20-F 1 ef20015371_20f.htm 20-F

UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, DC 20549

FORM 20-F

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

OR

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2023

OR

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

OR

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

Date of event requiring this shell company report: Not applicable

For the transition period from ___________________________ to ___________________________

Commission file number 001-13944

NORDIC AMERICAN TANKERS LIMITED
 
 
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
 
 
(Translation of Registrant’s name into English)
 
 
BERMUDA
 
 
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
 
 
Swan Building
 
 
26 Victoria Street
 
 
Hamilton HM 12
 
 
Bermuda
 
 
(Address of principal executive offices)
 
 
Herbjorn Hansson, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer,
Tel No. 1 (441) 292-7202,
Swan Building, 26 Victoria StreetHamilton HM 12, Bermuda
 
 
(Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile number and
Address of Company Contact Person)
 
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
 
         
 
Title of each class
Trading Symbol(s)
Name of each exchange on which registered
 
 
Common Shares, $0.01 par value
NAT
New York Stock Exchange
 
 
Series A Participating Preferred Shares
 
New York Stock Exchange
 


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:

As of December 31, 2023, there were outstanding 208,796,444 common shares of the Registrant, $0.01 par value per share.

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

Yes
☐ No

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

Yes
 No

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

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

 Yes
No

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

 Yes
No

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or an emerging growth company. See definition of “large accelerated filer”, “accelerated filer,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

Large accelerated filer
Accelerated filer
Non-accelerated filer
Emerging Growth Company

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

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

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



If securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act, indicate by check mark whether the financial statements of the registrant included in the filing reflect the correction of an error to previously issued financial statements.
Indicate by check mark whether any of those error corrections are restatements that required a recovery analysis of incentive-based compensation received by any of the registrant’s executive officers during the relevant recovery period pursuant to §240.10D-1(b).  
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the Registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:

            U.S. GAAP
            International Financial Reporting Standards as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board
☐            Other

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

            Item 17
            Item 18

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

Yes
No
 
 (APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)

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

Yes
No



TABLE OF CONTENTS

PART I

Page
ITEM 1.
1
ITEM 2.
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ITEM 3.
1

A.
1

B. 1

C.
1

D.
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ITEM 4.
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A.
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B.
34

C.
51

D.
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ITEM 4A.
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ITEM 5.
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B.
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C.
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D.
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E.
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ITEM 6.
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B.
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C.
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D.
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E.
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F.
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ITEM 7.
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B.
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C.
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ITEM 8.
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B.
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ITEM 9.
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ITEM 10.
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B.
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C.
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D.
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E.
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F.
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G.
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H.
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I.
79

J.
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ITEM 11.
80
ITEM 12.
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PART II

   
ITEM 13.
80

i

TABLE OF CONTENTS
(continued)

    Page
ITEM 14.
80
ITEM 15.
81

A.
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B.
81

C.
81

D.
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ITEM 16.
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ITEM 16A.
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ITEM 16B.
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ITEM 16C.
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A.
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B.
AUDIT-RELATED FEES 82

C.
82

D.
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E.
82

F.
83
ITEM 16D.
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ITEM 16E.
83
ITEM 16F.
83
ITEM 16G.
83
ITEM 16H.
83
ITEM 16I.   
DISCLOSURE REGARDING FOREIGN JURISDICTIONS THAT PREVENT INSPECTIONS 83
ITEM 16J.   
INSIDER TRADING POLICIES 83
ITEM 16K.  
CYBERSECURITY 84
PART III

 
ITEM 17.
84
ITEM 18.
84
ITEM 19.
85

CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
 
Certain matters discussed herein may constitute forward-looking statements. The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provides safe harbor protections for forward-looking statements in order to encourage companies to provide prospective information about their business. Forward-looking statements include statements concerning plans, objectives, goals, strategies, future events or performance, and underlying assumptions and other statements, which are other than statements of historical facts.
 
The Company desires to take advantage of the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and is 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, and are not intended to give any assurance as to future results. When used in this document, the words “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “estimate,” “intend,” “plan,” “target,” “project,” “likely,” “will,” “would,” “may,” “seek,” “continue,” “possible,” “might,” “forecast,” “potential,” “should,” “could” and similar expressions, terms, or phrases may identify forward-looking statements.
 
The forward-looking statements are based upon various assumptions, many of which are based, in turn, upon further assumptions, including without limitation, our management’s examination of historical operating trends, data contained in our records and other data available from third parties. Although we believe that these assumptions were reasonable when made, because these assumptions are inherently subject to significant uncertainties and contingencies which are difficult or impossible to predict and are beyond our control, we cannot assure you that we will achieve or accomplish these expectations, beliefs or projections. We undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
 
Important factors that, in our view, could cause actual results to differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements include the strength of world economies and currencies, general market conditions, including fluctuations in charter rates and vessel values, changes in demand in the tanker market, as a result of changes in the petroleum production levels set by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (“OPEC”), and worldwide oil consumption and storage, changes in our operating expenses, including bunker prices, drydocking and insurance costs, the market for our vessels, availability of financing and refinancing, changes in governmental rules and regulations or actions taken by regulatory authorities, potential liability from pending or future litigation and potential costs due to environmental damage and vessel collisions, general domestic and international political conditions or events including “trade wars”, potential disruption of shipping routes due to accidents or political events, severe weather conditions, natural disasters, the length and severity of future epidemics and pandemics and their impact on the demand for seaborne transportation in the tanker sector, vessel breakdowns and instances of off-hire, failure on the part of a seller to complete a sale of a vessel to us and other important factors described from time to time in the reports filed by the Company with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC.
 
PART I
 
ITEM 1.
IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
 
Not applicable
 
ITEM 2.
OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
 
Not applicable
 
ITEM 3.
KEY INFORMATION
 
Throughout this annual report, all references to “Nordic American Tankers,” “NAT,” the “Company,” “the Group,” “we,” “our,” and “us” refer to Nordic American Tankers Limited and its subsidiaries. Unless otherwise indicated, all references to “U.S. dollars,” “USD,” “dollars,” “US$” and “$” in this annual report are to the lawful currency of the United States of America and references to “Norwegian Kroner” or “NOK” are to the lawful currency of Norway.
 
Nordic American Tankers Ltd. is very different from other stock listed tanker companies. No other company has the strategy of NAT. Please see item 4. A. for the NAT overall strategy.
 
A.
[Reserved]
 
B.
Capitalization and Indebtedness
 
Not applicable.
 
C.
Reasons for the offer and use of Proceeds
 
Not applicable.
 
D.
Risk Factors
 
The following constitutes a summary of the material risks relevant to an investment in our company. The occurrence of any of the events described in this section could significantly and negatively affect our business, financial condition, operating results or cash available for dividends or the trading price of our common stock.
 
Summary of Risk Factors
 

If the Suezmax tanker industry, which historically has been cyclical and volatile, is depressed in the future, our revenues, earnings and available cash flow may decrease.

We are dependent on spot charters and any decrease in spot charter rates in the future may adversely affect our earnings, our ability to pay dividends and our ability to repay our financial liabilities.

Changes in the price of fuel and regulations may adversely affect our profits.

Inability to renew the fleet would adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and ability to pay dividends.

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

Our results of operations are subject to seasonal fluctuations, which may adversely affect our financial condition.

A shift in consumer demand from oil towards other energy sources or changes to trade patterns for crude oil or refined oil products may have a material adverse effect on our business.


The value of our vessels may be depressed at the time we decide to sell a vessel.

An over-supply of Suezmax tanker capacity may lead to reductions in charter rates, vessel values, and profitability.

Delays or defaults by the shipyards in the construction of newbuildings could increase our expenses and diminish our net income and cash flows.

Terrorist attacks and international hostilities and instability can affect the tanker industry, which could adversely affect our business.

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

If we do not manage relationships with customers or successfully integrate any acquired Suezmax tankers, we may not be able to grow or effectively manage our growth.

Because some of our expenses are incurred in foreign currencies, we are exposed to exchange rate fluctuations, which could negatively affect our results of operations.

The operation of Suezmax tankers involves certain unique operational risks.

We operate our Suezmax tankers worldwide and as a result, our vessels are exposed to international risks which may reduce revenue or increase expenses.

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

Failure to comply with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act could result in fines, criminal penalties and an adverse effect on our business.

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

Maritime claimants could arrest one or more of our vessels, which could interrupt our cash flow.

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

If we purchase secondhand vessels, we may not receive warranties from the builder and operating cost may increase as a result of aging of the fleet.

Our insurance may not be adequate to cover our losses that may result from our operations due to the inherent operational risks of the tanker industry.

An increase in operating costs would decrease earnings and dividends per share.

We may be unsuccessful in competing in the highly competitive international Suezmax tanker market.

We are subject to laws and regulations which can adversely affect our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition, and our ability to pay dividends.

Regulations relating to ballast water discharge may adversely affect our revenues and profitability.

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

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.

Developments in safety and environmental requirements relating to the recycling of vessels may result in escalated and unexpected costs.

Servicing our debt limits funds available for other purposes and if we cannot service our debt, we may lose our vessels.

Our borrowing facilities, contains restrictive covenants which could negatively affect our growth, cause our financial performance to suffer and limit our ability to pay dividends.

Variable rate indebtedness could subject us to interest rate risk, which could cause our debt service obligations to increase significantly.

We may not be able to finance our future capital commitments.

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

We cannot assure you that we will be able to refinance our indebtedness.

We are subject to certain risks with respect to our counterparties on contracts, and failure of such counterparties to meet their obligations could cause us to suffer losses or negatively impact our results of operations and cash flows.

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

We operate in a cyclical and volatile industry and cannot guarantee that we will continue to make cash distributions.

Future sales of our common stock could cause the market price of our common stock to decline.

Ineffective internal controls could impact the Company’s business and financial results.

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.

A decision of our Board of Directors and the laws of Bermuda may prevent the declaration and payment of dividends.

We have antitakeover protections which could prevent a change of control.

If our vessels call on ports located in countries or territories that are subject to sanctions or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government, the European Union, the United Nations or other governmental authorities, it could result in monetary fines or other penalties, and may adversely affect our reputation and the market and trading price of our common stock.

Because we are a foreign corporation, you may not have the same rights that a shareholder in a U.S. corporation may have.

We are incorporated in Bermuda and it may not be possible for our investors to enforce U.S. judgments against us.

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

If the United States Internal Revenue Service were to treat us as a “passive foreign investment company,” that could have adverse tax consequences for United States shareholders.

Changes in tax laws and unanticipated tax liabilities could materially and adversely affect the taxes we pay, results of operations and financial results.

We may become subject to taxation in Bermuda which would negatively affect our results.

As a Bermuda exempted company incorporated under Bermuda law with subsidiaries in another offshore jurisdiction, our operations may be subject to economic substance requirements.
 
Risks Related to Our Business and Financial Condition
 
If the Suezmax tanker industry, which historically has been cyclical and volatile, is depressed in the future, our revenues, earnings and available cash flow may decrease.
 
It should be noted that we are specializing in Suezmax tankers. Historically, the tanker industry has been highly cyclical, with volatility in profitability, charter rates and asset values resulting from changes in the supply of and demand for tanker capacity. Fluctuations in charter rates and tanker values result from changes in the supply of and demand for tanker capacity and changes in the supply of and demand for oil and oil products. These factors may adversely affect the rates payable and the amounts we receive in respect of our vessels. The armed conflicts in Ukraine and in Israel and Gaza have continued to disrupt energy production and trade patterns, including shipping in the Black Sea, Red Sea and elsewhere, and its impact on energy demand and costs is expected to remain uncertain. Our ability to re-charter our vessels on the expiration or termination of their current spot and time charters and the charter rates payable under any renewal or replacement charters will depend upon, among other things, economic conditions in the tanker market and we cannot guarantee that any renewal or replacement charters we enter into will be sufficient to allow us to operate our vessels profitably.
 
The factors that influence demand for tanker capacity include:
 

supply of and demand for oil and oil products;
 

global and regional economic and political conditions and developments, including developments in international trade, including the increased vessel attacks and piracy in the Red Sea in connection with the conflict between Israel and Hamas, national oil reserves policies, fluctuations in industrial and agricultural production and armed conflicts;
 

regional availability of refining capacity and inventories compared to geographies of oil production regions;
 

environmental and other legal and regulatory developments;
 

the distance oil and oil products are to be moved by sea;
 

changes in seaborne and other transportation patterns, including changes in the distances over which tanker cargoes are transported by sea;
 

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

currency exchange rates;
 

weather and acts of God, natural disasters and health disasters;
 

changes in consumption of oil and petroleum products due to competition from supply and demand for alternative sources of energy and from other shipping companies and other modes of transport;
 

international sanctions, embargoes, import and export restrictions, nationalizations, piracy, terrorist attacks and armed conflicts, including the conflicts between Russia and Ukraine and between Israel and Hamas, and potential physical disruption of shipping routes as a result thereof;
 

any restrictions on crude oil production imposed by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, and non-OPEC oil producing countries;
 

economic slowdowns caused by public health events such as the diseases and viruses affecting livestock and humans including pandemics; and
 

regulatory changes including regulations adopted by supranational authorities and/or industry bodies, such as safety and environmental regulations and requirements by major oil companies.
 
