting in consent (other than certain permitted holders as defined therein) own a higher percentage of our total common units than in Dynagas LNG Partners LP ("Parent") than our Sponsor and/or have the ability to control, either directly or indirectly, the affairs or composition of the majority of the board of directors or the board of managers of the Parent, (iii) Mr. Georgios Prokopiou ceases to be our Chairman and/or member of our board, or (iv) Dynagas GP LLC ceases to be our general partner. The terms and conditions of our existing debt agreement therefore, if applicable, limit or prevent us from issuing new equity that may reduce our Sponsor's ownership percentage below the required 30%.
We may lack sufficient cash to pay distributions to our unitholders at a reduced level or at all due to our current and future funding requirements, refinancing needs, decreases in net revenues or increases in operating expenses, principal and interest payments on outstanding debt, tax expenses, working capital requirements, maintenance and replacement capital expenditures or anticipated or unanticipated cash needs. Any debt or additional equity financing raised may contain unfavorable terms to us or our unitholders. If we are unable to raise adequate funds, we may have to liquidate some or all of our assets, or delay, reduce the scope of, or eliminate some or all of our fleet expansion plans. Any of these factors could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, including cash available for distributions to our common and preferred unitholders.
We are exposed to volatility in the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, and if volatility in LIBOR occurs, it could affect our profitability, earnings and cash flow.
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. The amounts outstanding under our $675 Million Credit Facility have been, and amounts under additional credit facilities that we may enter in the future will generally be, advanced at a floating rate based on LIBOR, which has been volatile in prior years, which can affect the amount of interest payable on our debt, and which, in turn, could have an adverse effect on our earnings and cash flow. In addition, in recent years, LIBOR has been at relatively low levels, and may rise in the future as the current low interest rate environment comes to an end. Our financial condition could be materially adversely affected at any time that we have not entered into interest rate hedging arrangements to hedge our exposure to the interest rates applicable to our credit facilities and any other financing arrangements we may enter into in the future. Moreover, even if we enter into interest rate swaps, such as the floating to fixed interest rate swap transaction with Citibank N.A. entered into in May of 2020 and effective from June 29, 2020, or other derivative instruments for purposes of managing our interest rate exposure, our hedging strategies may not be effective and we may incur substantial losses. For more information on the interest rate swap transaction referenced in the immediately preceding sentence, please see "Item 11. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk—Interest Rate Risk."
Our indebtedness accrues interest based on LIBOR, which has been historically volatile. The publication of U.S. Dollar LIBOR for the one-week and two-month U.S. Dollar LIBOR tenors ceased on December 31, 2021, and the ICE Benchmark Administration (“IBA”), the administrator of LIBOR, with the support of the United States Federal Reserve and the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority, announced the publication of all other U.S. Dollar LIBOR tenors will cease by June 30, 2023. The United States Federal Reserve concurrently issued a statement advising banks to cease issuing U.S. Dollar LIBOR instruments after 2021. The Alternative Reference Rates Committee, a steering committee comprised of U.S. financial market participants, has identified the Secured Overnight Finance Rate (“SOFR”) as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as the preferred alternative to LIBOR. SOFR is a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash in the overnight U.S. treasury repo market. SOFR is now the predominant interest rate being used across cash and derivatives markets and the one we expect to use following the transition away from LIBOR. As such, any new loan agreements we enter into will not use LIBOR as an interest rate, and we will need to transition our existing loan agreements from U.S. Dollar LIBOR to SOFR prior to June 2023.
In response to the anticipated discontinuation of LIBOR, working groups are converging on alternative reference rates. The Alternative Reference Rate Committee, a committee convened by the Federal Reserve that includes major market participants, has proposed an alternative rate to replace U.S. Dollar LIBOR: the Secured Overnight Financing Rate, or “SOFR.” At this time, it is not possible to predict how markets will respond to SOFR or other alternative reference rates. The impact of such a transition from LIBOR to SOFR or another alternative reference rate could be significant for us. The counterparties to our derivative financial instruments have been major financial institutions, which helped us to manage our exposure to non-performance of our counterparties under our debt agreements.
In order to manage our exposure to interest rate fluctuations under LIBOR, SOFR or any other alternative rate, we have and may from time to time use interest rate derivatives to effectively fix some of our floating rate debt obligations. No assurance can however be given that the use of these derivative instruments, if any, may effectively protect us from adverse interest rate movements. The use of interest rate derivatives may affect our results through mark to market valuation of these derivatives. Also, adverse movements in interest rate derivatives may require us to post cash as collateral, which may impact our free cash position. Interest rate derivatives may also be impacted by the transition from LIBOR to SOFR or other alternative rates. We expect our sensitivity to interest rate changes to increase in the future if we enter into additional debt agreements in connection with our potential acquisition of other vessels from affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.
We have previously entered into and may selectively in the future enter into derivative contracts to hedge our overall exposure to interest rate risk exposure. Entering into swaps and derivatives transactions is inherently risky and presents various possibilities for incurring significant expenses. The derivatives strategies that we employ in the future may not be successful or effective, and we could, as a result, incur substantial additional interest costs and recognize losses on such arrangements in our financial statements. Such risk may have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We are a non-accelerated filer, and we cannot be certain if the reduced disclosure requirements applicable to us will make our common stock less attractive to investors.
We are currently a "non-accelerated filer", as those terms are defined in the Securities Act. Accordingly, we take advantage of certain exemptions from various reporting requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not a "non-accelerated filers," in particular, reduced disclosure obligations regarding exemptions from the provisions of Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requiring that independent registered public accounting firms provide an attestation report on the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting. Decreased disclosures in our SEC filings due to our status as a "non-accelerated filer" may make it harder for investors to analyze our results of operations and financial prospects.
We cannot predict if investors will find our common units less attractive if we rely on exemptions applicable to smaller reporting companies and non-accelerated filers. If some investors find our common units less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for our common units and our share price may be more volatile.
The control of our General Partner may be transferred to a third party without unitholder consent.
Our General Partner may transfer its General Partner interest to a third-party in a merger or in a sale of all or substantially all of its assets without the consent of the unitholders. In addition, our Partnership Agreement does not prohibit the ability of the members of our General Partner from transferring their respective membership interests in our General Partner to a third-party.
Our Sponsor and its affiliates may compete with us.
Pursuant to the Omnibus Agreement with our Sponsor and our General Partner, our Sponsor and its affiliates (other than us, and our subsidiaries) generally have agreed, for the term of the Omnibus Agreement, not to acquire, own, operate or contract for any LNG carriers acquired or placed under contracts with an initial term of four or more years. The Omnibus Agreement, however, contains significant exceptions that may allow our Sponsor or any of its affiliates to compete with us in certain circumstances, which could harm our business. For example, our Sponsor and its affiliates, subject to the restrictions contained in the Omnibus Agreement, could own and operate LNG carriers under charters of four years or more that may compete with our vessels if we do not acquire such vessels when they are offered to us pursuant to the terms of the Omnibus Agreement. See "Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions."
Mr. Tony Lauritzen, our Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Michael Gregos, our Chief Financial Officer, and certain other officers do not devote all of their time to our business, which may hinder our ability to operate successfully.
Mr. Tony Lauritzen, our Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Michael Gregos, our Chief Financial Officer, and certain other officers who perform executive officer functions for us, are not required to work full-time on our affairs and are involved in other business activities with our Sponsor and its affiliates, which may result in their spending less time than is appropriate or necessary to manage our business successfully. Based solely on the anticipated relative sizes of our Fleet and the fleet owned by our Sponsor and its affiliates over the next twelve months, we estimate that Mr. Lauritzen, Mr. Gregos, and certain other officers may spend a substantial portion of their monthly business time on our business activities and their remaining time on the business of our Sponsor and its affiliates. However, the actual allocation of time could vary significantly from time to time depending on various circumstances and needs of the businesses, such as the relative levels of strategic activities of the businesses. As a result, there could be material competition for the time and effort of our officers who also provide services to our General Partner's affiliates, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Unitholders have limited voting rights, and our Partnership Agreement restricts the voting rights of our unitholders that own more than 4.9% of our common units.
Unlike the holders of common stock in a corporation, holders of common units have only limited voting rights on matters affecting our business. On those matters that are submitted to a vote of common unitholders, each record holder of a common unit may vote according to the holder's percentage interest in us of all holders entitled to vote on such matter, although additional limited partners interests having special voting rights could be issued.
Holders of the Series A Preferred Units and Series B Preferred Units generally have no voting rights. However, holders of Series A Preferred Units and Series B Preferred Units have limited voting rights as described under "—Voting Rights."
Except as described below regarding a person or group owning more than 4.9% of any class or series of limited partner interests then outstanding, limited partners on the record date will be entitled to notice of, and to vote at, meetings of our limited partners and to act upon matters for which approvals may be solicited.
We will hold a meeting of the limited partners every year to elect one or more members of our Board of Directors and to vote on any other matters that are properly brought before the meeting. Any action that is required or permitted to be taken by our limited partners, or any applicable class thereof, may be taken either at a meeting of the applicable limited partners or without a meeting if consents in writing describing the action so taken are signed by holders of the number of limited partner interests necessary to authorize or take that action at a meeting. Meetings of our limited partners may be called by our Board of Directors or by limited partners owning at least 20% of the outstanding limited partner interests of the class for which a meeting is proposed. Limited partners may vote either in person or by proxy at meetings. The holders of a majority of the outstanding limited partner interests of the class, classes or series for which a meeting has been called, represented in person or by proxy, will constitute a quorum unless any action by the limited partners requires approval by holders of a greater percentage of the limited partner interests, in which case the quorum will be the greater percentage.
Each record holder of a unit may vote according to the holder's percentage interest in us, although additional limited partner interests having special voting rights could be issued. However, to preserve our ability to be exempt from U.S. federal income tax under Section 883 of the Code, if at any time any person or group, other than our General Partner and its affiliates, or a direct or subsequently approved transferee of our General Partner or its affiliates or a transferee approved by the Board of Directors, acquires, in the aggregate, beneficial ownership of more than 4.9% of any class or series of our limited partner interests then outstanding, that person or group will lose voting rights on all of its limited partner interests of such class or series in excess of 4.9%, except for the Series A Preferred Units and Series B Preferred Units, and such limited partner interests will not be considered to be outstanding when sending notices of a meeting of limited partners, calculating required votes (except for nominating a person for election to our Board of Directors), determining the presence of a quorum, or for other similar purposes. The voting rights of any such limited partner interests in excess of 4.9% will effectively be redistributed pro rata among the other limited partner interests (as applicable) holding less than 4.9% of the voting power of such class or series. Our General Partner, its affiliates and persons who acquired limited partner interests with the prior approval of our Board of Directors will not be subject to this 4.9% limitation except with respect to voting their common units in the election of the elected directors. Units held in nominee or street name account will be voted by the broker or other nominee in accordance with the instruction of the beneficial owner unless the arrangement between the beneficial owner and his nominee provides otherwise.
Any notice, demand, request report, or proxy material required or permitted to be given or made to record holders of common units, Series A Preferred Units or Series B Preferred Units under the Partnership Agreement will be delivered to the record holder by us or by the transfer agent.
Our Partnership Agreement limits the duties our General Partner and our directors and officers may have to our unitholders and restricts the remedies available to unitholders for actions taken by our General Partner or our directors and officers.
Our Partnership Agreement provides that our Board of Directors has the authority to oversee and direct our operations, management and policies on an exclusive basis. The Partnership Act states that a member or manager's "duties and liabilities may be expanded or restricted by provisions in the Partnership Agreement." As permitted by the Partnership Act, our Partnership Agreement contains provisions that reduce the standards to which our General Partner and our directors and our officers may otherwise be held by Marshall Islands law. For example, our Partnership Agreement:
|·||provides that our General Partner may make determinations or take or decline to take actions without regard to our or our unitholders' interests. Our General Partner may consider only the interests and factors that it desires, and it has no duty or obligation to give any consideration to any interest of, or factors affecting us, our affiliates or our unitholders. Decisions made by our General Partner will be made by its sole owner. Specifically, our General Partner may decide to exercise its right to make a determination to receive common units in exchange for resetting the target distribution levels related to the incentive distribution rights, call right, pre-emptive rights or registration rights, consent or withhold consent to any merger or consolidation of the Partnership, appoint certain of our directors or vote for the election of any director, vote or refrain from voting on amendments to our Partnership Agreement that require a vote of the outstanding units, voluntarily withdraw from the Partnership, transfer (to the extent permitted under our Partnership Agreement) or refrain from transferring its units, the general partner interest or incentive distribution rights or vote upon the dissolution of the Partnership;|
|·||provides that our directors and officers are entitled to make other decisions in "good faith," meaning they reasonably believe that the decision is in our best interests;|
|·||generally provides that affiliated transactions and resolutions of conflicts of interest not approved by the conflicts committee of our Board of Directors, or our Conflicts Committee, and not involving a vote of unitholders must be on terms no less favorable to us than those generally being provided to or available from unrelated third-parties or be "fair and reasonable" to us and that, in determining whether a transaction or resolution is "fair and reasonable," our Board of Directors may consider the totality of the relationships between the parties involved, including other transactions that may be particularly advantageous or beneficial to us; and|
|·||provides that neither our General Partner nor our officers or our directors will be liable for monetary damages to us, our members or assignees for any acts or omissions unless there has been a final and non-appealable judgment entered by a court of competent jurisdiction determining that our General Partner, our directors or officers or those other persons engaged in actual fraud or willful misconduct.|
In order to become a member of our Partnership, a common unitholder is required to agree to be bound by the provisions in the Partnership Agreement, including the provisions discussed above.
Fees and cost reimbursements, which our Manager will determine for services provided to us, will be substantial, will be payable regardless of our profitability and will reduce our cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Our Manager, which is wholly-owned by Mr. Georgios Prokopiou, is responsible for the commercial and technical management of the vessels in our Fleet pursuant to a Master Agreement (and underlying Vessel Management Agreements) (as defined in "Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions—Vessel Management"). We currently pay our Manager a fee of $2,917 per day for each vessel for providing our vessel owning subsidiaries with technical, commercial, insurance, accounting, financing, provisions, crewing and bunkering services. In addition, we pay our Manager a commercial management fee equal to 1.25% of the gross charter hire and the ballast bonus, which is the amount paid to the shipowner as compensation for all or part of the cost of positioning the vessel to the port where the vessel will be delivered to the charterer. We incurred an aggregate expense of approximately $7.8 million in connection with the commercial and technical management of our Fleet for the year ended December 31, 2022.The management fee increases by 3% annually unless otherwise agreed, between us, with approval of our Conflicts Committee, and our Manager. The management fees payable for the vessels may be further increased if our Manager has incurred material unforeseen costs of providing the management services, by an amount to be agreed between us and our Manager, which amount will be reviewed and approved by our Conflicts Committee.
We have further entered into an executive services agreement, or the Executive Services Agreement, on March 21, 2014, with retroactive effect to the date of the closing of our IPO, with our Manager, pursuant to which our Manager provides us with the services of our executive officers, who report directly to our Board of Directors. Under the Executive Services Agreement, our Manager is entitled to an executive services fee of €538,000 per annum, for the initial five year term, which expired in November 2018 but was automatically renewed for a successive five year term (unless terminated earlier), payable in equal monthly installments. After the expiration of the firm period, the Executive Services Agreement will automatically be renewed for successive five year terms unless terminated earlier. As of December 31, 2022, we incurred approximately $0.6 million in connection with this agreement.
Pursuant to an administrative services agreement, or the Administrative Services Agreement, that we entered into on December 30, 2014 and with effect from the date of the closing of our IPO, our Manager also provides us with certain administrative and support services (including certain financial, accounting, reporting, secretarial and information technology services) for which we currently pay a monthly fee of $10,000, plus all related costs and expenses, payable in quarterly installments. As of December 31, 2022, we incurred $0.1 million in connection with this agreement.
For a description of our Master Agreement, Executive Services Agreement and Administrative Services Agreement, see "Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions." The fees and expenses payable pursuant to the Master Agreement (and underlying Vessel Management Agreements), Executive Services Agreement and the Administrative Services Agreement will be payable without regard to our financial condition or results of operations. The payment of such fees could adversely affect our ability to pay cash distributions to our unitholders.
Our Partnership Agreement contains provisions that may have the effect of discouraging a person or group from attempting to remove our current management or our General Partner and even if public unitholders are dissatisfied, they will be unable to remove our General Partner without our Sponsor's consent, unless our Sponsor's ownership interest in us is decreased; all of which could diminish the trading price of our common units.
Our Partnership Agreement contains provisions that may have the effect of discouraging a person or group from attempting to remove our current management or our General Partner.
|·||The unitholders are unable to remove our General Partner without its consent because our General Partner and its affiliates, including our Sponsor, own sufficient units to be able to prevent its removal. The vote of the holders of at least 66 2/3% of all outstanding common units (including common units held by the General Partner and its Affiliates) voting together as a single class is required to remove our General Partner. Our Sponsor currently owns 15,595,000 of our common units, representing approximately of the outstanding common units.|
|·||Our Partnership Agreement contains provisions that limit the removal of members of our Board of Directors. Appointed Directors may be removed (i) without Cause (as defined in the Partnership Agreement) only by the General Partner and (ii) with Cause only by the General Partner, the vote of the holders of a majority of the outstanding units at a properly called meeting of our Limited Partners, or by vote of the majority of the other members of our Board of Directors. Elected Directors may be removed with Cause only by vote of the majority of the other members of our Board of Directors or by a vote of the majority of the outstanding common units at a properly called meeting of our Limited Partners.|
|·||Common unitholders are entitled to elect only three of the five members of our Board of Directors. Our General Partner in its sole discretion appoints the remaining two directors.|
|·||Election of the three directors elected by unitholders is staggered, meaning that the members of only one of three classes of our elected directors are selected each year. In addition, the two directors appointed by our General Partner serve until a successor is duly appointed by the General Partner.|
|·||Our Partnership Agreement contains provisions limiting the ability of unitholders to call meetings of unitholders, to nominate directors and to acquire information about our operations as well as other provisions limiting the unitholders' ability to influence the manner or direction of management.|
|·||Unitholders' voting rights are further restricted by the Partnership Agreement providing that if at any time any person or group, other than our General Partner and its affiliates, or a direct or subsequently approved transferee of our General Partner or its affiliates or a transferee approved by the Board of Directors, acquires, in the aggregate, beneficial ownership of more than 4.9% of any class or series of our limited partner interests then outstanding, that person or group will lose voting rights on all of its limited partner interests of such class or series in excess of 4.9%, except for the Series A Preferred Units and Series B Preferred Units, and such limited partner interests will not be considered to be outstanding when sending notices of a meeting of limited partners, calculating required votes (except for nominating a person for election to our Board of Directors), determining the presence of a quorum, or for other similar purposes. The voting rights of any such limited partner interests in excess of 4.9% will effectively be redistributed pro rata among the other limited partner interests (as applicable) holding less than 4.9% of the voting power of such class or series. Our General Partner, its affiliates and persons who acquired limited partner interests with the prior approval of our Board of Directors will not be subject to this 4.9% limitation except with respect to voting their common units in the election of the elected directors. Units held in nominee or street name account will be voted by the broker or other nominee in accordance with the instruction of the beneficial owner unless the arrangement between the beneficial owner and his nominee provides otherwise.|
|·||There are no restrictions in our Partnership Agreement on our ability to issue additional equity securities.|
The effect of these provisions may be to diminish the price at which the common units will trade.
You may not have limited liability if a court finds that unitholder action constitutes control of our business.
As a limited partner in a partnership organized under the laws of the Marshall Islands, you could be held liable for our obligations to the same extent as a General Partner if you participate in the "control" of our business. Our General Partner generally has unlimited liability for the obligations of the Partnership, such as its debts and environmental liabilities, except for those contractual obligations of the Partnership that are expressly made without recourse to our General Partner, including as set forth in the Partnership Agreement. In addition, the limitations on the liability of holders of limited partner interests for the obligations of a limited partnership have not been clearly established in some jurisdictions in which we do business.
We can borrow money to pay distributions, which would reduce the amount of credit available to be used in connection with the operation of our business.
Our Partnership Agreement allows us to make working capital borrowings to pay distributions. Accordingly, if we have available borrowing capacity and we are permitted to make distributions under our debt and other agreements, we can make distributions on all our units even though cash generated by our operations may not be sufficient to pay such distributions. Any working capital borrowings by us to make distributions will reduce the amount of working capital borrowings we can make for operating our business. For more information, see "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects."
We are dependent on our affiliated Manager for the management of our Fleet and for the provision of executive management and financial support services.
We subcontract the commercial and technical management of our Fleet, including crewing, maintenance and repair pursuant to the Master Agreement with our affiliated Manager for the commercial and technical management of our Fleet. The loss of our Manager's services or its failure to perform its obligations to us could materially and adversely affect the results of our operations. In addition, our Manager provides us with significant management, administrative, executive, financial and other support services.
In addition, our ability to enter into new charters and expand our customer relationships depends largely on our ability to leverage our relationship with our Manager and its reputation and relationships in the shipping industry. If our Manager suffers material damage to its reputation or relationships, it may harm our ability to:
|·||renew existing charters upon their expiration;|
|·||obtain new charters;|
|·||successfully interact with shipyards;|
|·||obtain financing on commercially acceptable terms;|
|·||maintain access to capital under the Sponsor credit facility; or|
|·||maintain satisfactory relationships with suppliers and other third-parties.|
Our business will be harmed if our Manager fails to perform these services satisfactorily, if they cancel their agreements with us or if they stop providing these services to us. Our operational success and ability to execute our growth strategy will depend significantly upon the satisfactory performance of these services by our Manager and the reputation of our Manager.
Our current time charters and our $675 Million Credit Facility prevent us from changing our Manager.
Our ability to change the Manager of the vessels in our Fleet to another affiliated or third-party manager, is prohibited, without prior written consent, by provisions in our current time charters, the terms of our $675 Million Credit Facility and the Manager's Undertaking delivered by the Manager in connection with the $675 Million Credit Facility. In addition, we cannot assure you that future debt agreements or time charter contracts with our existing or new lenders or charterers, respectively, will not contain similar provisions.
Since our Manager is a privately held company and there is little or no publicly available information about it, an investor could have little advance warning of potential financial and other problems that might affect our Manager that could have a material adverse effect on us.
The ability of our Manager to continue providing services for our benefit will depend in part on its own financial strength. Circumstances beyond our control could impair our Manager's financial strength, and because it is privately held, it is unlikely that information about its financial strength would become public unless our Manager began to default on its obligations. As a result, an investor in our units might have little advance warning of problems affecting our Manager, even though these problems could have a material adverse effect on us.
Our Manager may be unable to attract, provide and retain key management personnel, which may negatively impact the effectiveness of our management and our results of operation.
Our success depends to a significant extent upon the abilities and the efforts of our executive officers, whose services are provided to us by our Manager pursuant to an Executive Services Agreement. While we believe that we have an experienced management team, the loss or unavailability of one or more of our senior executives for any extended period of time could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
A shortage of qualified officers and crew could have an adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
LNG carriers require a technically skilled officer staff with specialized training. As the world LNG carrier fleet continues to grow, the demand for technically skilled officers and crew has been increasing. If we or our third-party vessel Manager is unable to employ technically skilled staff and crew, we will not be able to adequately staff our vessels. A material decrease in the supply of technically skilled officers or an inability of our Manager to attract and retain such qualified officers could impair our ability to operate, or increase the cost of crewing our vessels, which would materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and significantly reduce our ability to pay quarterly distributions to our common and preferred unitholders.
We are a holding company, and our ability to make cash distributions to our unitholders will be limited by the value of investments we currently hold and by the distribution of funds from our subsidiaries.
We are a holding company whose assets mainly consist of equity interests in our subsidiaries. As a result, our ability to make cash distributions to our unitholders will depend on the performance of our operating subsidiaries. If we are not able to receive sufficient funds from our subsidiaries, we will not be able to pay distributions unless we obtain funds from other sources. We may not be able to obtain the necessary funds from other sources on terms acceptable to us.
Due to our lack of diversification, adverse developments in our LNG shipping business could reduce our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
We rely exclusively on the cash flow generated from our LNG carriers. Due to our lack of diversification, an adverse development in the LNG shipping industry could have a significantly greater impact on our financial condition and results of operations than if we maintained more diverse assets or lines of businesses.
If we are unable to acquire LNG vessels from our Sponsor or other third parties, we may explore opportunities to expand into other shipping sectors.
As of the date of this annual report, all of our remaining options under the Omnibus Agreement to acquire interests in our Sponsor’s existing vessels have expired unexercised.
Pursuant to the Omnibus Agreement entered into among us, our Sponsor and our General Partner, we continue to have the right, but not the obligation, to purchase from our Sponsor any LNG carriers acquired or placed under contracts with an initial term of four or more years, for so long as the Omnibus Agreement is in full force and effect. To the extent we seek and are unable to successfully negotiate acquisitions of LNG vessels from our Sponsor or other third parties, we may seek to expand into other sectors of the shipping industry.
Additionally, we continuously evaluate potential transactions that we believe will be accretive to earnings, enhance unitholder value or are in the best interests of the Partnership. These transactions may include pursuing business combinations; acquiring vessels or related businesses (or otherwise expanding our operations), including in sectors outside of the LNG shipping sector (such as, the oil tanker sector); repaying existing debt; repurchasing of our units; and undertaking short term investments and other transactions.
If we are unable to undertake such transactions on acceptable terms, or at all, we may be unable to implement our business strategy, which would have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations and impair our ability to service our indebtedness.
We may experience operational problems with vessels that reduce revenue and increase costs.
LNG carriers are complex and their operation is technically challenging. Marine transportation operations are subject to mechanical risks and problems, including, among others, business interruptions caused by mechanical failure, human error, war, terrorism, disease (such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic) and quarantine, or political action in various countries. Operational problems may lead to loss of revenue or higher than anticipated operating expenses or require additional capital expenditures. Any of these results could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and ability to make cash distributions to our unitholders.
Actions taken by our Board of Directors may have a material adverse effect on the amount of cash available for distribution to unitholders.
The amount of cash that is available for distribution to unitholders is affected by decisions of our Board of Directors regarding such matters as:
|·||the amount and timing of asset purchases and sales;|
|·||estimates of maintenance and replacement capital expenditures;|
|·||the issuance of additional units; and|
|·||the creation, reduction or increase of reserves in any quarter.|
In addition, borrowings by us and our affiliates do not constitute a breach of any duty owed by our General Partner or our directors to our unitholders, including borrowings that have the purpose or effect of enabling our General Partner or its affiliates to receive distributions or incentive distribution rights.
Our Partnership Agreement provides that we and our subsidiaries may borrow funds from our General Partner and its affiliates. However, our General Partner and its affiliates may not borrow funds from us or our subsidiaries. We are currently unable to pay distributions to our common unit holders due to restrictions in our $675 Million Credit Facility.
Risks Relating to Our Industry
Our future growth and performance depends on continued growth in LNG production and demand for LNG and LNG shipping.
A complete LNG project includes production, liquefaction, storage, regasification and distribution facilities, in addition to the marine transportation of LNG. Increased infrastructure investment has led to an expansion of LNG production capacity in recent years, but material delays in the construction of new liquefaction facilities could constrain the amount of LNG available for shipping, reducing vessel utilization. While global LNG demand has continued to rise, it has risen at a slower pace than previously predicted and the rate of its growth has fluctuated due to several factors, including the current global economic crisis and continued economic uncertainty, fluctuations in the price of natural gas and other sources of energy, the continued acceleration in natural gas production from unconventional sources in regions such as North America and the highly complex and capital intensive nature of new or expanded LNG projects, including liquefaction projects. Continued growth in LNG production and demand for LNG and LNG shipping could be negatively affected by a number of factors, including, without limitation:
|·||increases in interest rates or other events that may affect the availability of sufficient financing for LNG projects on commercially reasonable terms;|
|·||increases in the cost of natural gas derived from LNG relative to the cost of natural gas generally;|
|·||increases in the production levels of low-cost natural gas in domestic natural gas consuming markets, which could further depress prices for natural gas in those markets and make LNG uneconomical;|
|·||increases in the production of natural gas in areas linked by pipelines to consuming areas, the extension of existing, or the development of new pipeline systems in markets we may serve, or the conversion of existing non-natural gas pipelines to natural gas pipelines in those markets;|
|·||decreases in the consumption of natural gas due to increases in its price, decreases in the price of alternative energy sources or other factors making consumption of natural gas less attractive;|
|·||changes in governmental and maritime self-regulatory organizations’ rules and regulations or actions taken by regulatory authorities;|
|·||environmental concerns and uncertainty around new regulations in relation to, amongst others, new technologies which may delay the ordering of new vessels;|
|·||any significant explosion, spill or other incident involving an LNG facility or carrier;|
|·||infrastructure constraints, including but not limited to, delays in the construction of liquefaction facilities, the inability of project owners or operators to obtain governmental approvals to construct or operate LNG facilities, as well as community or political action group resistance to new LNG infrastructure due to concerns about the environment, safety and terrorism;|
|·||labor or political unrest or military conflicts affecting existing or proposed areas of LNG production or regasification;|
|·||concerns regarding pandemics, such as the COVID-19 outbreak, other diseases and viruses, safety and terrorism;|
|·||decreases in the price of LNG, which might decrease the expected returns relating to investments in LNG projects;|
|·||new taxes or regulations affecting LNG production or liquefaction that make LNG production less attractive; or|
|·||negative global or regional economic or political conditions, including the economic downturn caused by the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus, particularly in LNG consuming regions, which could reduce energy consumption or its growth.|
Reduced demand for LNG and LNG shipping or any reduction or limitation in LNG production capacity, could have a material adverse effect on our ability to secure future multi-year time charters upon expiration or early termination of our current charter arrangements, or for any new ships we acquire, which could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, including cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Fluctuations in overall LNG demand growth could adversely affect our ability to secure future time charters.
According to Drewry Shipping Consultants Ltd., or Drewry, LNG trade has increased during 2016 and 2021. While India and China were main drivers of LNG trade during 2016-18, Europe played a dominant role in 2019. China's LNG import growth rate declined 14.8% year over year to 61.9 million tons in 2019. Previously, China's LNG import grew 46.1% year over year in 2017 and 41.1% in 2018. In 2019, France's LNG imports more than doubled to 16 million tons, compared to 2018. Spain's LNG imports grew 61.0% year over year in 2019 to 16.1 million tons. In 2019, LNG trade grew by 11.5% year over year to 349 million tons. However, demand from the key Asian importers, Japan and South Korea declined in 2019 as a change in priorities has marked a shift back to nuclear energy and increased focus on renewables. In 2020, the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak had an adverse impact on LNG trade as many economies imposed lockdowns. Global LNG trade grew at only 0.7% year over year in 2020 compared to 13.3% year over year in 2019 and 7.8% year over year in 2018. Following slump in LNG demand in Asian countries, many U.S. cargos were cancelled. Global LNG trade grew 6.5% year over year in 2021 mainly driven by recovery in global economy and higher LNG demand. Increasing LNG imports from Europe led to a 7.8% year over year increase in global LNG trade to 401.4 million tons per annum in 2022.
Volatile natural gas and oil prices may adversely affect our growth prospects and results of operations.