The factors that influence the supply of tanker capacity include:
 

the demand for alternative energy resources;
 

current and expected purchase orders for tankers;
 

the number of tanker newbuilding deliveries;
 

any potential delays in the delivery of newbuilding vessels and/or cancellations of newbuilding orders;
 

the scrapping rate of older tankers;
 

technological advances in tanker design and capacity, propulsion technology and fuel consumption efficiency;
 

tanker charter rates, which are affected by factors that may affect the rate of newbuilding, swapping and laying up of tankers;
 

port and canal congestion;
 

price of steel and vessel equipment;
 

conversion of tankers to other uses or conversion of other vessels to tankers;
 

with respect to tanker vessel supply, demand for alternative sources of energy and supply and demand for energy resources and oil and petroleum products;
 

product imbalances (affecting the level of trading activity) and developments in international trade;
 

developments in international trade, including refinery additions and closures;
 

the phasing of maritime shipping into the EU Emission Trading Scheme (the “ETS”), which applies to all large ships of 5,000 gross tonnage or above;
 

the number of tankers that are out of service; and
 

changes in environmental and other regulations that may limit the useful lives of tankers.
 
 
In 2023, the tanker market was strongly impacted by geopolitical events. United States and EU/G7 sanctions against Russian oil products officially took effect on February 5, 2023, which reinforced the trade on tonne mile recalibration that had already begun in 2022 in anticipation of the sanctions. In early October 2023, a military conflict in the Middle East and subsequent attacks in the region and against vessels forced several vessels to reroute away from the Red Sea. This added to the ton-mile growth already seen from the sanctions against Russia.

Geopolitical factors and restrictions on Panama Canal transits similarly resulted in longer sailing patterns. The consequent trade recalibration towards longer haul trade led to a change in tanker freight rates towards higher average levels and increased rate volatility.
 
The factors affecting the supply and demand for tankers have been volatile and are outside of our control, and the nature, timing and degree of changes in industry conditions are unpredictable, including those discussed above. Continued volatility may reduce demand for transportation of oil over longer distances and increase supply of tankers to carry that oil, which may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, ability to pay dividends and existing contractual obligations.
 
We anticipate that the future demand for our tankers will be dependent upon economic growth in the world’s economies, seasonal and regional changes in demand, changes in the capacity of the global tanker fleet and the sources and supply of oil and petroleum products to be transported by sea. Given the low number of new tankers currently on order with shipyards, the capacity of the global tanker fleet seems likely to be muted, but there can be no assurance as to the timing or extent of future economic growth. Adverse economic, political, social or other developments could have a material adverse effect on our business and operating results, including possible impairment charges against our earnings.
 
Declines in oil and natural gas prices or decreases in demand for oil and natural gas for an extended period of time, or market expectations of potential decreases in these prices and demand, could negatively affect our future growth in the tanker and offshore sector. Sustained periods of low oil and natural gas prices typically result in reduced exploration and extraction because oil and natural gas companies’ capital expenditure budgets are subject to cash flow from such activities and are therefore sensitive to changes in energy prices. Sustained periods of high oil prices on the other hand may be destructive for demand. These changes in commodity prices can have a material effect on demand for our services, and periods of low demand can cause excess vessel supply and intensify the competition in the industry, which often results in vessels, particularly older and less technologically advanced vessels, being idle for long periods of time. We cannot predict the future level of demand for our services or future conditions of the oil and natural gas industry. Any decrease in exploration, development or production expenditures by oil and natural gas companies or decrease in the demand for oil and natural gas could reduce our revenues and materially harm our business, results of operations and cash available for distribution.

We are dependent on spot charters and any decrease in spot charter rates in the future may adversely affect our earnings, our ability to pay dividends and our ability to repay our financial liabilities.
 
The 20 vessels that we currently operate are primarily employed in the spot market with the two 2022-built vessels chartered out on six-year time charter agreements, and two vessels on longer term time-charter agreements expiring in the latter part of 2024. We are therefore highly dependent on spot market charter rates. The spot market is very volatile and there have been and will be periods when spot charter rates decline below the operating cost of vessels. If future spot charter rates decline, we may be unable to operate our vessels trading in the spot market profitably, meet our obligations, including payments on indebtedness, or pay dividends in the future. Furthermore, as charter rates for spot charters are fixed for a single voyage which may last up to several weeks, during periods in which spot charter rates are rising, we will generally experience delays in realizing the benefits from such increases.

We will be exposed to prevailing charter rates in the crude tanker sectors when these vessels’ existing charters expire, and to the extent the counterparties to our fixed-rate charter contracts fail to honor their obligations to us. We will also enter into spot charters in the future. The spot charter market may fluctuate significantly based upon tanker and oil supply and demand.

The successful operation of our vessels in the competitive spot charter market depends on, among other things, obtaining profitable spot charters and minimizing, to the extent possible, time spent waiting for charters and time spent traveling in ballast to pick up cargo. When the current charters for our fleet expire or are terminated, it may not be possible to re-charter these vessels at similar rates, or at all, or to secure charters for any vessels we agree to acquire at similarly profitable rates, or at all. As a result, we may have to accept lower rates or experience off hire time for our vessels, which would adversely impact our revenues, results of operations, including impairment charges against our earnings, and financial condition.

Changes in the price of fuel and regulations may adversely affect our profits.
 
Fuel, including bunkers, is a significant, if not the largest, expense in our shipping operations, and changes in the price of fuel may adversely affect our profitability.  The price and supply of fuel is unpredictable and fluctuates based on events outside our control, including geopolitical developments, such as the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and between Israel and Hamas, supply and demand for oil and gas, actions by OPEC and other oil and gas producers, war and unrest in oil producing countries and regions, regional production patterns and environmental concerns, which may reduce our profitability and have a material adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position.
 
Effective January 1, 2020, the International Maritime Organization, or IMO, implemented a new regulation for a 0.50% global sulfur cap on emissions from vessels.  Under this new global cap, vessels must use marine fuels with a sulfur content of no more than 0.50% against the former regulations specifying a maximum of 3.50% sulfur in an effort to reduce the emission of sulfur oxide into the atmosphere.
 
All of our vessels have transitioned to burning IMO compliant fuels.  Low sulfur fuel of 0.50% sulfur content or lower, is presently more expensive than the non-compliant Heavy Fuel Oil containing 3.5% sulfur and may become more expensive.
 
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, 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 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.
 
Inability to renew the fleet would adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and ability to pay dividends.
 
If we do not set aside funds or are unable to borrow or raise funds for vessel replacement, we will be unable to replace the vessels in our fleet upon the expiration of their useful lives. Our cash flows and income are dependent on the revenues earned by the chartering of our vessels. If we are unable to replace the vessels in our fleet upon the expiration of their useful lives, our business, results of operations, financial condition and ability to pay dividends would be adversely affected. Any funds set aside for vessel replacement will not be available for dividends.
 
The international Suezmax tanker industry has experienced volatile charter rates and vessel values and there can be no assurance that these charter rates and vessel values will not decrease in the near future.
 
The Baltic Dirty Tanker Index, or the BDTI, a U.S. dollar daily average of charter rates issued by the Baltic Exchange that takes into account input from brokers around the world regarding crude oil fixtures for various routes and oil tanker vessel sizes, is volatile. In 2023, the BDTI followed seasonal patterns with less volatility than seen in 2022, with the average for the year coming in at 1,149, slightly lower than the 1,390 reached in 2022. The 2022-numbers are somewhat inflated by the Russian invasion in Ukraine and the following sanctions regime. The Baltic Exchange omitted two Russia related trade routes from the BDTI index from 4Q 2022 that helps explain the lower average for 2023.  During 2023, the BDTI reached a high of 1,648 and a low of 713 compared to a high of 2,496 and a low of 679 in 2022. The Baltic Clean Tanker Index, or BCTI, a comparable index to the BDTI, has similarly been strong with a high of 1,250 and a low of 563 in 2023. This compares to a high of 2,143 and a low of 543 in 2022. Similar to the BDTI, the BCTI saw higher volatility and higher levels in 2022 compared to 2023 due to trades included in the index that was not necessarily representative for the broader tanker market. Although slightly lower, markets in 2024 have continued their solid performance, and the BDTI and BCTI were at 1,173 and 995, respectively, as of April 16, 2024.There can be no assurance that the crude oil and petroleum products charter market will increase or continue at the current levels, and the market could again decline. This volatility in charter rates depends, among other factors, on changes in the supply and demand for tanker capacity and changes in the supply and demand for oil and oil products, the demand for crude oil and petroleum products,  the inventories of crude oil and petroleum products in the United States and in other industrialized nations,  oil refining volumes,  oil prices, and any restrictions on crude oil production imposed by OPEC and non-OPEC oil producing countries.
 
Charter rates in the Suezmax tanker industry are volatile. We anticipate that future demand for our vessels, and in turn our future charter rates, will be dependent upon economic growth in the world’s economies, as well as seasonal and regional changes in demand and changes in the capacity of the world’s fleet. There can be no assurance that economic growth will not stagnate or decline leading to a decrease in vessel values and charter rates. A decline in vessel values and charter rates would have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operation and ability to pay dividends.
 
Our results of operations are subject to seasonal fluctuations, which may adversely affect our financial condition.
 
We operate our vessels in markets that have historically exhibited seasonal variations in demand and, as a result, charter rates. Seaborne trading and distribution patterns are primarily influenced by the relative advantage of the various sources of production, locations of consumption, pricing differentials and seasonality. Changes to the trade patterns of oil and oil products may have a significant negative or positive impact on the ton-mile and therefore the demand for our tankers. This could have a material adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position.
 
A shift in consumer demand from oil towards other energy sources or changes to trade patterns for crude oil or refined oil products may have a material adverse effect on our business.

A significant portion of our earnings are related to the oil industry. A shift in or disruption of consumer demand from oil towards other energy sources such as electricity, natural gas, liquified natural gas, renewable energy, hydrogen or ammonia will potentially affect the demand for our vessels. A shift from the use of internal combustion engine vehicles may also reduce the demand for oil. These factors could have a material adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position.

“Peak oil” is the year when the maximum rate of extraction of oil is reached. The International Energy Agency (“IEA”) recently announced a forecast of “peak oil” during the late 2020s. OPEC maintains that “peak oil” will not be reached until at least 2040, despite transition toward other energy sources. Irrespective of “peak oil”, the continuing shift in consumer demand from oil towards other energy resources such as wind energy, solar energy, hydrogen energy, nuclear energy or renewable energy, which appears to be accelerating as a result of shifts in government commitments and support for energy transition programs, may have a material adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position.

Seaborne trading and distribution patterns are primarily influenced by the relative advantage of the various sources of production, locations of consumption, pricing differentials and seasonality. Changes to the trade patterns of crude oil or refined oil products may have a significant negative or positive impact on the ton-mile and therefore the demand for our tankers. This could have a material adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position.
 
The value of our vessels may be depressed at the time we decide to sell a vessel.
 
Tanker values have generally experienced high volatility. Investors can expect the fair market value of our tankers to fluctuate, depending on general economic and market conditions affecting the tanker industry and competition from other shipping companies, types and sizes of vessels and other modes of transportation. In addition, as vessels age, they generally decline in value. These factors will affect the value of our vessels for purposes of covenant compliance under our borrowing facilities and at the time of any vessel sale. If for any reason we sell a tanker at a time when tanker prices have fallen, the sale may be at less than the tanker’s carrying amount in our financial statements, with the result that we would also incur a loss on the sale and a reduction in earnings from impairment charges, which could reduce our ability to pay dividends and negatively affect our business, financial condition and operating results. The carrying values of our vessels may not represent their charter-free market value at any point in time.
 
An over-supply of Suezmax tanker capacity may lead to reductions in charter rates, vessel values, and profitability.
 
The market supply of Suezmax tankers is affected by a number of factors such as demand for energy resources, oil, and petroleum products, as well as overall economic growth in parts of the world economy, including Asia,.
 
There has been a global trend towards energy efficient technologies, lower environmental emissions and alternative sources of energy. In the long-term, demand for oil may be reduced by increased availability of such energy sources and machines that run on them. Furthermore, if the capacity of new ships delivered exceeds the capacity of tankers being scrapped and lost, tanker capacity will increase. If the supply of tanker capacity increases and if the demand for tanker capacity does not increase correspondingly, charter rates and vessel values could materially decline. These changes could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial position.

If the capacity of new ships delivered exceeds the capacity of tankers being scrapped and lost, tanker capacity will increase. If the supply of tanker capacity increases and if the demand for tanker capacity does not increase correspondingly, charter rates could materially decline. A reduction in charter rates and the value of our vessels may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and our ability to pay dividends.
 
Delays or defaults by the shipyards in the construction of newbuildings could increase our expenses and diminish our net income and cash flows.

Vessel construction projects are generally subject to risks of delay that are inherent in any large construction project, which may be caused by numerous factors, including shortages of equipment, materials or skilled labor, unscheduled delays in the delivery of ordered materials and equipment or shipyard construction, failure of equipment to meet quality and/or performance standards, financial or operating difficulties experienced by equipment vendors or the shipyard, unanticipated actual or purported change orders, inability to obtain required permits or approvals, design or engineering changes and work stoppages and other labor disputes, adverse weather conditions, pandemics or any other events of force majeure. Significant delays could adversely affect our financial position, results of operations and cash flows. Additionally, failure to complete a project on time may result in the delay of revenue from that vessel, and we will continue to incur costs and expenses related to delayed vessels, such as supervision expense and interest expense for the issued and outstanding debt. As of December 31, 2023, we have not placed any orders for Suezmax vessels and as such, we are not exposed to any risk related to construction of newbuildings.
 