Natural gas prices are volatile in certain geographic areas. Natural gas prices are affected by numerous factors beyond our control, including but not limited to the following:
|·||price and availability of crude oil and petroleum products;|
|·||worldwide and regional supply of, demand for and price of natural gas;|
|·||the costs of exploration, development, production, transportation and distribution of natural gas;|
|·||expectations regarding future energy prices for both natural gas and other sources of energy, including renewable energy sources;|
|·||the level of worldwide LNG production and exports;|
|·||government laws and regulations, including but not limited to environmental protection laws and regulations;|
|·||local and international political, economic and weather conditions, including an economic downturn caused by the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus;|
|·||political and military conflicts including the conflicts between Russia and Ukraine; and|
|·||the availability and cost of alternative energy sources, including alternate sources of natural gas in gas importing and consuming countries as well as alternate sources of primary energy such as renewables.|
|·||LNG prices surged in 2022 on account of high European LNG demand, low inventory levels and geopolitical uncertainty. After peaking in August 2022, LNG prices have declined on account of mild winter in Europe and higher European inventory levels. A continuation of current low natural gas and LNG prices could negatively affect us in a number of ways, including the following: a reduction in exploration for or development of new natural gas reserves or projects, or the delay or cancellation of existing projects as energy companies lower their capital expenditures budgets, which may reduce our growth opportunities;|
|·||low oil prices negatively affecting the market price of natural gas, to the extent that natural gas prices are benchmarked to the price of crude oil, in turn negatively affecting the economics of potential new LNG production projects, which may reduce our growth opportunities;|
|·||high oil prices negatively affecting the competitiveness of natural gas to the extent that natural gas prices are benchmarked to the price of crude oil;|
|·||low gas prices globally and/or weak differentials between prices in the Atlantic Basin and the Pacific Basin leading to reduced inter-basin trading of LNG and reduced demand for LNG shipping;|
|·||lower demand for vessels of the types we own and operate, which may reduce available charter rates and revenue to us upon redeployment of our vessels following expiration or termination of existing contracts or upon the initial chartering of vessels;|
|·||customers potentially seeking to renegotiate or terminate existing vessel contracts, or 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 and could impact our compliance with the covenants in our loan agreements.|
We may have more difficulty entering into multi-year time charters in the future if an active spot LNG shipping market continues to develop.
One of our principal strategies is to enter into additional LNG carrier long-term time charters. Most shipping requirements for new LNG projects continue to be provided on a multi-year basis, although the level of spot voyages and time charters of less than 24 months in duration has grown in the past few years. If an active spot market continues to develop, we may have increased difficulty entering into multi-year time charters upon expiration or early termination of our current charters or for any vessels that we acquire in the future and, as a result, our cash flow may be less stable. In addition, an active spot LNG market may require us to enter into charters based on changing market prices, as opposed to contracts based on a fixed rate, which could result in a decrease in our cash flow in periods when the market price for shipping LNG is depressed which may lead to insufficient funds to cover our financing and other costs for our vessels.
Hire rates for LNG carriers may fluctuate substantially. If rates are lower when we are seeking a new charter, our revenues and cash flows may decline.
Our ability, from time to time, to charter or re-charter any vessel at favorable rates will depend on, among other things, the prevailing economic conditions in the LNG industry. Hire rates for LNG carriers may fluctuate over time as a result of changes in the supply-demand balance relating to current and future vessel capacity. This supply-demand relationship largely depends on a number of factors outside our control. The LNG charter market is connected to world natural gas prices and energy markets, which we cannot predict. A substantial or extended decline in demand for natural gas or LNG, including due to effects caused by the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus, could adversely affect our ability to charter or re-charter our vessels at acceptable rates or to acquire and profitably operate new vessels. Hire rates for newbuildings are correlated with the price of newbuildings. Hire rates, at a time when we may be seeking new charters, may be lower than the hire rates at which our vessels are currently chartered. If hire rates are lower when we are seeking a new charter, our revenues and cash flows, including cash available for distributions to our unitholders, may substantially decline, as we may only be able to enter into new charters at reduced or unprofitable rates or we may have to secure a charter in the spot market, where hire rates are more volatile. Prolonged periods of low charter hire rates or low vessel utilization could also have a material adverse effect on the value of our assets.
Vessel values may fluctuate substantially and, if these values are lower at a time when we are attempting to dispose of vessels, we may incur a loss.
Factors that influence vessel values include:
|·||prevailing economic conditions in the natural gas and energy markets;|
|·||a substantial or extended decline in demand for LNG;|
|·||increases in the supply of vessel capacity;|
|·||the size and age of a vessel; and|
|·||the cost of retrofitting or modifying second-hand vessels, if possible, as a result of technological advances in vessel design or equipment, changes in applicable environmental or other regulations or standards, customer requirements or otherwise.|
As our vessels age, the expenses associated with maintaining and operating them are expected to increase, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and operations if we do not maintain sufficient cash reserves for maintenance and replacement capital expenditures. Moreover, the cost of a replacement vessel are likely significant. If a charter terminates, we may be unable to re-deploy the affected vessels at favorable rates and, rather than continue to incur costs to maintain and finance them, we may seek to dispose of them. A sustained decline in charter rates and employment opportunities could adversely affect the market value of our vessels, on which certain of the ratios and financial covenants with which we are required to comply are based. A significant decline in the market value of our vessels could impact our compliance with the covenants in our loan agreements. Our inability to dispose of vessels at a reasonable value could result in a loss on their sale and adversely affect our ability to purchase a replacement vessel. Our inability to dispose of vessels at a reasonable value could also adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition and our ability to pay distributions at all to our unitholders.
An oversupply of ships or delays or abandonment of planned projects may lead to a reduction in the charter hire rates we are able to obtain when seeking charters in the future.
According to Drewry, during the period from 2011 to February 2023, the global fleet of LNG carriers grew from 360 to 683 vessels due to the construction and delivery of new LNG carriers and low levels of vessel demolitions. Only 33 LNG carriers, representing 4.8% of the LNG vessels currently in service, have an Ice Class 1A and Ice-class 1A super designation or equivalent rating, according to Drewry.
Although the global newbuilding orderbook dropped sharply in 2008, 2009 and 2010, ordering activity increased in 2011 and 2012 in light of Fukushima nuclear disaster. According to Drewry, a total of 56 LNG carrier newbuilding orders were placed in 2011 and 34 in 2012. In 2013 and 2014 ordering activity remained firm and a total of 100 newbuild orders were placed. New orders declined in 2015 to 32, followed by only 7 new orders placed in 2016. In 2017, 14 new LNG orders were placed, however; in 2018 low newbuilding prices and high charter rates attracted investment in the LNG market and 76 LNG carriers (which includes LNG bunkering and small scale LNG carriers) were ordered during the year. Strong new order momentum continued in 2019 with 61 LNG carriers ordered in 2019. In 2020, 55 LNG vessels were ordered. Qatar’s LNG newbuilding berth reservation and quicker than expected recovery in LNG trade prompted companies to secure new vessels before newbuilding prices strengthen. New orders for LNG vessels have surged in the last two years and 84 and 175 LNG vessels were ordered in 2021 and 2022 respectively. Qatar’s mega-LNG carrier order comprised 66 of the total orders in 2022, while major shipowners jumped in to secure shipbuilding slots in a market with tight shipbuilding capacity and rising newbuild prices. As of February 28, 2023, the newbuilding orderbook consisted of vessels with a combined capacity of 52.7 million cbm, equivalent to 32.6% of the current global LNG carrier fleet capacity, according to Drewry. The delivery of these newbuildings will be spread out between 2023 and 2028.
According to Drewry, as of February 28, 2023, there were 52 LNG carriers in the size range of 149,000-155,000 cbm in the LNG trading fleet, of which 45 have membrane cargo containment system. There are no LNG carriers in the same size segment on orderbook, which have moss spherical containment system.
Increasing scrutiny and changing expectations from investors, lenders and other market participants with respect to our Environmental, Social and Governance ("ESG") policies may impose additional costs on us or expose us to additional risks.
Companies across all industries are facing increasing scrutiny relating to their ESG policies. Investor advocacy groups, certain institutional investors, investment funds, lenders and other market participants are increasingly focused on ESG practices and in recent years have focused on the implications and social cost of their investments. Equityholder proposals submitted on environmental matters and, in particular, climate-related proposals have increased for the second consecutive year and those submitted environmental proposals that did go to a vote received greater shareholder support than previous years. The increased attention and activism related to ESG and similar matters may hinder access to capital, as investors and lenders may decide to reallocate capital or to not commit capital as a result of their assessment of a company's ESG practices. Companies which do not adapt to or comply with investor, lender, or other industry shareholder expectations and standards, which are evolving, or which are perceived to have not responded appropriately to the growing concern for ESG issues, regardless of whether there is a legal requirement to do so, may suffer from reputational damage and incur costs related to litigation, and the business, financial condition, and/or stock price of such a company could be materially and adversely affected.
We may face increasing pressures from investors, lenders, and other market participants, who are increasingly focused on climate change, to prioritize sustainable energy practices, reduce our carbon footprint, and promote sustainability. As a result, we may be required to implement more stringent ESG procedures or standards so that our existing and future investors and lenders remain invested in us and make further investments in us, especially given the highly focused and specific trade of crude oil transportation in which we are engaged. Such ESG corporate transformation calls for an increased resource allocation to serve the necessary changes in that sector, increasing costs and capital expenditure. If we do not meet these standards, our business and/or our ability to access capital could be harmed.
Additionally, certain investors and lenders may exclude LNG transport companies, such as us, from their investing portfolios altogether due to environmental, social, and governance factors. These limitations in both the debt and equity capital markets may affect our ability to grow as our plans for growth may include accessing the equity and debt capital markets. If those markets are unavailable, or if we are unable to access alternative means of financing on acceptable terms, or at all, we may be unable to implement our business strategy, which would have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations and impair our ability to service our indebtedness. Further, it is likely that we will incur additional costs and require additional resources to monitor, report, and comply with wide ranging ESG requirements. The occurrence of any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
Further technological advancements and other innovations affecting LNG carriers could reduce the charter hire rates we are able to obtain when seeking new employment and this could adversely impact the value of our assets and our future financial performance.
The charter rates, asset value and operational life of an LNG carrier are determined by a number of factors, including but not limited to, the vessel's efficiency, operational flexibility and physical life. Efficiency includes speed and fuel economy. Flexibility includes the ability to enter harbors, utilize related docking facilities and pass through canals and straits. Physical life is related to the original design and construction, the ongoing maintenance and the impact of operational stresses on the asset. If more advanced ship designs are developed in the future and new ships are built that are more efficient, more flexible or have longer physical lives than our Fleet, competition from these more technologically advanced LNG carriers could adversely affect the charter hire rates we will be able to secure when we seek to re-charter our vessels upon expiration or early termination of our current charter arrangements. Such an adverse impact could also reduce the resale value of our vessels and adversely affect our revenues and cash flows, including any cash available for distributions to our unitholders.
If we cannot meet our charterers' quality and compliance requirements, we may not be able to operate our vessels profitably which could have an adverse effect on our future financial performance.
Customers, and in particular those in the LNG industry, have a high and increasing focus on quality and compliance standards with their suppliers across the entire value chain, including the shipping and transportation segment. Our continuous compliance with these standards and quality requirements is vital for our operations. Related risks could materialize in multiple ways, including a sudden and unexpected breach in quality and/or compliance concerning one or more vessels, and/or a continuous decrease in the quality concerning one or more LNG carriers occurring over time. Moreover, continuous, modified and increasing requirements and standards from LNG industry constituents may further complicate our ability to meet such requirements and standards. Any noncompliance by the Partnership, either suddenly or over a period of time, on one or more LNG carriers, or an increase or modification in requirements by our charterers above and beyond what we deliver, may have a material adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows, financial position and our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
Exposure to currency exchange rate fluctuations will result in fluctuations in our cash flows and operating results.
Historically, our revenue has been generated in U.S. Dollars, but we incur capital, operating and administrative expenses in multiple currencies, including, among others, the Euro. If the U.S. Dollar weakens significantly, we would be required to convert more U.S. Dollars to other currencies to satisfy our obligations, which may cause us to have less or no cash available for distribution to our unitholders. Because we report our operating results in U.S. Dollars, changes in the value of the U.S. Dollar may also result in fluctuations in our reported revenues and earnings. In addition, under U.S. GAAP, all foreign currency-denominated monetary assets and liabilities, such as cash and accounts payable, are revalued and reported based on the prevailing exchange rate at the end of the reporting period. This revaluation may cause us to report significant non-monetary foreign currency exchange gains and losses in certain periods.
An increase in operating expenses, dry-docking costs, bunker costs and/or other capital expenses could materially and adversely affect our financial performance.
Our operating expenses and dry-dock capital expenditures depend on a variety of factors including crew costs, provisions, deck and engine stores and spares, lubricating oil, insurance, maintenance and repairs and shipyard costs, many of which are beyond our control and may affect the entire shipping industry. Also, while we do not bear the cost of fuel (bunkers) under our time charters, fuel is a significant expense in our operations when our vessels are, for example, moving to or from dry-dock or when off-hire. The price and supply of fuel are unpredictable and fluctuate based on events and factors outside our control, including geopolitical developments (such as the ongoing military conflict between Russia and Ukraine), supply and demand for oil and gas, actions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, and other oil and gas producers, war and unrest in oil-producing countries and regions, political instability, regional production patterns and environmental concerns. These events and factors may increase vessel operating and dry-docking costs further, which could materially and adversely affect our future performance, results of operations, cash flows, financial position and our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
In addition, capital expenditures and other costs necessary for maintaining a vessel in good operating condition generally increase as the vessel ages. Accordingly, it is likely that the operating costs of our vessels and capital expenditures required will increase in the future, which will have a direct impact on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows, financial position and our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
The operation of LNG carriers is inherently risky and an incident involving significant loss of or environmental consequences involving any of our vessels could harm our reputation and business.
Our vessels and their respective cargoes are at risk of being damaged or lost because of events and factors that include but are not limited to:
|·||environmental accidents and hazards;|
|·||grounding, fire, explosions and collisions;|
|·||human error; and|
|·||political unrest, war, including the war between Russia and Ukraine, and terrorism.|
An accident involving any of our vessels could result in any of the following:
|·||death or injury to persons, loss of property or environmental damage;|
|·||delays or failure in the delivery of cargo;|
|·||loss of revenues from or termination of charter contracts;|
|·||governmental fines, penalties or restrictions on conducting business;|
|·||spills, pollution and the liability associated with the same;|
|·||higher insurance rates; and|
|·||damage to our reputation and customer relationships generally.|
Any of these events could result in a material adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows, financial position and our ability to make distributions to our unitholders. If our vessels suffer damage, they may need to be repaired. The costs of vessel repairs are unpredictable and can be substantial. We may have to pay repair costs that our insurance policies do not cover. The loss of earnings while these vessels are being repaired, as well as the actual cost of these repairs, would decrease or materially and adversely impact our results of operations. If any of our vessels is involved in an accident with the potential risk of environmental consequences, the resulting media coverage may also have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and cash flows, which in turn could weaken our financial condition and materially and adversely affect our ability to pay distributions to our unitholders.
Our insurance may be insufficient to cover losses that may occur to our property or result from our operations.
The operation of LNG carriers is inherently risky. Although we carry protection and indemnity insurance consistent with industry standards, all of our potential risks may not be adequately insured against, and any particular claim may not be paid or covered. Any claims covered by insurance would be subject to deductibles, and since it is possible that a large number of claims may be brought, the aggregate amount of these deductibles could be material. Certain of our insurance coverage is maintained through mutual protection and indemnity associations, and as a member of such associations, we may be required to make additional payments over and above budgeted premiums if member claims exceed association reserves. We may be unable to procure adequate insurance coverage at commercially reasonable rates in the future. For example, more stringent and increasing environmental regulations have led to increased insurance costs, and in the future, may result in the lack of availability of, insurance against risks of marine disasters, environmental damage or pollution. A marine disaster could exceed our insurance coverage, which could harm our business, financial condition and operating results. Any uninsured or underinsured loss could harm our business and financial condition. In addition, our insurance may be voidable by the insurers as a result of certain of our actions, such as our vessels failure to maintain their respective certifications with applicable maritime self-regulatory organizations.
Changes in the insurance markets attributable to terrorist attacks may also make certain types of insurance more difficult for us to obtain. In addition, upon renewal or expiration of our current policies, the insurance that may be available to us may be significantly more expensive or limited than our existing coverage.
Our vessels may suffer damage and we may face unexpected costs and off-hire days.
In the event of damage to our owned vessels, the damaged vessel would be off-hire while it is being repaired, which would decrease our revenues and cash flows, including cash available for distributions to our unitholders. In addition, the costs of vessel repairs are unpredictable and can be substantial. In the event of repair costs that are not covered, whether in whole or in part, by our insurance policies, we may have to pay such repair costs, which would decrease our earnings and cash flows.
Volatile economic conditions may adversely impact our ability to obtain financing or refinance our current or future credit facilities on acceptable terms, which may hinder or prevent us from operating or expanding our business.
Global financial markets and economic conditions have been, and continue to be, unstable and volatile. Beginning in February 2020, due in part to fears associated with the spread of COVID-19 (as more fully described below), global financial markets experienced extreme volatility and a steep and abrupt downturn followed by a recovery, which volatility may continue as certain geopolitical events develop, such as the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Such instability and volatility have negatively affected the general willingness of banks, other financial institutions and lenders to extend credit, particularly in the shipping industry, due to the historically volatile asset values of vessels. Credit markets and the debt and equity capital markets have been distressed and the uncertainty surrounding the future of the global credit markets has resulted in reduced access to credit worldwide. These issues, along with significant write-offs in the financial services sector, the re-pricing of credit risk and the uncertain economic conditions, have made, and may continue to make, it difficult to obtain additional financing. The current state of global financial markets and current economic conditions might adversely impact our ability to issue additional equity at prices that will not be dilutive to our existing unitholders or preclude us from issuing equity at all. Economic conditions may also adversely affect the market price of our common units.
Beginning in February of 2022, the United States, European Union, United Kingdom and other countries announced various economic sanctions against Russia in connection with the aforementioned conflicts in Ukraine, which may adversely impact our business. Our business could also be adversely impacted by trade tariffs, trade embargoes or other economic sanctions that limit trading activities by the United States or other countries against countries in the Middle East, Asia or elsewhere as a result of terrorist attacks, hostilities or diplomatic or political pressures. On March 8, 2022, President Biden issued an executive order prohibiting the import of certain Russian energy products into the United States, including LNG. Additionally, the executive order prohibits any new investments in the Russian energy sector by U.S. persons, among other restrictions.
Further, we may not be able to access our existing cash due to market conditions. For example, on March 10, 2023, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) took control and was appointed receiver of Silicon Valley Bank (a bank unrelated to us and our activities). If other banks and financial institutions enter receivership or become insolvent in the future in response to financial conditions affecting the banking system and financial markets, our ability to access our existing cash may be threatened and could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
Also, as a result of concerns about the stability of financial markets generally and the solvency of counterparties specifically, the cost of obtaining money from the credit markets has increased as a result of increases in interest rates, stricter lending standards, refusals to extend debt financing at all or on similar terms as existing debt arrangements, reductions, and in some cases, termination of funding to borrowers on the part of many lenders. Due to these factors, we cannot be certain that financing or any alternatives will be available to the extent required, or that we will be able to finance or refinance our current or future credit facilities, on acceptable terms or at all. If financing or refinancing is not available when needed, or is available only on unfavorable terms, we may be unable to meet our obligations as they come due or we may be unable to enhance our existing business, complete the acquisition of newbuildings (if any) and additional vessels or otherwise take advantage of business opportunities as they arise.
A cyber-attack could materially disrupt our business.
We rely on information technology systems and networks in our operations and the administration of our business. A successful cyber-attack could materially and adversely disrupt our business and operations, including the safety of our operations and systems, and the availability of our vessels and facilities or lead to unauthorized release of information or data or alteration of information or data in our systems, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, including cash available for distributions to our unitholders. We are subject to laws, directives, and regulations relating to the collection, use, retention, disclosure, security and transfer of personal data. These laws, directives, and regulations, and their interpretation and enforcement continue to evolve and may be inconsistent from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Compliance with emerging and changing privacy and data protection requirements may cause us to incur substantial costs or require us to change our business practices. Noncompliance with our legal obligations relating to privacy, security and data protection could result in penalties, fines, legal proceedings by governmental entities or others, loss of reputation, legal claims by individuals and customers and significant legal and financial exposure and could affect our ability to retain and attract customers. Changes or increases in the nature of cyber or security-threats and/or changes to industry standards and regulations might require us to adopt additional or modified procedures for monitoring cybersecurity, which may require us to incur additional expenses and/or additional capital expenditures. However, the impact of such regulations is difficult to predict at this time.
Moreover, cyber-attacks against the Ukrainian government and other countries in the region have been reported in connection with the war between Russia and Ukraine. To the extent such attacks have collateral effects on global critical infrastructure or financial institutions or us, such developments could adversely affect our business, operating results and financial condition. At this time, it is difficult to assess the likelihood of such threat and any potential impact.
Compliance with safety and other requirements imposed by classification societies may be very costly and may adversely affect our business.
The hull and machinery of every commercial LNG carrier must be classed by a classification society. The classification society certifies that the vessel has been built and maintained in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations of that classification society. Moreover, every vessel must comply with all applicable international conventions and the regulations of the vessel's flag state as verified by a classification society. Finally, each vessel must successfully undergo periodic surveys, including annual, intermediate and five-year special surveys performed under the classification society's rules.
If any vessel does not maintain its class, it will lose its insurance coverage and be unable to trade, and the vessel's owner will be in breach of relevant covenants under its financing arrangements. Failure to maintain the class of one or more of our vessels could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, including cash available for distributions to our unitholders.
The LNG shipping industry is subject to substantial environmental and other regulations, which may significantly limit our operations or increase our expenses.
Our operations are materially affected by extensive and changing international, national, state and local environmental laws, regulations, treaties, conventions and standards, which are in force in international waters, in the jurisdictional waters of the countries in which our vessels operate and in the countries in which our vessels are registered. These requirements relate to compliance with applicable legislation and minimizing our environmental footprint (of our operations both onboard and ashore). We expect to incur substantial expenses in complying with these requirements, including, but not limited to, costs relating to air emissions, including greenhouse gases, sulfur emissions, the management of ballast waters, maintenance and inspection, development and implementation of emergency procedures and insurance coverage. We could also incur substantial costs, including clean-up costs, civil and criminal penalties and sanctions, the suspension or termination of operations and third-party claims as a result of violations of, or liabilities under, such laws and regulations.
In addition, these requirements can affect the resale value or useful lives of our vessels, require a reduction in cargo capacity, necessitate vessel modifications or operational changes or restrictions or lead to decreased availability of insurance coverage for environmental matters. These affects could further result in the denial of access to certain jurisdictional waters or ports or detention in certain ports. We are required to obtain governmental approvals and permits to operate our vessels and to also to maintain environmental manuals and plans. Any delays in obtaining such governmental approvals may increase our expenses, and the terms and conditions of such approvals could materially and adversely affect our future performance, results of operations, cash flows, financial position and our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
Additional laws and regulations may be adopted in the future that could limit our ability to do business or increase our operating costs, which could materially and adversely affect our business. For example, new or amended legislation relating to ship recycling, sewage systems, emission control (including emissions of greenhouse gases) as well as ballast water treatment and ballast water handling may be adopted. The United States has enacted legislation and regulations that require more stringent controls of air and water emissions from ocean-going ships. Such legislation or regulations may require additional capital expenditures or operating expenses (such as increased costs for low-sulfur fuel or costs related to the installation of scrubbers for cleaning exhaust gas) in order for us to maintain our vessels' compliance with international and/or national regulations. We also may become subject to additional laws and regulations or any new legislation that may come into effect if and when we enter new markets or trades.
We also believe that the heightened environmental, quality and security concerns of insurance underwriters, regulators and charterers will generally lead to additional regulatory requirements, including enhanced risk assessment and security requirements as well as greater inspection and safety requirements on all LNG carriers in the marine transportation market. These requirements are likely to add increased costs to our operations, and the failure to comply with these requirements may affect the ability of our vessels to obtain and, possibly, collect on, insurance or to obtain the required certificates for entry into the different ports where our vessels operate.
Some environmental laws and regulations, such as the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990, or OPA, provide for potentially unlimited joint, several, and/or strict liability for owners, operators and demise or bareboat charterers for oil pollution and related damages. OPA applies to discharges of any oil from a ship in U.S. waters, including discharges of fuel and lubricants from an LNG carrier, even if the ships do not carry oil as cargo. Vessels are required to carry onboard a ship-specific non-tank vessel response plan to address contingencies relating to discharges of any oil. In addition, many states in the United States bordering on a navigable waterway have enacted legislation providing for potentially unlimited strict liability without regard to fault for the discharge of pollutants within their waters. We also are subject to other laws and conventions outside the United States that provide for an owner or operator of LNG carriers to bear strict liability for pollution, such as the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims of 1976, or the "London Convention."
Some of these laws and conventions, including OPA and the London Convention, may include limitations on liability. However, the limitations may not be applicable in certain circumstances, such as where a spill is caused by a vessel owner's or operators' intentional or reckless conduct. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill has resulted in additional regulatory initiatives, including the raising of liability caps under OPA. On February 24, 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, proposed a rule increasing the limits of liability for off-shore facilities under OPA based on inflation, effective in January 2015. The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE, published an amended “Well Control Rule” in 2019, which rolled back certain reforms regarding the safety of drilling operations. In 2021, U.S. President Biden signed an executive order suspending new leases for oil and gas drilling in federal waters and instructed the Department of the Interior (“DOI”) to review the 2019 Well Control Rule. In 2022, the DOI proposed revisions to the Well Control Rule with the stated goal of addressing regulatory requirements to improve operations that use a Blowout Preventer system, and BSEE oversight of such operations. Final action on the proposed rule could take place in 2023.
Compliance with OPA and other environmental laws and regulations also may result in vessel owners and operators incurring increased costs for additional maintenance and inspection requirements, the development of contingency arrangements for potential spills, obtaining mandated insurance coverage and meeting financial responsibility requirements.
Please see "Item 4. Information on the Partnership—B. Business Overview—Environmental and Other Regulations."
Developments in safety and environmental requirements relating to the recycling of vessels may result in escalated and unexpected costs.
The 2009 Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, or the Hong Kong Convention, aims to ensure ships, being recycled once they reach the end of their operational lives, do not pose any unnecessary risks to the environment, human health and safety. The Hong Kong Convention has yet to be ratified by the required number of countries to enter into force. Upon the Hong Kong Convention's entry into force, each ship sent for recycling will have to carry an inventory of its hazardous materials. The hazardous materials, whose use or installation are prohibited in certain circumstances, are listed in an appendix to the Hong Kong Convention. Ships will be required to have surveys to verify their inventory of hazardous materials initially, throughout their lives and prior to the ship being recycled.
The Hong Kong Convention, which is currently open for accession by IMO Member States, will enter into force 24 months after the date on which 15 IMO Member States, representing at least 40% of world merchant shipping by gross tonnage, have ratified or approve accession. As of the date of this annual report, although more than fifteen countries have ratified or approved accession of the Hong Kong Convention, the requirement of 40% of world merchant shipping by gross tonnage has not yet been satisfied.
On November 20, 2013, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU adopted the Ship Recycling Regulation, which retains the requirements of the Hong Kong Convention and requires that certain commercial seagoing vessels flying the flag of an EU Member State may be recycled only in facilities included on the European list of permitted ship recycling facilities. We were required to comply with EU Ship Recycling Regulation by December 31, 2020, since our ships trade in EU region. One of our vessels, the Artic Aurora, is a Maltese flagged vessel. Malta is an EU Member State.
These regulatory developments, when implemented, may lead to cost escalation by shipyards, repair yards and recycling yards. This may then result in a decrease in the residual scrap value of a vessel, and a vessel could potentially not cover the cost to comply with latest requirements, which may have an adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position.
Climate change and greenhouse gas restrictions may adversely impact our operations and markets, and may cause us to incur substantial costs and to procure low-sulfur fuel oil directly on the wholesale market for storage at sea and onward consumption on our vessels.
In 2011, IMO agreed to include a new chapter on "energy efficiency" in MARPOL Annex VI and adopted mandatory energy efficiency regulations for ships – Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships, and Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) for all ships. The EEDI has subsequently been strengthened, and some of its deadlines accelerated, through further amendments. In 2016 IMO adopted the mandatory IMO Data Collection System (DCS) for ships to collect and report fuel oil consumption data from ships over 5,000 gt - first calendar year data collection completed in 2019. A range of IMO-led global projects initiated since 2012 support developing countries in ratifying MARPOL Annex VI and implementing the energy efficiency measures and to support and encourage pilot projects, innovation and R&D. In 2020, the IMO 2020 0.50% sulphur limit entered into force – cutting total sulphur oxide emissions from shipping by over 75%. In June 2021, IMO adopted short-term measures to reduce carbon intensity of all ships by 40% by 2030, compared to 2008.
The IMO Initial Strategy on the reduction of GHG emissions from shipping sets key ambitions. This is a policy framework. The main goals are: to cut annual greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by at least half by 2050, compared with their level in 2008, and work towards phasing out GHG emissions from shipping entirely as soon as possible in this century. The Initial GHG Strategy envisages a reduction in carbon intensity of international shipping (to reduce CO2 emissions per transport work), as an average across international shipping, by at least 40% by 2030, pursuing efforts towards 70% by 2050, compared to 2008. The Initial Strategy will likely be revised within 2023.
We continue to evaluate different options in complying with IMO and other rules and regulations. All of our vessels are on long-term time charter and the expense of fuel is for the charterer’s account. As such, the ability of our vessels to burn low sulfur fuel may factor into our charterers’ or potential charterers’ decisions relating to the employment of our vessels. Low sulfur fuel is more expensive than standard marine fuel containing 3.5% sulfur content and may become more expensive or difficult to obtain as a result of increased demand. If the cost differential between low sulfur fuel and high sulfur fuel is significantly higher than anticipated, or if low sulfur fuel is not available at ports on certain trading routes, it may not be feasible or competitive for our charterers to operate our vessels on certain trading routes without scrubbers or without incurring deviation time to obtain compliant fuel. Charterers may request that scrubbers be installed and scrubbers may not be available to be installed on such vessels at a favorable cost or at all if we seek them at a later date. Further there is a risk that if the fuel spread between high sulfur fuel oil ("HSFO") and very low sulfur fuel oil ("VLSFO") continues to shrink, and therefore the alternative cost related to scrubber investments may increase.
Our operations and the performance of our vessels, and as a result our results of operations, cash flows and financial position, may be negatively affected to the extent that compliant sulfur fuel oils are unavailable, of low or inconsistent quality, if de-bunkering facilities are unavailable to permit our vessels to accept compliant fuels when required, or upon occurrence of any of the other foregoing events. Costs of compliance with these and other related regulatory changes may be significant and may have a material adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position. As a result, an increase in the price of fuel beyond our expectations may adversely affect our charterers’, and by extent, our profitability at the time of charter negotiation. Further, fuel may become much more expensive in the future, which may reduce the profitability and competitiveness of our business versus other forms of transportation. While we carry cargo insurance to protect us against certain risks of loss of or damage to the procured commodities, we may not be adequately insured to cover any losses from such operational risks, which could have a material adverse effect on us. Any significant uninsured or under-insured loss or liability could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition and our available cash.