Terrorist attacks and international hostilities and instability can affect the tanker industry, which could adversely affect our business.

We conduct most of our operations outside of the United States, and our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and ability to pay dividends, 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 continues to face a number of actual and potential challenges, including the war between Ukraine and Russia and between Israel and Hamas, current trade tension between the United States and China, political instability in the Middle East and the South China Sea region and other geographic countries and areas, terrorist or other attacks, war (or threatened war) or international hostilities, such as those between the United States and China, North Korea or Iran, and epidemics or pandemics, banking crises or failures, and real estate crises, such as the decreasing real estate property values in China.

In the past, political instability has also resulted in attacks on vessels, mining of waterways and other efforts to disrupt international shipping, particularly in the Arabian Gulf region and most recently in the Black Sea in connection with the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine and in connection with the recent attacks by the Houthi movement in the Red Sea following the recent conflicts between Israel and Hamas. Acts of terrorism and piracy have also affected vessels trading in regions such as the South China Sea and the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. Any of these occurrences could have a material adverse impact on our future performance, results of operation, cash flows and financial position.

These factors could also increase the costs to the Company of conducting its business, particularly crew, insurance and security costs, and prevent or restrict the Company from obtaining insurance coverage, all of which have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.

We rely on our information systems to conduct our business, and failure to protect these systems against security breaches could adversely affect our business and results of operations. Additionally, if these systems fail or become unavailable for any significant period of time, our business could be harmed.
 
We rely on our computer systems and network infrastructure across our operations, including IT systems on our vessels operated by our technical managers. The safety and security of our vessels and efficient operation of our business, including processing, transmitting and storing electronic and financial information, are dependent on computer hardware and software systems, which are increasingly vulnerable to security breaches and other disruptions. Any significant interruption or failure of our information systems or any significant breach of security could adversely affect our business and results of operations.
 
Our vessels rely on information systems for a significant part of their operations, including navigation, provision of services, propulsion, machinery management, power control, communications and cargo management. We have in place safety and security measures on our vessels and onshore operations to secure our vessels against cyber-security attacks and any disruption to their information systems. However, these measures and technology may not adequately prevent security breaches despite our continuous efforts to upgrade and address the latest known threats. A disruption to the information system of any of our vessels could lead to, among other things, wrong routing, collision, grounding and propulsion failure.
 
Beyond our vessels, we rely on industry accepted security measures and technology to securely maintain confidential and proprietary information maintained on our information systems. However, these measures and technology may not adequately prevent security breaches. The technology and other controls and processes designed to secure our confidential and proprietary information, detect and remedy any unauthorized access to that information were designed to obtain reasonable, but not absolute, assurance that such information is secure and that any unauthorized access is identified and addressed appropriately. Such controls may in the future fail to prevent or detect, unauthorized access to our confidential and proprietary information. In addition, the foregoing events could result in violations of applicable privacy and other laws. If confidential information is inappropriately accessed and used by a third party or an employee for illegal purposes, we may be responsible to the affected individuals for any losses they may have incurred as a result of misappropriation. In such an instance, we may also be subject to regulatory action, investigation or liable to a governmental authority for fines or penalties associated with a lapse in the integrity and security of our information systems.
 
Our operations, including our vessels, and business administration could be targeted by individuals or groups seeking to sabotage or disrupt such systems and networks, or to steal data, and these systems may be damaged, shutdown or cease to function properly (whether by planned upgrades, force majeure, telecommunications failures, hardware or software break-ins or viruses, other cyber-security incidents or otherwise). For example, the information systems of our vessels may be subject to threats from hostile cyber or physical attacks, phishing attacks, human errors of omission or commission, structural failures of resources we control, including hardware and software, and accidents and other failures beyond our control. The threats to our information systems are constantly evolving and have become increasingly complex and sophisticated. Furthermore, such threats change frequently and are often not recognized or detected until after they have been launched, and therefore, we may be unable to anticipate these threats and may not become aware in a timely manner of such a security breach, which could exacerbate any damage we experience.  We do not maintain cyber-liability insurance at this time to cover such losses. As a result, a cyber-attack or other breach of any such information technology systems could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. As of the date of this annual report, we have not experienced any material cybersecurity incident which would be disclosable under SEC guidelines.
 
We may be required to expend significant capital and other resources to protect against and remedy any potential or existing security breaches and their consequences. A cyber-attack could materially disrupt our operations, which could also adversely affect the safety of our operations or result in the unauthorized release or alteration of information in our systems. Such an attack on us could result in significant expenses to investigate and repair security breaches or system damages and could lead to litigation, fines, other remedial action, heightened regulatory scrutiny and diminished customer confidence. In addition, our remediation efforts may not be successful and we may not have adequate insurance to cover these losses.
 
The unavailability of the information systems or the failure of these systems to perform as anticipated for any reason could disrupt our business and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition.
 
Moreover, cyber-attacks against the Ukrainian government and other countries in the region have been reported in connection with the ongoing conflict 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. It is difficult to assess the likelihood of such threat and any potential impact at this time.
 
The EU has adopted a comprehensive overhaul of its data protection regime from the current national legislative approach to a single European Economic Area Privacy Regulation, the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”). The GDPR came into force on May 25, 2018, and applies to organizations located within the EU, as well as to organizations located outside of the EU if they offer goods or services to, or monitor the behavior of, EU data subjects. It imposes a strict data protection compliance regime with significant penalties and includes new rights such as the “portability” of personal data. It applies to all companies processing and holding the personal data of data subjects residing in the EU, regardless of the company’s location. Implementation of the GDPR could require changes to certain of our business practices, thereby increasing our costs. Our failure to adhere to or successfully implement processes in response to changing regulatory requirements in this area could result in legal liability or impairment to our reputation in the marketplace, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

Further, the SEC, which, on July 26, 2023, adopted amendments requiring the prompt public disclosure of certain cybersecurity breaches. If we fail to comply with the relevant laws and regulations, we could suffer financial losses, a disruption of our businesses, liability to investors, regulatory intervention or reputational damage. For more information on our cybersecurity risk management and strategy, please see “Item 16K. Cybersecurity”.

If we do not manage relationships with customers or successfully integrate any acquired Suezmax tankers, we may not be able to grow or effectively manage our growth.
 
Our future growth will depend upon a number of factors, some of which may not be within our control. These factors include our ability to:
 

identify suitable tankers and/or shipping companies for acquisitions at attractive prices, which may not be possible if asset prices rise too quickly,
 

manage relationships with customers and suppliers,
 

identify businesses engaged in managing, operating or owning tankers for acquisitions or joint ventures,
 

integrate any acquired tankers or businesses successfully with our then-existing operations,
 

hire, train and retain qualified personnel and crew to manage and operate our growing business and fleet,
 

identify additional new markets,
 

improve our operating, financial and accounting systems and controls, and
 

obtain required financing for our existing and new operations.
 
Our failure to effectively identify, purchase, manage customer relationships and integrate any tankers or businesses could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. We may incur unanticipated expenses as an operating company. It is possible that the number of employees employed by the company, or current operating and financial systems may not be adequate as we implement our plan to expand the size of our fleet.  Finally, acquisitions may require additional equity issuances or debt issuances (with amortization payments), both of which could lower dividends per share. If we are unable to expand or execute the certain aspects of our business or events noted above, our financial condition and dividend rates may be adversely affected.
 
Because some of our expenses are incurred in foreign currencies, we are exposed to exchange rate fluctuations, which could negatively affect our results of operations.
 
The charterers of our vessels pay us primarily in U.S. dollars. While we mostly incur our expenses in U.S. dollars, we may incur expenses in other currencies, most notably the Norwegian Kroner. Declines in the value of the U.S. dollar relative to the Norwegian Kroner, or the other currencies in which we may incur expenses in the future, would increase the U.S. dollar cost of paying these expenses and thus would affect our results of operations.
 
Risks Related to the Operations of Our Vessels and Regulations
 
The operation of Suezmax tankers involves certain unique operational risks.
 
The operation of Suezmax tankers has unique operational risks associated with the transportation of oil.  An oil spill may cause significant environmental damage, and a catastrophic spill could exceed the insurance coverage available. Compared to other types of vessels, tankers are exposed to a higher risk of damage and loss by fire, whether ignited by a terrorist attack, collision, or other cause, due to the high flammability and high volume of the oil transported in tankers.
 
Further, our vessels and their cargoes will be at risk of being damaged or lost because of events such as marine disasters, bad weather and other acts of God, business interruptions caused by mechanical failures, grounding, fire, explosions and collisions, human error, war, terrorism, piracy, diseases, quarantine and other circumstances or events. Changing economic, regulatory and political conditions in some countries, including political and military conflicts, have from time to time resulted in attacks on vessels, mining of waterways, piracy, terrorism, labor strikes and boycotts. These hazards may result in death or injury to persons, loss of revenues or property, the payment of ransoms, environmental damage, higher insurance rates, damage to our customer relationships and market disruptions, delay or rerouting.
 
If our vessels suffer damage, they may need to be repaired at a drydocking facility. The costs of drydock repairs are unpredictable and may be substantial. We may have to pay drydocking costs that our insurance does not cover at all or in full. The loss of revenues while these vessels are being repaired and repositioned, as well as the actual cost of these repairs, may be material. In addition, space at drydocking facilities is sometimes limited and not all drydocking facilities are conveniently located. We may be unable to find space at a suitable drydocking facility or our vessels may be forced to travel to a drydocking facility that is not conveniently located relative to our vessels’ positions. The loss of earnings while these vessels are forced to wait for space or to travel to more distant drydocking facilities may also be material. Further, the total loss of any of our vessels could harm our reputation as a safe and reliable vessel owner and operator.  If we are unable to adequately maintain or safeguard our vessels, we may be unable to prevent any such damage, costs or loss which could negatively impact our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and ability to pay dividends.
 
We operate our Suezmax tankers worldwide and as a result, our vessels are exposed to international risks which may reduce revenue or increase expenses.
 
The international shipping industry is an inherently risky business involving global operations. The operations of ocean-going vessels in international trade is affected by a number of risks. Our vessels are at a risk of damage or loss because of events such as mechanical failure, collision, human error, war, terrorism, piracy, cargo loss and bad weather. In addition, changing economic, regulatory and political conditions in some countries, including political and military conflicts, have from time to time resulted in attacks on vessels, mining of waterways, piracy, terrorism, labor strikes and boycotts. These sorts of events could interfere with shipping routes and result in market disruptions which may reduce our revenue or increase our expenses.
 
International shipping is subject to various security and customs inspections and related procedures in countries of origin and destination and trans-shipment points.  Inspection procedures can result in the seizure of the cargo and/or our vessels, delays in loading, offloading or delivery, and the levying of customs duties, fines or other penalties against us. It is possible that changes to inspection procedures could impose additional financial and legal obligations on us. Furthermore, changes to inspection procedures could also impose additional costs and obligations on our customers and may, in certain cases, render the shipment of certain types of cargo uneconomical or impractical. Any such changes or developments may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and available cash.
 
The smuggling of drugs or other contraband onto our vessels may lead to governmental claims against us.
 
We expect that our vessels will call in ports where smugglers attempt to hide drugs and other contraband on vessels, with or without the knowledge of crew members. To the extent our vessels are found with contraband, whether inside or attached to the hull of our vessel and whether with or without the knowledge of any of our crew, we may face governmental or other regulatory claims which could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and ability to pay dividends.
 
Failure to comply with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act could result in fines, criminal penalties and an adverse effect on our business.

We may operate in a number of countries throughout the world, including countries suspected to have a risk of corruption. We are committed to doing business in accordance with applicable anti-corruption laws. We are subject to the risk that we, our service providers 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 of 1977, as amended (the “FCPA”). Any such violation could result in substantial fines, sanctions, civil and/or criminal penalties, curtailment of operations in certain jurisdictions, and might adversely affect our business, earnings or financial condition. In addition, actual or alleged violations could damage our reputation and ability to do business. Furthermore, detecting, investigating, and resolving actual or alleged violations is expensive and can consume significant time and attention of our senior management.
 
Acts of piracy on ocean-going vessels could adversely affect our business.
 
Acts of piracy have historically affected ocean-going vessels trading in regions of the world such as the South China Sea, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden off the Coast of Somalia and, in particular, the Gulf of Guinea region off of Nigeria, which experienced increased incidents of piracy in recent years.  Acts of piracy and war like conditions could result in harm or danger to the crews onboard our vessels. In addition, if piracy attacks occur in regions in which our vessels are deployed that insurers’ characterized as “war risk” zones or by the Joint War Committee as “war and strikes” listed areas, premiums payable for such coverage could increase significantly and such insurance coverage may be more difficult to obtain. Furthermore, the recent Houthi seizures and attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden have impacted the global economy as some companies, including Nordic American Tankers Limited, have decided to reroute vessels to avoid the Suez Canal and Red Sea. In addition, crew costs, including costs which may be incurred to the extent we employ onboard security guards, could increase in such circumstances. We may not be adequately insured to cover losses from these incidents, which could have a material adverse effect on us. In addition, detention hijacking as a result of an act of piracy against our vessels, or an increase in cost, or unavailability of insurance for our vessels, could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
Maritime claimants could arrest one or more of our vessels, which could interrupt our cash flow.
 