Maritime shipping will also be included in the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) as of 2023 with a phase-in period. It is expected that shipowners will need to purchase and surrender a number of emission allowances that represent their MRV-recorded carbon emission exposure for a specific reporting period. The person or organization responsible for the compliance with the EU ETS should be the shipping company, defined as the shipowner or any other organization or person, such as the manager or the bareboat charterer, that has assumed the responsibility for the operation of the ship from the shipowner. Compliance with the Maritime EU ETS will result in additional compliance and administration costs to properly incorporate the provisions of the Directive into our business routines. Additional EU regulations which are part of the EU’s Fit-for-55, could also affect our financial position in terms of compliance and administration costs when they take effect.
Territorial taxonomy regulations in geographies where we are operating and are regulatorily liable, such as EU Taxonomy, might jeopardize the level of access to capital. For example, EU has already introduced a set of criteria for economic activities which should be framed as ‘green’, called EU Taxonomy. As long as we are an EU-based company meeting the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) prerequisites, we will be eligible for reporting our Taxonomy eligibility and alignment. Based on the current version of the Regulation, companies that own assets shipping fossil fuels are considered as not aligned with EU Taxonomy. The outcome of such provision might be either an increase in the cost of capital and/or gradually reduced access to financing as a result of financial institutions’ compliance with EU Taxonomy.
In addition, although the emissions of greenhouse gases from international shipping currently are not subject to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which required adopting countries to implement national programs to reduce emissions of certain gases, or the Paris Agreement (discussed further below), a new treaty may be adopted in the future that includes restrictions on shipping emissions. Compliance with changes in laws, regulations and obligations relating to climate change affects the propulsion options in subsequent vessel designs and could increase our costs related to acquiring new vessels, operating and maintaining our existing vessels and require us to install new emission controls, acquire allowances or pay taxes related to our greenhouse gas emissions or administer and manage a greenhouse gas emissions program. Revenue generation and strategic growth opportunities may also be adversely affected.
Adverse effects upon the oil and gas production industry relating to climate change, including growing public concern about the environmental impact of climate change, may also have an effect on demand for our services. For example, increased regulation of greenhouse gases or other concerns relating to climate change may reduce the demand for oil and gas in the future or create greater incentives for use of alternative energy sources. Any long-term material adverse effect on the oil and gas production industry could have significant financial and operational adverse impacts on our business that we cannot predict with certainty at this time.
We operate globally, including in countries, states and regions where our businesses, and the activities our consumer customers, could be negatively impacted by climate change. Climate change presents both immediate and long-term risks to us and our customers, with the risks expected to increase over time. Climate risks can arise from physical risks (acute or chronic risks related to the physical effects of climate change) and transition risks (risks related to regulatory and legal, technological, market and reputational changes from a transition to a low-carbon economy). Physical risks could damage or destroy our or our customers' and clients' properties and other assets and disrupt our or their operations. For example, climate change may lead to more extreme weather events occurring more often which may result in physical damage and additional volatility within our business operations and potential counterparty exposures and other financial risks. Transition risks may result in changes in regulations or market preferences, which in turn could have negative impacts on our results of operation or the reputation of us and our customers. For example, carbon-intensive industries like LNG are exposed to climate risks, such as those risks related to the transition to a low-carbon economy, as well as low-carbon industries that may be subject to risks associated with new technologies. Ongoing legislative or regulatory uncertainties and changes regarding climate risk management and practices may result in higher regulatory, compliance, credit and reputational risks and costs.
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 IMO’s International Safety Management Code (the “ISM Code”). The ISM Code requires shipowners, ship managers and bareboat charterers to develop and maintain an extensive "Safety Management System" that includes the adoption of a safety and environmental protection policy setting forth instructions and procedures for safe operation and describing procedures for dealing with emergencies. If we fail to comply with the ISM Code, we may be subject to increased liability, or may invalidate existing insurance or decrease available insurance coverage for our affected vessels, and such failure may result in a denial of access to, or detention in, certain ports. The USCG and European Union authorities enforce compliance with the ISM and International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (the “ISPS Code”) and prohibit non-compliant vessels from trading in U.S. and European Union ports. This could have a material adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position. Given that the IMO continues to review and introduce new regulations, it is impossible to predict what additional regulations, if any, may be passed by the IMO and what effect, if any, such regulations might have on our operations.
Because such conventions, laws, and regulations are often revised, we cannot predict the ultimate cost of complying with such conventions, laws and regulations or the impact thereof on the resale prices or useful lives of our vessels. Additional conventions, laws and regulations may be adopted which could limit our ability to do business or increase the cost of our doing business and which may materially adversely affect our operations. We are required by various governmental and quasigovernmental agencies to obtain certain permits, licenses, certificates, and financial assurances with respect to our operations.
Please see “Item 4. Information on the Partnership—B. Business Overview - Environmental and Other Regulations in the Shipping Industry” for a discussion of the environmental and other regulations applicable to us.
Safety, environmental and other governmental and other requirements expose us to liability, and compliance with current and future regulations could require significant additional expenditures, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial results.
Our operations are affected by extensive and changing international, national, state and local laws, regulations, treaties, conventions and standards in force in international waters, the jurisdictions in which our LNG vessels operate, and the country or countries in which such vessels are registered, including those governing the management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, the cleanup of oil spills and other contamination, air emissions, and water discharges and ballast and bilge water management. These regulations include, but are not limited to, the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990, or OPA, requirements of the U.S. Coast Guard, or the USCG, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, the U.S. Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, or CERCLA, the U.S. Clean Water Act, the U.S. Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, and regulations of the International Maritime Organization, or IMO, including the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea of 1974, or SOLAS, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships of 1973, or MARPOL, including the designation thereunder of Emission Control Areas, or ECAs, the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage of 1969, or CLC, and the International Convention on Load Lines of 1966. In particular, IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee ("MEPC") 73, amendments to Annex VI prohibiting the carriage of bunkers above 0.5% sulfur on ships took effect March 1, 2020 and may cause us to incur substantial costs. Compliance with these regulations could have a material adverse effect our business and financial results.
In addition, vessel classification societies and the requirements set forth in the IMO’s International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention, or the ISM Code, also impose significant safety and other requirements on our vessels. In complying with current and future environmental requirements, vessel owners and operators may also incur significant additional costs in meeting new maintenance and inspection requirements, in developing contingency arrangements for potential spills and in obtaining insurance coverage. Government regulation of vessels, particularly in the areas of safety and environmental requirements, can be expected to become stricter in the future and require us to incur significant capital expenditures on our vessels to keep them in compliance, or even to recycle or sell certain vessels altogether.
Many of these requirements are designed to reduce the risk of oil spills and other pollution, and our compliance with these requirements can be costly. These requirements can also affect the resale value or useful lives of our vessels, require reductions in cargo capacity, ship modifications or operational changes or restrictions, lead to decreased availability of insurance coverage for environmental matters or result in the denial of access to certain jurisdictional waters or ports, or detention in certain ports.
Under local, national and foreign laws, as well as international treaties and conventions, we could incur material liabilities, including cleanup obligations, natural resource damages and third-party claims for personal injury or property damages, in the event that there is a release of petroleum or other hazardous substances from our vessels or otherwise in connection with our current or historic operations. We could also incur substantial penalties, fines and other civil or criminal sanctions, including in certain instances seizure or detention of our vessels, as a result of violations of or liabilities under environmental laws, regulations and other requirements. Environmental laws often impose strict liability for remediation of spills and releases of oil and hazardous substances, which could subject us to liability without regard to whether we were negligent or at fault. For example, OPA affects all vessel owners shipping oil to, from or within the United States. Under OPA, owners, operators and bareboat charterers are jointly and severally strictly liable for the discharge of oil in U.S. waters, including the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone around the United States. Similarly, the CLC, which has been adopted by most countries outside of the United States, imposes liability for oil pollution in international waters. OPA expressly permits individual states to impose their own liability regimes with regard to hazardous materials and oil pollution incidents occurring within their boundaries, provided they accept, at a minimum, the levels of liability established under OPA. Coastal states in the United States have enacted pollution prevention liability and response laws, many providing for unlimited liability. Furthermore, the 2010 explosion of the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, and the subsequent release of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, or other events, has resulted in increased, and may result in further, regulation of the shipping and offshore industries and modifications to statutory liability schemes, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. An oil spill could also result in significant liability, including fines, penalties, criminal liability and remediation costs for natural resource damages under other 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 vessels. 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, cash flows and financial condition and available cash.
Regulations relating to ballast water discharge which came 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 vessel's ballast water. Depending on the date of the International Oil Pollution Prevention, or IOPP, renewal survey, existing vessels constructed before September 8, 2017, must comply with the updated D-2 standard. 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 are to comply with the D-2 standards upon delivery. Three of our vessels had on- board ballast water management system installed in 2022, during the completion of their scheduled special survey, while the remaining three of our vessels intend to have on-board ballast water management systems installed within their special surveys due in 2023.
Furthermore, United States regulations are currently changing. Although the 2013 Vessel General Permit, or VGP, program and U.S. National Invasive Species Act, or NISA, are currently in effect to regulate ballast discharge, exchange and installation, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, or VIDA, which was signed into law on December 4, 2018, requires that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, develop national standards of performance. On October 26, 2020, the EPA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Vessel Incidental Discharge National Standards of Performance under VIDA, but a final rule has not been promulgated. The new regulations could require the installation of new equipment, which may cause us to incur substantial costs. Please see "Item 4. Information on the Partnership—B. Business Overview—Environmental and Other Regulations."
Political instability, terrorist or other attacks, war, international hostilities and global public health threats can affect the seaborne transportation industry, which could adversely affect our business.
We are an international company and conduct our operations outside of the United States, and our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and ability to pay distributions, if any, in the future may be adversely affected by changing economic, political and government conditions in the countries and regions where our vessels are employed or registered. Moreover, we operate in a sector of the economy that is likely to be adversely impacted by the effects of political conflicts.
Currently, the world economy faces a number of ongoing challenges, including trade tensions between the United States and China, Brexit, continuing threat of terrorist attacks around the world, continuing instability and conflicts and other recent occurrences in the Middle East, Ukraine and in other geographic areas and countries, and stabilizing growth in China.
Further, governments may turn, and have turned, to trade barriers to protect their domestic industries against foreign imports, thereby depressing shipping demand. For example, there have been continuing trade tensions between the United States and China, including the imposition of tariffs by each country on certain of the other’s goods and products. On January 15, 2020, the United States and China signed a “Phase One” agreement, pursuant to which China agreed to increase purchases and imports of U.S. goods by $200 billion over 2017 levels during between January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021. In connection with this agreement, the United States agreed to reduce certain tariffs and indefinitely suspend the imposition of certain additional tariffs. While the Phase One agreement may reduce the risk of adverse effects on United States and Chinese trade policy, the future success of the agreement is uncertain as the Biden Administration has signaled the need to maintain political pressure on China, including with respect to perceived national security and human rights concerns, and has also indicated that it would review the Phase One agreement. Separate from the Phase One agreement, the United States has implemented or is considering implementing a number of policies, which may ultimately reduce trade between the United States and China, including as in response to what have been characterized as human rights abuses in the Xinjian Uyghur Autonomous Region. While it is not yet certain how the Biden Administration will handle each of these policies, the expectation is that most of these measures will remain in place.
In addition, we may be affected, either directly or indirectly, by continuing political tension in Europe between Russia and Ukraine following Russia's annexation of Crimea through our customer Yamal, which is trading from Russia. The war between Russia and Ukraine may lead to further regional and international conflicts or armed action. This conflict has disrupted supply chains and cause instability in the energy markets and the global economy, with effects on the LNG market, which has experienced volatility.
Beginning in February of 2022, President Biden and several European leaders announced various economic sanctions against Russia in connection with the aforementioned conflicts in Ukraine, which may adversely impact our business, given Russia’s role as a major global exporter of crude oil and natural gas. Our business could also be adversely impacted by trade tariffs, trade embargoes or other economic sanctions that limit trading activities by the United States or other countries against countries in the Middle East, Asia or elsewhere as a result of terrorist attacks, hostilities or diplomatic or political pressures.
On March 8, 2022, President Biden issued an executive order prohibiting the import of certain Russian energy products into the United States, including crude oil, petroleum, petroleum fuels, oils, liquefied natural gas and coal. Additionally, the executive order prohibits any investments in the Russian energy sector by U.S. persons, among other restrictions. While much uncertainty remains regarding the global impact of the conflict in Ukraine, it is possible that such tensions could adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operation and cash flows. Please also see “Item 4.B. Business Overview--Geopolitical risk and impact on LNG shipping.”
In Europe, large sovereign debts and fiscal deficits, low growth prospects and high unemployment rates in a number of countries have contributed to the rise of Eurosceptic parties, which would like their countries to leave the Euro. The exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, or Brexit, and potential new trade policies in the United States further increase the risk of additional trade protectionism.
In addition, public health threats, such as influenza and other highly communicable diseases or viruses, outbreaks of which have from time to time occurred in various parts of the world in which we operate, including China, Japan and South Korea, which may even become pandemics, such as the COVID-19 virus, could lead to a significant decrease of demand for the transportation of crude oil. Such events may also adversely impact our operations, including timely rotation of our crews, the timing of completion of any outstanding or future newbuilding projects or repair works in drydock as well as the operations of our customers. Delayed rotation of crew may adversely affect the mental and physical health of our crew and the safe operation of our vessels as a consequence.
Further economic downturn in any of these countries could have a material and adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows, financial position and our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
Failure to comply with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other applicable anti-bribery legislation in other jurisdictions could result in fines, criminal penalties, contract terminations and an adverse effect on our business.
We may operate in a number of countries throughout the world, including countries known to have a reputation for corruption. We are committed to doing business in accordance with applicable anti-corruption laws and have adopted a code of business conduct and ethics which is consistent and designed to ensure compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended. We are subject, however, to the risk that we, our affiliated entities or our or their respective officers, directors, employees and agents may take actions determined to be in violation of such anti-corruption laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Any such violation could result in substantial fines, sanctions, civil and/or criminal penalties, curtailment of operations in certain jurisdictions, and might materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations or financial condition and our ability to make distributions to our unitholders. In addition, actual or alleged violations could damage our reputation and ability to do business. Furthermore, detecting, investigating, and resolving actual or alleged violations are expensive and can consume significant time and attention of our senior management.
If the vessels we own call on ports located in countries or territories that are the subject of sanctions or embargoes imposed by the United States government or other governmental authorities, it could result in the imposition of monetary fines or penalties and adversely affect our reputation and the market for our securities.
Although no vessels operated by us called on ports located in countries or territories that are the subject of country-wide or territory-wide comprehensive sanctions and/or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government or other applicable governmental authorities ("Sanctioned Jurisdictions") in violation of applicable sanctions or embargo laws during 2022, and we endeavor to take precautions reasonably designed to mitigate such risks, it is possible that, in the future our vessels may call on ports in Sanctioned Jurisdictions on charterers' instructions and/or without our consent. If such activities result in a violation of applicable sanctions or embargo laws, we could be subject to monetary fines, penalties, or other sanctions, and our reputation and the market for our common units could be adversely affected.
The sanctions and embargo laws and regulations vary in their application, as they do not all apply to the same covered persons or proscribe the same activities, and such sanctions and embargo laws and regulations may be amended or expanded over time. Current or future counterparties of ours may be affiliated with persons or entities that are or may be in the future the subject of sanctions or embargoes imposed by the U.S., the EU, and/or other international bodies. If we determine that such sanctions or embargoes require us to terminate existing or future contracts to which we, or our subsidiaries are party or if we are found to be in violation of such applicable sanctions or embargoes, our results of operations may be adversely affected, we could face monetary fines or penalties, or we may suffer reputational harm.
Additionally, although we believe that we have been in compliance with all applicable sanctions and embargo laws and regulations in 2022, 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 our ability to access U.S. capital markets and conduct our business, and could result in some investors deciding, or being required, to divest their interest, or not to invest, in us. In addition, certain institutional investors may have investment policies or restrictions that prevent them from holding securities of companies that have contracts with countries identified by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism. The determination by these investors not to invest in, or to divest from, our common units may adversely affect the price at which our common units trade. Moreover, our charterers may violate applicable sanctions and embargo laws and regulations as a result of actions that do not involve us or our vessels, and those violations could in turn negatively affect our reputation. Investor perception of the value of our common units may be adversely affected by the consequences of war, the effects of terrorism, civil unrest and governmental actions in the countries or territories that we operate in. In addition, charterers and other parties that we have previously entered into contracts with regarding our vessels may be affiliated with persons or entities that are now or may in the future be the subject of sanctions or embargo laws imposed by the U.S. or other applicable governmental bodies, including in response to events relating to Russia and Ukraine. If we determine that such sanctions require us to terminate existing contracts or if we are found to be in violation of such sanctions or embargo laws, we may suffer reputational harm and our results of operations may be adversely affected.
With respect to U.S. sanctions against Russia, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) administers a sectoral sanctions program, which targets specific industries or sectors of the Russian economy. Transactions with companies designated under the Sectoral Sanctions Identifications List ("SSI List") are not completely prohibited. Under OFAC's 50 percent rule, a company owned 50 percent or more, in the aggregate by an SSI-Listed entity will also be the subject of the same restrictions as the SSI-Listed entity. We have a chartering relationship with Yamal Trade Pte ("Yamal"), which may be indirectly owned 50 percent or more by an SSI-Listed entity under Directive 2 of Executive Order 13662. In addition, pursuant to Executive Order 14066, the U.S. has imposed restrictions on the import into the U.S. of certain energy products from the Russian Federation, as well as new investments in the energy sector of the Russian Federation. In the future, the U.S. may impose greater sanctions, including, but not limited to, by adding Yamal or other counterparties to OFAC's Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (the "SDN List"). In addition, our reputation and the market for our securities may be adversely affected by our engagement in certain other activities, such as our dealings with Yamal or other SSI-Listed entities or their subsidiaries, or if we enter into charters with other individuals or entities in countries that are the subject of U.S. sanctions and embargo laws that are not controlled by the governments of those countries, engage in operations associated with those countries pursuant to contracts with third-parties that are unrelated to those countries or entities controlled by their governments, or otherwise engage in activities that are prohibited by U.S., the European Union or other sanctions to the extent that such sanctions may be applicable. Furthermore, because we derive, and expect to continue to derive, all of our revenues from a limited number of charterers, our business would be materially adversely affected if we were to determine that we are required because of applicable sanctions, to terminate our relationships with Yamal or any of our other charterers, or if the negative impact of these or any additional sanctions imposed in the future threaten the viability of the Yamal LNG Project or otherwise cause Yamal or any of our other charterers to end their relationships with us. Any of these events could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
Governments could requisition our vessels during a period of war or emergency, resulting in loss of earnings.
The government of a jurisdiction where one or more of our vessels are registered could requisition for title or seize our vessels. Requisition for title occurs when a government takes control of a vessel and becomes its 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, although governments may elect to requisition ships in other circumstances. Although we would expect to be entitled to government compensation in the event of a requisition of one or more of our vessels, the amount and timing of payments, if any, would be uncertain. A government requisition of one or more of our vessels would result in off-hire days under our time charters and may cause us to breach covenants in debt agreements, and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, including cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Maritime claimants could arrest our vessels, which could interrupt our cash flows.
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 claimant may seek to obtain security for its claim by arresting a vessel through foreclosure proceedings. The arrest or attachment of one or more of our vessels could interrupt our cash flow and require us to pay large sums of money to have the arrest or attachment lifted. In addition, in some jurisdictions, such as South Africa, under the "sister ship" theory of liability, a claimant may arrest both the vessel which is subject to the claimant's maritime lien and any "associated" vessel, which is any vessel owned or controlled by the same owner. Claimants could attempt to assert "sister ship" liability against a vessel in our Fleet for claims relating to another of our vessels.
We may be subject to litigation that could have an adverse effect on us
We may in the future be involved from time to time in litigation matters. These matters may include, among other things, contract disputes, personal injury claims, environmental claims or proceedings, toxic tort claims, employment matters, securities class actions claims and governmental claims for taxes or duties as well as other litigation that arises in the ordinary course of our business. We cannot predict with certainty the outcome of any claim or other litigation matter. The ultimate outcome of any litigation matter and the potential costs associated with prosecuting or defending such lawsuits, including the diversion of management's attention to these matters, could have an adverse effect on us and, in the event of litigation that could reasonably be expected to have a material adverse effect on us, could lead to an event of default under our credit facilities. For information regarding pending litigation claims, see "Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal Proceedings."
Risks Relating to our Common Units
The price of our common units may be volatile.
The price of our common units may be volatile and may fluctuate due to factors including:
|·||our payment of cash distributions to our unitholders;|
|·||actual or anticipated fluctuations in quarterly and annual results;|
|·||fluctuations in the seaborne transportation industry, including fluctuations in the LNG carrier market;|
|·||mergers and strategic alliances in the shipping industry;|
|·||changes in governmental regulations or maritime self-regulatory organization standards;|
|·||shortfalls in our operating results from levels forecasted by securities analysts; announcements concerning us or our competitors;|
|·||the failure of securities analysts to publish research about us, or analysts making changes in their financial estimates;|
|·||general economic conditions;|
|·||business interruptions caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic;|
|·||future sales of our units or other securities;|
|·||investors' perception of us and the LNG shipping industry;|
|·||the general state of the securities market; and|
|·||other developments affecting us, our industry or our competitors.|
Securities markets worldwide are experiencing significant price and volume fluctuations. The market price for our common units may also be volatile. This market volatility, as well as general economic, market or political conditions, could reduce the market price of our common units in spite of our operating performance.
The price of our common units has fluctuated in the past, has recently been volatile and may be volatile in the future, and as a result, investors in our common units could incur substantial losses.
The price of our common units has fluctuated in the past, has recently been volatile and may be volatile in the future. The closing price of our common units has ranged from a price of between $2.15 and $3.25 over the last six months without any discernible announcements or developments by the Partnership or third parties to substantiate the movement of the price of our common units. The price of our common units may experience rapid and substantial decreases or increases in the foreseeable future that are unrelated to our operating performance or prospects. In addition, the ongoing outbreak of the novel COVID-19 virus has caused broad stock market and industry fluctuations. The stock market in general and the market for shipping companies in particular have experienced extreme volatility that has often been unrelated to the operating performance of particular companies. As a result of this volatility, investors may experience substantial losses on their investment in our common units. The market price for our common units may be influenced by many factors, including the following:
|·||investor reaction to our business strategy;|
|·||our continued compliance with the listing standards of NYSE;|
|·||regulatory or legal developments in the United States and other countries, especially changes in laws or regulations applicable to our industry;|
|·||variations in our financial results or those of companies that are perceived to be similar to us;|
|·||our ability or inability to raise additional capital and the terms on which we raise it;|
|·||declines in the market prices of stocks generally;|
|·||trading volume of our common units;|
|·||sales of our common units by us or our unitholders;|
|·||general economic, industry and market conditions;|
|·||an increase in interest rates or reduction in demand for our common units resulting from other relatively more attractive investment opportunities; and|
|·||other events or factors, including those resulting from such events, or the prospect of such events, including war, terrorism and other international conflicts, including the war between Russia and Ukraine, public health issues including health epidemics or pandemics, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, adverse weather and climate conditions could disrupt our operations or result in political or economic instability.|
These broad market and industry factors may seriously harm the market price of our common units, regardless of our operating performance, and may be inconsistent with any improvements in actual or expected operating performance, financial condition or other indicators of value. Since the price of our common units has fluctuated in the past, has been recently volatile and may be volatile in the future, investors in our common units could incur substantial losses. In the past, following periods of volatility in the market, securities class-action litigation has often been instituted against companies. Such litigation, if instituted against us, could result in substantial costs and diversion of management's attention and resources, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects. There can be no guarantee that the price of our common units will remain at current prices.
Additionally, recently, securities of certain companies have experienced significant and extreme volatility in stock price due to short sellers of securities, known as a "short squeeze". These short squeezes have caused extreme volatility in those companies and in the market and have led to the price per share of those companies to trade at a significantly inflated rate that is disconnected from the underlying value of the Partnership. Many investors who have purchased shares in those companies at an inflated rate face the risk of losing a significant portion of their original investment as the price per share has declined steadily as interest in those stocks have abated. While we have no reason to believe our units would be the target of a short squeeze, there can be no assurance that we will not be in the future, and you may lose a significant portion or all of your investment if you purchase our units at a rate that is significantly disconnected from our underlying value.
Unitholders may have liability to repay distributions.
Under some circumstances, unitholders may have to repay amounts wrongfully returned or distributed to them. Under the Partnership Act, we may not make a distribution to our unitholders if the distribution would cause our liabilities to exceed the fair value of our assets. Marshall Islands law provides that for a period of three years from the date of the impermissible distribution, limited partners who received the distribution and who knew at the time of the distribution that it violated Marshall Islands law will be liable to the limited partnership for the distribution amount. Assignees who become substituted limited partners are liable for the obligations of the assignor to make contributions to the Partnership that are known to the assignee at the time it became a limited partner and for unknown obligations if the liabilities could be determined from the Partnership Agreement. Liabilities to partners on account of their partnership interest and liabilities that are non-recourse to the partnership are not counted for purposes of determining whether a distribution is permitted.
We may issue additional equity securities, including securities senior to the common units, without the approval of our common unitholders, which would dilute the ownership interests of the common unitholders.
We may, without the approval of our common unitholders, issue an unlimited number of additional units or other equity securities, subject to the restriction in our $675 Million Credit Facility that the Sponsor must own at least 30% of our total common units outstanding. In addition, we may issue an unlimited number of units that are senior to the common units in right of distribution, liquidation and voting. These sales could also impair our ability to raise additional capital through the sale of our equity securities in the future. The issuance by us of additional common units or other equity securities of equal or senior rank may have the following effects:
|·||our existing unitholders' proportionate ownership interest in us will decrease;|
|·||the amount of cash available for distribution per unit may decrease;|
|·||the relative voting strength of each previously outstanding unit may be diminished; and|
|·||the market price of our common units may decline.|
We have been organized as a limited partnership under the laws of the Marshall Islands, which does not have a well-developed body of partnership law.
We are organized in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which does not have a well-developed body of case law or bankruptcy law and, as a result, unitholders may have fewer rights and protections under Marshall Islands law than under a typical jurisdiction in the United States. Our partnership affairs are governed by our Partnership Agreement and by the Partnership Act. The provisions of the Partnership Act resemble the limited partnership laws of a number of states in the United States, most notably Delaware. The Partnership Act also provides that it is to be applied and construed to make it uniform with the Delaware Revised Uniform Partnership Act and, so long as it does not conflict with the Partnership Act or decisions of the Marshall Islands courts, interpreted according to the non-statutory law (or case law) of the State of Delaware. There have been, however, few, if any, court cases in the Marshall Islands interpreting the Partnership Act, in contrast to Delaware, which has a fairly well-developed body of case law interpreting its limited partnership statute. Accordingly, we cannot predict whether Marshall Islands courts would reach the same conclusions as the courts in Delaware. For example, the rights of our unitholders and the fiduciary responsibilities of our General Partner under Marshall Islands law are not as clearly established as under judicial precedent in existence in Delaware. As a result, unitholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests in the face of actions by our General Partner and its officers and directors than would unitholders of a similarly organized limited partnership in the United States. Further, the Republic of the Marshall Islands does not have a well-developed body of bankruptcy law. As such, in the case of a bankruptcy of our Partnership, there may be a delay of bankruptcy proceedings and the ability of unitholders and creditors to receive recovery after a bankruptcy proceeding.
We are a "foreign private issuer" under New York Stock Exchange, or the NYSE, rules, and as such we are entitled to exemption from certain corporate governance standards of the NYSE applicable to domestic companies, and holders of our common units may not have the same protections afforded to unitholders of companies that are subject to all of the NYSE corporate governance requirements.
As a "foreign private issuer" under the securities laws of the United States and the rules of the NYSE. We are subject to different disclosure requirements than U.S. domiciled registrants, as well as different financial reporting requirements. As a foreign private issuer, we are exempt under the Exchange Act from, among other things, certain rules prescribing the furnishing and content of proxy statements, and our executive officers, directors and principal unitholders are exempt from the reporting and short-swing profit recovery provisions contained in Section 16 of the Exchange Act. In addition, we are not required under the Exchange Act to file periodic reports and financial statements with the SEC as frequently or as promptly as U.S. companies whose securities are registered under the Exchange Act, including the filing of quarterly reports or current reports on Form 8-K. Under the NYSE rules, a "foreign private issuer" is subject to less stringent corporate governance requirements. Subject to certain exceptions, the rules of the NYSE permit a "foreign private issuer" to follow its home country practice in lieu of the listing requirements of the NYSE.
A majority of our directors qualify as independent under the NYSE director independence requirements. However, we cannot assure you that we will continue to maintain an independent board in the future. In addition, we may have one or more non-independent directors serving as committee members on our compensation committee. As a result, non-independent directors may among other things, participate in fixing the compensation of our management, making share and option awards and resolving governance issues regarding our Partnership.
Accordingly, in the future holders of our common units may not have the same protections afforded to shareholders of companies that are subject to all of the NYSE corporate governance requirements.
For a description of our corporate governance practices, please see "Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees."
Because we are organized under the laws of the Marshall Islands, it may be difficult to serve us with legal process or enforce judgments against us, our directors or our management.
We are organized under the laws of the Marshall Islands, and substantially all of our assets are located outside of the United States. In addition, our directors and officers generally are or will be non-residents of the United States, and all or a substantial portion of the assets of these non-residents are located outside the United States. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for holders of our common units to bring an action against us or against these individuals in the United States if they believe that their rights have been infringed under securities laws or otherwise. Even if holders of our common units are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Marshall Islands and of other jurisdictions may prevent or restrict them from enforcing a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors or officers.
Our Partnership Agreement designates the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware as the sole and exclusive forum for any claims, suits, actions or proceedings, unless otherwise provided for by Marshall Islands law, for certain litigation that may be initiated by our unitholders, which could limit our unitholders' ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with the Partnership.
Our Partnership Agreement provides that, unless otherwise provided for by Marshall Islands law, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware will be the sole and exclusive forum for any claims that:
|·||arise out of or relate in any way to the Partnership Agreement (including any claims, suits or actions to interpret, apply or enforce the provisions of the Partnership Agreement or the duties, obligations or liabilities among limited partners or of limited partners to us, or the rights or powers of, or restrictions on, the limited partners or us);|
|·||are brought in a derivative manner on our behalf;|
|·||assert a claim of breach of a fiduciary duty owed by any director, officer or other employee of us or our General Partner, or owed by our General Partner, to us or the limited partners;|
|·||assert a claim arising pursuant to any provision of the Partnership Act; or|
|·||assert a claim governed by the internal affairs doctrine,|
regardless of whether such claims, suits, actions or proceedings sound in contract, tort, fraud or otherwise, are based on common law, statutory, equitable, legal or other grounds, or are derivative or direct claims. Any person or entity purchasing or otherwise acquiring any interest in our common units shall be deemed to have notice of and to have consented to the provisions described above. This forum selection provision may limit our unitholders' ability to obtain a judicial forum that they find favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers or other employees or unitholders.
Provisions in our organizational documents may have anti-takeover effects.
Our Partnership Agreement contains provisions that could make it more difficult for a third-party to acquire us without the consent of our Board of Directors. These provisions require approval of our Board of Directors and prior consent of our General Partner.
These provisions could also make it difficult for our unitholders to replace or remove our current Board of Directors or could have the effect of discouraging, delaying or preventing an offer by a third-party to acquire us, even if the third-party's offer may be considered beneficial by many unitholders. As a result, unitholders may be limited in their ability to obtain a premium for their common units.
Risks Relating to our Indebtedness
Our debt levels could limit our liquidity and flexibility in obtaining additional financing and in pursuing other business opportunities.
As of December 31, 2022, we had total outstanding long-term debt of $499.9 million, consisting of amounts outstanding under our fully drawn $675 Million Credit Facility (as defined below). In addition, until November 14, 2023, we have the ability to borrow an additional $30 million under our interest free $30 million revolving credit facility with our Sponsor, or the $30 Million Revolving Credit Facility. We expect that a large portion of our cash flow from operations will be used to repay the principal and interest on our outstanding indebtedness.
Our current indebtedness and future indebtedness that we may incur could affect our future operations, as a significant portion of our cash flow from operations will be dedicated to the payment of interest and principal on such debt and will not be available for other purposes. Our debt levels may limit our flexibility in obtaining additional financing, pursuing other business opportunities and paying distributions to unitholders. Covenants contained in our debt agreements may affect our flexibility in planning for, and reacting to, changes in our business or economic conditions, limit our ability to dispose of assets or place restrictions on the use of proceeds from such dispositions, withstand current or future economic or industry downturns and compete with others in our industry for strategic opportunities, and limit our ability to obtain additional financing for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions, general corporate and other purposes and our ability to make distributions to our unitholders. Under the terms of the $675 Million Credit Facility, the Partnership is restricted from paying distributions to its common unitholders while borrowings are outstanding under the $675 Million Credit Facility.
Furthermore, repayments under our $675 Million Credit Facility are amortized over five years, with the final instalment and balloon payment of $385 million, in aggregate, due at maturity in September 2024. At maturity, we may not be able to repay or refinance outstanding amounts under our $675 Million Credit Facility on terms acceptable to us or at all. Our ability to obtain additional financing or refinance our existing indebtedness on terms acceptable to us may depend on, among other things, the actual or perceived creditworthiness of our charterers, the market value of our fleet, and market conditions at that time. If we are unable to meet our debt obligations and we default under our $675 Million Credit Facility, our lenders thereunder could, among other things, foreclose their liens on our vessels and the other assets securing our $675 Million Credit Facility, which would impair our ability to continue to conduct our business.
Our ability to service our debt will depend upon, among other things, our future financial and operating performance, which will be affected by prevailing economic conditions and financial, business, regulatory and other factors, some of which are beyond our control. If our operating results are not sufficient to service our current or future indebtedness, we will be forced to take actions such as reducing or eliminating distributions to our unitholders, reducing or delaying our business activities, acquisitions, investments or capital expenditures, selling assets, restructuring or refinancing our debt, or seeking additional equity capital or bankruptcy protection. We may not be able to effect any of these remedies on satisfactory terms, or at all.
We may be unable to comply with covenants in our debt agreements or any future financial obligations that impose operating and financial restrictions on us.
Certain of our existing and future debt agreements, which may be secured by mortgages on our vessels, impose and will impose certain operating and financial restrictions on us, including ensuring that the outstanding amount of the debt agreement does not exceed a certain percentage of the aggregate fair market value of the mortgaged vessel(s) under the applicable credit facility, restricting our operations or ability to incur additional debt, pay distributions consistent with our past practices or issue equity that would result in our Sponsor ceasing to directly own at least 30% of our total common partnership interest. The operating and financial restrictions and covenants in our $675 Million Credit Facility (as defined below) and any new or amended credit facility we enter into in the future, could adversely affect our ability to finance future operations or capital needs or to engage, expand or pursue our business activities.
For example, our $675 Million Credit Facility requires the consent of our lenders to, among other things:
|·||incur or guarantee indebtedness outside of our ordinary course of business;|
|·||sell, lease, transfer or otherwise dispose of our assets;|
|·||redeem, repurchase or otherwise reduce any of our equity or share capital;|
|·||declare or pay any distribution, charge, fee or distribution to our common unitholders (as described below);|
|·||change the approved Manager; and|
|·||vary the vessels’ time charters.|
Pursuant to the terms of the $675 million Credit Facility, it is considered a change of control, which could allow the lenders to declare the facility payable within ten days, if, among other things, (i) Dynagas Holdings Ltd. ceases to own 30% of our total common units outstanding, (ii) any person or persons acting in consent (other than certain permitted holders as defined therein) own a higher percentage of our total common units than in Dynagas LNG Partners LP ("Parent") than our Sponsor and/or have the ability to control, either directly or indirectly, the affairs or composition of the majority of the board of directors or the board of managers of the Parent, (iii) Mr. George Prokopiou ceases to be our Chairman and/or member of our board, or (iv) Dynagas GP LLC ceases to be our general partner.
The $675 Million Credit Facility also requires us to comply with the International Safety Management Code and to maintain valid safety management certificates and documents of compliance at all times and also comply with the following financial covenants:
|·||maintain cash and cash equivalents of not less than 8% of our total liabilities; and|
|·||maintain a consolidated leverage ratio of total liabilities to the aggregate market value of our total assets of no more than 0.7:1.0.|
Should our charter rates or vessel values materially decline in the future, we may seek to obtain waivers or amendments from our lenders with respect to such financial ratios and covenants, or we may be required to take action to reduce our debt or to act in a manner contrary to our business objectives to meet any such financial ratios and satisfy any such financial covenants. Events beyond our control, including changes in the economic and business conditions in the shipping markets in which we operate, interest rate developments, changes in the funding costs of our banks, changes in vessel earnings and asset valuations, sanctions imposed against Russia, outbreaks of epidemic and pandemic of diseases, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, may affect our ability to comply with these covenants. We cannot assure you that we will meet these ratios or satisfy these covenants or that our lenders will waive any failure to do so or amend these requirements.
The operating restrictions contained in our existing and future debt agreements may prohibit or otherwise limit our ability to, among other things:
|·||obtain additional financing, if necessary, for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions or other purposes on favorable terms, or at all;|
|·||make distributions to unitholders;|
|·||incur additional indebtedness, create liens or issue guarantees;|
|·||charter our vessels or change the terms of our existing charter agreements;|
|·||sell, transfer or lease our assets or vessels or the shares of our vessel-owning subsidiaries;|
|·||make investments and capital expenditures;|
|·||reduce our partners' capital; and|
|·||undergo a change in ownership or Manager.|
A breach of any of the covenants in, or our inability to maintain the required financial ratios under, our current or future debt agreements would prevent us from borrowing additional money under such debt agreements and could result in a default thereunder. Therefore, we may need to seek permission from our lenders in order to engage in some actions. Our lenders' interests may be different from ours and we may not be able to obtain our lenders' permission when needed. This may limit our ability to pay distributions on our Series A Preferred Units and Series B Preferred Units, finance our future operations or capital requirements, make acquisitions or pursue business opportunities.
In addition, our credit facilities may prohibit the payment of distributions to our Series A and Series B preferred unitholders upon the occurrence of events of default under our debt agreement, which may include, among other things, the following:
|·||failure to pay any principal, interest, fees, expenses or other amounts when due;|
|·||failure to observe any other agreement, security instrument, obligation or covenant beyond specified cure periods in certain cases;|
|·||default under other indebtedness;|
|·||an event of insolvency or bankruptcy;|
|·||failure of any representation or warranty to be materially correct; and|
|·||a change of control whereby the Partnership or its affiliates no longer hold, indirectly or directly, 100% of the interests in Arctic LNG Carriers.|
A violation of any of the provisions contained in our existing or future debt agreements may constitute an event of default under such debt agreement, which, unless cured or waived or modified by our lenders, provides our lenders with the right to, among other things, declare the outstanding debt, together with accrued interest and other fees, to be immediately due and payable, or to require us to post additional collateral, enhance our equity and liquidity, increase our interest payments, pay down our indebtedness to a level where we are in compliance with our loan covenants, sell vessels in our Fleet, reclassify our indebtedness as current liabilities and accelerate our indebtedness and foreclose their liens on our vessels and the other assets securing the credit facilities, which would impair our ability to continue to conduct our business.
See "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—B. Liquidity and Capital Resources."
Risks Relating to our Series A and Series B Preferred Units
Our Series A Preferred Units and our Series B Preferred Units are subordinate to our indebtedness, and the interests of holders of Series A Preferred Units and Series B Preferred Units could be diluted by the issuance of additional preferred units, including additional Series A Preferred Units or Series B Preferred Units, and by other transactions.
Our Series A Preferred Units and our Series B Preferred Units are subordinated to all of our existing and future indebtedness. The payment of principal and interest on our debt reduces cash available for distributions and therefore, our ability to pay distributions on, redeem at our option or pay the liquidation preference on our Series A Preferred Units and our Series B Preferred Units in liquidation or otherwise may be subject to prior payments due to the holders of our indebtedness.
The issuance of additional limited partner interests on a parity with or senior to our Series A Preferred Units and Series B Preferred Units would dilute the interests of the holders of our Series A Preferred Units and Series B Preferred Units, as applicable, and any issuance of senior securities or parity securities or additional indebtedness could affect our ability to pay distributions on, redeem or pay the liquidation preference on our Series A Preferred Units and our Series B Preferred Units. No provisions relating to our Series A Preferred Units and our Series B Preferred Units protect the holders of our Series A Preferred Units and our Series B Preferred Units, as applicable, in the event of a highly leveraged or other transaction, including a merger or the sale, lease or conveyance of all or substantially all of our assets or business, which might adversely affect the holders of our Series A Preferred Units and our Series B Preferred Units.
In the event of any liquidation event, the amount of your liquidation preference is fixed and you will have no right to receive any greater payment regardless of the circumstances.
In the event of any liquidation, dissolution or winding up of our affairs, whether voluntary or involuntary, the payment due upon a liquidation event is fixed at a redemption price of $25.00 per unit plus an amount equal to all accumulated and unpaid distributions up to, and including, the date of liquidation. If, in the case of a liquidation event, there are remaining assets to be distributed after payment of this amount, you will have no right to receive or to participate in these amounts. Furthermore, if the market price of your Series A Preferred Units or your Series B Preferred Units is greater than the applicable liquidation preference, you will have no right to receive the market price from us upon our liquidation.
As a holder of Series A Preferred Units or Series B Preferred Units, you have extremely limited voting rights.
Your voting rights as a holder of Series A Preferred Units or Series B Preferred Units are extremely limited. Our common units are the only class of limited partner interests carrying full voting rights. Holders of the Series A Preferred Units and Series B Preferred Units generally have no voting rights. However, in the event that six quarterly distributions, whether consecutive or not, payable on our Series A Preferred Units or our Series B Preferred Units or any other parity securities (if applicable), are in arrears, the holders of such Series A Preferred Units or Series B Preferred Units will have the right, voting together as a class with all other classes or series of parity securities (if applicable) upon which like voting rights have been conferred and are exercisable, to elect one additional director to serve on our Board of Directors, and the size of our Board of Directors will be increased as needed to accommodate such change (unless the holders of Series A Preferred Units, Series B Preferred Units, and parity securities (if applicable) upon which like voting rights have been conferred, voting as a class, have previously elected a member of our Board of Directors, and such director continues then to serve on the Board of Directors). The right of such holders of Series A Preferred Units and Series B Preferred Units to elect a member of our Board of Directors will continue until such time as all accumulated and unpaid distributions on the Series A Preferred Units and Series B Preferred Units have been paid in full.
Market interest rates may adversely affect the value of our Series A Preferred Units and our Series B Preferred Units.
One of the factors that will influence the price of our Series A Preferred Units and our Series B Preferred Units will be the distribution yield on such Series A Preferred Units and the Series B Preferred Units (as a percentage of the price of our Series A Preferred Units or our Series B Preferred Units, as applicable) relative to market interest rates. An increase in market interest rates may lead prospective purchasers of our Series A Preferred Units or our Series B Preferred Units to expect a distribution yield higher than what is paid on the applicable Series A Preferred Units or Series B Preferred Units, and higher interest rates would likely increase our borrowing costs which could potentially decrease funds available for distributions to our unitholders. Accordingly, higher market interest rates could cause the market price of our Series A Preferred Units or our Series B Preferred Units to decrease.
The Series A Preferred Units and the Series B Preferred Units are redeemable at our option.
We may redeem, at our option, all or, from time to time, part of the Series A Preferred Units on or after August 12, 2020. If we redeem your Series A Preferred Units, you will be entitled to receive a redemption price equal to $25.00 per unit plus an amount equal to all accumulated and unpaid distributions thereon to the date of redemption. We may redeem, at our option, all or, from time to time, part of our Series B Preferred Units on or after November 22, 2023. If we redeem your Series B Preferred Units, you will be entitled to receive a redemption price equal to $25.00 per unit plus an amount equal to all accumulated and unpaid distributions thereon to the date of redemption. It is likely that we would choose to exercise our optional redemption right only when prevailing interest rates have declined, which would adversely affect your ability to reinvest your proceeds from the redemption in a comparable investment with an equal or greater yield to the yield on the applicable series of the preferred units had such series of preferred units not been redeemed. We may elect to exercise our partial redemption right on multiple occasions.
We continuously evaluate potential transactions which we believe enhance unitholder value or are in the best interests of the Partnership, the announcement of which may have an adverse effect on unitholders and other stakeholders.
We continuously evaluate potential transactions that we believe will be accretive to earnings, enhance unitholder value or are in the best interests of the Partnership, which may include pursuit of other business combinations, the acquisition of vessels or related businesses, the expansion of our operations, repayment of existing debt, unit repurchases, short term investments, going private transactions or other transactions. The announcement and pendency of any such transaction could have an adverse effect on our unitholders, relationships with customers and third-party service providers.
Risks Relating to Conflicts of Interest
Our Sponsor, our General Partner and their respective affiliates own a significant interest in us and have conflicts of interest and limited duties to us and our common unitholders, which may permit them to favor their own interests to your detriment.
Members of the Prokopiou Family control our Sponsor, our Manager and our General Partner. Our Sponsor currently owns 15,595,000 of our common units, representing approximately 42.4% of the outstanding common units and our General Partner owns a 0.1% General Partner interest in us and 100% of our incentive distribution rights and therefore may have considerable influence over our actions. Our $675 Million Credit Facility requires that our Sponsor owns at least 30% of our total common units outstanding. The interests of our Sponsor and the members of the Prokopiou Family may be different from your interests and the relationships described above could create conflicts of interest. We cannot assure you that any conflicts of interest will be resolved in your favor.
Conflicts of interest exist and may arise in the future as a result of the relationships between our General Partner and its affiliates, including Dynagas Holding Ltd., on the one hand, and us and our unaffiliated limited partners, on the other hand. Our General Partner has a fiduciary duty to make any decisions relating to our management in a manner beneficial to us and our unitholders. Similarly, our Board of Directors has fiduciary duties to manage us in a manner beneficial to us, our General Partner and our limited partners. Certain of our officers and directors will also be officers of our Sponsor or its affiliates and will have fiduciary duties to our Sponsor or its affiliates that may cause them to pursue business strategies that disproportionately benefit our Sponsor or its affiliates or which otherwise are not in the best interests of us or our unitholders. As a result of these relationships, conflicts of interest may arise between us and our unaffiliated limited partners on the one hand, and our Sponsor and its affiliates, including our General Partner, on the other hand. Although a majority of our directors are elected by our common unitholders, our General Partner, through its appointed directors, has certain influence on decisions made by our Board of Directors. Our Board of Directors has a Conflicts Committee comprised of independent directors. Our Board of Directors may, but is not obligated to, seek approval of the Conflicts Committee for resolutions of conflicts of interest that may arise as a result of the relationships between our Sponsor and its affiliates, on the one hand, and us and our unaffiliated limited partners, on the other hand. The resolution of these conflicts may not be in the best interest of us or our unitholders. We, our officers and directors and our General Partner will not owe any fiduciary duties to holders of the Series A Preferred Units and Series B Preferred Units other than a contractual duty of good faith and fair dealing pursuant to the Partnership Agreement. There can be no assurance that a conflict of interest will be resolved in favor of us.
These conflicts include, among others, the following situations:
|·||neither our Partnership Agreement nor any other agreement requires our Sponsor or our General Partner or their respective affiliates to pursue a business strategy that favors us or utilizes our assets, and their officers and directors have a fiduciary duty to make decisions in the best interests of their respective unitholders, which may be contrary to our interests;|
|·||our Partnership Agreement provides that our General Partner may make determinations or take or decline to take actions without regard to our or our unitholders' interests. Specifically, our General Partner may exercise its call right, pre-emptive rights, registration rights or right to make a determination to receive common units in exchange for resetting the target distribution levels related to the incentive distribution rights, consent or withhold consent to any merger or consolidation of the Partnership, appoint certain directors or vote for the election of any director, vote or refrain from voting on amendments to our Partnership Agreement that require a vote of the outstanding units, voluntarily withdraw from the Partnership, transfer (to the extent permitted under our Partnership Agreement) or refrain from transferring its units, the General Partner interest or incentive distribution rights or vote upon the dissolution of the Partnership;|
|·||our General Partner and our directors and officers have limited their liabilities and any fiduciary duties they may have under the laws of the Marshall Islands, while also restricting the remedies available to our unitholders, and, as a result of purchasing common units, unitholders are treated as having agreed to the modified standard of fiduciary duties and to certain actions that may be taken by the General Partner and our directors and officers, all as set forth in the Partnership Agreement;|
|·||our General Partner and our Manager are entitled to reimbursement of all reasonable costs incurred by them and their respective affiliates for our benefit; our Partnership Agreement does not restrict us from paying our General Partner and our Manager or their respective affiliates for any services rendered to us on terms that are fair and reasonable or entering into additional contractual arrangements with any of these entities on our behalf;|
|·||our General Partner may exercise its right to call and purchase our common units if it and its affiliates own more than 80% of our common units; and is not obligated to obtain a fairness opinion regarding the value of the common units to be repurchased by it upon the exercise of its limited call right; and|
|·||although a majority of our directors are elected by common unitholders, our General Partner will likely have substantial influence on decisions made by our Board of Directors.|
Our General Partner has limited its liability regarding our obligations.
Our General Partner has limited its liability under contractual arrangements so that the other party has recourse only to our assets and not against our General Partner or any affiliate of our General Partner, or any of their respective assets. The Partnership Agreement provides that any action taken by our General Partner to limit its or our liability is not a breach of our General Partner's fiduciary duties owed to common unitholders or a breach of our General Partner's contractual duty of good faith and fair dealing to holders of the Series A and Series B Preferred Units even if we could have obtained terms that are more favorable without the limitation on liability.
Neither our Partnership Agreement nor any other agreement requires our Sponsor to pursue a business strategy that favors us or utilizes our assets or dictates what markets to pursue or grow. Our Sponsor's directors and executive officers have a fiduciary duty to make these decisions in the best interests of the shareholders of our Sponsor, which may be contrary to our interests.
Because certain of our officers and directors are also officers of our Sponsor and its affiliates, such directors have fiduciary duties to our Sponsor and its affiliates that may cause them to pursue business strategies that disproportionately benefit our Sponsor, or which are otherwise not in the best interests of us or our unitholders.
Our General Partner is allowed to take into account the interests of parties other than us, such as our Sponsor.
Our Partnership Agreement contains provisions that reduce the standards to which our General Partner would otherwise be held by Marshall Islands fiduciary duty law. For example, our Partnership Agreement permits our General Partner to make a number of decisions in its individual capacity, as opposed to in its capacity as our General Partner. This entitles our General Partner to consider only the interests and factors that it desires, and it has no duty or obligations to give any consideration to any interest of or factors affecting us, our affiliates or any unitholder. Decisions made by our General Partner in its individual capacity will be made by its sole owner, Dynagas Holding Ltd. Specifically, our General Partner will be considered to be acting in its individual capacity if it exercises its call right, pre-emptive rights, registration rights or right to make a determination to receive common units in a resetting of the target distribution levels related to its incentive distribution rights, consents or withholds consent to any merger or consolidation of the Partnership, appoints any directors or votes for the election of any director, votes or refrains from voting on amendments to our Partnership Agreement that require a vote of the outstanding units, voluntarily withdraws from the Partnership, transfers (to the extent permitted under our Partnership Agreement) or refrains from transferring its units, General Partner interest or incentive distribution rights it owns or votes upon the dissolution of the Partnership.
Substantial future sales of our common units in the public market could cause the price of our common units to fall.
We have granted registration rights to our Sponsor and certain its affiliates pursuant to our Partnership Agreement. These unitholders have the right, subject to some conditions, to require us to file registration statements covering any of our common or other equity securities owned by them or to include those securities in registration statements that we have or may file for ourselves or other unitholders. As of the date of this annual report, our Sponsor owns 15,595,000 common units. Following their registration and sale under the applicable registration statement, those securities will become freely tradable. Any sale by our Sponsor of a number of our common units or other securities could cause the price of our common units to decline.
Common unitholders, holders of our Series A Preferred Units, and holders of our Series B Preferred Units have no right to enforce obligations of our General Partner and its affiliates under agreements with us.
Any agreements between us, on the one hand, and our General Partner and its affiliates, on the other, do not and will not grant to the holders of our common units, Series A Preferred Units and Series B Preferred Units separate and apart from us, the right to enforce the obligations of our General Partner and its affiliates in our favor.
Contracts between us, on the one hand, and our General Partner and its affiliates, on the other, will not be the result of arm's-length negotiations.
Neither our Partnership Agreement nor any of the other agreements, contracts and arrangements between us and our General Partner and its affiliates are or will be the result of arm's-length negotiations. Our Partnership Agreement generally provides that any affiliated transaction, such as an agreement, contract or arrangement between us and our General Partner and its affiliates, must be:
|·||on terms no less favorable to us than those generally being provided to or available from unrelated third-parties; or|
|·||"fair and reasonable" to us, taking into account the totality of the relationships between the parties involved (including other transactions that may be particularly favorable or advantageous to us).|
Our Manager, which provides our executive officers and certain management and administrative services to us, may also enter into additional contractual arrangements with any of its affiliates on our behalf; however, there is no obligation of any affiliate of our Manager to enter into any contracts of this kind.
Common units are subject to our General Partner's limited call right.
Our General Partner may exercise its right to call and purchase common units as provided in the Partnership Agreement or assign this right to one of its affiliates or to us. Our General Partner may use its own discretion, free of fiduciary duty restrictions, in determining whether to exercise this right. Our General Partner is not obligated to obtain a fairness opinion regarding the value of the common units to be repurchased by it upon the exercise of this limited call right. As a result, a common unitholder may have common units purchased from the unitholder at an undesirable time or price.
We may choose not to retain separate counsel for ourselves or for the holders of common units.
The attorneys, independent accountants and others who perform services for us have been retained by our Board of Directors. Attorneys, independent accountants and others who perform services for us are selected by our Board of Directors or the Conflicts Committee and may perform services for our General Partner and its affiliates. We may retain separate counsel for ourselves or the holders of common units in the event of a conflict of interest between our General Partner and its affiliates, on the one hand, and us or the holders of common units, on the other, depending on the nature of the conflict. We do not intend to do so in most cases.
In addition to the following risk factors, please see "Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation" for a more complete discussion of the material Marshall Islands and United States federal income tax consequences of owning and disposing of our common units.
We may be subject to taxes, which will reduce our cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
We and our subsidiaries may be subject to tax in the jurisdictions in which we are organized or operate, reducing the amount of cash available for distribution. In computing our tax obligation 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, further reducing the cash available for distribution. In addition, changes in our operations or ownership could result in additional tax being imposed on us or our subsidiaries in jurisdictions in which operations are conducted. Please see "Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation"
We may have to pay tax on United States-source income, which would reduce our earnings and cash flow.
Under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code, the United States source gross transportation income of a ship-owning or chartering corporation, such as ourselves, generally is subject to a 4% United States federal income tax, unless such corporation qualifies for exemption from tax under a tax treaty or Section 883 of the Code and the Treasury Regulations promulgated thereunder. U.S. source gross transportation income consists of 50% of the gross shipping income that is attributable to transportation that begins or ends, but that does not both begin and end, in the United States.
We believe we qualified for this statutory tax exemption for our taxable year ended December 31, 2022, and we intend to take this position for United States federal income tax reporting purposes. However, there are factual circumstances beyond our control that could cause us to lose the benefit of this tax exemption in future taxable years and thereby become subject to the 4% United States federal income tax described above. It is noted that holders of our common units are limited to owning 4.9% of the voting power of such common units. Assuming that such limitation is treated as effective for purposes of determining voting power under Section 883, then our 5% Unitholders could not own 50% of more of our common units. If contrary to these expectations, our 5% Unitholders were to own 50% or more of the common units, we would not qualify for exemption under Section 883 unless we could establish that among the closely-held group of 5% Unitholders, there are sufficient 5% Unitholders that are qualified shareholders for purposes of Section 883 to preclude non-qualified 5% Unitholders in the closely-held group from owning 50% or more of our common units for more than half the number of days during the taxable year. In order to establish this, sufficient 5% Unitholders that are qualified shareholders would have to comply with certain documentation and certification requirements designed to substantiate their identity as qualified shareholders. These requirements are onerous and there can be no assurance that we would be able to satisfy them. The imposition of this taxation could have a negative effect on our business and would result in decreased earnings and cash available for distribution payments to our unitholders. For a more detailed discussion, see "Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation."
United States tax authorities could treat us as a "passive foreign investment company," which would have adverse United States federal income tax consequences to United States unitholders.
A non-U.S. entity treated as a corporation for United States federal income tax purposes will be treated as a "passive foreign investment company" (or PFIC) for U.S. federal income tax purposes if at least 75% of its gross income for any taxable year consists of "passive income" or at least 50% of the average value of its assets produce, or are held for the production of, "passive income." For purposes of these tests, "passive income" includes dividends, interest, gains from the sale or exchange of investment property, and rents and royalties other than rents and royalties that 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 does not constitute "passive income." U.S. shareholders of a PFIC are subject to a disadvantageous United States 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 interests in the PFIC. Based on our current and projected method of operation, we believe that we were not a PFIC in the year ended December 31, 2022 and do not expect to be a PFIC for any future taxable year. For this purpose, we intend to take the position that the income our subsidiaries earned from certain of our time-chartering activities should not constitute passive income for purposes of determining whether we are a PFIC.
Our position is not free from doubt, and it is possible that the United States Internal Revenue Service, or the IRS, or a court could disagree with this position. In addition, although we intend to conduct our affairs in a manner to avoid being classified as a PFIC with respect to each taxable year, we cannot assure you that the nature of our operations will not change in the future and that we will not become a PFIC in any taxable year. If the IRS were to find that we are or have been a PFIC for any taxable year (and regardless of whether we remain a PFIC for subsequent taxable years), our U.S. unitholders would face adverse United States federal income tax consequences. See "Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation" for a more detailed discussion of the United States federal income tax consequences to United States unitholders if we are treated as a PFIC.
|ITEM 4.||INFORMATION ON THE PARTNERSHIP|
|A.||HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE PARTNERSHIP|
Dynagas LNG Partners LP was organized as a limited partnership in the Republic of the Marshall Islands on May 30, 2013 for the purpose of owning, operating, and acquiring LNG carriers and other business activities incidental thereto. In October 2013, we acquired from our Sponsor three LNG carriers, the Clean Energy, the Ob River and the Amur River (formerly named the Clean Force), which we refer to as our Initial Fleet. In November 2013, we completed our underwritten IPO pursuant to which, the Partnership offered and sold 8,250,000 common units to the public at $18.00 per common unit, and in connection with the closing of the IPO, the Partnership's Sponsor, Dynagas Holding Ltd., a company beneficially wholly owned by Mr. Georgios Prokopiou, the Partnership's Chairman and major unitholder and certain of his close family members, offered and sold 4,250,000 common units to the public at $18.00 per common unit. In connection with the IPO, the Partnership entered into certain agreements including: (a) an omnibus agreement with the Sponsor, which provided the Partnership the right to purchase certain identified liquefied natural gas ("LNG") carrier vessels at a purchase price to be determined pursuant to the terms and conditions contained therein and, (b) a $30 million Revolving Credit Facility with the Sponsor to be used for general Partnership purposes. Following our IPO we expanded our Initial Fleet and in 2014 and 2015 we acquired the Arctic Aurora, the Yenisei River and the Lena River, each a 2013-built ice class liquefied natural gas carrier, and the related time charter contracts, from our Sponsor, pursuant to our right to acquire such vessels under the Omnibus Agreement in effect at that time.
On July 2, 2020, we entered into a sales agreement, or the Original Agreement, with Virtu Americas LLC, as sales agent, for the offer and sale, from time to time, of up to an aggregate of $30.0 million of our common units representing limited partnership interests under an "at-the-market" offering program. In August 2020, we entered into an amended and restated ATM Sales Agreement with Virtu Americas LLC and DNB Markets, Inc., or the A&R Sales Agreement, for the offer and sale of common units representing limited partnership interests, having an aggregate offering price of up to $30.0 million, or the Current ATM Program. Upon entry into the A&R Sales Agreement, we terminated the prior at-the-market program established in July of 2020 pursuant to the Original Agreement, or the Prior ATM Program. At the time of such termination, we had issued and sold 122,580 common units resulting in net proceeds of $0.3 million, under the Original Agreement. As of the date of this annual report, we have issued and sold 1,189,667 common units resulting in net proceeds of $3.3 million under the A&R Sales Agreement.
As of the date of this annual report, we have outstanding 36,802,247 common units, 35,526 general partner units, 3,000,000 9.00% Series A Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Units, or the Series A Preferred Units and 2,200,000 Series B Fixed to Floating Cumulative Redeemable Perpetual Preferred Units or the Series B Preferred Units. Our Sponsor currently beneficially owns approximately 42.4% of the equity interests in the Partnership (excluding the Series A Preferred Units and the Series B Preferred Units) and 100% of our General Partner, which owns a 0.1% General Partner interest in the Partnership and 100% of our incentive distribution rights. Our Sponsor does not own any Series A Preferred Units or Series B Preferred Units. Our common units, our Series A Preferred Units and our Series B Preferred Units trade on the New York Stock Exchange, or NYSE, under the symbols "DLNG", "DLNG PR A" and "DLNG PR B", respectively.
Our principal executive offices are located at Poseidonos Avenue and Foivis 2 Street 166 74 Glyfada, Athens, Greece. Our telephone number at that address is +30 210 891 7960. Our website is www.dynagaspartners.com. The SEC maintains an Internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC. The address of the SEC's internet site is http://www.sec.gov. None of the information contained on these websites is incorporated into or forms a part of this annual report. For more information, please see "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—B. Liquidity and Capital Resources—Our Borrowing Activities."
Since our IPO in November 2013, we have been a growth-oriented limited partnership focused on owning and operating LNG carriers growing our fleet from three vessels at the time of our IPO to six vessels at the end of 2015. However, as a result of the significant challenges facing the listed midstream energy MLP industry, our cost of equity capital remained elevated for a prolonged period, making the funding of new acquisitions challenging. All of the vessels in our Fleet are currently contracted on time charters with international energy companies, including SEFE, Equinor and Yamal, which we expect to provide us with the benefits of fixed-fee contracts, predictable cash flows and high utilization rates.