Crew members, suppliers of goods and services to a vessel, shippers of cargo and other parties may be entitled to a maritime lien against a vessel for unsatisfied debts, claims or damages. In many jurisdictions, a maritime lien-holder may enforce its lien by “arresting” or “attaching” a vessel through foreclosure proceedings. The arrest or attachment of one or more of our vessels could result in a significant loss of earnings for the related off-hire period. In addition, in jurisdictions where the “sister ship” theory of liability applies, a claimant may arrest the vessel which is subject to the claimant’s maritime lien and any “associated” vessel, which is any vessel owned or controlled by the same owner. In countries with “sister ship” liability laws, claims might be asserted against us or any of our vessels for liabilities of other vessels that we own.
 
Governments could requisition our vessels during a period of war or emergency resulting in a loss of earnings.
 
A government of a vessel’s registry could requisition for title or seize one or more of our vessels. Requisition for title occurs when a government takes control of a vessel and becomes the owner. A government could also requisition one or more of our vessels for hire. Requisition for hire occurs when a government takes control of a vessel and effectively becomes the charterer at dictated charter rates. Generally, requisitions occur during a period of war or emergency. Government requisition of one or more of our vessels could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and ability to pay dividends.
 
If we purchase secondhand vessels, we may not receive warranties from the builder and operating cost may increase as a result of aging of the fleet.
 
Following a physical inspection of secondhand vessels prior to purchase, we do not have the same knowledge about their condition and cost of any required (or anticipated) repairs that we would have had if these vessels had been built for and operated exclusively by us. Accordingly, we may not discover defects or other problems with such vessels prior to purchase. Any such hidden defects or problems, when detected may be expensive to repair, and if not detected, may result in accidents or other incidents for which we may become liable to third parties. Also, when purchasing previously owned vessels, we do not receive the benefit of any builder warranties if the vessels we buy are older than one year.
 
In general, the costs to maintain a vessel in good operating condition increase with the age of the vessel. Older vessels are typically less fuel efficient than more recently constructed vessels due to improvements in engine technology. Governmental regulations, safety and other equipment standards related to the age of vessels may require expenditures for alterations or the addition of new equipment to some of our vessels and may restrict the type of activities in which these vessels may engage. We cannot assure you that, as our vessels age, market conditions will justify those expenditures or enable us to operate our vessels profitably during the remainder of their useful lives. As a result, regulations and standards could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows and ability to pay dividends.
 
Our insurance may not be adequate to cover our losses that may result from our operations due to the inherent operational risks of the tanker industry.
 
We carry insurance to protect us against most of the accident related risks involved in the conduct of our business, including marine hull and machinery insurance, protection and indemnity insurance, which includes pollution risks, crew insurance and war risk insurance. However, we may not be adequately insured to cover losses from our operational risks, which could have a material adverse effect on us. Additionally, our insurers may refuse to pay particular claims and our insurance may be voidable by the insurers if we take, or fail to take, certain action, such as failing to maintain certification of our vessels with applicable maritime regulatory organizations. Any significant uninsured or under-insured loss or liability could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition and our ability to pay dividends. In addition, we may not be able to obtain adequate insurance coverage at reasonable rates in the future during adverse insurance market. Any loss of a vessel or extended vessel off-hire, due to an accident or otherwise, could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition and our ability to pay dividends.
 
An increase in operating costs would decrease earnings and dividends per share.
 
Under the charters of all of our operating vessels, we are responsible for vessel operating expenses. Our vessel operating expenses include the costs of crew, lube oil, provisions, deck and engine stores, insurance and maintenance and repairs, which depend on a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. If our vessels suffer damage, they may need to be repaired at a drydocking facility. The costs of drydock repairs are unpredictable and can be substantial. Increases in any of these expenses would decrease earnings and dividends per share.
 
We may be unsuccessful in competing in the highly competitive international Suezmax tanker market.
 
The operation of Suezmax tankers and transportation of crude and petroleum products is extremely competitive. Competition arises primarily from other tanker owners, including major oil companies as well as independent tanker companies. Competition for the transportation of oil and oil products can be intense and depends on price, location, size, age, condition and the acceptability of the tanker and its operators to the charterers. Competitors with greater resources could enter and operate larger tanker fleets through consolidations or acquisitions, and may be able to offer more competitive prices and fleets. We will have to compete with other tanker owners, including major oil companies as well as independent tanker companies and our market share may decrease in the future and we may not find profitable employment for our vessels, which could adversely affect our financial condition and our ability to expand our business.
 
We are subject to laws and regulations which can adversely affect our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition, and our ability to pay dividends.

Our operations are subject to numerous laws and regulations in the form of international conventions and treaties, national, state and local laws and national and international regulations in force in the jurisdictions in which our vessels operate or are registered, which can significantly affect the ownership and operation of our vessels. These requirements include, but are not limited to, the United States (U.S.) Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (generally referred to as CERCLA), the U.S. Clean Water Act (CWA), the U.S. Clean Air Act (CAA), the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, European Union (EU) Regulations, the IMO, International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage of 1969 (as from time to time amended and generally referred to as CLC), the IMO International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships of 1973 (as from time to time amended and generally referred to as MARPOL, including the designation of emission control areas (ECAs) thereunder), the IMO International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea of 1974 (as from time to time amended and generally referred to as SOLAS), the IMO International Convention on Load Lines of 1966 (as from time to time amended), the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (generally referred to as the Bunker Convention), the IMO’s International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (generally referred to as the ISM Code), the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments Discharge (generally referred to as the BWM Convention), International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS), and the U.S. Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (generally referred to as the MTSA). Compliance with such laws, regulations and standards, where applicable, may require installation of costly equipment or operational changes and may affect the resale value or useful lives of our vessels. We may also incur additional costs in order to comply with other existing and future regulatory obligations, including, but not limited to, costs relating to air emissions, including greenhouse gases, the management of ballast waters, maintenance and inspection, development and implementation of emergency procedures and insurance coverage or other financial assurance of our ability to address pollution incidents. These costs could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition and our ability to pay dividends. A failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations may result in administrative and civil penalties, criminal sanctions or the suspension or termination of our operations. Environmental laws often impose strict liability for remediation of spills and releases of oil and hazardous substances, which could subject us to liability without regard to whether we were negligent or at fault. Under OPA, for example, owners, operators and bareboat charterers are jointly and severally strictly liable for the discharge of oil within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone around the U.S. (unless the spill results solely from the act or omission of a third party, an act of God or an act of war). An oil spill could 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, including punitive damages, and could harm our reputation with current or potential charterers of our tankers. We are required to satisfy insurance and financial responsibility requirements for potential oil (including marine fuel) spills and other pollution incidents. Although we have arranged insurance to cover certain environmental risks, and risk of environmental damages and impacts there can be no assurance that such insurance will be sufficient to cover all such risks or that any claims will not have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition, and our ability to pay dividends.
 
Furthermore, the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon and the subsequent release of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, or other similar incidents in the future, may result in further regulation of the tanker industry, and modifications to statutory liability schemes, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (“BSEE”) revised Production Safety Systems Rule (“PSSR”), effective December 27, 2018, modified and relaxed certain environmental and safety protections under the 2016 PSSR.  Additionally, the BSEE amended the Well Control Rule, effective July 15, 2019, which rolled back certain reforms regarding the safety of drilling operations, and former U.S. President Trump had proposed leasing new sections of U.S. waters to oil and gas companies for offshore drilling.  In January 2021, current U.S. President Biden signed an executive order temporarily blocking new leases for oil and gas drilling in federal waters.  However, attorney generals from 13 states filed suit in March 2021 to lift the executive order, and in June 2021, a federal judge in Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction against the Biden administration, stating that the power to pause offshore oil and gas leases “lies solely with Congress.” In August 2022, a federal judge in Louisiana sided with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with the other 12 plaintiff states, by issuing a permanent injunction against the Biden Administration’s moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal public lands and offshore waters. After being blocked by the courts, in September 2023, the Biden administration announced a scaled back offshore oil drilling plan, including just three oil lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico. With these rapid changes, compliance with any new requirements of OPA and future legislation or regulations applicable to the operation of our vessels could impact the cost of our operations and adversely affect our business.
 
Additional legislation, regulations, or other requirements applicable to the operation of our vessels that may be implemented in the future could adversely affect our business.
 
It should be noted that the U.S. is currently experiencing changes in its environmental policy, the results of which have yet to be fully determined.  For example, in March 2017, former U.S. President Trump signed an executive order to review and possibly eliminate the EPA’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and in August 2019, the Administration announced plans to weaken regulations for methane emissions. On August 13, 2020, the EPA released rules rolling back standards to control methane and volatile organic compound emissions from new oil and gas facilities.  However, U.S. President Biden recently directed the EPA to publish a proposed rule suspending, revising, or rescinding certain of these rules, and 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. EPA also issued a supplemental proposed rule in November 2022 to include additional methane reduction measures. On December 2, 2023, the Biden Administration announced the final rule that includes updated and strengthened standards for methane and other air pollutants from new, modified, and reconstructed sources, as well as Emissions Guidelines to assist states in developing plans to limit methane emissions from existing sources.  These new regulations could potentially affect our operations.
 
These numerous and sometimes conflicting laws and regulations include, among others, data privacy requirements (in particular the European General Data Protection Regulation, enforceable as from May 25, 2018 and the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework, as adopted by the European Commission on July 12, 2016), labor relations laws, tax laws, anti-competition regulations, import and trade restrictions, export requirements, U.S. laws such as the FCPA and other U.S. federal laws and regulations established by the office of Foreign Asset Control, local laws such as the UK Bribery Act 2010 or other local laws which prohibit corrupt payments to governmental officials or certain payments or remunerations to customers. Given the high level of complexity of these laws, there is a risk that we, our agent or other intermediaries may inadvertently breach certain provisions thereunder. Violations of these laws and regulations could result in fines, criminal sanctions against us, our officers or our employees, requirements to obtain export licenses, cessation of business activities in sanctioned countries, implementation of compliance programs, and prohibitions on the conduct of our business. Violations of laws and regulations also could result in prohibitions on our ability to operate in one or more countries and could materially damage our reputation, our ability to attract and retain employees, or our business, results of operations and financial condition. Furthermore, detecting, investigating and resolving actual or alleged violations is expensive and can consume significant time and attention of our senior management. Though we have implemented monitoring procedures and policies, guidelines, contractual terms and audits, these measures may not prevent or detect failures by our agents or intermediaries regarding compliance.

In addition, many environmental requirements are designed to reduce the risk of pollution, such as from oil spills, and our compliance with these requirements could be costly. To comply with these and other regulations, including: (i) the sulfur emission requirements of Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Ships (“MARPOL”), which instituted a global 0.5% (lowered from 3.5% as of January 1, 2020) sulfur cap on marine fuel consumed by a vessel, unless the vessel is equipped with a scrubber, and (ii) the BWM Convention of the International Maritime Organization (“IMO”), which requires vessels to install expensive ballast water treatment systems, we may be required to incur additional costs to meet new maintenance and inspection requirements, develop contingency plans for potential spills, and obtain insurance coverage. The increased demand for low sulfur fuels may increase the costs of fuel for our vessels, none of which have scrubbers. Additional conventions, laws and regulations may be adopted that could limit our ability to do business or increase the cost of doing business and which may materially and adversely affect our operations.


Regulations relating to ballast water discharge 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 IOPP renewal survey, existing vessels constructed before September 8, 2017 must comply with the updated D-2 standard on or after September 8, 2019.  For most vessels, compliance with the D-2 standard will involve installing on-board systems to treat ballast water and eliminate unwanted organisms.  Ships constructed on or after September 8, 2017 are to comply with the D-2 standards on or after September 8, 2017.  We currently have one vessel, with expected installation during 2024, that do not comply with the updated guideline and costs of compliance may be substantial and adversely affect our revenues and profitability.
 
Furthermore, United States regulations are currently changing. Although the 2013 Vessel General Permit (“VGP”) program and U.S. National Invasive Species Act (“NISA”) are currently in effect to regulate ballast discharge, exchange and installation, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (“VIDA”), which was signed into law on December 4, 2018, requires that the EPA develop national standards of performance for approximately 30 discharges, similar to those found in the VGP within two years. On October 26, 2020, the EPA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Vessel Incidental Discharge National Standards of Performance under VIDA. On October 18, 2023, the EPA published a supplemental notice of the proposed rule sharing new ballast water data received from the U.S. Coast Guard (“USCG”) and providing clarification on the proposed rule. The public comment period for the proposed rule ended on December 18, 2023. Once EPA finalizes the rule (possibly by Fall 2024), USCG must develop corresponding implementation, compliance and enforcement regulations regarding ballast water. The new regulations will require the installation of new equipment, which may cause us to incur substantial costs.
 
Climate change and greenhouse gas restrictions may adversely impact our operations and markets.
 
Due to concern over the risk of climate change, a number of countries and the IMO have adopted, or are considering the adoption of, regulatory frameworks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These regulatory measures may include, among others, adoption of cap-and-trade regimes, carbon taxes, increased efficiency standards and incentives or mandates for renewable energy. More specifically, on October 27, 2016, the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (“MEPC”) announced its decision concerning the implementation of regulations mandating a reduction in sulfur emissions from 3.5% currently to 0.5% as of the beginning of January 1, 2020. Additionally, in April 2018, nations at the MEPC 72 adopted an initial strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships. The initial strategy identifies levels of ambition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including (1) decreasing the carbon intensity from ships through implementation of further phases of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (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 European Union on the other hand has indicated that it intends to accelerate its plans to include shipping into the emissions trading scheme.
 
The European Commission has proposed adding shipping to the EU Emission Trading Scheme (“EU 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 recorded carbon emission exposure for a specific reporting period. The person or organisation responsible for the compliance with the EU ETS should be the shipping company, defined as the shipowner or any other organisation or person, such as the manager or the bareboat charterer, that has assumed the responsibility for the operation of the ship from the shipowner. On December 18, 2022, the Environmental Council and European Parliament agreed to include maritime shipping emissions within the scope of the EU ETS on a gradual introduction of obligations for shipping companies to surrender allowances: 40% for verified emissions from 2024, 70% for 2025 and 100% for 2026.  Most large vessels will be included in the scope of the EU ETS from the outset.  Compliance with the Maritime EU ETS could 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.
 
The EU ETS will be applied for maritime shipping as of 2024 with a phase-in period. Shipowners will need to purchase and surrender a number of emission allowances that represent their Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (“MRV”)-recorded carbon emission exposure for a specific reporting period. The geographical scope covers emissions generated at berth and on intra-EU voyages as well as 50% of the energy sources used on voyages inbound and outbound to/from the EU. 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.
 
Since January 1, 2020, ships have to either remove sulfur from emissions or buy fuel with low sulfur content, which may lead to increased costs and supplementary investments for ship owners. The interpretation of “fuel oil used on board” includes use in main engine, auxiliary engines and boilers. Shipowners may comply with this regulation by (i) using 0.5% sulfur fuels on board, which are available around the world but at a higher cost; (ii) installing scrubbers for cleaning of the exhaust gas; or (iii) by retrofitting vessels to be powered by liquefied natural gas or other alternative energy sources, which may not be a viable option due to the lack of supply network and high costs involved in this process. Costs of compliance with these regulatory changes may be significant and may have a material adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position.
 
In addition, although the emissions of greenhouse gases from international shipping currently are not subject to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which required adopting countries to implement national programs to reduce emissions of certain gases, or the Paris Agreement (discussed further below), a new treaty may be adopted in the future that includes restrictions on shipping emissions. Compliance with changes in laws, regulations and obligations relating to climate change affects the propulsion options in subsequent vessel designs and could increase our costs related to acquiring new vessels, operating and maintaining our existing vessels and require us to install new emission controls, acquire allowances or pay taxes related to our greenhouse gas emissions or administer and manage a greenhouse gas emissions program. Revenue generation and strategic growth opportunities may also be adversely affected.
 
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. To achieve a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2023 compared to 2008, shipping companies are required to include: (i) a technical requirement to reduce carbon intensity based on a new Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (“EEXI”), and (ii) operational carbon intensity reduction requirements, based on a new operational carbon intensity indicator (“CII”). The EEXI is required to be calculated for ships of 400 gross tonnage and above. The IMO and MEPC will calculated “required” EEXI levels based on the vessel’s technical design, such as vessel type, date of creation, size and baseline.  Additionally, an “attained” EEXI will be calculated to determine the actual energy efficiency of the vessel. A vessel’s attained EEXI must be less than the vessel’s required EEXI. Non-compliant vessels will have to upgrade their engine to continue to travel.  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. The vessel’s attained CII must be lower than its required CII. Vessels that continually receive subpar CII ratings will be required to submit corrective action plans to ensure compliance. MEPC 79 also adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex VI, Appendix IX to include the attained and required CII values, the CII rating and attained EEXI for existing ships in the required information to be submitted to the IMO Ship Fuel Oil Consumption Database.  The amendments will enter into force on May 1, 2024. MEPC 79 revised the EEDI calculation guidelines to include a CO2 conversion factor for ethane, a reference to the updated ITCC guidelines, and a clarification that in case of a ship with multiple load line certificates, the maximum certified summer draft should be used when determining the deadweight.  The amendments will enter into force on May 1, 2024.  In July 2023, MEPC 80 approved the plan for reviewing CII regulations and guidelines, which must be completed at the latest by January 1, 2026.  There will be no immediate changes to the CII framework, including correction factors and voyage adjustments, before the review is completed.
 
Additionally, MEPC 75 proposed draft amendments requiring that, on or before January 1, 2023, all ships above 400 gross tonnage must have an approved Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan, or SEEMP, on board. For ships above 5,000 gross tonnage, the SEEMP would need to include certain mandatory content. MEPC 75 also approved draft amendments to MARPOL Annex I to prohibit the use and carriage for use as fuel of heavy fuel oil by ships in Arctic waters on and after July 1, 2024. The draft amendments introduced at MEPC 75 were adopted at the MEPC 76 session held on June 2021, entered into force on November 1, 2022 and became effective on January 1, 2023.
 
MPEC 76 adopted amendments to the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, 2001, or the AFS Convention, which have been entered into force on January 1, 2023. From this date, all ships shall not apply or re-apply anti-fouling systems containing cybutryne on or after January 1, 2023; all ships bearing an anti-fouling system that contains cybutryne in the external coating layer of their hulls or external parts or surfaced on January 1, 2023 shall either: remove the anti-fouling system or apply a coating that forms a barrier to this substance leaching from the underlying non-compliance anti-fouling system.
 
On November 13, 2021, the Glasgow Climate Pact was announced following discussions at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (“COP26”). The Glasgow Climate Pact calls for signatory states to voluntarily phase out fossil fuels subsidies. A shift away from these products could potentially affect the demand for our vessels and negatively impact our future business, operating results, cash flows and financial position. COP26 also produced the Clydebank Declaration, in which 22 signatory states (including the United States and United Kingdom) announced their intention to voluntarily support the establishment of zero-emission shipping routes. Governmental and investor pressure to voluntarily participate in these green shipping routes could cause us to incur significant additional expenses to “green” our vessels.
 
In March 2022, the SEC announced proposed rules with respect to climate-related disclosures, including with respect to greenhouse gas emissions and certain climate-related financial statement metrics, which would apply to foreign private issuers listed on US national securities exchanges, such as us. Compliance with such reporting requirements or any similar requirements may impose substantial obligations and costs on us. The SEC adopted final rules regarding such disclosures on March 6, 2024. If we are unable to accurately measure and disclose required climate-related data in a timely manner, we could be subject to penalties in certain jurisdictions.
 
Adverse effects upon the oil and gas industry relating to climate change, including growing public concern about the environmental impact of climate change, may also adversely affect demand for our services. For example, increased regulation of greenhouse gases or other concerns relating to climate change may reduce the demand for oil and gas in the future or create greater incentives for use of alternative energy sources. In addition to the peak oil risk from a demand perspective, the physical effects of climate change, including changes in weather patterns, extreme weather events, rising sea levels, scarcity of water resources, may negatively impact our operations. Any long-term material adverse effect on the oil and gas industry could have a significant financial and operational adverse impact on our business that we cannot predict with certainty at this time.
 
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 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 all of 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 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 applicable documents of compliance for our offices and safety management certificates for all of our vessels for which the certificates are required by the IMO. The documents of compliance 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 July 1, 2016 set for application to new oil tankers and bulk carriers.   The SOLAS Convention regulation II-1/3-10 on goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers, which entered into force on January 1, 2012, requires that all oil tankers and bulk carriers of 150 meters in length and above, for which the building contract is placed on or after July 1, 2016, satisfy applicable structural requirements conforming to the functional requirements of the International Goal-based Ship Construction Standards for Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers (GBS Standards).
 
Amendments to the SOLAS Convention Chapter VII apply to vessels transporting dangerous goods and require those vessels be in compliance with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (“IMDG Code”). Effective January 1, 2018, the IMDG Code includes (1) updates to the provisions for radioactive material, reflecting the latest provisions from the International Atomic Energy Agency, (2) new marking, packing and classification requirements for dangerous goods, and (3) new mandatory training requirements. Amendments which took effect on January 1, 2020 also reflect the latest material from the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, including (1) new provisions regarding IMO type 9 tank, (2) new abbreviations for segregation groups, and (3) special provisions for carriage of lithium batteries and of vehicles powered by flammable liquid or gas. Additional 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. For example, cyber-risk management systems must be incorporated by ship-owners and managers by 2021. This might cause companies to create additional procedures for monitoring cybersecurity, which could require additional expenses and/or capital expenditures.  The impact of such regulations is hard to predict at this time.
 
In June 2022, SOLAS also set out new amendments that took effect January 1, 2024, which include new requirements for: (1) the design for safe mooring operations, (2) the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (“GMDSS”), (3) watertight integrity, (4) watertight doors on cargo ships, (5) fault-isolation of fire detection systems, (6) life-saving appliances, and (7) safety of ships using LNG as fuel.  These new requirements may impact the cost of our operations.
 
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. 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. In June 2023, the Hong Kong Convention, which is currently open for accession by IMO member states, was ratified by the required number of countries, and thus will enter into force in June 2025.
 
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.
 
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.
 
Risks Related to our Indebtedness
 
Servicing our debt limits funds available for other purposes and if we cannot service our debt, we may lose our vessels.
 
Borrowing under our credit facilities and financing arrangements requires us to dedicate a part of our cash flow from operations to paying interest and instalments on our indebtedness. These payments limit funds available for working capital, capital expenditures and other purposes, including making distributions to shareholders and further equity or debt financing in the future. Amounts borrowed under the credit facilities bear interest at variable rates. Increases in prevailing rates could increase the amounts that we would have to pay to our lenders, even though the outstanding principal amount remains the same, and our net income and cash flows would decrease. We expect our earnings and cash flow to vary from year to year due to the cyclical nature of the tanker industry. In addition, our current policy is not to accumulate cash, but rather to distribute our available cash to shareholders. If we do not generate or reserve enough cash flow from operations to satisfy our debt obligations, we may have to undertake alternative financing plans, such as:
 

seeking to raise additional capital;
 

refinancing or restructuring our debt;
 

selling vessels or other assets; or
 

reducing or delaying capital investments.
 
However, these alternative financing plans, if necessary, may not be sufficient to allow us to meet our debt obligations. If we are unable to meet our debt obligations or if some other default occurs under our credit facilities, the lenders could elect to declare that debt, together with accrued interest and fees, to be immediately due and payable and proceed against the collateral securing that debt, which constitutes our entire fleet.
 
Our borrowing facilities contain restrictive covenants, which could negatively affect our growth, cause our financial performance to suffer and limit our ability to pay dividends.
 
Our outstanding debt requires us or our subsidiaries to maintain financial covenants. Because some of these ratios are dependent on the market value of vessels, should charter rates or vessel values materially decline in the future, 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 and outbreaks of epidemic and pandemic of diseases, may affect our ability to comply with these covenants. We cannot assure you that we will meet these ratios or satisfy our financial or other covenants or that our lenders will waive any failure to do so.
 
These financial and other covenants may adversely affect our ability to finance future operations or limit our ability to pursue certain business opportunities or take certain corporate actions. The covenants may also restrict our flexibility in planning for changes in our business and the industry and make us more vulnerable to economic downturns and adverse developments. A breach of any of the covenants in, or our inability to maintain the required financial ratios under the borrowing facilities would prevent us from paying dividends to our shareholders and could result in a default under our borrowing facilities. If a default occurs under our borrowing facilities, the lenders could elect to declare the issued and outstanding debt, together with accrued interest and other fees, to be immediately due and payable and foreclose on the collateral securing that debt, which could constitute all or substantially all of our assets.
 
As of December 31, 2023, and as of the date of this annual report, we were in compliance with the financial covenants contained and other restrictions in our debt agreements.

Variable rate indebtedness could subject us to interest rate risk, which could cause our debt service obligations to increase significantly.

Our credit facilities use variable interest rates and expose us to interest rate risk. If interest rates rise further, our debt service obligations on the variable rate indebtedness would increase even if the amount borrowed remained the same, and our profitability and cash available for servicing our indebtedness would decrease.

We may not be able to finance our future capital commitments.
 
We cannot guarantee that we will be able to obtain financing at all or on terms acceptable to us. If adequate funds are not available, we may have to reduce expenditures for investments in new and existing projects, which could hinder our growth and prevent us from realizing potential revenues from prior investments which will have a negative impact on our cash flows and results of operations.
 
The current state of the global financial markets and current economic conditions may adversely impact our results of operation, financial condition, cash flows and ability to obtain financing or refinance our existing and future credit facilities on acceptable terms.
 
Major market disruptions and adverse changes in market conditions and regulatory climate in China, the United States, the European Union and worldwide may adversely affect our business or impair our ability to borrow amounts under credit facilities or any future financial arrangements. Credit markets and the debt and equity capital markets have at times in the past been distressed and there is uncertainty surrounding the future of the global credit markets, particularly for the shipping industry.

Also, as a result of concerns about the stability of financial markets generally, and the solvency of counterparties specifically, the availability and cost of obtaining money from the public and private equity and debt markets may become more difficult. Many lenders have increased interest rates, enacted tighter lending standards, refused to refinance existing debt at all or on terms similar to current debt, and reduced, and in some cases ceased, to provide funding to borrowers and other market participants, including equity and debt investors, and some have been unwilling to invest on attractive terms or even at all. Due to these factors, we cannot be certain that financing will be available if needed and to the extent required, or that we will be able to refinance our existing and future credit facilities, on acceptable terms or at all. If financing or refinancing is not available when needed, or is available only on unfavorable terms, we may be unable to meet our obligations as they come due or we may be unable to enhance our existing business, complete additional vessel acquisitions or otherwise take advantage of business opportunities as they arise.