We are currently focusing our capital allocation on debt repayment, prioritizing balance sheet strength, in order to reposition the Partnership for potential future growth if our cost of capital allows us to access debt and equity capital on acceptable terms. As a result, if we are able to raise new debt or equity capital on terms acceptable to the Partnership in the future, we intend to leverage the reputation, expertise and relationships with our charterers, our Sponsor and our Manager in growing our core business and potentially pursuing further business and growth opportunities in transportation of energy or other energy-related projects including floating storage regassification units, LNG infrastructure projects, maintaining cost-efficient operations and providing reliable seaborne transportation services to our current and prospective charterers. In addition, as opportunities arise, we may acquire additional vessels from our Sponsor and from third-parties and/or engage in investment opportunities incidental to the LNG or energy industry. In connection with such plans for growth, we may enter into additional financing arrangements, refinance existing arrangements or arrangements that our Sponsor, its affiliates, or such third party sellers may have in place for vessels and businesses that we may acquire, and, subject to favorable market conditions, we may raise capital in the public or private markets, including through incurring additional debt, debt or equity offerings of our securities or in other transactions. However, we cannot assure you that we will grow or maintain the size of our Fleet or that we will continue to pay the per unit distributions in the amounts that we have paid in the past or at all or that we will be able to execute our plans for growth. For further information on the risks associated with our business, please see "Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors".
As of April 21, 2023, we owned and operated a fleet of six LNG carriers, consisting of the three modern steam turbine LNG carriers in our Initial Fleet, the Clean Energy, the Ob River and the Amur River (formerly named the Clean Force), and three modern tri-fuel diesel electric (TFDE) propulsion technology Ice Class LNG carriers that we additionally acquired from our Sponsor the Arctic Aurora, the Yenisei River, and the Lena River, which we collectively refer to as our "Fleet." As of April 21, 2023, the vessels in our Fleet had an average age of 12.7 years and are contracted under multi-year charters with an average remaining charter term of approximately 6.3 years. All of the vessels in our Fleet vessels are currently employed on multi-year time charters with international energy companies such as SEFE, Equinor and Yamal.
Since the end of the first fiscal year following our IPO, which occurred in November 2013 and as of the date of this annual report, we have increased the total capacity of the vessels in our Fleet by approximately 104% and as of the date of this annual report, the estimated contracted revenue backlog of our Fleet was approximately $1.0 billion, $0.13 billion of which is a variable hire element contained in certain time charter contracts with Yamal. The variable hire rate on these time charter contracts with Yamal is calculated based on two components—a capital cost component and an operating cost component. The capital cost component is a fixed daily amount. The daily amount of the operating cost component, which is intended to pass the operating costs of the vessel to the charterer in their entirety including dry-docking costs, is set annually and adjusted at the end of each year to compensate us for the actual costs we incur in operating the vessel. Dry-docking expenses are budgeted in advance within the year of the dry-dock and are reimbursed by Yamal immediately following the dry-dock. The actual amount of revenues earned in respect of such operating cost component of such variable hire rate may therefore differ from the amounts included in the revenue backlog estimate due to the annual variations in the respective vessels' operating costs. The average remaining contract duration is approximately 6.3 years. The estimated contracted revenue backlog of our Fleet excludes options to extend and assumes full utilization for the full term of the charter. The actual amount of revenues earned and the actual periods during which revenues are earned may differ from the amounts and periods described above due to, for example, off-hire for maintenance projects, downtime, scheduled or unscheduled dry-docking, cancellation or early termination of vessel employment agreements, and other factors that may result in lower revenues than our average contract backlog per day. Our Fleet is managed by our Manager, Dynagas Ltd., a company controlled by Mr. Georgios Prokopiou. See "Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions."
All of the vessels in our Fleet other than the Clean Energy have been assigned with Lloyds Register Ice Class notation 1A FS, or Ice Class, equivalent to ARC4 of the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping Rules, designation for hull and machinery and are fully winterized, which means that they are designed to call at ice-bound and harsh environment terminals and to withstand temperatures up to minus 30 degrees Celsius. According to Drewry, as of February 28, 2023, only 33 LNG carriers, representing 4.8% of the LNG vessels in the global LNG fleet, have an Ice Class 1A and Ice-class 1A super designation or equivalent rating. Moreover, in 2012, we were the first company in the world to operate LNG carriers on the Northern Sea Route, which is a shipping lane from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean entirely in Arctic waters, and continue to be one of a limited number of vessel operators to currently do so. In addition, we believe that each of the vessels in our Fleet is optimally sized with a carrying capacity of between approximately 150,000 and 155,000 cbm, which allows us to maximize operational flexibility as such medium-to-large size LNG vessels are compatible with most existing LNG terminals around the world. We believe that these specifications enhance our trading capabilities and future employment opportunities because they provide greater diversity in the trading routes available to our charterers.
We believe that the key characteristics of each of the vessels in our Fleet include the following:
|·||optimal sizing with a carrying capacity of between approximately 150,000 and 155,000 cbm (which is a medium- to large-size class of LNG carrier) that maximizes operational flexibility as such vessel is compatible with most existing LNG terminals around the world;|
|·||the vessels in our Fleet consist of two series of sister vessels, which are vessels built at the same shipyard, Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd., that share (i) a near-identical hull and superstructure layout, (ii) similar displacement, and (iii) roughly comparable features and equipment;|
|·||utilization of a membrane containment system that uses insulation built directly into the hull of the vessel with a membrane covering inside the tanks designed to maintain integrity and that uses the vessel's hull to directly support the pressure of the LNG cargo, which we refer to as a "membrane containment system" (see "—The International Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Shipping Industry—The LNG Fleet" for a description of the types of LNG containment systems); and|
|·||double-hull construction, based on the current LNG shipping industry standard.|
According to Drewry, as February 28, 2023, there were only 52 LNG carriers in the worldwide LNG trading fleet, including the six vessels in our Fleet, in the size range of 149,000-155,000 cbm, of which 45 have membrane cargo containment system. There are no LNG carriers in the same size segment in the order book, which has a moss spherical containment system, a well-established spherical containment system designed in Norway and that have been in use for over 49 years.
|Propulsion||Charterer||Estimated Earliest Charter
|Estimated Latest Charter|
Expiration including options to extend
|Clean Energy||2007||149,700||No||Steam||SEFE||March 2026||April 2026||n/a|
|Ob River||2007||149,700||Yes||Steam||SEFE||March 2028||May 2028||n/a|
|Amur River||2008||149,700||Yes||Steam||SEFE||June 2028||July 2028||n/a|
|Arctic Aurora||2013||155,000||Yes||TFDE *||Equinor||August 2026||September 2026(1)||n/a|
|Yenisei River||2013||155,000||Yes||TFDE *||Yamal||Q4 2033||Q2 2034||Q2 2049(2)|
|Lena River||2013||155,000||Yes||TFDE *||Yamal||Q2 2034||Q3 2034||Q4 2049(3)|
* As used in this annual report, "TFDE" refers to tri-fuel diesel electric propulsion system.
|(1)||In December 2022, we entered into a new time charter party agreement with Equinor for the employment of Arctic Aurora, with an initial contract term of three years -30 days/+ 15 days. Under the new time charter agreement, the Arctic Aurora is expected to be delivered to Equinor in September 2023. This charter is in direct continuation of the vessel's previous charter with Equinor, which means that this new charter will commence immediately following the prior charter.|
|(2)||On August 14, 2018, the Yenisei River was delivered early to Yamal immediately upon completion of its mandatory statutory class five-year special survey and dry-docking, pursuant to an addendum to the charter party with Yamal under which we agreed to extend the firm charter period from 15 years to 15 years plus 180 days. The charter contract for the Yenisei River with Yamal in the Yamal LNG Project has an initial term of 15.5 years, which may be extended at Charterers' option by three consecutive periods of five years.|
|(3)||On July 1, 2019, the Lena River commenced employment under its long-term charter with Yamal. The charter contract for the Lena River with Yamal in the Yamal LNG Project has an initial term of 15 years, which may be extended at Charterers' option by three consecutive periods of five years.|
Our Chartering Strategy and Charterers
We seek to employ our vessels on multi-year time charters with international energy companies that provide us with the benefits of stable cash flows and high utilization rates. We charter our vessels for a fixed period of time at daily rates that are generally fixed, but which could contain a variable component to adjust for, among other things, inflation and/or to offset the effects of increases in operating expenses.
In December 2022, we entered into a new time charter party agreement with Equinor for the employment of Arctic Aurora, with an initial contract term of three years -30 days/+ 15 days. Under the new time charter agreement, the Arctic Aurora is expected to be delivered to Equinor in September 2023. This charter is in direct continuation of the vessel's previous charter with Equinor, which means that this new charter will commence immediately following the prior charter.
The Amur River is employed under a 13-year charter party with SEFE that expires in 2028.
The Ob River is employed under a ten-year charter party with SEFE that expires in 2028.
The Clean Energy is employed under an eight-year charter party with SEFE that expires in 2026.
The charters of the Amur River, the Ob River and the Clean Energy are under the control of the German government as of April 4, 2022 when Gazprom Germania (and all its subsidiaries), the indirect parent of Gazprom Marketing and Trading (GMT Singapore), was placed under the control of the German Government (Federal Network Agency) and renamed to SEFE GmbH. The vessels under the time charters with SEFE no longer trade from Russian LNG ports.
On August 14, 2018, immediately upon completion of its mandatory statutory class five-year special survey and dry-docking, the Yenisei River was delivered earlier than anticipated under its multi-year charter contract with Yamal for the Yamal LNG Project. As a result, we agreed with Yamal to extend the firm charter period from 15 years to 15 years plus 180 days. The initial term of the charter may be extended at Charterers' option by three consecutive periods of five years.
On July 1, 2019, the Lena River commenced employment under its multi-year time charter contract with Yamal in the Yamal LNG Project, with an initial term of 15 years, which may each be extended at Charterers' option by three consecutive periods of five years.
Based on the charter contracts described in the preceding paragraphs and the minimum expected number of days committed under those contracts (excluding options to extend), as of April 21, 2023 we had estimated contracted revenue backlog of approximately $1.0 billion, $0.13 billion of which relates to the operating expenses and estimated portion of the hire contained in certain time charter contracts with Yamal, subject to yearly adjustments on the basis of the actual operating costs incurred within each year. The actual amount of revenues earned in respect of such variable hire rate may therefore differ from the amounts included in the revenue backlog estimate due to the yearly variations in the respective vessels' operating costs, notwithstanding our current estimated contracted backlog. The average remaining contract duration is approximately 6.3 years.
We may not be able to perform under these contracts due to events within or beyond our control, and our counterparty may seek to cancel or renegotiate our contracts for various reasons. Our inability or the inability of our counterparty, to perform under the respective contractual obligations may affect our ability to realize the estimated contractual backlog listed above and may have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations and cash flows and our ability to realize the contracted revenues under these agreements. Our estimated contract backlog may be adversely affected if the Yamal LNG Project for which certain of our vessels are contracted to be employed is abandoned or underutilized due to changes in the demand for LNG.
In 2022 we earned 41% (2021: 39%) of our revenues from Yamal which primarily traded from Russian LNG ports. Due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, the United States (“U.S.”), European Union (“E.U.”), Canada and other Western countries and organizations announced and enacted from February 2022 until the date of this report, numerous sanctions against Russia. However, to date, such sanctions have not expressly prohibited LNG shipping and have not had any adverse effects to the Partnership’s time charter contracts. The war between Russia and Ukraine is, however, still ongoing, which may result in the imposition of further economic sanctions in addition to the ones already announced by the United States, Europe, amongst other countries which could adversely affect our charterers and our future revenues from our time charter contracts with Yamal.
.For information on our customer concentration, please see "Item 11. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosure About Market Risk—Concentration of Credit Risk."
The International Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Shipping Industry
All the information and data presented in this section, including the analysis of the various sectors of the international liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipping industry has been provided by Drewry Shipping Consultants, Ltd., or Drewry, an independent consulting and research company. Drewry has advised that the statistical and graphical information contained herein is drawn from its database and other sources. In connection therewith, Drewry has advised that: (a) certain information in Drewry's database is derived from estimates or subjective judgments; (b) the information in the databases of other maritime data collection agencies may differ from the information in Drewry's database; and (c) while Drewry has taken reasonable care in the compilation of the statistical and graphical information herein and believes it to be accurate and correct, data compilation is subject to limited audit and validation procedures.
Overview of Natural Gas Market
Natural gas is one of the key sources of global energy, including oil, coal, hydroelectricity, solar, wind, and nuclear power. In the last three decades, demand for natural gas has grown faster than the demand for any other fossil fuel. Since the early 1970s, natural gas' share of the total global primary energy consumption has risen from 18.1% in 1970 to 24.4% in 2022.
Natural Gas Share of Primary Energy Consumption: 1970-20221
(% – Based On Million Tons Oil Equivalent)
(1) Provisional estimate
Source: BP Statistical Review, Shell LNG outlook, Drewry
Natural gas has a number of advantages that make it a competitive source of energy in the future. Apart from being abundant in supply, natural gas is the lowest carbon-intensive fossil fuel and least affected by the various regulatory policies aimed to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In recent years, consumption of natural gas has risen steadily due to global economic growth, increasing energy demand, consumers' desires to diversify energy sources, market deregulation, competitive pricing, and recognition that natural gas is a cleaner energy source compared to coal and oil. The level of carbon dioxide emissions and pollutants from natural gas in power generation are 50 to 60 percent lower than the level of carbon dioxide emissions and pollutants from coal-fired power plants. Natural gas emits 15 to 20 percent less heat-trapping gases than gasoline/gas oil when burned in typical automobile engines.
Natural gas is primarily used for power generation and heating. According to BP Statistical Review of World Energy - June 2021, worldwide natural gas reserves are estimated at 188.1 trillion cubic meters (cbm), which is enough for nearly 49 years of supply at current rates of consumption. During 2012-2022, natural gas consumption rose 1.9% per annum, with growth of 4.5% per annum in Africa, 4% per annum in the Middle East, 3.7% in the Asia-Pacific, followed by 2.1% per annum in North-America. After declining 2.1% in 2020, global natural gas consumption surged 5.0% in 2021 mainly driven by sharp recovery in global economy. Global natural gas consumption declined slightly in 2022 due to high LNG prices.
In the last decade, a large part of the growth in natural gas consumption has been accounted for by Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa regions, where gas consumption has increased nearly 1.5 times between 2012 and 2022.
World Natural Gas Consumption: 1970-20221
(Million Tons Oil Equivalent)
(1) Provisional estimate
Source: BP Statistical Review, Drewry
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has stated that global natural gas reserves are large enough to accommodate rapid expansion of natural gas demand for several decades to come. Although natural gas reserves and production are widespread, the geographical disparity between areas of production and areas of consumption has been the principal stimulus of international trade in natural gas.
World Natural Gas Production: 1970-20221
(Million Tons Oil Equivalent)
(1) Provisional estimate
Source: BP Statistical Review, Drewry
Natural gas production in North America has increased due to the emergence of new techniques, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, to access and extract the shale gas reserves. United States (U.S.) domestic gas production has exceeded domestic gas consumption for a large part of the year, which may reduce future gas import rates. Additionally, rising U.S. domestic production may drive down domestic gas prices and raise the likelihood of U.S. gas exports.
As a result of these developments, the North American gas market is moving in a different cycle from that of the rest of the world, and there is a price differential with other markets as indicated in the chart below. Regional price differentials create the opportunity for arbitrage and also act as a catalyst for the construction of new productive capacity. Given these conditions, the interest in exporting LNG from the U.S. has grown and a number of new liquefaction plants have come up in the last few years. LNG prices surged in both Asia and Europe in the latter part of 2021 on account of high LNG demand from Europe. However, this price differential has reduced substantially since 2014 due to a sharp drop in LNG prices in the international market which has led to delay in some new planned facilities. In the latter part of 2018, the price of natural gas in key Asian market such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan increased due to firm winter demand, whereas LNG prices in China softened in December 2018 due to high cargo availability and low demand. While high restocking activity in the third quarter of 2018 kept China's winter LNG imports stable, LNG prices failed to improve despite increased seasonal consumption. In 2019, LNG prices declined on account of high inventory in Europe and Asia, mild winter across the northern hemisphere, and slowing momentum of China's LNG demand. China's LNG demand faltered in 2019 due to lower economic growth and slower pace of the switch from coal to LNG. However, LNG prices surged in December 2020 and January 2021 in Asian countries on account of harsher-than-expected winter, but have since softened as the winter-led heating demand receded. Low wind energy production, reduced Russian pipeline supply along with weak LNG imports drove European LNG prices higher in 2021, while robust demand and competition with Europe led Asian spot prices to increase.
Natural Gas Prices: 2010-January 2023
(U.S. $ per MMBtu)
Source: GTIS, Drewry
The LNG Market
To turn natural gas into the liquefied form, natural gas must be super cooled to a temperature of approximately minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit. This process reduces the gas to approximately 1/600th of its original volume in the gaseous state. Reducing the volume enables economical storage and transportation by ship over long distances. LNG is transported through sea in specially built tanks on double-hulled ships to a receiving terminal, where it is unloaded and stored in heavily insulated tanks. The LNG is then returned to its gaseous state, or regasified, in regasification facilities at the receiving terminal. Finally, the regasified LNG is moved through pipeline for distribution to natural gas customers.
Globally, 182.3 million tons of new LNG production capacity is under construction, 255.5 million tons of new LNG production capacity is planned, and 537 million tons of speculative LNG production capacity is under consideration, for which no confirmed plans exist.
World LNG Production Capacity – February 2023
(Million Tons per Annum)
As such, LNG production capacity will expand significantly as several new production facilities are now under construction and due on stream in the next few years. Generally, every additional one million ton of LNG productive capacity creates demand for up to two standard modern LNG carriers.
In the last decade, more countries entered the LNG export market. In December 2021, there were 19 producers and exporters of LNG. World trade in LNG has risen from 236.9 million tons in 2012 to an estimated 401.4 million tons in 2022.
LNG Exports: 2010-20221
|Exporters||2010||2011||2012||2013||2014||2015||2016||2017||2018||2019||2020||2021||2022e||% Change 21-22|
# Include re-exports
## Includes re-exports from Brazil, France, Portugal, South Korea, Japan and Greece
(1) Provisional estimate
Source: BP statistical review, Drewry
Major LNG exporting regions have undergone significant transition in the last ten years with market share of Indonesia and Malaysia having sharply declined. Australia surpassed Qatar as the largest LNG producer and exporter in 2020. Australia's LNG exports constituted 20.6% of the global LNG exports in 2022. US LNG exports surged in 2022 due to increased demand from the European countries and higher LNG prices. US emerged as the second biggest LNG exporter in 2022. Qatar is now the world's third largest producer and exporter of LNG, accounting for close to 20.4%% of the global LNG export in 2021. Qatar took FID on its mega North Field Expansion (NFE) Phase 1 (32 mtpa) project, which is expected to start operations by 4Q25. The FID on Phase 2 of the project, adding 16 mtpa is also anticipated to be accelerated to 2022-23. With these two projects, the country aims to add 49 mtpa of liquefaction capacity, taking its total to 126 mtpa from 77 mtpa at the end of 2020. It also plans to boost its carbon capture capacity from the current 2mtpa, making headways into the carbon-neutral LNG market.
U.S. LNG exports have ramped up significantly in the last six years, increasing from 3.2 million tons in 2016 to 82.2 million tons in 2022. The country's LNG exports have mainly benefited from the new liquefaction terminals coming on stream. Major LNG terminals coming on stream in the last few years include Sabine Pass, Dominion Energy Cove Point, Cameron LNG, Freeport LNG, Cheniere's Corpus Christi terminal second train, Cameroon LNG, Elba Island, Freeport LNG and five of 10 small trains of Kinder Morgan Inc.'s Elba Island facility. More than 68% of the U.S. LNG exports headed to Europe in 2022, a drastic shift in trade over 2021 when Asia was the world’s largest importer of LNG and the biggest buyer of US supplies. As of December31, 2022, LNG export terminals with an aggregate capacity of 56.3 million tons per annum are under construction in the US.
Sakhalin 2, the first LNG project in Russia which started in 2009 (11 mtpa), is the main export contributor apart from the recent Yamal LNG Project. In the fourth quarter of 2017, Russia started the first phase of the Yamal LNG Project and commenced its first phase of production with a nameplate capacity of 5.5 million tons. The second and third train of the project came online in July 2018 and November 2018 respectively. The third train of the project commenced operations a year ahead of schedule and the project has added an aggregate capacity of 16.5 million tons to the global LNG production. In 2019, Russia added 0.7 mtpa of capacity and the country's LNG exports surged 32.1 percent to 21.4 million tons, which increased further in recent years, with the Yamal LNG Project ramping up to full capacity. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war did not impact Russian LNG exports in 2022 as the country registered growth of 8% in 2022 on the previous year. The EU has not imposed any direct sanctions on Russian LNG import so far. However, the EU’s technology sanctions may affect Russia’s LNG expansion plans.
In tandem with the growth in the number of LNG suppliers, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of importers. In 2010, there were 34 countries importing LNG and by December 2022, the number increased to 44.
LNG imports by country between 2010 and 2022 are shown in the table below. Despite an increase in the number of importers, Japan, South Korea, and China provide the backbone of LNG trade, collectively accounting for 45.1% of the total LNG imports as of the end of 2022. While these countries are among the three largest LNG importers, their share in global LNG import declined sharply in 2022 (from 53% in 2021 to 45.1% in 2022) due to the increase in LNG import by the European countries and steep decline in China LNG import. The fast-declining Russian gas supply to Europe forced the region towards LNG to counter the deficit and LNG imports by Belgium, France, Netherlands, Spain, and the UK increased substantially in 2022.
China's LNG imports surged in 2017 and surpassed South Korea's to become the second biggest LNG importing nation. There has also been strong growth of LNG imports by India, Taiwan and Spain due to increasing demand from the power sector in those countries and their respective government's focus on the use of natural gas as a source of energy to reduce air pollution caused by conventional sources of energy.
China's LNG imports commenced in 2006 and have since grown exponentially from 0.7 million tons in 2006 to 79.8 million tons in 2021. The country's LNG imports expanded by a whopping 41% year on year in 2018 as it took steps to shift from coal to natural gas for heating households during the winter because of the government's policy to increase the share of natural gas in the overall energy demand. After showing strong growth momentum in 2017 and 2018, China's LNG imports growth rate has slowed down in the last two years. The country’s LNG imports grew 14.8% year-over-year to 61.9 million tons in 2019 and 10.1% year-over-year in 2020. The pandemic-induced demand slump adversely affected Chinese LNG demand in 1H20 with major Chinese LNG importers declaring force majeure. Chinese LNG demand surged in 2021 buoyed by a recovering economy, low inventories and the start of additional regasification capacities. China LNG imports declined 11.7% year over year in 2022 due to the sluggish economic growth, zero-COVID-19 policies and Russia-Ukraine war.
China's coal to natural gas switch is driven by the country's intent to reduce pollution. China's use of natural gas as a share of the country’s overall energy demand increased from 5.5% to 8.2% during the country’s 13th Five Year Plan and the share of coal declined from 64% in 2015 to 56.6% in 2020. Under the 14th Five-Year Plan, China plans to formulate an action plan for peaking carbon emission before 2030 and anchor efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. China's increased emphasis on LNG as a source of energy is the result of its capital, Beijing's, aim to cut the country's greenhouse gas emissions, per unit of GDP, by 60-65 percent between 2005 and 2030. China’s plans to achieve carbon neutrality is expected to accelerate its switch from coal to gas and aid LNG demand.
LNG Imports by Country 2010-20221
* Includes Colombia, Jamaica and Poland
(1) Provisional estimate
Further expansion of regasification and terminal import infrastructure will support the continued growth in Chinese LNG imports. China is not different from the U.S. in that China also has large deposits of shale gas, but geological structures in China are far more complicated. Additionally, China lacks the infrastructure to support the rapid development of domestic gas supplies, creating demand for imported LNG. Monthly trends in LNG imports among Asian importers between January 2010 and December 2022 are shown in the chart below.
Asian LNG Imports: 2010-December 2022
International Trade in Natural Gas
Generally, a pipeline is the most economical way of transporting natural gas from a producer to a consumer, provided that the end users are not too distant from the natural gas reserves. However, for some areas, such as the Far East, the lack of an adequate pipeline infrastructure means that natural gas must be turned into a liquefied form (LNG), as this is the only economical and feasible way it can be transported over long distances. Additionally, sea transportation of LNG is more flexible than through a pipeline as it can accommodate required changes in trade patterns that are economically or politically driven.
International trade in natural gas has grown more than 26.7% between 2011 and 2021, with the volume of LNG trade currently being 1.6 times greater than 2011 levels and accounting for about 40% total natural gas trade. As a result, LNG has captured a growing share of international gas trade, primarily due to the diversification of consumers, flexibility among producers, cost-efficient transport and competitive gas prices. International trade in natural gas declined 8.7% year over year in 2022 as Russian natural gas exports to Europe reduced sharply.
World Natural Gas Trade 2011-20221
(Billion Cubic Meters)
(1) Provisional estimate
LNG Shipping Routes
Although the number of LNG shipping routes has increased in recent years due to growth in the number of LNG suppliers and consumers, demand for shipping services remains heavily focused on a number of key trade routes. In 2021, the principal trade routes for LNG shipping included Qatar to Europe (the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain), Qatar to Asia (India, Japan and South Korea), Australia to Asia (China, Japan and South Korea), Malaysia to Japan, U.S. to Europe, U.S. to Asia (South Korea and Japan), Russia to Asia (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China) and Russia to Europe (France, Netherland, United Kingdom and Spain). Additionally, with the increase in liquefaction projects in the U.S., more cargo is being exported from the U.S. to Europe and Asia.
One important result of the geographical shifts in LNG production and consumption is that demand for shipping services (expressed in terms of ton miles) has grown at a much faster rate than the underlying increases in LNG trade. Ton miles are derived by multiplying the volume of cargo by the distance between the load and the discharge ports on each voyage. During 2012-2022, demand for LNG shipping services, expressed in terms of ton miles, has increased at a compound average growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5%, compared with a 5.4% increase in the volume of cargo carried.
LNG Seaborne Trade 2010-20221
(1) Provisional estimate
LNG Trades Requiring Ice Class Tonnage
Ice Class Vessel Classifications
Ice class designations are assigned to ships that are strengthened to navigate in specific ice conditions. Ice class vessels are governed by different ice class rules and regulations depending on their respective area of operations.
|·||Bay and Gulf of Bothnia, Gulf of Finland - Finnish-Swedish Ice Class Rules (FSICR)|
|·||Gulf of Finland (Russian territorial waters) - Russian Maritime Register (RMR) Ice Class Rules|
|·||Barents, Kara, Laptev, East Siberian and Chukchi Seas - Russian Maritime Register (RMR) Ice Class Rules|
|·||Beaufort Sea, Baffin Bay, etc. - Canadian Arctic Shipping Pollution Prevention Rules (CASPPR)|
|•||RMR Ice Class Rules|
There are also ice class rules and regulations for commercial ship operations on inland lakes, mainly the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway.
In the context of current commercial newbuilding orders, the FSICR have become the de facto standard for new tonnage. Four ice classes are defined in the FSICR. The FSICR fairway due ice classes along with the design notional level thicknesses, in order of strength from high to low, are:
|1A Super (1AS)||Design notional level ice thickness of 1.0m. For extreme harsh ice conditions.|
|1A||Design notional level ice thickness of 0.8m. For harsh ice conditions.|
|1B||Design notional level ice thickness of 0.6m. For medium ice conditions.|
|1C||Design notional level ice thickness of 0.4m. For mild ice conditions.|
The FSICR and the system of ice navigation operated during the winter months in the Northern Baltic are the most well-developed criteria and standards for ice navigation. The system of ice navigation comprises three fundamental elements:
|·||Ice class merchant vessels (compliant with the FSICR for navigation in the northern Baltic);|
|·||Fairway navigation channels; and|
|·||Ice breaker assistance.|
Year-round navigation and continuity of trade using the above three fundamental elements were first introduced in the northern Baltic Sea areas during the 1960s. The current FSICR, as well as the system of ice navigation, has evolved over the years to its current state.
Requirement for Ice Class Tonnage
The FSICR include technical requirements for hull and machinery scantlings as well as for the minimum propulsion power of ships. The hull of ice class vessels and the main propulsion machinery must be safe. The vessel must have sufficient power for safe operations in ice-covered waters. During the vessels' normal operations, they encounter various ice interaction loadings, which calls for strengthened hull structures.
In addition to the ice class rules, ships are required to comply with requirements set by the maritime authorities in various jurisdictions. For example, the Russian marine operations headquarters accepts ships with ice-strength functionalities according to or at least the equivalent of FSICR 1B and compliance with crewing and icebreaker assistance requirements in order to operate in the Northern Sea Route (NSR).
Ice Class LNG Fleet
The number of ships in the international LNG fleet with an ice class standard is very low. As of February 2023, there were only 33 LNG carriers with Ice Class 1A and Ice-Class 1A Super Standard in operation and 13 vessels on order.
Northern Sea Route (NSR)
Currently, cargo flows through the NSR are dominated by oil, gas and mineral exports, particularly coal and iron ore. Demand for shipping for these commodities in the region has been increasing in recent years, driven by several key factors, including:
|·||reduced level of sea ice has extended the summer shipping season in the Arctic and is making some areas easy to navigate;|
|·||increase in mineral resource development activities in the Arctic;|
|·||commodity demand growth in Asian economies;|
|·||technological developments which have made NSR a more feasible shipping route than in the past; and|
|·||chronic political problems in the Middle East, piracy in North Africa, and non-transparent commercial disputes over the Suez in Egypt.|
These factors have made NSR a promising alternative.
Northern Sea Route
With the Yamal LNG Project coming on stream in 2016, transit LNG cargo volume through Northern Sea Route (NSR) has increased 25.6% between 2019 and 2012. In 2022, cargo to Asia from Yamal LNG declined as more cargo went to Europe.
Northern Sea Route — Transit traffic
|Number of Vessels||43||52||79||54||0|
|Total Cargo Volume (Thousand tons)||2,996.4||3,640.0||5,480.0||3,880.0||-|
Source: Drewry. Note: Above data consists of LNG exports from the Yamal LNG terminal passing through the Northern Sea route defined as the passage between Sabetta to Japan through Kara, Laplev and East Siberian seas
In early 2017, the most suitable LNG terminal on the NSR for loading LNG for transport to the Far East was located in Northern Norway. The distance from Norway to Japan through the NSR is approximately 45% shorter than traditional shipping routes through the Suez Canal. The Arctic route allows ships to save time, fuel, and cut back on environmental emissions.
Russia began production at the first train of the Yamal LNG Project in December 2017, while the second and third train of the project began production in July 2018 and November 2018, respectively. The Yamal LNG Project (located in remote northern Russia, above the Arctic Circle) has capacity to produce 17.4 million tons of LNG (as of February 28, 2022). In December 2018, Yamal LNG offloaded its one hundredth LNG cargo since the beginning of the first train of the project in December 2017. The Yamal LNG Project attained full capacity in 2019 and Russia's LNG exports increased 32.1% in 2019 over the previous year. Russia LNG exports increased 8.8% YoY in 2022 despite ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. Drewry expects that increased Russian LNG exports will increase the demand for ice class vessels as the transportation from Yamal and under construction Arctic LNG1 project to Asian and European countries will require a specialized category of ice-breaker LNG carriers capable of taking the shorter Arctic route. However, exit of some of the foreign partners from Russian projects following Russia-Ukraine crisis and the EU’s technology sanctions may impact the progress on Arctic LNG2 and Arctic LNG3 project and consequently LNG ship demand related to these projects.
Russia will be able to deliver LNG at a lower price than most of its competitors due to the low feedstock cost of the world's most complex LNG project and the introduction of a shorter shipping route. Furthermore, the project has benefitted from the Russian government's support, including a 12-year exemption from mineral extraction tax, no export taxes on LNG, and government-subsidized construction of the port of Sabetta.
Arc 7 LNG vessels will be required to pass the NSR via the Bering Strait, which will enable vessels to reach Asia in 15 days, while the conventional route via the Suez Canal takes 30 days. This, in turn, will benefit importers by reducing voyage time and transportation expenses.
In general, ships below 1A Ice-Class will not be allowed to trade on NSR, which provides an advantage to vessel owners with ice class tonnage. Furthermore, vessel owners/operators with experience of operating in ice conditions will have a competitive advantage over the traditional operators that make occasional voyages into the region during the winter months.
IMO2020 regulation and its impact on LNG demand
The IMO, the governing body of international shipping, has made a decisive effort to diversify the industry away from HFO into cleaner fuels with less harmful effects on the environment and human health. Effective in 2015, ships operating within the Emission Control Areas (ECAs) covering the Exclusive Economic Zone of North America, the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the English Channel, the North American area, and the U.S. Caribbean Sea area, are required to use marine gas oil with allowable sulfur content up to 0.1%.
In order to reduce the emission of air pollutants from ships in key areas of China, the Ministry of Transport issued stricter emission control area regulations in their territorial waters. Beginning on January 1, 2020, ships entering inland waterways, including the Yangtze River and Xijiang River, have to adhere to a strict requirement of 0.1% sulfur content. From January 1, 2022, ships are required to comply with the 0.1% sulfur content requirement when entering the Hainan coastal ECA. China is considering adopting more stringent emission control requirements, such as to implement the 0.1% sulfur content limit requirement in all coastal waters beginning January 1, 2025.
The IMO implemented emission control regulations globally with effect from January 1, 2020. These regulations stipulate that ships sailing outside ECAs will switch to an alternative fuel with permitted sulfur content up to 0.5% or will retrofit scrubbers in order to reduce emissions. LNG qualifies as an alternate fuel for complying with IMO regulations as it has sulfur content below 0.1%. This has resulted in some ship owners getting their vessels retrofitted so that they can use LNG as a fuel. Some ship owners also prefer to have their newbuilding vessels LNG ready.
As of February 2023, the global shipping fleet comprises 376 LNG-capable vessels (i.e., non-LNG carriers) with another 522 vessels on the orderbook. The number of LNG-fueled vessels on the water is set to increase in coming years. 98 LNG-capable vessels aggregating 7.8 mdwt were delivered in 2022 and 164 vessels aggregating 17.2 mdwt will be delivered in 2023 (of which 14 vessels aggregating 2.7 mdwt have already been delivered YTD 2023). These promising numbers highlight the industry's rising inclination towards accepting LNG as a bunker fuel.
IMO GHG strategy
The IMO has been devising strategies to reduce greenhouse gases (“GHG”) and carbon emissions from ships. According to the announcement in 2018, the IMO plans to initiate measures to reduce CO2 emission intensity by at least 40% by 2030 and 70% by 2050 from the levels in 2008. It also plans to introduce measures to reduce GHG emissions by 50% by 2050 from the 2008 levels. The GHG strategy of IMO is likely to be revised in 2023. These are likely to be achieved by setting energy efficiency requirements, energy saving technologies, and encouraging shipowners to use alternative fuels such as biofuels, and electro-/synthetic fuels such as hydrogen or ammonia. It may also include limiting the speed of the ships. Currently, there is uncertainty regarding the exact measures that the IMO will undertake to achieve these targets. IMO-related uncertainty is a key factor preventing ship owners from placing new orders, as the vessels with conventional propulsion systems may have a high environmental compliance cost and possible faster depreciation in asset values in the future. Some shipowners have decided to manage this risk by ordering LNG/methanol fueled ships in order to comply with stricter regulations that may be announced in future.
In June 2021, the IMO adopted amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships that will require vessels to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. These amendments are a combination of technical and operational measures with the requirements for Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (“EEXI”) and Carbon Intensity Indicator (“CII”) certification. These will be monitored by the flag administration and corrective actions will be required in the event of constant non-compliance. A review clause requires the IMO to review the effectiveness of the implementation of the CII and EEXI requirements, by January 1, 2026, at the latest. EEXI is a technical measure and would apply to ships above 400 GT. It indicates the energy efficiency of the ship compared to a baseline and is based on a required reduction factor (expressed as a percentage relative to the Energy Efficiency Design Index baseline).
On the other hand, CII is an operational measure which specifies carbon intensity reduction requirements for vessels with 5,000 GT and above. The CII determines the annual reduction factor needed to ensure continuous improvement of the ship’s operational carbon intensity within a specific rating level. The operational carbon intensity rating would be given on a scale of A, B, C, D or E indicating a major superior, minor superior, moderate, minor inferior, or inferior performance level, respectively. The performance level is recorded in the ship’s Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (“SEEMP”). A ship rated D for three consecutive years, or E for one year, will be required to submit a corrective action plan, to show how the required index (C or above) will be achieved. To reduce carbon intensity, shipowners can switch from oil to alternative fuels such as LNG or methanol. Some marine fuels such as ammonia and hydrogen have zero-carbon content. In the long term, ammonia may emerge as a cost-effective alternative fuel but in the short term, it seems unviable. Other options to improve energy efficiency include propeller upgrading/polishing, hull cleaning/coating and retrofitting vessels with the wind-assisted propulsion systems. Reducing ship speeds also helps in complying with the regulations as it lowers fuel consumption, and it is easy to implement.
In addition to the IMO regulation, the EU has proposed a set of proposals including the EU Emissions Trading System and FuelEU Maritime Initiative. Shipping will be included in EU ETS from 2024. It will be phased in gradually and will cover 40% of in-scope emissions in 2024, 75% in 2025 and 100% in 2026. All ships will be (as per the definition) required to acquire and surrender emission allowances. 100% of emissions are included on voyages and port calls within the EU while 50% of emissions are covered for voyages between an EU port and a non-EU country. Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O) will be included from 2026. The EU ETS lays down rules regarding GHG intensity of energy used on-board all ships arriving in the EU. It aims to reduce GHG emission 26% by 2040 and 75% by 2050 compared to 2020 level. It also makes it obligatory for ships to use on-shore power supply or zero-emission technology in ports in the EU. All shipowners trading in the European waters will need to comply with these regulations.
Ships will be required to undertake a combination of initiatives in order to comply with the upcoming environmental regulations. These may range from switching to low/zero carbon alternative fuels, paying carbon taxes, retrofitting energy-saving devices, propulsion improvement devices as well as voyage optimization techniques. The emission control regulations are likely to slow the speed of the vessels in the next few years. Consequently, this will lead to a reduction in the supply of ships and therefore, in the short- to medium-term, will benefit shipowners with younger fleets as charter rates should potentially increase with lower supply of ships.
Besides the IMO regulations, the decarbonization of shipping is being propelled by various state and non-state stakeholders of the shipping industry. In recent years, there have been several developments such as the Sea Cargo Charter, Poseidon Principles for ship finance banks and Poseidon Principles for Marine Insurance. In addition, there have been several industry led initiatives to facilitate movement towards low/zero-carbon shipping such as Getting to Zero Coalition, The Castor Initiative for Ammonia, Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonization, and the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping.
Alternative fuels for shipping
The IMO has a target to reduce GHG emissions by 50% in 2050. This can’t be achieved with the low sulfur fuel and so has encouraged innovation in alternative fuels. IMO has also been planning other technical and operational measures in order to meet emission targets. Alternative fuels like LPG and methanol are mainly used on vessels carrying these as cargo. However, LNG is used as a fuel in LNG vessels and also in other vessels. Hydrogen and ammonia are in the initial stages of development as a marine fuel. LNG is expected to remain as a preferred alternative fuel in the near to medium term due to its availability. However, LNG is still a fossil fuel and is unable to meet IMO 2050 decarbonization target and methane slips continue to be a heavily debated issue. Another drawback is that LNG propulsion requires an LNG capable engine which, would require additional capex and increased fuel storage space. Biofuel is another potential alternative fuel because it requires no major modification of engine, and therefore, no significant additional capex is required.
The LNG Fleet
LNG carriers are specialist vessels designed to transport LNG between liquefaction facilities and import terminals. They are double-hulled vessels with sophisticated containment systems that hold and insulate LNG to maintain it in liquid form. Any LNG that evaporates during the voyage and converts to a natural gas (normally referred to as boil-off) can be used as fuel to help propel the ship.
Among the existing fleet, there are several different types of containment systems used on LNG carriers, but the two most popular systems are:
|·||The Moss Rosenberg spherical system, which was designed in the 1970s and is used by a large portion of the existing LNG fleet. In this system, multiple self-supporting, spherical tanks are built independent of the carrier and arranged inside its hull.|
|·||The Gaz Transport membrane system, which is built inside the carrier and consists of insulation between the thin primary and secondary barriers. The membrane is designed to accommodate thermal expansion and contraction without overstressing the membrane.|
However, most new vessels are being built with membrane systems such as the Gaz Transport system. This trend is primarily a result of lower Suez Canal fees and related costs associated with passage through the Suez Canal, often required for many long-haul trade routes. In addition, ships with membrane systems, such as the Gaz Transport membrane system, tend to operate more efficiently with less wind resistance as compared to the ships with Moss Rosenberg systems. Generally, ships with membrane systems achieve better speed due to improved hull utilization, reduced cool down time, and better terminal capacity.
The cargo capacity of an LNG carrier is measured in cbm. As of February 28, 2022, the worldwide fleet totaled 650 ships with a combined capacity of 97.3 million cbm. The breakdown of the fleet by vessel size is shown below.
The LNG Fleet by Vessel Size: February 28, 2023
The changes in LNG fleet supply are a function of deliveries of new ships from the orderbook and the removal of existing vessels through scrapping. The increases in seaborne LNG trade and ship demand over the last three years have resulted in rapid growth in the overall fleet size. LNG fleet capacity has expanded at a CAGR of 7.3% per annum between 2014 and 2022. High deliveries in the last three years have led to a sharp increase in LNG fleet in these years.
LNG Fleet: 2015-February 2023
Within the current worldwide fleet, there are only 69 vessels with ice class certification and these vessels account for close to 11.4% of the global LNG fleet. These ships are a niche part of the market and command a premium over the freight rates of non-ice class vessels.
The age profile of the existing fleet as of February 28, 2023, is shown below. The average age of all LNG carriers in service is 10.7 years, with lower fleet ages for comparatively bigger vessels and smaller vessels. Whereas, mid-sized vessels are relatively older.
LNG Fleet Age Profile: February 28, 2023
|Size Range in CBM||Average Age (Years)|
|Average Age -Total Fleet||10.7|
Due to high-quality construction and in most cases, high-quality maintenance, LNG carriers tend to have longer trading lives than oil tankers. However, older ships may find it harder to find employment. Upcoming EEXI and CII regulations are expected to impact older steam turbine LNG vessels more. These vessels will need to reduce the speed. Ships built before 1990 will likely be replaced in the near future. Some of older tonnage may also get converted into FSRU. LNG fleet deliveries over last seven years are shown below.
LNG Fleet Delivery: 2015-February 2023
Source: Drewry, Note – YTD 2022 deliveries include deliveries between January and February 2023
LNG Shipping Arrangements
LNG carriers are usually chartered for a fixed period of time. Shipping arrangements are normally based on charters of five years or more because:
LNG projects are expensive and typically involve an integrated chain of dedicated facilities. Accordingly, the overall success of an LNG project depends heavily on long-term planning and coordination of project activities, including
marine transportation; and
|•||LNG carriers are expensive to build, and vessel financing is supported by the corresponding cash-flow from long-term fixed-rate charters.|
Most end users of LNG are utility companies, power stations or petrochemical producers with operations that depend on reliable and uninterrupted deliveries of LNG. Although most shipping requirements for new LNG projects continue to be provided on a long-term basis, spot voyages and time charters of four years or less have become a feature of the market in recent years. However, it should be noted that the LNG spot market is different from the tanker spot market. In the tanker market, the term "spot trade" refers to a single voyage, which is arranged at a short notice. In the LNG market, the term "spot trade" refers to the transport of one or more cargoes, sometimes within a specified time period between one and six months, with a set-up time of possibly several months. With changing global LNG market, the vessel owners are gradually increasing their exposure to spot trade. Earlier shipowners used to employ more than 85% of their fleet on long-term charters and 10 to 15% of the fleet used to operate in spot trade. However, short term LNG trade data for last ten years indicates that with increasing imports of China from the spot market and taking advantage of the rate spike in winters and other market imbalances, shipowners have increased the sport market exposure in the range of 30 to 40%.
Short-term LNG trade 2011-2022
Spot earnings for LNG ships
Spot rates for LNG vessels were at its peak in 2012 following the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011 in Japan. The disaster compelled Japan to adopt LNG more actively in lieu of nuclear power. The spot rates reached their lowest in 2016 as the demand slowed down. In 2018, the spot rates increased steadily despite strong newbuild deliveries. The strengthening in spot earnings of LNG ships was facilitated by a demand driven market in which demand for LNG vessels has outpaced the supply growth in world LNG fleet. Spot rates softened in 2019 on account of lower LNG imports in China, higher LNG inventory levels in Europe and Asia, and mild winter.
Spot LNG shipping rates plummeted in the first quarter of 2020 as the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak had an adverse impact on LNG trade and LNG spot prices. The outbreak forced several countries to go into lockdown, leading to decline in the world GDP and consequently weak LNG demand. Many LNG cargos were cancelled due to weak Asian LNG demand and high European gas inventories. However, LNG demand recovered in the latter half of 2020 as countries started easing the lockdown. LNG spot shipping freight rates started increasing from November 2020 on account of the cold snap in Asia, congestion in the Panama Canal, and availability of fewer LNG ships in the spot market. Higher Asian LNG demand supported spot LNG shipping rates in 2021. LNG shipping spot rates surged in 2022 mainly driven by European LNG imports as Europe switched towards LNG to end its reliance on Russian gas.
Spot rate for LNG ships January 2012 – February 2023
(U.S. $ per day)
Source: Baltic exchange, Drewry
Russia-Ukraine war and impact on LNG shipping
The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has led to a change in the LNG shipping trade pattern with Europe substituting Russian natural gas imports with LNG imports. The changing trade patterns have impacted LNG shipping with uncertainty over Russian gas supply to Europe, compelling the latter to increase its imports and upping the use of other alternatives – coal and nuclear- along with energy conservation measures. Europe is also accelerating FSRU-based LNG import projects to increase imports. Four FSRU projects came on steam in 2022 (two in Germany and one each in Netherlands and Finland) and another eight are expected to start in 2023. Several FSRU projects are in various stages of development, depending on the state of shoreside facilities and regulatory approvals.
Similar to other types of vessels, newbuilding prices for LNG carriers rose steeply in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and then began to drift downwards in the mid-1990s and fall sharply in the late 1990s. At the beginning of 1992, the price of a 125,000 cbm ship from a Far East yard was reported to be approximately $270 million to $290 million, compared with a low of $120 million at the end of 1986. However, by early 2000 new orders were being struck at a new low of around $150 million.
After the lows of early 2000, prices crept to $165 million in 2001. Pressure on newbuilding prices pushed prices closer to $160 million in 2002, and by 2003 prices fell to just above $150 million. However, constrained shipbuilding capacity, currency movements and high steel prices led to an increase in prices in 2004 to around $175 million. Prices rose above $200 million in 2005 and renewed pressure on shipbuilding prices pushed prices close to $220 million in 2006.
LNG Carrier Newbuilding Prices: 2011-F 2022
(End Period – U.S. $ Million)
Prices for larger sized LNG carriers of 210,000-220,000 cbm were around $215 million when they were first ordered in late 2004 and increased to $235 million in the summer of 2005.
Newbuilding prices reached an all-time high of $250 million around mid-2008, influenced by a number of factors including the declining dollar exchange rate, easy availability of finance, high steel prices, and tight shipbuilding capacity. However, newbuilding prices fell in the period between 2008 and 2011 due to a reduction in new orders. The newbuilding price for an LNG carrier increased marginally by 2% from $202 million in 2011 to $206 million in 2015, but dropped by 7.7% in 2016 due to weak freight rates and the resulting oversupply in the market. These prices continued to drop in 2017 before inching up by a marginal 1.4% on account of increased ordering activity in 2018 and thereafter 2.9% year over year to $189.3 million in 2019 with a demand for better technology LNG vessels and higher competition for slots at shipyard. Newbuilding orders surged in 2018 and 2019 due to positive outlook of high liquefaction capacity to be added in in coming years, which would have created demand for additional LNG vessels. Newbuilding prices declined in 2020 due to weak LNG prospects and lower new orders. Increase in Newbuilding prices increased in 2021 as a result of lower availability of LNG shipbuilding slots and inclusion of energy efficiency equipment. Newbuilding prices continued to increase in 2022 on account of tight shipbuilding capacity and high vessel demand.
Sale and purchase transactions of LNG vessels are limited in number. The second-hand price of a five-year old 150,000cbm LNG vessel declined by 7.9% in 2016, 5.4% in 2017, and 5.1% in 2018. After falling between 2016 and 2018, second-hand vessel prices rose 1.5% year over year in 2019 on account of increase in newbuilding prices, rise in demand for MEGI and DFDE vessels with increase in spot trading and expectation of significant liquefaction capacity to be added in 2019. Second-hand LNG prices declined in 2020 in line with softer LNG spot rates for majority of the year. The increase in second-hand vessel prices in 2021 was mainly driven by strong prospects of LNG vessels and the increase in newbuilding prices. Second-hand prices increased in 2022 due to high demand and sale for potential conversion to FSRU (particularly for older tonnage).
LNG Carrier Second-hand Prices: January 2017 – February 2023
(Monthly – U.S. $ Million)
LNG shipping is generally safe relative to other forms of commercial marine transportation. In the past forty years, there have been no significant accidents or cargo spillages involving an LNG carrier, even though over 40,000 LNG voyages have been made during that time.
LNG is non-toxic and non-explosive in its liquid state. It only becomes explosive or inflammable when it is heated, vaporized, and in a confined space within a narrow range of concentrations in the air (5% to 15%). The risks and hazards from an LNG spillage vary depending on the size of the spillage, the environmental conditions, and the site at which the spillage occurs.
We operate in markets that are highly competitive and based primarily on supply and demand. The process of obtaining new time charters generally involves intensive screening and competitive bidding, and often extends for several months. LNG carrier time charters are generally awarded based upon a variety of factors relating to the vessel operator, including but not limited to price, customer relationships, operating expertise, professional reputation and size, age and condition of the vessel. We believe that the LNG shipping industry is characterized by the significant time required to develop the operating expertise and professional reputation necessary to obtain and retain charterers.
We expect substantial competition for providing marine transportation services for potential LNG projects from a number of experienced companies, including state-sponsored entities and major energy companies. Many of these competitors have significantly greater financial resources and larger and more versatile fleets than we do. We anticipate that an increasing number of marine transportation companies, including many with strong reputations and extensive resources and experience, will enter the LNG transportation market. This increased competition may cause greater price competition for time charters.
Historically, LNG trade, and therefore charter rates, increased in the winter months and eased in the summer months as demand for LNG in the Northern Hemisphere rose in colder weather and fell in warmer weather. The LNG industry in general has become less dependent on the seasonal transport of LNG than a decade ago as new uses for LNG have developed, spreading consumption more evenly over the year. There is a higher seasonal demand during the summer months due to energy requirements for air conditioning in some markets and a pronounced higher seasonal demand during the winter months for heating in other markets. However, our vessels primarily operate under multi-year charters and are not subject to the effect of seasonal variations in demand.
Environmental and Other Regulations in the Shipping Industry
Government regulation and laws significantly affect the ownership and operation of our fleet. We are subject to international conventions and treaties, national, state and local laws and regulations in force in the countries in which our vessels may operate or are registered relating to safety and health and environmental protection including the storage, handling, emission, transportation and discharge of hazardous and non-hazardous materials, and the remediation of contamination and liability for damage to natural resources. Compliance with such laws, regulations and other requirements entails significant expense, including vessel modifications and implementation of certain operating procedures.
A variety of government and private entities subject our vessels to both scheduled and unscheduled inspections. These entities include the local port authorities (applicable national authorities such as the United States Coast Guard ("USCG"), harbor master or equivalent), classification societies, flag state administrations (countries of registry) and charterers, particularly terminal operators. Certain of these entities require us to obtain permits, licenses, certificates and other authorizations for the operation of our vessels. Failure to maintain necessary permits or approvals could require us to incur substantial costs or result in the temporary suspension of the operation of one or more of our vessels.
Increasing environmental concerns have created a demand for vessels that conform to stricter environmental standards. We are required to maintain operating standards for all of our vessels that emphasize operational safety, quality maintenance, continuous training of our officers and crews and compliance with United States and international regulations. We believe that the operation of our vessels is in substantial compliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations and that our vessels have all material permits, licenses, certificates or other authorizations necessary for the conduct of our operations. However, because such laws and regulations frequently change and may impose increasingly stricter requirements, we cannot predict the ultimate cost of complying with these requirements, or the impact of these requirements on the resale value or useful lives of our vessels. In addition, a future serious marine incident that causes significant adverse environmental impact could result in additional legislation or regulation that could negatively affect our profitability.
International Maritime Organization
The International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency for maritime safety and the prevention of pollution by vessels (the "IMO"), has adopted the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto, collectively referred to as MARPOL 73/78 and herein as "MARPOL," the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea of 1974 ("SOLAS Convention"), and the International Convention on Load Lines of 1966 (the "LL Convention"). MARPOL establishes environmental standards relating to oil leakage or spilling, garbage management, sewage, air emissions, handling and disposal of noxious liquids and the handling of harmful substances in packaged forms. MARPOL is applicable to drybulk, tanker and LNG carriers, among other vessels, and is broken into six Annexes, each of which regulates a different source of pollution. Annex I relates to oil leakage or spilling; Annexes II and III relate to harmful substances carried in bulk in liquid or in packaged form, respectively; Annexes IV and V relate to sewage and garbage management, respectively; and Annex VI, lastly, relates to air emissions. Annex VI was separately adopted by the IMO in September of 1997, new emissions standards, titled IMO-2020, took effect on January 1, 2020.
Vessels that transport gas, including LNG carriers and FSRUs, are also subject to regulation under the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk, or the IGC Code, published by the IMO. The IGC Code provides a standard for the safe carriage of LNG and certain other liquid gases by prescribing the design and construction standards of vessels involved in such carriage. The completely revised and updated IGC Code entered into force in 2016, and the amendments were developed following a comprehensive five-year review and are intended to take into account the latest advances in science and technology. Compliance with the IGC Code must be evidenced by a Certificate of Fitness for the Carriage of Liquefied Gases in Bulk. Non-compliance with the IGC Code or other applicable IMO regulations may subject a shipowner or a bareboat charterer to increased liability, may lead to decreases in available insurance coverage for affected vessels and may result in the denial of access to, or detention in, some ports. We believe that each of our vessels is in compliance with the IGC Code and each of our new buildings/conversion contracts requires that the vessel receive a certification that it is in compliance with applicable regulations before it is delivered.
Our LNG vessels may also become subject to the 2010 HNS Convention, if it is entered into force. The 2010 International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea (“2010 HNS Convention”) creates a regime of liability and compensation for damage from hazardous and noxious substances ("HNS"), including liquefied gases. The 2010 HNS Convention sets up a two-tier system of compensation composed of compulsory insurance taken out by shipowners and an HNS Fund which comes into play when the insurance is insufficient to satisfy a claim or does not cover the incident. Under the 2010 HNS Convention, if damage is caused by bulk HNS, claims for compensation will first be sought from the shipowner up to a maximum of 100 million Special Drawing Rights ("SDR"). If the damage is caused by packaged HNS or by both bulk and packaged HNS, the maximum liability is 115 million SDR. Once the limit is reached, compensation will be paid from the HNS Fund up to a maximum of 250 million SDR. The 2010 HNS Convention has not been ratified by a sufficient number of countries to enter into force, and we cannot estimate the costs that may be needed to comply with any such requirements that may be adopted with any certainty at this time.
In June 2015 the IMO formally adopted the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or Low flashpoint Fuels, or the "IGF Code," which is designed to minimize the risks involved with ships using low flashpoint fuels- including LNG. The IGF Code and the amendments to SOLAS became effective January 1, 2017. Amendments to the IGF Code relating to regulations on loading limit for liquefied gas fuel tanks, regulations for fuel distribution outside of machinery space, and others will become effective in January 2024.
In September of 1997, the IMO adopted Annex VI to MARPOL to address air pollution from vessels. Effective May 2005, Annex VI sets limits on sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from all commercial vessel exhausts and prohibits "deliberate emissions" of ozone depleting substances (such as halons and chlorofluorocarbons), emissions of volatile compounds from cargo tanks and the shipboard incineration of specific substances. Annex VI also includes a global cap on the sulfur content of fuel oil and allows for special areas to be established with more stringent controls on sulfur emissions, as explained below. Emissions of "volatile organic compounds" from certain vessels, and the shipboard incineration (from incinerators installed after January 1, 2000) of certain substances (such as polychlorinated biphenyls, or "PCBs") are also prohibited. We believe that all our vessels are currently compliant in all material respects with these regulations.
The Marine Environment Protection Committee, or "MEPC," adopted amendments to Annex VI regarding emissions of sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and ozone depleting substances, which entered into force on July 1, 2010. The amended Annex VI seeks to further reduce air pollution by, among other things, implementing a progressive reduction of the amount of sulfur contained in any fuel oil used on board ships. On October 27, 2016, at its 70th session, the MEPC agreed to implement a global 0.5% m/m sulfur oxide emissions limit (reduced from 3.50%) starting from January 1, 2020. This limitation can be met by using low-sulfur compliant fuel oil, alternative fuels or certain exhaust gas cleaning systems. Ships are now required to obtain bunker delivery notes and International Air Pollution Prevention ("IAPP") Certificates from their flag states that specify sulfur content. Additionally, at MEPC 73, amendments to Annex VI to prohibit the carriage of bunkers above 0.5% sulfur on ships, with the exception of vessels fitted with exhaust gas cleaning equipment (“scrubbers”) which can carry fuel of higher sulfur content, were adopted and took effect March 1, 2020. Additional amendments to Annex VI became effective in April 2022, and revised, among other terms, the definition of “Sulphur content of fuel oil” and “low-flashpoint fuel” and pertain to the sampling and testing of onboard fuel oil. These regulations subject ocean-going vessels to stringent emissions controls, and may cause us to incur substantial costs.
Sulfur content standards are even stricter within certain "Emission Control Areas," or ("ECAs"). As of January 1, 2015, ships operating within an ECA were not permitted to use fuel with sulfur content in excess of 0.1% m/m. Amended Annex VI establishes procedures for designating new ECAs. Currently, the IMO has designated four ECAs, including specified portions of the Baltic Sea area, North Sea area, North American area and United States Caribbean area. Ocean-going vessels in these areas will be subject to stringent emission controls and may cause us to incur additional costs. Recently at the MEPC78, the IMO approved a proposal for a new ECA in the Mediterranean to apply from July 1, 2025, such that the sulfur content of marine fuels does not exceed 0.1%. Other areas in China are subject to local regulations that impose stricter emission controls. If other ECAs are approved by the IMO, or other new or more stringent requirements relating to emissions from marine diesel engines or port operations by vessels are adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") or the states where we operate, compliance with these regulations could entail significant capital expenditures or otherwise increase the costs of our operations.
Amended Annex VI also establishes new tiers of stringent nitrogen oxide emissions standards for marine diesel engines, depending on their date of installation. Now amended Annex VI provides for a three-tier reduction in Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions. Under the amendments, Tier III NOx standards apply to ships that operate in the North American and U.S. Caribbean Sea ECAs designed for the control of NOx produced by vessels with a marine diesel engine installed and constructed on or after January 1, 2016. Tier III requirements could apply to areas that will be designated for Tier III NOx in the future. At MEPC 70 and MEPC 71, the MEPC approved the North Sea and Baltic Sea as ECAs for nitrogen oxide for ships built on or after January 1, 2021. The EPA promulgated equivalent (and in some senses stricter) emissions standards in 2010. Additionally, amendments to Annex II, which strengthen discharge requirements for cargo residues and tank washings in specified sea areas (including North West European waters, Baltic Sea area, Western European waters, and Norwegian Sea), came into effect in January 2021. As a result of these designations or similar future designations, we may be required to incur additional operating or other costs.
Regulation 22A of MARPOL Annex VI became effective as of March 1, 2018, and requires ships above 5,000 gross tonnage to collect and report annual data on fuel oil consumption to an IMO database, with the first year of data collection having commenced on January 1, 2019. The IMO intends to use such data as the first step in its roadmap (through 2023) for developing its strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships, as discussed further below.
As of January 1, 2013, MARPOL made mandatory certain measures relating to energy efficiency for ships. All ships are now required to develop and implement Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans ("SEEMP"), and new ships must be designed in compliance with minimum energy efficiency levels per capacity mile as defined by the Energy Efficiency Design Index ("EEDI"). Under these measures, by 2025, all new ships built will be 30% more energy efficient than those built in 2014. MEPC 75 adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex VI which brought forward the effective date of the EEDI's "phase 3" requirements to April 1, 2022, for several ship types, including gas carriers, general cargo ships, and LNG carriers.
Additionally, MEPC 75 introduced draft amendments to Annex VI which impose new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships. These amendments introduce requirements to assess and measure the energy efficiency of all ships and set the required attainment values, with the goal of reducing the carbon intensity of international shipping. The requirements include (1) a technical requirement to reduce carbon intensity based on a new Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index ("EEXI"), and (2) operational carbon intensity reduction requirements, based on a new operational carbon intensity indicator ("CII"). The attained EEXI is required to be calculated for ships of 400 gross tonnage and above, in accordance with different values set for ship types and categories. With respect to the CII, the draft amendments would require ships of 5,000 gross tonnage to document and verify their actual annual operational CII achieved against a determined required annual operational CII. Effective January 1, 2023, amendments to SEEMP require all ships above 400 gross tonnage to have an approved SEEMP on board. For ships above 5,000 gross tonnage, the SEEMP needs to include certain mandatory content. MEPC 75 also approved draft amendments to MARPOL Annex I to prohibit the use and carriage for use as fuel of heavy fuel oil ("HFO") by ships in Arctic waters on and after July 1, 2024. The amendments introduced at MEPC 75 were adopted at the MEPC 76 session, with the requirements for EEXI and CII certification effective from January 1, 2023. MEPC 77 adopted a non-binding resolution which urges Member States and ship operators to voluntarily use distillate or other cleaner alternative fuels or methods of propulsion that are safe for ships and could contribute to the reduction of black carbon emissions from ships when operating in or near the Arctic.