Continuing concerns over inflation, rising interest rates, energy costs, geopolitical issues, including acts of war and the availability and cost of credit have contributed to increased volatility and diminished expectations for the economy and the markets going forward. These factors, combined with volatile oil prices, declining business and consumer confidence, have precipitated fears of a possible economic recession. Domestic and international equity markets continue to experience heightened volatility and turmoil. The weakness in the global economy has caused, and may continue to cause, a decrease in worldwide demand for certain goods and, thus, shipping.

We cannot assure you that we will be able to refinance our indebtedness.
 
In the event that we are unable to service or repay our debt obligations out of our operating activities, we may need to refinance our indebtedness and we cannot assure you that we will be able to do so on terms that are acceptable to us or at all. The actual or perceived tanker market rate environment and prospects and the market value of our fleet, among other things, may materially affect our ability to obtain new debt financing. If we are unable to refinance our indebtedness, we may choose to issue securities or sell certain of our assets in order to satisfy our debt obligations.
 
We are subject to certain risks with respect to our counterparties on contracts, and failure of such counterparties to meet their obligations could cause us to suffer losses or negatively impact our results of operations and cash flows.
 
We have entered into various contracts, including charter agreements with our customers, our borrowing facilities, and from time to time we may enter into newbuilding contracts. Such agreements subject us to counterparty risks. The ability of each of our counterparties to perform its obligations under a contract with us will depend on a number of factors that are beyond our control and may include, among other things, general economic conditions, the condition of the maritime and offshore industries, the overall financial condition of the counterparty, charter rates received for specific types of vessels, work stoppages and other labor disturbances. For example, the combination of a reduction of cash flow resulting from declines in world trade, a reduction in borrowing bases under reserve-based credit facilities and the lack of availability of debt or equity financing may result in a significant reduction in the ability of our charterers to make charter payments to us. In addition, in depressed market conditions, our charterers and customers may no longer need a vessel that is currently under charter or contract or may be able to obtain a comparable vessel at lower rates. As a result, charterers and customers may seek to renegotiate the terms of their existing charter parties or avoid their obligations under those contracts. Should a counterparty fail to honor its obligations under agreements with us, we could sustain significant losses which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. As a result, we could sustain significant losses which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, as well as our ability to pay dividends, if any, in the future, and comply with covenants in our borrowing facilities.
 
Risks Relating to Investing in Our Common Shares
 
Our share price may continue to be highly volatile, which could lead to a loss of all or part of a shareholder’s investment.
 
The market price of our common shares has fluctuated widely since our common shares began trading in on the NYSE. Over the last few years, the stock market has experienced price and volume fluctuations, due to factors such as actual or anticipated fluctuations in our quarterly and annual results and those of other public companies in our industry, any reductions in the payment of our dividends or changes in our dividend policy, mergers and strategic alliances in the shipping and offshore industries, market conditions in the shipping and offshore industries, changes in government regulation, shortfalls in our operating results from levels forecast by securities analysts, perceived or actual inability by our chartering counterparts to fully perform under the charter parties, including third party announcements concerning us or our competitors and the general state of the securities market. The shipping industries have been highly unpredictable and volatile. The market for common shares in these industries may be equally volatile. This volatility has sometimes been unrelated to the operating performance of particular companies. During 2023, the price of our common shares experienced a high of $4.77 in October and a low of $2.89 in January.  As of April 19, 2024, the price of our common shares was $3.80.
 
The market price of our common shares is affected by a variety of factors, including:
 

Investor reaction to the execution of our business strategy, including mergers and acquisitions;
 

Shareholder activism;
 

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, including those related to climate change;
 

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 ordinary shares;
 

Shorting activity in relation to our share;
 

Sales of our ordinary shares by us or our stockholders;
 

General economic, industry and market conditions; and
 

Other events or factors, including those resulting from such events, or the prospect of such events, including war, terrorism and other international conflicts, public health issues including health epidemics or pandemics, 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 ordinary shares, 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 stock price of our ordinary shares has fluctuated in the past, has been recently volatile and may be volatile in the future, investors in our ordinary shares 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 our stock price will remain at current prices.

Additionally, recently, securities of certain companies have experienced significant and extreme volatility in stock price due short sellers of shares of ordinary shares, 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 company. 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 shares 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 shares at a rate that is significantly disconnected from our underlying value.
 
We operate in a cyclical and volatile industry and cannot guarantee that we will continue to make cash distributions.
 
We have made cash distributions quarterly since October 1997. It is possible that our revenues could be reduced as a result of decreases in charter rates or that we could incur other expenses or contingent liabilities that would reduce or eliminate the cash available for distribution as dividends. Further, our credit facilities limit our ability to distribute dividends. For more information, please see “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospectus—B. Liquidity and Capital Resources—Our Borrowing Activities.” We may not continue to pay dividends at rates previously paid or at all.  If we do not pay dividends, the market price for our common shares must appreciate for investors to realize a gain on their investment. This appreciation may not occur and our common shares may in fact depreciate in value, in part because of any future decreases in or elimination of our dividend payments.
 
Future sales of our common stock could cause the market price of our common stock to decline.
 
The market price of our common stock could decline due to sales of our shares in the market or the perception that such sales could occur. This could depress the market price of our common stock and make it more difficult for us to sell equity securities in the future at a time and price that we deem appropriate, or at all.
 
Ineffective internal controls could impact the Company’s business and financial results.
 
The Company’s internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect misstatements because of its inherent limitations, including the possibility of human error, the circumvention or overriding of controls, or fraud. Even effective internal controls can provide only reasonable assurance with respect to the preparation and fair presentation of financial statements. If the Company fails to maintain the adequacy of its internal controls, including any failure to implement required new or improved controls, or if the Company experiences difficulties in their implementation, the Company’s business and financial results could be harmed and the Company could fail to meet its financial reporting obligations.
 
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, especially as they relate to the environment health and safety, diversity, labor conditions and human rights in recent years, and have placed increasing importance on the implications and social cost of their investments.
 
In February 2021, the Acting Chair of the SEC issued a statement directing the Division of Corporation Finance to enhance its focus on climate-related disclosure in public company filings and in March 2021 the SEC announced the creation of a Climate and ESG Task Force in the Division of Enforcement (the “Task Force”). The Task Force’s goal is to develop initiatives to proactively identify ESG-related misconduct consistent with increased investor reliance on climate and ESG-related disclosure and investment. To implement the Task Force’s purpose, the SEC has taken several enforcement actions, with the first enforcement action taking place in May 2022, and promulgated new rules. On March 21, 2022, the SEC proposed that all public companies are to include extensive climate-related information in their SEC filings. On May 25, 2022, SEC proposed a second set of rules aiming to curb the practice of “greenwashing” (i.e., making unfounded claims about one’s ESG efforts) and would add proposed amendments to rules and reporting forms that apply to registered investment companies and advisers, advisers exempt from registration, and business development companies. On March 6, 2024, the SEC adopted final rules to require registrants to disclose certain climate-related information in SEC filings of all public companies. The final rules require companies to disclose, among other things: material climate-related risks; activities to mitigate or adapt to such risks; information about the registrant’s board of directors’ oversight of climate-related risks and management’s role in managing material climate-related risks; and information on any climate-related targets or goals that are material to the registrant’s business, results of operations, or financial condition. Further, to facilitate investors’ assessment of certain climate-related risks, the final rules require disclosure of Scope 1 and/or Scope 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on a phased-in basis when those emissions are material; the filing of an attestation report covering the required disclosure of such registrants’ Scope 1 and/or Scope 2 emissions, also on a phased-in basis; and disclosure of the financial statement effects of severe weather events and other natural conditions including, for example, costs and losses. The final rules include a phased-in compliance period for all registrants, with the compliance date dependent on the registrant’s filer status and the content of the disclosure. However, on March 15, 2024, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted an administrative stay on the SEC’s recent climate disclosure rule.
 
The increased focus and activism related to ESG and similar matters may hinder access to capital, as investors and lenders may decide to reallocate capital or to not commit capital as a result of their assessment of a company’s ESG practices. Failure to adapt to or comply with evolving investor, lender or other industry shareholder expectations and standards, or the perception of not responding appropriately to the growing concern for ESG issues, regardless of whether there is a legal requirement to do so, may damage such a company’s reputation or stock price, resulting in direct or indirect material adverse effects on the company’s business and financial condition.
 
The increase in shareholder proposals submitted on environmental matters and, in particular, climate-related proposals in recent years indicates that 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. If we do not meet these standards, our business and/or our ability to access capital could be harmed.
 
We may face increasing pressures from investors, lenders, customers and other market participants, who are increasingly focused on climate change, to prioritize sustainable energy practices, reduce our carbon footprint and promote sustainability. As a result, we may be required to implement more stringent ESG procedures or standards so that our existing and future investors and lenders remain invested in us and make further investments in us. If we do not meet these standards, our business and/or our ability to access capital could be harmed.
 
Additionally, certain investors and lenders may exclude shipping companies, such as us, from their investing portfolios altogether due to environmental, social and governance factors.  These limitations in both the debt and equity capital markets may affect our ability to 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 implement, 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.
 
Moreover, from time to time, in alignment with our sustainability priorities, we aim at establishing and publicly announce goals and commitments in respect of certain ESG items, such as shipping decarbonization. While we may create and publish voluntary disclosures regarding ESG matters from time to time, many of the statements in those voluntary disclosures are based on hypothetical expectations and assumptions that may or may not be representative of current or actual risks or events or forecasts of expected risks or events, including the costs associated therewith. Such expectations and assumptions are necessarily uncertain and may be prone to error or subject to misinterpretation given the long timelines involved and the lack of an established standardized approach to identifying, measuring and reporting on many ESG matters. If we fail to achieve or improperly report on our progress toward achieving our environmental goals and commitments, the resulting negative publicity could adversely affect our reputation and/or our access to capital.
 
In the future there may be additional sustainability reporting requirements that the Company becomes subject to that may require us to incur additional expenditures in the future. When effective, we will focus on monitoring, managing and securing compliance with any new directives.
 
Finally, organizations that provide information to investors on corporate governance and related matters have developed ratings processes for evaluating companies on their approach to ESG matters. Such ratings are used by some investors to inform their investment and voting decisions. Unfavourable ESG ratings and recent activism directed at shifting funding away from companies with fossil fuel-related assets could lead to increased negative investor sentiment toward us and our industry and to the diversion of investment to other, non-fossil fuel markets, which could have a negative impact on our access to and costs of capital.
 
A decision of our Board of Directors and the laws of Bermuda may prevent the declaration and payment of dividends.
 
Our ability to declare and pay dividends is subject at all times to the discretion of our board of directors, or the Board, and compliance with Bermuda law, and may be dependent, among other things, upon our having sufficient available distributable reserves. For more information, please see “Item 8. Financial Information—Dividend Policy.” We may not continue to pay dividends at rates previously paid or at all.
 
We have antitakeover protections which could prevent a change of control.
 
We have antitakeover protections which could prevent a third party to acquire us without the consent of our board of directors. On June 16, 2017, our Board adopted a shareholders’ rights agreement. This shareholders’ rights plan was designed to enable us to protect shareholder interests in the event that an unsolicited attempt is made for a business combination with, or a takeover of, the Company. Our shareholders’ rights plan is not intended to deter offers that our Board determines are in the best interests of our shareholders.
 
If our vessels call on ports located in countries or territories that are subject to sanctions or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government, the European Union, the United Nations or other governmental authorities, it could result in monetary fines or other penalties, and may adversely affect our reputation and the market and trading price of our common stock.
 
We have not engaged in shipping activities in countries or territories or with government-controlled entities in 2023 in violation of any applicable sanctions or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government, the EU, the United Nations or other applicable governmental authorities. Our contracts with our charterers may prohibit them from causing our vessels to call on ports located in sanctioned countries or territories or carrying cargo for entities that are the subject of sanctions. Although our charterers may, in certain cases, control the operation of our vessels, we have monitoring processes in place reasonably designed to ensure our compliance with applicable economic sanctions and embargo laws. Nevertheless, it remains possible that our charterers may cause our vessels to trade in violation of sanctions provisions 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 price at which our common stock trades might be adversely affected.
 
  The U.S. sanctions and embargo laws and regulations vary in their application, as they do not all apply to the same covered persons or proscribe the same activities, and such sanctions and embargo laws and regulations may be amended or expanded over time as is the case with the war in Ukraine.  Current or future counterparties of ours, including charterers, 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 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, we could be subject to monetary fines, penalties, or other sanctions, as well as suffer reputational harm, and our operations and/or the price at which our common stock trades might be adversely affected.
 
As a result of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the U.S., EU and United Kingdom, together with numerous other countries, have imposed significant sanctions on persons and entities associated with Russia and Belarus, as well as comprehensive sanctions on certain areas within the Donbas region of Ukraine, and such sanctions apply to entities owned or controlled by such designated persons or entities. These sanctions adversely affect our ability to operate in the region and also restrict parties whose cargo we may carry. Sanctions against Russia have also placed significant prohibitions on the maritime transportation of seaborne Russian oil, the importation of certain Russian energy products and other goods, and new investments in the Russian Federation.  These sanctions further limit the scope of permissible operations and cargo we may carry.
 