We may incur costs to comply with these revised standards. Additional or new conventions, laws and regulations or industry practice may be adopted that could require the installation of expensive emission control systems or other modifications and could adversely affect our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition.
Safety Management System Requirements
The SOLAS Convention was amended to address the safe manning of vessels and emergency training drills. The Convention of Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (the "LLMC") sets limitations of liability for a loss of life or personal injury claim or a property claim against ship owners. We believe that our vessels are in substantial compliance with SOLAS and LLMC standards.
Under Chapter IX of the SOLAS Convention, or the International Safety Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (the "ISM Code"), our operations are also subject to environmental standards and requirements. The ISM Code requires the party with operational control of a vessel to develop an extensive safety management system that includes, among other things, the adoption of a safety and environmental protection policy setting forth instructions and procedures for operating its vessels safely and describing procedures for responding to emergencies. We rely upon the safety management system that we and our technical management team have developed for compliance with the ISM Code. The failure of a vessel owner or bareboat charterer to comply with the ISM Code may subject such party to increased liability, may decrease available insurance coverage for the affected vessels and may result in a denial of access to, or detention in, certain ports.
The ISM Code requires that vessel operators obtain a safety management certificate for each vessel they operate. This certificate evidences compliance by a vessel's management with the ISM Code requirements for a safety management system. No vessel can obtain a safety management certificate unless its manager has been awarded a document of compliance, issued by each flag state, under the ISM Code. We have obtained a valid Document of Compliance (DoC) for managing gas carriers, which is annually being endorsed. A valid Safety Management Certificate (SMC) is carried by every managed fleet vessel. The documents of compliances and safety management certificates are renewed as required.
Regulation II-1/3-10 of the SOLAS Convention governs ship construction and stipulates that ships over 150 meters in length must have adequate strength, integrity and stability to minimize risk of loss or pollution. Goal-based standards amendments in SOLAS regulation II-1/3-10 entered into force in 2012, with application to new oil tankers and bulk carriers from July 1, 2016. The SOLAS Convention regulation II-1/3-10 requires that all oil tankers and bulk carriers of 150 meters in length and above, for which the building contract is placed on or after July 1, 2016, satisfy applicable structural requirements conforming to the functional requirements of the International Goal-based Ship Construction Standards for Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers ("GBS Standards").
Amendments to the SOLAS Convention Chapter VII apply to vessels transporting dangerous goods and require those vessels be in compliance with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code ("IMDG Code"). Effective January 1, 2018, the IMDG Code includes (1) updates to the provisions for radioactive material, reflecting the latest provisions from the International Atomic Energy Agency, (2) new marking, packing and classification requirements for dangerous goods, and (3) new mandatory training requirements. Amendments which took effect on January 1, 2020 also reflect the latest material from the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, including (1) new provisions regarding IMO type 9 tank, (2) new abbreviations for segregation groups, and (3) special provisions for carriage of lithium batteries and of vehicles powered by flammable liquid or gas. Amendments, which came into force on June 1, 2022, include (1) addition of a definition of dosage rate, (2) additions to the list of high consequence dangerous goods, (3) new provisions for medical/clinical waste, (4) addition of various ISO standards for gas cylinders, (5) a new handling code, and (6) changes to stowage and segregation provisions.
The IMO has also adopted the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers ("STCW"). As of February 2017, all seafarers are required to meet the STCW standards and be in possession of a valid STCW certificate. Flag states that have ratified SOLAS and STCW generally employ the classification societies, which have incorporated SOLAS and STCW requirements into their class rules, to undertake surveys to confirm compliance.
The IMO's Maritime Safety Committee and MEPC, respectively, each adopted relevant parts of the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Water (the "Polar Code"). The Polar Code, which entered into force on January 1, 2017, covers design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue as well as environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in the waters surrounding the two poles. It also includes mandatory measures regarding safety and pollution prevention as well as recommendatory provisions. The Polar Code applies to new ships constructed after January 1, 2017, and after January 1, 2018, ships constructed before January 1, 2017 are required to meet the relevant requirements by the earlier of their first intermediate or renewal survey.
Furthermore, recent action by the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee and United States agencies indicates that cybersecurity regulations for the maritime industry are likely to be further developed in the near future in an attempt to combat cybersecurity threats. By IMO resolution, administrations are encouraged to ensure that cyber-risk management systems must be incorporated by shipowners and managers by their first annual Document of Compliance audit after January 1, 2021. In February 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard published guidance on addressing cyber risks in a vessel’s safety management system. This might cause companies to create additional procedures for monitoring cybersecurity, which could require additional expenses and/or capital expenditures. The impact of future regulations is hard to predict at this time.
Pollution Control and Liability Requirements
The IMO has negotiated international conventions that impose liability for pollution in international waters and the territorial waters of the signatories to such conventions. For example, the IMO adopted an International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments (the "BWM Convention") in 2004. The BWM Convention entered into force on September 8, 2017. The BWM Convention requires ships to manage their ballast water to remove, render harmless, or avoid the uptake or discharge of new or invasive aquatic organisms and pathogens within ballast water and sediments. The BWM Convention's implementing regulations call for a phased introduction of mandatory ballast water exchange requirements, to be replaced in time with mandatory concentration limits, and require all ships to carry a ballast water record book and an international ballast water management certificate.
The MEPC adopted updated guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems (G8) at MEPC 70. At MEPC 71, the schedule regarding the BWM Convention's implementation dates was also discussed and amendments were introduced to extend the date existing vessels are subject to certain ballast water standards. Those changes were adopted at MEPC 72. Ships over 400 gross tons generally must comply with a "D-1 standard," requiring the exchange of ballast water only in open seas and away from coastal waters. The "D-2 standard" specifies the maximum amount of viable organisms allowed to be discharged, and compliance dates vary depending on the IOPP renewal dates. Depending on the date of the IOPP renewal survey, existing vessels must comply with the D-2 standard on or after September 8, 2019. For most ships, compliance with the D-2 standard will involve installing on-board systems to treat ballast water and eliminate unwanted organisms. Ballast water management systems, which include systems that make use of chemical, biocides, organisms or biological mechanisms, or which alter the chemical or physical characteristics of the ballast water, must be approved in accordance with IMO Guidelines (Regulation D-3). Based on subsequent amendments, all ships must meet the D-2 standard by September 8, 2024. Costs of compliance with these regulations may be substantial. Additionally, in November 2020, MEPC 75 adopted amendments to the BWM Convention which require a commissioning test of the ballast water management system for the initial survey or when performing an additional survey for retrofits. This analysis will not apply to ships that already have an installed BWM system certified under the BWM Convention. These amendments entered into force on June 1, 2022.
Once mid-ocean exchange ballast water treatment requirements become mandatory under the BWM Convention, the cost of compliance could increase for ocean carriers and may have a material effect on our operations. However, many countries already regulate the discharge of ballast water carried by vessels from country to country to prevent the introduction of invasive and harmful species via such discharges. The U.S. for example, requires vessels entering its waters from another country to conduct mid-ocean ballast exchange, or undertake some alternate measure, and to comply with certain reporting requirements.
The IMO also adopted the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (the "Bunker Convention") to impose strict liability on ship owners (including the registered owner, bareboat charterer, manager or operator) for pollution damage in jurisdictional waters of ratifying states caused by discharges of bunker fuel. The Bunker Convention requires registered owners of ships over 1,000 gross tons to maintain insurance for pollution damage in an amount equal to the limits of liability under the applicable national or international limitation regime (but not exceeding the amount calculated in accordance with the LLMC). With respect to non-ratifying states, liability for spills or releases of oil carried as fuel in ship's bunkers typically is determined by the national or other domestic laws in the jurisdiction where the events or damages occur.
Ships are required to maintain a certificate attesting that they maintain adequate insurance to cover an incident. In jurisdictions, such as the United States where the CLC or the Bunker Convention has not been adopted, various legislative schemes or common law govern, and liability is imposed either on the basis of fault or on a strict-liability basis.
In 2001, the IMO adopted the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships, or the "Anti-fouling Convention." The Anti-fouling Convention, which entered into force on September 17, 2008, prohibits the use of organotin compound coatings to prevent the attachment of mollusks and other sea life to the hulls of vessels. Vessels of over 400 gross tons engaged in international voyages will also be required to undergo an initial survey before the vessel is put into service or before an International Anti-fouling System Certificate (the “IAFS Certificate”) is issued for the first time; and subsequent surveys when the anti-fouling systems are altered or replaced.
In November 2020, MEPC 75 approved draft amendments to the Anti-fouling Convention to prohibit anti-fouling systems containing cybutryne, which became effective January 1, 2023, or, for ships already bearing such an anti-fouling system, at the next scheduled renewal of the system after that date, but no later than 60 months following the last application to the ship of such a system. In addition, the IAFS Certificate has been updated to address compliance options for anti-fouling systems to address cybutryne. Ships which are affected by this ban on cybutryne must receive an updated IAFS Certificate no later than two years after the entry into force of these amendments. Ships which are not affected (i.e. with anti-fouling systems which do not contain cybutryne) must receive an updated IAFS Certificate at the next Anti-fouling application to the vessel.
We have obtained Anti-fouling System Certificates for all of our vessels that are subject to the Anti-fouling Convention.
Noncompliance with the ISM Code or other IMO regulations may subject the ship owner or bareboat charterer to increased liability, may lead to decreases in available insurance coverage for affected vessels and may result in the denial of access to, or detention in, some ports. The USCG and E.U. authorities have indicated that vessels not in compliance with the ISM Code by applicable deadlines will be prohibited from trading in U.S. and EU ports, respectively. As of the date of this annual report, each of our vessels is ISM Code certified. However, there can be no assurance that such certificates will be maintained in the future. The IMO continues to review and introduce new regulations. It is impossible to predict what additional regulations, if any, may be passed by the IMO and what effect, if any, such regulations might have on our operations.
United States Regulations
The U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act
The U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 ("OPA") established an extensive regulatory and liability regime for the protection and clean-up of the environment from oil spills. OPA affects all "owners and operators" whose vessels trade or operate within the U.S., its territories and possessions or whose vessels operate in U.S. waters, which includes the U.S.'s territorial sea and its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone around the U.S. The U.S. has also enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act ("CERCLA"), which applies to the discharge of hazardous substances other than oil, except in limited circumstances, whether on land or at sea. OPA and CERCLA both define "owner and operator" in the case of a vessel as any person owning, operating or chartering by demise, the vessel. OPA and CERCLA may affect us because we carry oil as fuel and lubricants for our engines, and the discharge of these could cause environmental hazards. Both OPA and CERCLA impact our operations.
Under OPA, vessel owners and operators are "responsible parties" and are jointly, severally and strictly liable (unless the spill results solely from the act or omission of a third party, an act of God or an act of war) for all containment and clean-up costs and other damages arising from discharges or threatened discharges of oil from their vessels, including bunkers (fuel). OPA defines these other damages broadly to include:
|i.||injury to, destruction or loss of, or loss of use of natural resources and related assessment costs;|
|ii.||injury to, or economic losses resulting from, the destruction of real and personal property;|
|iii.||loss of subsistence use of natural resources that are injured, destroyed or lost;|
|iv.||net loss of taxes, royalties, rents, fees or net profit revenues resulting from injury, destruction or loss of real or personal property, or natural resources;|
|v.||lost profits or impairment of earning capacity due to injury, destruction or loss of real or personal property or natural resources; and|
|vi.||net cost of increased or additional public services necessitated by removal activities following a discharge of oil, such as protection from fire, safety or health hazards, and loss of subsistence use of natural resources.|
OPA contains statutory caps on liability and damages; such caps do not apply to direct cleanup costs. On December 23, 2022, the USCG adjusted the limits of OPA liability for a tank vessel, other than a single-hull tank vessel, over 3,000 gross tons to the greater of $2,500 per gross ton or $21,521,300 (subject to periodic adjustment for inflation). These limits of liability do not apply if an incident was proximately caused by the violation of an applicable U.S. federal safety, construction or operating regulation by a responsible party (or its agent, employee or a person acting pursuant to a contractual relationship), or a responsible party's gross negligence or willful misconduct. The limitation on liability similarly does not apply if the responsible party fails or refuses to (i) report the incident as required by law where the responsible party knows or has reason to know of the incident; (ii) reasonably cooperate and assist as requested in connection with oil removal activities; or (iii) without sufficient cause, comply with an order issued under the Federal Water Pollution Act (Section 311(c), (e)) or the Intervention on the High Seas Act.
CERCLA contains a similar liability regime whereby owners and operators of vessels are liable for cleanup, removal and remedial costs, as well as damages for injury to, or destruction or loss of, natural resources, including the reasonable costs associated with assessing the same, and health assessments or health effects studies. There is no liability if the discharge of a hazardous substance results solely from the act or omission of a third party, an act of God or an act of war. Liability under CERCLA is limited to the greater of $300 per gross ton or $5.0 million for vessels carrying a hazardous substance as cargo and the greater of $300 per gross ton or $500,000 for any other vessel. These limits do not apply (rendering the responsible person liable for the total cost of response and damages) if the release or threat of release of a hazardous substance resulted from willful misconduct or negligence, or the primary cause of the release was a violation of applicable safety, construction or operating standards or regulations. The limitation on liability also does not apply if the responsible person fails or refused to provide all reasonable cooperation and assistance as requested in connection with response activities where the vessel is subject to OPA.
OPA and CERCLA each preserve the right to recover damages under existing law, including maritime tort law. OPA and CERCLA both require owners and operators of vessels to establish and maintain with the USCG evidence of financial responsibility sufficient to meet the maximum amount of liability to which the particular responsible person may be subject. Vessel owners and operators may satisfy their financial responsibility obligations by providing a proof of insurance, a surety bond, qualification as a self-insurer or a guarantee. We comply with and plan to comply going forward with the USCG's financial responsibility regulations by providing applicable certificates of financial responsibility. Ships calling at U.S. ports hold a valid COFR coverage in accordance with the CFR requirements.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in additional regulatory initiatives or statutes, including higher liability caps under OPA, new regulations regarding offshore oil and gas drilling and a pilot inspection program for offshore facilities. However, several of these initiatives and regulations have been or may be revised. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement's ("BSEE") revised Production Safety Systems Rule ("PSSR"), effective December 27, 2018, modified and relaxed certain environmental and safety protections under the 2016 PSSR. Additionally, the BSEE amended the Well Control Rule, effective July 15, 2019, which rolled back certain reforms regarding the safety of drilling operations. In 2021, U.S. President Biden signed an executive order temporarily blocking new leases for oil and gas drilling in federal waters and instructed the Department of the Interior (“DOI”) to review the 2019 Well Control Rule. In 2022, the DOI proposed revisions to the Well Control Rule with the stated goal of addressing regulatory requirements to improve operations that use a Blowout Preventer system, and BSEE oversight of such operations. Final action on the proposed rule could take place in 2023.
OPA specifically permits individual states to impose their own liability regimes with regard to oil pollution incidents occurring within their boundaries, provided they accept, at a minimum, the levels of liability established under OPA and some states have enacted legislation providing for unlimited liability for oil spills. Many U.S. states that border a navigable waterway have enacted environmental pollution laws that impose strict liability on a person for removal costs and damages resulting from a discharge of oil or a release of a hazardous substance. These laws may be more stringent than U.S. federal law. Moreover, some states have enacted legislation providing for unlimited liability for discharge of pollutants within their waters, although in some cases, states which have enacted this type of legislation have not yet issued implementing regulations defining vessel owners' responsibilities under these laws. The Partnership intends to comply with all applicable state regulations in the ports where the Partnership's vessels call.
We currently maintain pollution liability coverage insurance in the amount of $1.0 billion per incident for each of our vessels. If the damages from a catastrophic spill were to exceed our insurance coverage, it could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operation.
Other United States Environmental Initiatives
The U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970 (including its amendments of 1977 and 1990) ("CAA") requires the EPA to promulgate standards applicable to emissions of volatile organic compounds and other air contaminants. The CAA requires states to adopt State Implementation Plans, or "SIPs," some of which regulate emissions resulting from vessel loading and unloading operations which may affect our vessels.
The U.S. Clean Water Act ("CWA") prohibits the discharge of oil, hazardous substances and ballast water in U.S. navigable waters unless authorized by a duly issued permit or exemption, and imposes strict liability in the form of penalties for any unauthorized discharges. The CWA also imposes substantial liability for the costs of removal, remediation and damages and complements the remedies available under OPA and CERCLA. In 2015, the EPA expanded the definition of "waters of the United States" ("WOTUS"), thereby expanding federal authority under the CWA. On December 30, 2022, the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the final revised WOTUS rule, which was published on January 18, 2023, and will become effective on March 20, 2023. The revised WOTUS rule replaces the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule and generally reflects an expansion of the CWA jurisdiction. In April 2023, a U.S. District Judge in North Dakota temporarily blocked enforcement of the revised WOTUS rule in a number of states, and the U.S. Supreme Court is considering the scope of the rule with respect to wetlands.
The EPA and the USCG have also enacted rules relating to ballast water discharge, compliance with which requires the installation of equipment on our vessels to treat ballast water before it is discharged or the implementation of other port facility disposal arrangements or procedures at potentially substantial costs, and/or otherwise restrict our vessels from entering U.S. Waters. The EPA will regulate these ballast water discharges and other discharges incidental to the normal operation of certain vessels within United States waters pursuant to the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act ("VIDA"), which was signed into law on December 4, 2018 and requires that the U.S. Coast Guard develop implementation, compliance, and enforcement regulations regarding ballast water. On October 26, 2020, the EPA published a Notice of Proposed rulemaking for Vessel Incidental Discharge National Standards of Performance under VIDA, and in November 2020, held virtual public meetings, but a final rule has not been promulgated. Under VIDA, all provisions of the 2013 VGP and USCG ballast water regulations remain in force and effect as currently written until the EPA published standards. Several U.S. states have added specific requirements to the Vessel General Permit and, in some cases, may require vessels to install ballast water treatment technology to meet biological performance standards. Compliance with the EPA, U.S. Coast Guard, and state regulations could require the installation of ballast water treatment equipment on our vessels or the implementation of other port facility disposal procedures at potentially substantial cost, or may otherwise restrict our vessels from entering U.S. waters. Non-military, non-recreational vessels greater than 79 feet in length must continue to comply with the requirements of the VGP, including submission of a Notice of Intent ("NOI") or retention of a PARI form and submission of annual reports. All of our vessels carry a valid electronic NOI,l or “eNoI”. Under the U.S. National Invasive Species Act, or NISA, newbuilding vessels constructed after December 1, 2013, are required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved ballast water treatment system installed, and existing vessels are required to have a ballast water treatment system installed on the first scheduled dry-dock after January 1, 2016. Compliance with the EPA, U.S. Coast Guard and state regulations could require the installation of ballast water treatment equipment on our vessels or the implementation of other port facility disposal procedures at potentially substantial cost, or may otherwise restrict our vessels from entering U.S. waters.
European Union Regulations
In October 2009, the EU amended a directive to impose criminal sanctions for illicit ship-source discharges of polluting substances, including minor discharges, if committed with intent, recklessly or with serious negligence and the discharges individually or in the aggregate result in deterioration of the quality of water. Aiding and abetting the discharge of a polluting substance may also lead to criminal penalties. The directive applies to all types of vessels, irrespective of their flag, but certain exceptions apply to warships or where human safety or that of the ship is in danger. Criminal liability for pollution may result in substantial penalties or fines and increased civil liability claims. Regulation (EU) 2015/757 of the European Parliament and of the Council of April 29, 2015 (amending EU Directive 2009/16/EC) governs the monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport, and, subject to some exclusions, requires companies with ships over 5,000 gross tonnage to monitor and report carbon dioxide emissions annually, which may cause us to incur additional expenses.
The EU has adopted several regulations and directives requiring, among other things, more frequent inspections of high-risk ships, as determined by type, age and flag as well as the number of times the ship has been detained. The EU also adopted and extended a ban on substandard ships and enacted a minimum ban period and a definitive ban for repeated offenses. The regulation also provided the EU with greater authority and control over classification societies, by imposing more requirements on classification societies and providing for fines or penalty payments for organizations that failed to comply. Furthermore, the EU has implemented regulations requiring vessels to use reduced sulfur content fuel for their main and auxiliary engines. The EU Directive 2005/33/EC (amending Directive 1999/32/EC) introduced requirements parallel to those in Annex VI relating to the sulfur content of marine fuels. In addition, the EU imposed a 0.1% maximum sulfur requirement for fuel used by ships at berth in the Baltic, the North Sea and the English Channel (the so called "SOx-Emission Control Area"). As of January 2020, EU member states must also ensure that ships in all EU waters, except the SOx-Emission Control Area, use fuels with a 0.5% maximum sulfur content.
On September 15, 2020, the European Parliament voted to include greenhouse gas emissions from the maritime sector in the EU Emissions Trading system which has been in place since 2005. On July 14, 2021, the European Parliament formally laid down a proposal for the revision of the EU Emissions Trading Directive (ETS), as part of the Fit for 55 Package, which would involve gradually including the maritime sector in the ETS from 2023 and phasing the sector in over a three-year period. The final deal was reached in December 2022 and is the first of its kind to apply to the maritime sector. It is the first time that the polluter pays principle will apply to maritime. ETS will now apply to ships above 5000GT from 2024 on a phased basis. This means that ships that are in scope and which enter EU ports will have to report on 100% of their EU emissions and 50% of non-EU emissions. Furthermore, ships that are in scope will have to surrender 40% of their allowances for the year 2024 in 2025; 70% for the year 2026 in 2025; and 100% for the year 2026 in 2027. Whilst responsibility for compliance is placed on the “shipping company” (defined as the ship owner or the entity that contractually assumes responsibility for compliance with ETS), the agreed ETS also mandates member states to pass national laws which oblige charterers or commercial operators of the ships to reimburse the “shipping companies” pay for their share of pollution as part of the ETS costs clause. Enforcement and compliance will be on a company wide basis (as opposed to the EU MRV system where compliance is on a per ship basis). Member states will have until December 31, 2023, to introduce national legislation which give effect to ETS requirements for maritime. Another important initiative introduced under the Fit for 55 package is the FuelEU Maritime proposal which obliges ships above 500GT to gradually reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of energy used on board from 2025. A FuelEU Maritime Certificate of Compliance will have to be kept on board each ship from June 2025 onwards. This proposal is still being negotiated at the EU level and is therefore subject to change.
International Labour Organization
The International Labour Organization (the "ILO") is a specialized agency of the UN that has adopted the Maritime Labor Convention 2006 ("MLC 2006"). A Maritime Labor Certificate and a Declaration of Maritime Labor Compliance (Part I and Part II) are required to ensure compliance with the MLC 2006 for all ships that are 500 gross tonnage or over and are either engaged in international voyages or flying the flag of a Member and operating from a port, or between ports, in another country. We believe that all our vessels are in substantial compliance with and are certified to meet MLC 2006.
Greenhouse Gas Regulation
Currently, the emissions of greenhouse gases from international shipping are not subject to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which entered into force in 2005 and pursuant to which adopting countries have been required to implement national programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with targets extended through 2020. International negotiations are continuing with respect to a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, and restrictions on shipping emissions may be included in any new treaty. In December 2009, more than 27 nations, including the U.S. and China, signed the Copenhagen Accord, which includes a non-binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris resulted in the Paris Agreement, which entered into force on November 4, 2016 and does not directly limit greenhouse gas emissions from ships. The United States re-joined the Paris Agreement on February 19, 2021.
At MEPC 70 and MEPC 71, a draft outline of the structure of the initial strategy for developing a comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships was approved. In accordance with this roadmap, in April 2018, nations at the MEPC 72 adopted an initial strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships. The initial strategy identifies "levels of ambition" to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including (1) decreasing the carbon intensity from ships through implementation of further phases of the EEDI for new ships; (2) reducing carbon dioxide emissions per transport work, as an average across international shipping, by at least 40% by 2030, pursuing efforts towards 70% by 2050, compared to 2008 emission levels; and (3) reducing the total annual greenhouse emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 while pursuing efforts towards phasing them out entirely. The initial strategy notes that technological innovation, alternative fuels and/or energy sources for international shipping will be integral to achieve the overall ambition. These regulations could cause us to incur additional substantial expenses. At MEPC 77, the Member States agreed to initiate the revision of the Initial IMO Strategy on Reduction of GHG emissions from ships, recognizing the need to strengthen the ambition during the revision process. A final draft Revised IMO GHG Strategy would be considered by MEPC 80 (scheduled to meet in spring 2023), with a view to adoption.
The EU made a unilateral commitment to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from its member states from 20% of 1990 levels by 2020. The EU also committed to reduce its emissions by 20% under the Kyoto Protocol's second period from 2013 to 2020. Starting in January 2018, large ships over 5,000 gross tonnage calling at EU ports are required to collect and publish data on carbon dioxide emissions and other information. As previously discussed, regulations relating to the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions from the maritime sector in the EU's carbon market are also forthcoming.
In the United States, the EPA issued a finding that greenhouse gases endanger the public health and safety, adopted regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from certain mobile sources and proposed regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from large stationary sources. On November 2, 2021, the EPA issued a proposed rule under the CAA designed to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas sources. The proposed rule would reduce 41 million tons of methane emissions between 2023 and 2035 and cut methane emissions in the oil and gas sector by approximately 74 percent compared to emissions from this sector in 2005. In November 2022, the EPA issued a supplemental proposed rule to include additional methane reduction measures. The EPA intends to issue a final rule in 2023. If these new regulations are finalized, they could affect our operations.
Any passage of climate control legislation or other regulatory initiatives by the IMO, the EU, the U.S. or other countries where we operate, or any treaty adopted at the international level to succeed the Kyoto Protocol or Paris Agreement, that restricts emissions of greenhouse gases could require us to make significant financial expenditures which we cannot predict with certainty at this time. Even in the absence of climate control legislation, our business may be indirectly affected to the extent that climate change may result in sea level changes or certain weather events.
Vessel Security Regulations
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in the United States, there have been a variety of initiatives intended to enhance vessel security such as the U.S. Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 ("MTSA"). To implement certain portions of the MTSA, the USCG issued regulations requiring the implementation of certain security requirements aboard vessels operating in waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and at certain ports and facilities, some of which are regulated by the EPA.
Similarly, Chapter XI-2 of the SOLAS Convention imposes detailed security obligations on vessels and port authorities and mandates compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code ("the ISPS Code"). The ISPS Code is designed to enhance the security of ports and ships against terrorism. To trade internationally, a vessel must attain an International Ship Security Certificate ("ISSC") from a recognized security organization approved by the vessel's flag state. Ships operating without a valid certificate may be detained, expelled from, or refused entry at port until they obtain an ISSC. The various requirements, some of which are found in the SOLAS Convention, include, for example,
|·||on-board installation of automatic identification systems to provide a means for the automatic transmission of safety-related information from among similarly equipped ships and shore stations, including information on a ship's identity, position, course, speed and navigational status;|
|·||on-board installation of ship security alert systems, which do not sound on the vessel but only alert the authorities on shore;|
|·||the development of vessel security plans; and|
|·||ship identification number to be permanently marked on a vessel's hull.|
The USCG regulations, intended to align with international maritime security standards, exempt non-U.S. vessels from MTSA vessel security measures, provided such vessels have on board a valid ISSC that attests to the vessel's compliance with the SOLAS Convention security requirements and the ISPS Code. Future security measures could have a significant financial impact on us. We intend to comply with the various security measures addressed by MTSA, the SOLAS Convention and the ISPS Code. Procedures are outlined in the IT Systems and Cyber Security Manual included in our Company’s Management System while the Partnership holds a valid ISO 27001 certification as of February 11, 2020, for our in-house of IT services.
The cost of vessel security measures has also been affected by the escalation in the frequency of acts of piracy against ships, notably off the coast of Somalia, including the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea area. Substantial loss of revenue and other costs may be incurred as a result of detention of a vessel or additional security measures, and the risk of uninsured losses could significantly affect our business. Costs are incurred in taking additional security measures in accordance with Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy, notably those contained in the BMP5 industry standard.
Inspection by Classification Societies
The hull and machinery of every commercial vessel must be classed by a classification society authorized by its country of registry. The classification society certifies that a vessel is safe and seaworthy in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations of the country of registry of the vessel and SOLAS. Most insurance underwriters make it a condition for insurance coverage and lending that a vessel be certified "in class" by a classification society which is a member of the International Association of Classification Societies, the IACS. The IACS has adopted harmonized Common Structural Rules, or "the Rules," which apply to oil tankers and bulk carriers contracted for construction on or after July 1, 2015. The Rules attempt to create a level of consistency between IACS Societies. All of our vessels are certified as being "in class" by all the applicable Classification Societies (e.g., Lloyd's Register of Shipping and Bureau Veritas).
A vessel must undergo annual surveys, intermediate surveys, dry-dockings and special surveys. In lieu of a special survey, a vessel's machinery may be on a continuous survey cycle, under which the machinery would be surveyed periodically over a five-year period. Every vessel is also required to be drydocked every 30 to 36 months for inspection of the underwater parts of the vessel. If any vessel does not maintain its class and/or fails any annual survey, intermediate survey, drydocking or special survey, the vessel will be unable to carry cargo between ports and will be unemployable and uninsurable which could cause us to be in violation of certain covenants in our loan agreements. Any such inability to carry cargo or be employed, or any such violation of covenants, could have a material adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations.
Risk of Loss and Liability Insurance
The operation of any cargo vessel includes risks such as mechanical failure, physical damage, collision, property loss, cargo loss or damage and business interruption due to political circumstances in foreign countries, piracy incidents, hostilities and labor strikes. In addition, there is always an inherent possibility of marine disaster, including oil spills and other environmental mishaps, and the liabilities arising from owning and operating vessels in international trade. OPA, which imposes virtually unlimited liability upon shipowners, operators and bareboat charterers of any vessel trading in the exclusive economic zone of the United States for certain oil pollution accidents in the United States, has made liability insurance more expensive for shipowners and operators trading in the United States market. We carry insurance coverage as customary in the shipping industry. However, not all risks can be insured, specific claims may be rejected, and we might not be always able to obtain adequate insurance coverage at reasonable rates.
Hull and Machinery Insurance
We procure hull and machinery insurance, protection and indemnity insurance and war risk insurance and freight, demurrage and defense insurance for our fleet. The agreed deductible on each vessel averages $250,000 increased to $500,000 when trading outside Institute Warrantee Limits.
We have also obtained loss of hire insurance to protect us against loss of income in the event one of our vessels cannot be employed due to damage that is covered under the terms of our hull and machinery insurance. Under our loss of hire policies, our insurer will pay us the daily rate agreed in respect of each vessel for each day, in excess of a certain number of deductible days, for the time that the vessel is out of service as a result of damage, for a maximum of between 120 and 180 days. The number of deductible days for the vessels in our Fleet is 14 days per vessel increased to 30 days when trading outside Institute Warrantee Limits.
Protection and Indemnity Insurance
Protection and indemnity insurance is provided by mutual protection and indemnity associations, or "P&I Associations," and covers our third-party liabilities in connection with our shipping activities. This includes third-party liability and other related expenses of injury or death of crew, passengers and other third parties, loss or damage to cargo, claims arising from collisions with other vessels, damage to other third-party property, pollution arising from oil or other substances, and salvage, towing and other related costs, including wreck removal. Protection and indemnity insurance is a form of mutual indemnity insurance, extended by protection and indemnity mutual associations, or "clubs."
Our current protection and indemnity insurance coverage for pollution is $1 billion per vessel per incident. The 13 P&I Associations that comprise the International Group insure approximately 90% of the world's commercial tonnage and have entered into a pooling agreement to reinsure each association's liabilities. The International Group's website states that the Pool provides a mechanism for sharing all claims in excess of US$ 10 million up to, currently, approximately US$8.2 billion. As a member of a P&I Association, which is a member of the International Group, we are subject to calls payable to the associations based on our claim records as well as the claims records of all other members of the individual associations and members of the shipping pool of P&I Associations comprising the International Group. Information contained on this website does not constitute part of this annual report.
We were formed on May 30, 2013, as a Marshall Islands limited partnership for the purpose of owning, operating, and acquiring LNG carriers and other business activities incidental thereto. We own (i) a 100% limited partner interest in Dynagas Operating LP, which owns a 100% interest in our Fleet through intermediate holding companies and (ii) the non-economic general partner interest in Dynagas Operating LP through our 100% ownership of its general partner, Dynagas Operating GP LLC. We own our vessels through separate wholly-owned subsidiaries that are incorporated in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Republic of Malta.
Please see Exhibit 8.1 to this annual report for a list of our current subsidiaries.
|D.||PROPERTY, PLANT AND EQUIPMENT|
For a description of our Fleet, please see "Item 4. Information on the Partnership—B. Business Overview—Our Fleet."
We do not own any real property.
|ITEM 4A.||UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS|
|ITEM 5.||OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS|
The following management's discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with the accompanying audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes included in "Item 18. Financial Statements" of this annual report. Amounts relating to percentage variations in period-on-period comparisons shown in this section are derived from the actual numbers in our books and records. The following discussion contains forward-looking statements that reflect our future plans, estimates, beliefs and expected performance. The forward-looking statements are dependent upon events, risks and uncertainties that may be outside our control. Our actual results could differ materially from those discussed in these forward-looking statements. See "Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors" and the section entitled "Forward-Looking Statements" at the beginning of this annual report. In light of these risks, uncertainties and assumptions, the forward-looking events discussed may not occur.
Since our IPO in November 2013 we have been a growth-oriented limited partnership focused on owning and operating LNG carriers growing our fleet from three vessels at the time of our IPO to six vessels to date. However, as a result of the significant challenges facing the listed midstream energy MLP industry, our cost of equity capital remained elevated for a prolonged period, making the funding of new acquisitions challenging. As of the date of this annual report, all six vessels in our Fleet vessels are contracted to time charters, with international energy companies, including SEFE, Equinor and Yamal, providing us with the benefits of stable cash flows and high utilization rates. We believe that we are well regarded by our charterers for our expertise and history of safety in conducting our operations. We are now focusing our capital allocation on debt repayment, prioritizing balance sheet strength, in order to reposition the Partnership for potential future growth if our cost of capital allows us to access debt and equity capital on acceptable terms. As a result, if we are able to raise new debt or equity capital on terms acceptable to the Partnership in the future, we intend to leverage our reputation, expertise and relationships with our charterers, our Sponsor and our Manager in growing our core business and pursuing further business and growth opportunities in the transportation of energy or other energy-related projects, including floating storage regasification units, LNG infrastructure projects, maintaining cost-efficient operations and providing reliable seaborne transportation services to our current and prospective charterers. In addition, as opportunities arise, we may acquire additional vessels from our Sponsor and from third-parties and/or engage in investment opportunities incidental to the LNG or energy industry. In connection with such plans for growth, we may enter into additional financing arrangements, refinance existing arrangements or arrangements that our Sponsor, its affiliates, or such third party sellers may have in place for vessels and businesses that we may acquire, and, subject to favorable market conditions, we may raise capital in the public or private markets, including through incurring additional debt, debt or equity offerings of our securities or in other transactions. However, we cannot assure you that we will grow or maintain the size of our Fleet or that we will continue to pay the per unit distributions in the amounts that we have paid in the past or at all or that we will be able to execute our future plans for growth.
Historically spot and short-term charter hire rates for LNG carriers have been uncertain and volatile, as has the supply and demand for LNG carriers. An excess of LNG carriers first became evident in 2004 before reaching a peak in the second quarter of 2010, when spot and short-term charter hire rates together with utilization reached historic lows. Due to a lack of newbuilding orders placed between 2008 and 2010, this trend then reversed from the third quarter of 2010, such that the demand for LNG shipping was not being met by available supply in 2011 and the first half of 2012. Spot and short-medium term charter hire rates together with fleet utilization reached historic highs as a result. What turned the tide for LNG shipping demand from the second quarter of 2011 was the unprecedented rise in Japanese LNG demand following the Fukushima nuclear leak.
Charter rates for LNG vessels started declining from 2013 as the supply increased more than the increase in demand. Global liquefaction capacity grew marginally with only Angola LNG plant becoming operational in 2013. The trend continued in 2014 to 2017 as additional tonnage negated the effect of new liquefaction plants coming online. The impact of excess vessel supply caused by the delivery of 28, 27, 28 and 24 vessels in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively showed on spot rates, which fell sharply. Low crude oil prices intensified the challenges in the LNG shipping market as it delayed the completion of liquefaction projects. Moreover, demand from traditional Asian buyers such as Japan and South Korea remained flat due to a weaker macroeconomic environment and greater preference for coal in power production, and in the case of Japan a switch back to nuclear power. Towards the end of 2017, a surge in the Chinese LNG imports, due to a switch from coal to gas for heating purposes, helped the LNG freight rates recover sharply. In 2018, average spot LNG charter rates were more than double of 2017 mainly driven by the vessel shortage as Asian LNG imports surged. Spot charter rates declined in 2019 on account of decline in Chinese LNG import growth rate, higher LNG inventory levels in Europe and Asia and mild winter. Spot LNG shipping rates declined in 2020 as COVID-19 adversely impacted global LNG trade. Many U.S. LNG cargos were cancelled due to weak Asian LNG demand. However, spot LNG shipping rates increased from November on account of the cold snap in Asia, congestion in the Panama Canal, and availability of fewer LNG ships in the spot market. High Asian LNG demand supported spot LNG shipping rates in 2021. LNG shipping spot rates increased in 2022 mainly driven by higher European LNG imports as Europe switched towards LNG to transition its reliance on Russian gas.
The following table presents our selected historical consolidated financial and operational data as of and for each of the years in the five-year period ended December 31, 2022. The following financial data should be read in conjunction with the information presented in this item below. Our selected historical consolidated financial data have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles ("U.S. GAAP"). Our selected historical consolidated financial information as of December 31, 2022 and 2021, and for the years ended December 31, 2022, 2021 and 2020 is derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included in "Item 18. Financial Statements" herein. Our selected historical consolidated financial information as of December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018 and for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements that are not included in this annual report.
|Year Ended December 31,|
|STATEMENT OF INCOME||(In thousands of Dollars, except for units, per unit data and TCE rates)|
|Voyage expenses- including related party (1)||(2,960)||(2,657)||(2,994)||(2,709)||(2,802)|
|Vessel operating expenses||(29,773)||(29,640)||(28,830)||(28,351)||(25,042)|
|General and administrative expenses- including related party||(2,787)||(3,105)||(2,528)||(2,708)||(2,209)|
|Dry-docking and special survey costs||(12,791)||-||-||-||(7,422)|
|Interest and finance costs||(27,911)||(21,420)||(27,058)||(58,591)||(50,490)|
|Gain/ Loss on Derivative Financial Instruments||33,655||10,104||(3,148)||-||-|
|Other income/ (loss), net||28||(35)||(227)||(43)||(69)|
|Gain on Debt extinguishment||2,072||-||-||-||-|
|EARNINGS/(LOSS) PER UNIT (2) (basic and diluted):|
|Common Unit (basic and diluted)||$||1.15||$||1.14||$||0.63||$||(0.22)||$||(0.11)|
|Weighted average number of units outstanding (basic and diluted):|
|Cash distributions declared and paid per common unit||$||-||$||-||$||-||$||0.13||$||1.17|
|Year Ended December 31,|
|BALANCE SHEET DATA:||(In thousands of Dollars, except for units, per unit data and TCE rates)|
|Total current assets||$||74,221||$||51,167||$||27,120||$||18,172||$||112,963|
|Total current liabilities||70,270||64,928||62,845||64,635||272,742|
|Total long-term debt, including current portion, gross of deferred financing fees||499,912||567,000||615,000||663,000||722,800|
|Total partners' equity||423,931||381,484||336,493||313,707||326,485|
|CASH FLOW DATA:|
|Net cash provided by operating activities||$||57,324||$||79,591||$||68,603||$||43,177||$||42,994|
|Net cash used in investing activities||(3,635)||-||-||-||(409)|
|Net cash used in financing activities*||(70,836)||(57,555)||(59,830||)||(86,888||)||(132)|
|FLEET PERFORMANCE DATA:|
|Number of vessels at the end of the year||6||6||6||6||6|
|Average number of vessels in operation (3)||6.0||6.0||6.0||6.0||6.0|
|Average age of vessels in operation at end of year (years)||12.4||11.4||10.4||9.4||8.4|
|Available Days (4)||2,087.2||2,190.0||2,196.0||2,190.0||2,144.7|
|Fleet utilization (5)||100%||100%||99.8%||98.5%||100%|
|OTHER FINANCIAL DATA:|
|Time Charter Equivalent (in US dollars) (6)||$||61,660||$||61,684||$||61,098||$||58,535||$||57,972|
|Adjusted EBITDA (6)||$||89,503||$||97,009||$||96,451||$||90,357||$||96,094|
|(1)||Voyage expenses include mainly commissions of 1.25% paid to our Manager.|
|(2)||In July 2020 and as amended and restated in August 2020, we entered into an ATM Sales Agreement for the offer and sale of common units representing limited partnership interests, having an aggregate offering price of up to $30.0 million. In August 2020, we terminated the above-mentioned ATM Sales Agreement and entered into an amended and restated ATM Sales Agreement (the “A&R Sales Agreement”), for the offer and sale of common units representing limited partnership interests, having an aggregate offering price of up to $30.0 million. For more information on our current "at-the-market" offering program, please see "Item 4. Information on The Partnership —A. History and Development of The Partnership."|
|(3)||Represents the number of vessels that constituted our Fleet for the relevant year, as measured by the sum of the number of days each vessel was a part of our Fleet during the period divided by the number of calendar days in the period.|
|(4)||Available Days are the total number of calendar days that our vessels were in our possession during a period, less the total number of scheduled off-hire days during the period associated with major repairs, or dry-dockings.|
|(5)||We calculate fleet utilization by dividing the number of our revenue earning days, which are the total number of Available Days of our vessels net of unscheduled off-hire days, during a period, by the number of our Available Days during that period. The shipping industry uses fleet utilization to measure a company's efficiency in finding employment for its vessels and minimizing the amount of days that its vessels are off hire for reasons other than scheduled off-hires for vessel upgrades, dry-dockings or special or intermediate surveys.|
|(6)||Non-GAAP Financial Information|
TCE rate. Time charter equivalent rates, or TCE rates, are measures of the average daily revenue performance of a vessel. For time charters, this is calculated by dividing total voyage revenues, less any voyage expenses, by the number of Available Days during that period. Under a time charter, the charterer pays substantially all the vessel voyage related expenses. However, we may or will likely incur voyage related expenses when positioning or repositioning vessels before or after the period of a time charter, during periods of commercial waiting time or while off-hire during dry-docking or due to other unforeseen circumstances. The TCE rate is not a measure of financial performance under U.S. GAAP (non-GAAP measure), and should not be considered as an alternative to voyage revenues, the most directly comparable GAAP measure, or any other measure of financial performance presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP. However, TCE rates are a standard shipping industry performance measure used primarily to compare period-to-period changes in a company's performance and to assist our management in making decisions regarding the deployment and use of our vessels and in evaluating their financial performance. Our calculations of TCE rates may not be comparable to those reported by other companies. The following table reflects the calculation of our TCE revenues for the periods presented, which are expressed in thousands of U.S. dollars) and TCE rates, which are expressed in U.S. dollars and Available Days):
|Year Ended December 31,|
|(In thousands of Dollars, except for TCE rate data)||2022||2021||2020||2019||2018|
|Voyage expenses - including related party||$||(2,960)||$||(2,657)||$||(2,994||)||$||(2,709)||$||(2,802)|
|Time charter equivalent revenues||$||128,697||$||135,089||$||134,171||$||128,192||$||124,333|
|Total Available Days||2,087.2||2,190.0||2,196.0||2,190.0||2,144.7|
|Time charter equivalent (TCE) rate||$||61,660||$||61,684||$||61,098||$||58,535||$||57,972|
ADJUSTED EBITDA. We define Adjusted EBITDA as earnings before interest and finance costs, net of interest income, gains/losses on derivative financial instruments (if any), taxes (when incurred), depreciation and amortization, class survey costs and significant non-recurring items. Adjusted EBITDA is used as a supplemental financial measure by management and external users of financial statements, such as investors, to assess our operating performance. We believe that Adjusted EBITDA assists our management and investors by providing useful information that increases the comparability of our operating performance from period to period and against the operating performance of other companies in our industry that provide Adjusted EBITDA information. This increased comparability is achieved by excluding the potentially disparate effects between periods or companies of interest, other financial items, depreciation and amortization and taxes, which items are affected by various and possibly changing financing methods, capital structure and historical cost basis and which items may significantly affect net income between periods. We believe that including Adjusted EBITDA as a measure of operating performance benefits investors in (a) selecting between investing in us and other investment alternatives, (b) monitoring our ongoing financial and operational strength, and (c) in assessing whether to continue to hold common units.
Adjusted EBITDA is not a measure of financial performance under U.S. GAAP, does not represent and should not be considered as an alternative to net income, operating income, cash flow from operating activities or any other measure of financial performance presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP. Adjusted EBITDA excludes some, but not all, items that affect net income and these measures may vary among other companies. Therefore, Adjusted EBITDA as presented below may not be comparable to similarly titled measures of other companies. The following table reconciles Adjusted EBITDA to net income, the most directly comparable U.S. GAAP financial measure, for the periods presented:
Reconciliation of Net Income to Adjusted EBITDA
|(In thousands of U.S. dollars)||2022||2021||2020||2019||2018|
|Reconciliation to Net Income|
|Net interest and finance costs (1)||(6,573)||11,316||29,985||56,260||49,439|
|Gain on Debt Extinguishment||(2,072)||-||-||-||-|
|Dry- docking and special survey costs||12,791||-||-||7,422|
|Amortization of fair value of acquired time charter||-||-||-||-||5,267|
|Amortization of deferred revenue||(675)||222||400||(377)||(45)|
|Amortization of deferred charges||216||501||217||181||68|
(1) Includes interest and finance costs, net of interest income, and (gain)/ loss on derivative instruments, if any.
Principal Factors Affecting Our Results of Operations
The principal factors which have affected our results and are expected to affect our future results of operations and financial position, include:
|·||Ownership days. The number of vessels in our Fleet is a key factor in determining the level of our revenues. Aggregate expenses also increase as the size of our Fleet increases;|
|·||Charter rates. Our revenue is dependent on the charter rates we are able to obtain on our vessels. Charter rates on our vessels are based primarily on demand for and supply of LNG carrier capacity at the time we enter into the charters for our vessels, which is influenced by LNG market trends, such as the demand and supply for natural gas and in particular LNG as well as the supply of LNG carriers available for profitable employment. The charter rates we obtain are also dependent on whether we employ our vessels under multi-year charters or charters with initial terms of less than two years. As of the date of this annual report, all the vessels in our Fleet are employed under multi-year time charters with staggered maturities, which will make us less susceptible to cyclical fluctuations in charter rates than vessels operated on charters of less than two years. However, we will be exposed to fluctuations in prevailing charter rates when we seek to re-charter our vessels upon the expiry of their respective current charters and when we seek to charter vessels that we may acquire in the future;|
|·||Utilization of our Fleet. Historically, our Fleet has had a limited number of unscheduled off-hire days. However, an increase in annual off-hire days would reduce our utilization. The efficiency with which suitable employment is secured, the ability to minimize off-hire days and the amount of time spent positioning vessels also affects our results of operations. If the utilization of our Fleet is reduced, our financial results would be affected;|
|·||Operating expenses. The level of our vessel operating expenses, including crewing costs, insurance and maintenance costs. Our ability to control our vessel operating expenses also affects our financial results. These expenses include crew wages and related costs, the cost of insurance, expenses for repairs and maintenance, the cost of spares and consumable stores, lubricating oil costs, tonnage taxes and other miscellaneous expenses. In addition, factors beyond our control, such as developments relating to market premiums for insurance and the value of the U.S. dollar compared to currencies in which certain of our expenses, primarily vessels’ dry-docking and maintenance costs, are paid, can cause our vessel operating expenses to increase;|
|·||The timely delivery of the vessels we may acquire in the future;|
|·||Our ability to maintain solid working relationships with our existing charterers and our ability to increase the number of our charterers through the development of new working relationships;|
|·||The performance of our charterer's obligations under their charter agreements;|
|·||The effective and efficient technical management of the vessels under our Master Agreement;|
|·||Our ability to obtain acceptable debt financing to fund our capital commitments;|
|·||The supply and demand relationship for LNG shipping services;|
|·||Our ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approvals and to satisfy technical, health, safety and compliance standards that meet our charterer's requirements;|
|·||Economic, regulatory, political and governmental conditions that affect shipping and the LNG industry, which includes changes in the number of new LNG importing countries and regions, as well as structural LNG market changes impacting LNG supply that may allow greater flexibility and competition of other energy sources with global LNG use;|
|·||Our ability to successfully employ our vessels at economically attractive rates, as our charters expire or are otherwise terminated;|
|·||Our access to capital required to acquire additional ships and/or to implement our business strategy;|
|·||Our level of debt, the related interest expense, our debt amortizations levels and the timing of required principal installments;|
|·||The level of our general and administrative expenses, including salaries and costs of consultants;|
|·||Our charterer's right for early termination of the charters under certain circumstances;|
|·||Performance of our counterparties, which are limited in number, including our charterer's ability to make charter payments to us; and|
|·||The level of any distribution on all classes of our units.|
The following table illustrates our ownership days, Available Days, Revenue Earning Days, Time Charter Equivalent (or TCE) rate, daily operating expenses and Fleet Utilization for the periods presented:
|Year Ended December 31,|
|(expressed in United states dollars except for operational data)||2022||2021||2020|
|Ownership days (4)||2,190.0||2,190.0||2,196.0|
|Available Days (1)||2,087.2||2,190.0||2,196.0|
|Revenue Earning Days (2)||2,087.2||2,190.0||2,190.7|
|Time Charter Equivalent (1)||$||61,660||$||61,684||$||61,098|
|Daily operating expenses (3)||$||13,595||$||13,534||$||13,128|
|Fleet Utilization (1)||100.0%||100.0%||99.8%|
|(1)||For these definitions see above.|
|(2)||Revenue Earning Days are the total number of Available Days of our vessels net of unscheduled off-hire days, during a period.|
|(3)||Daily vessel operating expenses, which include crew costs, provisions, deck and engine stores, lubricating oil, insurance, spares and repairs and flag taxes, are calculated by dividing vessel operating expenses by fleet Ownership Days for the relevant time period.|
|(4)||Ownership days are the total days that the Partnership possessed the vessels in its fleet for the relevant period.|
See "Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors" for a discussion of certain risks inherent in our business.
Important Financial and Operational Terms and Concepts
We use a variety of financial and operational terms and concepts when analyzing our performance. These include the following:
Voyage Revenues. Our time charter revenues are driven primarily by the number of vessels in our Fleet, the amount of daily charter hire that our LNG carriers earn under time charters and the number of Revenue Earning Days during which our vessels generate revenues. These factors are, in turn, affected by our decisions relating to vessel acquisitions, the amount of time that our LNG carriers spend dry-docked undergoing repairs, maintenance and upgrade work, the age, condition and specifications of our vessels and the levels of supply and demand in the LNG carrier charter market. Our revenues will also be affected if any of our charterers cancel a time charter or if we agree to renegotiate charter terms during the term of a charter resulting in aggregate revenue reduction. Our time charter arrangements have been contracted in varying rate environments and expire at different times. We recognize revenues from time charters over the term of the charter as the applicable vessel operates under the charter. Under time charters, revenue is not recognized during days a vessel is off-hire. Revenue is recognized from delivery of the vessel to the charterer, until the end of the time charter period. Under time charters, we are responsible for providing the crewing and other services related to the vessel's operations, the cost of which is included in the daily hire rate, except when off-hire.
Off-hire (Including Commercial Waiting Time). When a vessel is "off-hire"—or not available for service—the charterer generally is not required to pay the time charter hire rate and we are responsible for all costs. Prolonged off-hire may lead to vessel substitution or termination of a time charter. Our vessels may be out of service, that is, off-hire, for several reasons: scheduled dry-docking, special survey, vessel upgrade or maintenance or inspection, which we refer to as scheduled off-hire; days spent waiting or positioning for a charter, which we refer to as commercial waiting time; and unscheduled repairs, maintenance, operational efficiencies, equipment breakdown, accidents, crewing strikes, certain vessel detentions or similar problems, or our failure to maintain the vessel in compliance with its specifications and contractual standards or to provide the required crew, which we refer to as unscheduled off-hire. We have obtained loss of hire insurance to protect us against loss of income in the event one of our vessels cannot be employed due to damage that is covered under the terms of our hull and machinery insurance. Under our loss of hire policies, our insurer generally will pay us the hire rate agreed in respect of each vessel for each day in excess of 14 days (increased to 30 days while navigating outside Institute Warrantee Limits) and with a maximum period of between 120 and 180 days.
Voyage Expenses. Voyage expenses primarily include port and canal charges, bunker (fuel) expenses and agency fees which are paid for by the charterer under our time charter arrangements or by us during periods of off-hire except for commissions, which are always paid for by us. We may incur voyage related expenses when positioning or repositioning vessels before or after the period of a time charter, during periods of commercial waiting time or while off-hire during a period of dry-docking. Voyage expenses can be higher when vessels trade on charters with initial terms of less than two years due to fuel consumption during idling, cool down requirements, commercial waiting time in between charters and positioning and repositioning costs. From time to time, in accordance with industry practice, we pay commissions ranging up to 1.25% of the total daily charter rate under the charters to unaffiliated ship brokers, depending on the number of brokers involved with arranging the charter. These commissions do not include the fees we pay to our Manager, which are described below under "—Management Fees."
Available Days. Available Days are the total number of ownership days our vessels were in our possession during a period, less the total number of scheduled off-hire days during the period associated with major repairs, or dry-dockings.
Average Number of Vessels. Average number of vessels is the number of vessels that constituted our Fleet for the relevant period, as measured by the sum of the number of days each vessel was a part of our Fleet during the period divided by the number of ownership days in the period.
Fleet utilization. We calculate fleet utilization by dividing the number of our Revenue Earning Days by the number of our Available Days during that period. The shipping industry uses fleet utilization to measure a company's efficiency in finding employment for its vessels and minimizing the amount of days that its vessels are off-hire for reasons such as unscheduled repairs but excluding scheduled off-hires for vessel upgrades, dry-dockings or special or intermediate surveys.
Vessel Operating Expenses. Vessel operating expenses include crew wages and related costs, the cost of insurance, expenses for repairs and maintenance, the cost of spares and consumable stores, lubricant costs, statutory and classification expenses, forwarding and communications expenses and other miscellaneous expenses.
Vessel operating expenses are paid by the shipowner under time charters and are recognized as expenses when incurred. We expect that vessel operating expenses will increase as our vessels age. Factors beyond our control, some of which may affect the shipping industry in general—for instance, developments relating to market premiums for insurance, industry and regulatory requirements and changes in the market price of lubricants due to increases in oil prices—may also cause vessel operating expenses to increase.
Dry-docking. We must periodically dry-dock each of our vessels for inspection, repairs and maintenance and any modifications required to comply with industry certification or governmental requirements. In accordance with industry certification requirements, we mandatorily dry-dock our vessels every 60 months until the vessel is 15 years old. If a vessel is less than 15 years old, an "in water survey in lieu of dry-dock" can take place in between the two special surveys, which statutorily must occur every five years. For vessels that are 15 years or older, dry-docking takes place every 30 months as required for the renewal of certifications required by classification societies, or, subject to special considerations, an "in water survey in lieu of dry-dock" can take place between the two special surveys. Special survey and dry-docking costs (consisting of direct costs, including shipyard costs, paints and class renewal expense, and peripheral costs, including spare parts, service engineer attendance) are expensed as incurred. The number of dry-dockings undertaken in a given period and the nature of the work performed determine the level of dry-docking expenditures. We expense costs related to routine repairs and maintenance performed during dry-docking or as otherwise incurred. We expect that dry-docking and special survey costs will increase as our vessels age. The three steam turbine vessels in our Fleet completed their most recent scheduled special survey and dry-docking repairs, as well as the installation of the BWTS in 2022. Our three TDFE propulsion system vessels are scheduled to be dry-docked and have their BWTS installed within 2023. The latest scheduled special survey and dry-docking repairs for the three TDFE propulsion system vessels in our Fleet occurred in 2018.
Depreciation. We depreciate our LNG carriers on a straight-line basis over their remaining useful economic lives. Depreciation is based on the cost of the vessel less its estimated salvage value. We estimate the useful life of the LNG carriers in our Fleet to be 35 years from their initial delivery from the shipyard, consistent with LNG industry practice. Vessel residual value is estimated based on historical market trends and represents Management's best estimate of the current selling price assuming the vessels are already of age and condition expected at the end of its useful life. The assumptions made reflect our experience, market conditions and the current practice in the LNG industry; however, they required more discretion since there is a lack of historical references in scrap prices of similar types of vessels.
Interest and Finance Costs. We incur interest expense on outstanding indebtedness under our existing debt agreements which we include in interest and finance costs. Interest expense depends on our overall level of borrowings and may significantly increase when we acquire or refinance ships. Interest expense may also change with prevailing interest rates, although interest rate swaps or other derivative instruments may reduce the effect of these changes. We also incur financing and legal costs in connection with establishing debt agreements, which are deferred and amortized to interest and finance costs using the effective interest method. We will incur additional interest expense in the future on our outstanding borrowings and under future borrowings. For a description of our existing credit facilities, please see "—B. Liquidity and Capital Resources—Our Borrowing Activities."
Vessel Lives and Impairment. Vessels are reviewed for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of an asset may not be recoverable. If circumstances require a long-lived asset or asset group to be tested for possible impairment, we first compare the undiscounted cash flows expected to be generated by that asset or asset group to its carrying value. If the carrying value of the long-lived asset is not recoverable on an undiscounted cash flow basis, impairment is recognized to the extent that the carrying value exceeds its fair value. Fair value is determined through various valuation techniques including discounted cash flow models, quoted market values and third-party independent appraisals as considered necessary. Since our inception, no impairment loss was recorded in any of our Fleet Vessels.
Hull and Machinery Insurance. We have obtained hull and machinery insurance on all our vessels to insure against marine and war risks, which include the risks of damage to our vessels, salvage and towing costs, and also insures against actual or constructive total loss of any of our vessels. However, our insurance policies contain deductible amounts for which we will be responsible. We have also arranged additional total loss coverage for each vessel. This coverage, which is called disbursements increased value coverage, provides us additional coverage in the event of the total loss or the constructive total loss of a vessel. The agreed deductible on each vessel averages $250,000 increased to $500,000 when trading outside Institute Warrantee Limits.
Loss of Hire Insurance. We have obtained loss of hire insurance to protect us against loss of income in the event one of our vessels cannot be employed due to damage that is covered under the terms of our hull and machinery insurance. Under our loss of hire policies, our insurer will pay us the hire rate agreed in respect of each vessel for each day, in excess of a certain number of deductible days, for the time that the vessel is out of service as a result of damage, for a maximum of between 120 and 180 days. The number of deductible days for the vessels in our Fleet is 14 days per vessel increased to 30 days when trading outside Institute Warrantee Limits.
Protection and Indemnity Insurance. Protection and indemnity insurance, which covers our third-party legal liabilities in connection with our shipping activities, is provided by a mutual protection and indemnity association, or P&I club. This includes third-party liability and other expenses related to the injury or death of crew members, passengers and other third-party persons, loss or damage to cargo, claims arising from collisions with other vessels or from contact with jetties or wharves and other damage to other third-party property, including pollution arising from oil or other substances, and other related costs, including wreck removal. Our current protection and indemnity insurance coverage is unlimited, except for pollution, which is limited to $1 billion per vessel per incident.
Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
The discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations is based upon our consolidated financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP. The preparation of our financial statements requires us to make estimates and judgments in the application of our accounting policies that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, revenues and expenses and related disclosure at the date of our consolidated financial statements. Because future events and their effects cannot be determined with certainty, actual results could differ from our assumptions and estimates, and such differences could be material. Actual results may differ from these estimates under different assumptions and conditions.
Critical accounting policies are those that reflect significant judgments of uncertainties and potentially result in materially different results under different assumptions and conditions. For a description of all our significant accounting policies, see Note 2 to our consolidated financial statements included under "Item 18. Financial Statements" of this annual report.
Voyage Revenues and related expenses
Revenues are generated from time charter agreements, which contain a lease as they meet the criteria of a lease under ASC 842. Certain of our time charters provide for variable lease payments, charterers' option to extend the lease terms, termination clauses and charterers' option to purchase the underlying assets. Each lease term is assessed at the inception of such lease. Under our time charter agreements, the charterer pays a specified daily charter hire rate for the use of the vessel. Additionally, we pay for the operation and the maintenance of the vessel, including crew, insurance, spares and repairs, which are recognized in operating expenses.
We, as lessor, have elected not to allocate the consideration in the agreement to the separate lease and non-lease components (operation and maintenance of the vessel) as their timing and pattern of transfer to the charterer, as the lessee, are the same and the lease component, if accounted for separately, would be classified as an operating lease. Additionally, the lease component is considered the predominant component as we have assessed that more value is ascribed to the vessel rather than to the services provided under our time charter agreements.
Our voyage revenues are recognized on a straight-line basis at the average minimum lease revenue over the rental periods of such charter agreements, as service is performed. Revenues generated from variable lease payments are recognized in the period when changes in facts and circumstances on which the variable lease payments are based occur.
Apart from the agreed hire rate, we may be entitled to an additional income, such as ballast bonus, which is considered as reimbursement of our expenses and is recognized together with the lease component over the duration of the charter. We have made an accounting policy election to recognize the related ballast costs, which mainly consisting of bunkers, incurred over the period between the charter party date or the prior redelivery date (whichever is latest) and the delivery date to the charterer, as contract fulfilment costs in accordance with ASC 340-40 and amortized over the charter period. Voyage expenses, primarily consist of commissions which are paid by us as well as port, canal and bunker expenses that are unique to a particular charter and which are paid by the charterer under the time charter arrangements or by us during periods o