Beginning in February of 2022, President Biden and several European leaders announced various economic sanctions against Russia in connection with the aforementioned conflicts in the Ukraine region, which may adversely impact our business, given Russia’s role as a major global exporter of crude oil and natural gas. Both the EU as well as the United States have implemented sanction programs, which includes prohibitions on the import of certain Russian energy products into the United States, including crude oil, petroleum, petroleum fuels, oils, liquefied natural gas and coal, as well as prohibitions on new investments in Russia, among other restrictions.  Furthermore, the EU and the United States have also prohibited a variety of specified services related to the maritime transport of Russian Federation origin crude oil and petroleum products, including trading/commodities brokering, financing, shipping, insurance (including reinsurance and protection and indemnity), flagging, and customs brokering. These prohibitions took effect on December 5, 2022 with respect to the maritime transport of crude oil and took effect on February 5, 2023 with respect to the maritime transport of other petroleum products.  An exception exists to permit such services when the price of the seaborne Russian oil does not exceed the relevant price cap; but implementation of this price exception relies on a recordkeeping and attestation process that allows each party in the supply chain of seaborne Russian oil to demonstrate or confirm that oil has been purchased at or below the price cap.  Violations of the price cap policy or the risk that information, documentation, or attestations provided by parties in the supply chain are later determined to be false may pose additional risks adversely affecting our business.
 
Although we believe that we have been in compliance with applicable sanctions and embargo laws and regulations in 2023, 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. Additionally, some investors may decide not to invest in our company simply because we do business with companies that do business in sanctioned countries. The determination by these investors not to invest in, or to divest from, our common stock may adversely affect the price at which our common stock trades. While the terms of our charters require our charterers to operate our vessels in compliance with all applicable sanctions and embargo laws, the failure of our charterers to comply with such provisions may result in the violation of such applicable sanctions and embargo laws and regulations which could in turn negatively affect our reputation. In addition, our reputation and the market for our securities may be adversely affected if we engage in certain other activities, such as entering into charters with individuals or entities that are not controlled by the governments of countries or territories that are the subject of certain U.S. sanctions or embargo laws, or engaging in operations associated with those countries or territories pursuant to contracts with third parties that are unrelated to those countries or territories or entities controlled by their governments. Investor perception of the value of our common stock 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.
 
Because we are a foreign corporation, you may not have the same rights that a shareholder in a U.S. corporation may have.
 
We are incorporated in the Islands of Bermuda. Our memorandum of association, bye-laws and the Companies Act, 1981 of Bermuda (the “Companies Act”), govern our affairs. The Companies Act does not as clearly establish your rights and the fiduciary responsibilities of our directors as do statutes and judicial precedent in some U.S. jurisdictions. Therefore, you may have more difficulty in protecting your interests as a shareholder in the face of actions by the management, directors or controlling shareholders than would shareholders of a corporation incorporated in a United States jurisdiction. There is a statutory remedy under Section 111 of the Companies Act which provides that a shareholder may seek redress in the courts as long as such shareholder can establish that our affairs are being conducted, or have been conducted, in a manner oppressive or prejudicial to the interests of some part of the shareholders, including such shareholder.
 
We are incorporated in Bermuda and it may not be possible for our investors to enforce U.S. judgments against us.
 
We are incorporated in the Islands of Bermuda. Substantially all of our assets are located outside the U.S. In addition, most of our directors and officers are non-residents of the U.S., and all or a substantial portion of the assets of these non-residents are located outside the U.S. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for U.S. investors to serve process within the U.S. upon us, or our directors and officers or to enforce a judgment against us for civil liabilities in U.S. courts. In addition, you should not assume that courts in the countries in which we are incorporated or where our vessels are located (1) would enforce judgments of U.S. courts obtained in actions against us based upon the civil liability provisions of applicable U.S. federal and state securities laws or (2) would enforce, in original actions, liabilities against us based on those laws.
 
We may have to pay tax on United States source income, which would reduce our earnings.
 
Under the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code, 50% of the gross shipping income of a vessel owning or chartering corporation, such as ourselves, attributable to transportation that begins or ends, but that does not both begin and end, in the United States will be characterized as U.S. source shipping income and such income is subject to a 4% United States federal income tax, without the benefit of deductions, unless that corporation is entitled to a special tax exemption under the Code which applies to income derived by certain non-United States corporations from the international operations of ships. We believe that we currently qualify for this statutory tax exemption and we have taken, and will continue to take, this position on the Company’s United States federal income tax returns. However, there are several risks that could cause us to become subject to tax on our United States source shipping income. Due to the factual nature of the issues involved, we can give no assurances as to our tax-exempt status for our future taxable years.
 
If we are not entitled to this statutory tax exemption for any taxable year, we would be subject for any such year to a 4% U.S. federal income tax on our U.S. source shipping income, without the benefit of deductions. The imposition of this tax could have a negative effect on our business and would result in decreased earnings available for distribution to our shareholders.
 
If the United States Internal Revenue Service were to treat us as a “passive foreign investment company,” that could have adverse tax consequences for United States shareholders.
 
A foreign corporation is treated as a “passive foreign investment company,” or PFIC, for United States federal income tax purposes, if either (1) at least 75% of its gross income for any taxable year consists of certain types of “passive income” or (2) at least 50% of the average value of the corporation’s assets produce or are held for the production of those types of passive income. For purposes of these tests, cash is treated as an asset that produces passive income, and passive income includes dividends, interest, and gains from the sale or exchange of investment property and rents and royalties other than rents and royalties which are received from unrelated parties in connection with the active conduct of a trade or business. Income derived from the performance of services does not constitute passive income. United States shareholders of a PFIC may be subject to a disadvantageous United States federal income tax regime with respect to the distributions they receive from the PFIC and the gain, if any, they derive from the sale or other disposition of their shares in the PFIC.
 
We believe that we ceased to be a PFIC beginning with the 2005 taxable year. Based on our current and expected future operations, we believe that we are not currently a PFIC, nor do we anticipate that we will become a PFIC for any future taxable year. As a result, non-corporate United States shareholders should be eligible to treat dividends paid by us in 2006 and thereafter as “qualified dividend income” which is subject to preferential tax rates.
 
We expect to derive more than 25% of our income each year from our spot chartering or time chartering activities. We also expect that more than 50% of the value of our assets will be devoted to our spot chartering and time chartering. Therefore, since we believe that such income will be treated for relevant United States federal income tax purposes as services income, rather than rental income, we have taken, and will continue to take, the position that such income should not constitute passive income, and that the assets that we own and operate in connection with the production of that income, in particular our vessels, should not constitute assets that produce or are held for the production of passive income for purposes of determining whether we are a PFIC in any taxable year.
 
There is, however, no direct legal authority under the PFIC rules addressing our method of operation. We believe there is substantial legal authority supporting our position consisting of case law and United States Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, pronouncements concerning the characterization of income derived from time charters and voyage charters as services income rather than rental income for other tax purposes. However, there is also authority which characterizes time charter income as rental income rather than services income for other tax purposes.  Accordingly, no assurance can be given that the IRS or a court of law will accept our position, and there is a risk that the IRS or a court of law could determine that we are a PFIC. Moreover, no assurance can be given that we would not constitute a PFIC for any future taxable year if there were to be changes in the nature and extent of our operations.
 
If the IRS or a court of law were to find that we are or have been a PFIC for any taxable year beginning with the 2005 taxable year, our United States shareholders who owned their shares during such year would face adverse United States federal income tax consequences and certain information reporting obligations. Under the PFIC rules, unless those United States shareholders made or make an election available under the Code (which election could itself have adverse consequences for such United States shareholders), such United States shareholders would be subject to United States federal income tax at the then highest income tax rates on ordinary income plus interest upon excess distributions (i.e., distributions received in a taxable year that are greater than 125% of the average annual distributions received during the shorter of the three preceding taxable years or the United States shareholder’s holding period for our common shares) and upon any gain from the disposition of our common shares, as if the excess distribution or gain had been recognized ratably over the United States shareholder’s holding period of our common shares. In addition, non-corporate United States shareholders would not be eligible to treat dividends paid by us as “qualified dividend income” if we are a PFIC in the taxable year in which such dividends are paid or in the immediately preceding taxable year.
 
Changes in tax laws and unanticipated tax liabilities could materially and adversely affect the taxes we pay, results of operations and financial results.
 
We are subject to income and other taxes in several jurisdictions, and our results of operations and financial results may be affected by tax and other initiatives around the world. For instance, there is a high level of uncertainty in today’s tax environment stemming from global initiatives put forth by the Economic Co-operation and Development’s (“OECD”) two-pillar base erosion and profit shifting project. In October 2021, members of the OECD put forth two proposals: (i) Pillar One reallocates profit to the market jurisdictions where sales arise versus physical presence; and (ii) Pillar Two compels multinational corporations with €750 million or more in annual revenue to pay a global minimum tax of 15% on income received in each country in which they operate. The reforms aim to level the playing field between countries by discouraging them from reducing their corporate income taxes to attract foreign business investment. Over 140 countries agreed to enact the two-pillar solution to address the challenges arising from the digitalization of the economy and, in 2024, these guidelines were declared effective and must now be enacted by those OECD member countries. It is possible that these guidelines, including the global minimum corporate tax rate measure of 15%, could increase the burden and costs of our tax compliance, the amount of taxes we incur in those jurisdictions and our global effective tax rate, which could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations and financial results.
 
We may become subject to taxation in Bermuda which would negatively affect our results.
 
At the present time, there is no Bermuda income or profits tax, withholding tax, capital gains tax, capital transfer tax, estate duty or inheritance tax payable by us or by our shareholders in respect of our shares. We have obtained an assurance from the Minister of Finance of Bermuda under the Exempted Undertakings Tax Protection Act 1966 that, in the event that any legislation is enacted in Bermuda imposing any tax computed on profits or income, or computed on any capital asset, gain or appreciation or any tax in the nature of estate duty or inheritance tax, such tax shall not, until March 31, 2035, be applicable to us or to any of our operations or to our shares, debentures or other obligations except insofar as such tax applies to persons ordinarily resident in Bermuda or is payable by us in respect of real property owned or leased by us in Bermuda. We cannot assure you that a future Minister would honor that assurance, which is not legally binding, or that after such date we would not be subject to any such tax. If we were to become subject to taxation in Bermuda, our results of operations could be adversely affected.
 
As a Bermuda exempted company incorporated under Bermuda law with subsidiaries in another offshore jurisdiction, our operations may be subject to economic substance requirements.
 
On December 5, 2017, following an assessment of the tax policies of various countries by the Code of Conduct Group for Business Taxation of the European Union (the “COCG”), the Council of the European Union approved and published Council conclusions containing a list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes (the “Conclusions”).  Although at that time not considered “non-cooperative jurisdictions,” certain countries, including Bermuda and the Marshall Islands were listed as having “tax regimes that facilitate offshore structures which attract profits without real economic activity.” In connection with the Conclusions, and to avoid being placed on the list of “non-cooperative jurisdictions,” the government of Bermuda, among others, committed to addressing COCG proposals relating to economic substance for entities doing business in or through their respective jurisdictions and to pass legislation to implement any appropriate changes by the end of 2018.
 
The Economic Substance Act 2018 and the Economic Substance Regulations 2018 of Bermuda (the “Economic Substance Act” and the “Economic Substance Regulations”, respectively) became operative on 31 December 2018.  The Economic Substance Act applies to every registered entity in Bermuda that engages in a relevant activity and requires that every such entity shall maintain a substantial economic presence in Bermuda. A relevant activity for the purposes of the Economic Substance Act is banking business, insurance business, fund management business, financing and leasing business, headquarters business, shipping business, distribution and service centre business, intellectual property business and conducting business as a holding entity, which means acting as a pure equity holding entity.
 
The Economic Substance Act provides that a registered entity that carries on a relevant activity complies with economic substance requirements if (a) it is directed and managed in Bermuda, (b) its core income-generating activities (as may be prescribed) are undertaken in Bermuda with respect to the relevant activity, (c) it maintains adequate physical presence in Bermuda, (d) it has adequate full time employees in Bermuda with suitable qualifications and (e) it incurs adequate operating expenditure in Bermuda in relation to the relevant activity.
 
A registered entity that carries on a relevant activity is obliged under the Economic Substance Act to file a declaration in the prescribed form (the “Declaration”) with the Registrar of Companies (the “Registrar”) on an annual basis.
 
The Economic Substance Regulations provide that minimum economic substance requirements shall apply in relation to an entity if the entity is a pure equity holding entity whose sole function is to acquire and hold shares or an equitable interest in other entities, and the shares or equitable interest are controlling stakes in other entities. The minimum economic substance requirements include a) compliance with applicable corporate governance requirements set forth in the Bermuda Companies Act 1981 including keeping records of account, books and papers and financial statements and b) submission of a Declaration. Additionally, the Economic Substance Regulations provide that a pure equity holding entity complies with economic substance requirements where it also has adequate people for holding and managing equity participations, and adequate premises in Bermuda.
 
Certain of our subsidiaries may from time to time be organized in other jurisdictions identified by the COCG based on global standards set by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development with the objective of preventing low-tax jurisdictions from attracting profits from certain activities. These jurisdictions, including the Marshall Islands, have also enacted economic substance laws and regulations which we may be obligated to comply with. If we fail to comply with our obligations under the Economic Substance Act or any similar law applicable to us in any other jurisdiction, we could be subject to financial penalties and spontaneous disclosure of information to foreign tax officials in related jurisdictions and may be struck from the register of companies in Bermuda or such other jurisdiction. Any of these actions could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
ITEM 4.
INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY
 
A.
History and Development of the Company
 
Nordic American Tankers Limited was formed on June 12, 1995, and organized under the laws of the Islands of Bermuda. We maintain our principal offices at Swan Building, 26 Victoria Street, Hamilton HM 12, Bermuda. Our telephone number at such address is (441) 292-7202 and we maintain an internet site at www.nat.bm. 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 www.sec.gov. None of the information contained on these websites is incorporated into or forms a part of this annual report. Our common shares trade under the symbol “NAT” on the New York Stock Exchange, or the NYSE. NAT’s shares were admitted for listing on the NYSE in November 2004 and were traded on the American Stock Exchange (AMEX) before that. NYSE Euronext acquired the AMEX in 2008 and is now known as the NYSE American. NAT also had a dual listing on the Oslo Stock Exchange until early 2005 when the listing in Oslo was terminated.
 
We are an international tanker company focusing solely on owning, operating and chartering of Suezmax tankers. In 2021, we sold one vessel built in 2000. In 2022, we sold five vessels built in 2002 and 2003, and we took delivery of two newbuildings, Nordic Harrier and Nordic Hunter, built at Samsung shipyard in South Korea. In 2023, we have acquired the 2016-built Nordic Hawk and our fleet currently consists of 20 vessels.
 
The vessels in our fleet are homogenous and interchangeable, which is a business strategy we refer to as the “Nordic American System”. We believe NAT is unlike other companies.
 
The Nordic American System is transparent and predictable with the key elements of ships, people and capital. Further, we are a dividend company with the objective of having a strong balance sheet and low G&A costs. Under the “Nordic American System”, we are focusing on close customer relationships and serving the “Big Oil” companies with a top-quality fleet.
 
graphic
 
All tankers in our fleet are Suezmax vessels, which have a carrying capacity of one million barrels of oil. The vessels are highly versatile. They can be utilized on most long-haul trade routes. A homogenous fleet streamlines maintenance, operating and administration costs, which helps keep our cash-breakeven low.
 
We have an operating cash break-even level of about $9,000 per day per vessel, which we consider low in the industry. The cash break-even rate is the amount of average daily revenue our vessels would need to earn in order to cover our vessel operating expenses (excluding general and administrative expenses, interest expenses and all other cash charges).
 
Cash dividends are our priority and we have paid quarterly dividends for 106 consecutive quarters. In 2023, we have declared quarterly dividends in total of $0.49 per share and we have declared a dividend in the first quarter of 2024 of $0.12 per share that was paid on April 10, 2024.
 
In conjunction with the delivery of three vessels from Samsung shipyard in 2018, or the 2018-built Vessels, we entered into final agreements for the financing. Under the terms of the financing agreement, the lender provided financing of 77.5% of the purchase price for each of the three 2018-built Vessels. After delivery of each of the vessels, we entered into ten-year bareboat charter agreements. We are obligated to purchase the vessels upon the completion of the ten-year bareboat charter agreements, and we have the option to purchase the vessels after sixty and eighty-four months. The options to purchase the vessels after sixty months expired unexercised in 2023.

On February 12, 2019, we entered into a new five-year senior secured credit facility for $306.1 million, or the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility. Borrowings under the facility are secured by first priority mortgages over fourteen of the Company’s vessels built in the period from 2002 to 2017 and assignments of earnings and insurance. The loan has an annual amortization equal to a twenty-year maturity profile, carries a floating interest rate plus a margin and matured originally in February 2024. During 2023, an amendment to the borrowing agreement has been signed extending the maturity date of the loan to February 2025. In 2019, we incorporated NAT Bermuda Holdings Ltd (“NATBH”) as a wholly-owned subsidiary of NAT and transferred the ownership of twenty vessels used as collateral from NAT to NATBH. As of December 31, 2023, there are 14 vessels remaining in NATBH that are used as collateral for the loan.

On October 16, 2020, we entered into an equity distribution agreement with B. Riley Securities, Inc., acting as a sales agent, under which we may, from time to time, offer and sell our common stock through an At-the-Market Offering, or the “$60 million 2020 ATM”, program having an aggregate offering price of up to $60,000,000. In 2021, we raised $60.0 million and $58.5 million in gross and net proceeds, respectively, by issuing 22,025,979 common shares and this ATM was fully utilized. The 2020 $60 million ATM program was terminated on October 14, 2021.

On December 16, 2020, we entered into a new loan agreement for the borrowing of $30.0 million. The loan is considered an accordion loan under the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility. The loan has an annual amortization equal to a twenty-year maturity profile, carries a floating interest rate plus a margin and matures in February 2025.

On December 22, 2020, we entered into final agreements for the financing of the two Suezmax newbuildings that were delivered to us from Samsung Shipyard in South Korea in May and June 2022. We secured 80% financing of the newbuilding price for these two vessels at similar terms as for the 2018-built Vessels with Ocean Yield ASA and the facility was fully utilized upon delivery of the vessels in 2022.

On September 29, 2021, we entered into an equity distribution agreement with B. Riley Securities, Inc., acting as a sales agent, under which we may, from time to time, offer and sell our common stock through an At-the-Market Offering, or the “$60 million 2021 ATM”, program having an aggregate offering price of up to $60,000,000. As of December 31, 2021, we had raised gross and net proceeds (after deducting sales commissions and other fees and expenses) of $22.3 million and $21.7 million, respectively, by issuing and selling 10,222,105 common shares. From January 1, 2022 and through to February 14, 2022, the Company raised gross and net proceeds of $16.9 million and $16.5 million, respectively, by issuing and selling 10,764,990 common shares. The $60 million 2021 ATM was terminated on February 14, 2022, after having utilized $39.2 million of the program.

On February 14, 2022, we entered into an equity distribution agreement with B. Riley Securities, Inc, acting as sales agent, under which the Company may, from time to time, offer and sell common stock through an At-the-Market Offering, or the “$60 million 2022 ATM”, program having an aggregate offering price of up to $60,000,000. In 2022, we raised gross and net proceeds of $33.6 million and $32.7 million, respectively, by issuing and selling 14,337,258 common shares. No shares have been issued under the $60 million 2022 ATM during 2023 and the remaining available balance is $26.4 million under this ATM. Based on the share price of the Company of $3.80 as of April 19, 2024, it would have resulted in 6,958,723 new shares being issued, if fully utilizing the remaining balance available through the $60 million 2022 ATM.

On December 4, 2023, we took delivery of the 2016-built Suezmax vessel, Nordic Hawk, increasing our fleet from 19 to 20 vessels. At the same time, we entered into a final agreement with Ocean Yield ASA for the financing of 75% of the purchase price of the vessel at similar terms as we have for the financing of the 2018-built Vessels and the 2022-built Vessels for an eight-year bareboat charter agreement.

For more information, please see “Item 5.B. Liquidity and Capital Resources” with regard to the above described transactions.
 
As of the date of this report, we have 208,796,444 common shares issued and outstanding.
 
B.
Business Overview
 
Our Fleet
 
Our fleet as of December 31, 2023, consisted of 20 Suezmax crude oil tankers, of which the vast majority have been built in South Korea. In 2023, we have expanded our fleet from 19 to 20 vessels after acquiring the 2016-built vessel, Nordic Hawk. The majority of our vessels are employed in the spot market. The two vessels built in 2022 have been chartered out on six-year time charter agreements that expire in 2028. Further, as of December 31, 2023, we have two vessels chartered out on longer term time-charter agreements expiring in the latter part of 2024. Occasionally, we also charter out vessels in our fleet on shorter term time charter agreements. The vessels in our fleet are considered homogenous and interchangeable as they have approximately the same freight capacity and ability to transport the same type of cargo.
 
As of December 31, 2023, and through to the date of this report, our fleet was as follows:
 
 
Vessel
 
Built in
Deadweight
Tons
Nordic Pollux
2003
150,103
Nordic Apollo
2003
159,999
Nordic Luna
2004
150,037
Nordic Castor
2004
150,249
Nordic Freedom
2005
159,331
Nordic Sprinter
2005
159,089
Nordic Skier
2005
159,089
Nordic Vega
2010
163,940
Nordic Light
2010
158,475
Nordic Cross
2010
158,475
Nordic Breeze
2011
158,597
Nordic Zenith
2011
158,645
Nordic Hawk
2016
157,594
Nordic Star
2016
157,738
Nordic Space
2017
157,582
Nordic Aquarius
2018
157,338
Nordic Cygnus
2018
157,526
Nordic Tellus
2018
157,407
Nordic Hunter
2022
157,037
Nordic Harrier
2022
157,094

Employment of Our Fleet
 
It is our policy to operate the majority of our vessels either in the spot market or on shorter-term time charters. Large international oil companies, oil traders and independent oil companies both in the Western and the Eastern parts of the world are important customers.
 
Spot Charters: Tankers operating in the spot market are typically chartered for a single voyage which may last up to several weeks. Under a voyage charter, we are responsible for paying voyage expenses and the charterer is responsible for any delay at the loading or discharging ports. When our tankers are operating on spot charters, the vessels are traded fully at the risk and reward of the Company. Revenues are recognized in a manner to reflect the transfer of the services to our customers over the duration of the voyage and freight is generally billed to the customer upon discharge of the cargo. The Company considers it appropriate to present this type of arrangement on a gross basis in the Statements of Operations. For further information concerning our accounting policies, please see Note 2 to our financial statements.
 
The tanker industry has historically been stronger in the fall and winter months in anticipation of increased oil consumption in the norther hemisphere during the winter months. Seasonal variations in tanker demand normally result in seasonal fluctuations in the spot market charters.
 
Time Charters: Under a time charter, the charterer is responsible and pays for the voyage expenses, such as port, canal and fuel costs, while the shipowner is responsible and pays for vessel operating expenses, including, among other costs, crew costs, provisions, deck and engine stores, lubricating oil, insurance, maintenance and repairs and costs relating to a vessel’s intermediate and special surveys. Revenue from time charter contracts are recognized daily over the term of the charter. Time charter agreements with profit-sharing are recognized when the contingency related to it is resolved. As of December 31, 2023, we did not have any time charter agreements with profit-sharing.
 
Technical Management
 
The technical management of our vessels is handled by companies under direct instructions from NAT. The ship management firms V.Ships Norway AS, Columbia Shipmanagement Ltd and Hellespont Ship Management GmbH & Co KG, provide the technical management services. The compensation paid under the technical management agreements is in accordance with industry standards.
 
The International Tanker Market
 
International seaborne oil and petroleum products transportation services are mainly provided by two types of operators: major oil company captive fleets (both private and state-owned) and independent shipowner fleets.  Both types of operators transport oil under short-term contracts (including single-voyage “spot charters”) and long-term time charters with oil companies, oil traders, large oil consumers, petroleum product producers and government agencies.  The oil companies own, or control through long-term time charters, a substantial part of the world tanker fleet. The oil companies use their fleets not only to transport their own oil, but also to transport oil for third-party charterers in direct competition with independent owners and operators in the tanker charter market.
 
The oil transportation industry has historically been subject to regulation by national authorities and through international conventions.  Over recent years, however, an environmental protection regime has evolved which may have a significant impact on the operations of participants in the industry in the form of increasingly more stringent inspection requirements, closer monitoring of pollution-related events, and generally higher costs and potential liabilities for the owners and operators of tankers.
 
In order to benefit from economies of scale, tanker charterers typically charter the largest possible vessel to transport oil or products, consistent with port and canal dimensional restrictions and optimal cargo lot sizes.  A tanker’s carrying capacity is measured in deadweight tons, or dwt, which is the amount of crude oil measured in metric tons that the vessel is capable of loading but also in barrels of oil.  VLCCs that can carry 2 million barrels of crude oil typically transport oil in long-haul trades, such as from the Arabian Gulf to Far East and Rotterdam via the Cape of Good Hope or from West Africa and US Gulf to the Far East via Cape of Good Hope. Suezmax tankers that carry 1 million barrels of crude oil also engage in long-haul as well as in medium-haul trades, such as from the Mediterranean, Black Sea, West Africa, South America and Arabian Gulf towards a variety of destinations such as India, Far East, Europe and US. Aframax-size vessels generally engage in both medium-and short-haul trades of less than 1,500 miles and carry crude oil or petroleum products.  Smaller tankers mostly transport petroleum products in short-haul to medium-haul trades.

The 2023 Tanker Market (Source; Fearnleys)
 
    Suezmax earnings in 2023, basis fixture date for forward loading averaged $48,500/day, almost exactly the same as the preceding year ($48,800/day), according to Fearnleys. Although not as high as the year before, these numbers were still impacted by high rates for Russia related trade. For comparison, the average rate for the benchmark West Africa – UK/Continent route averaged $40,300/day, up from $29,000/day in 2022. Earnings in the highly correlated VLCC and Aframax segments averaged $48,700/day and $45,200/day in 2023, respectively.

    The total crude oil and product tanker fleet above 25,000 dwt grew by a net 1.6% in 2023, with the crude tanker fleet expanding 1.3% and the product tanker fleet growing by 2.2%. This was lower than the 2.9% growth seen in 2022 due to much fewer deliveries which also offset slightly less demolition. Fleet growth was thus well below the ten-year average total tanker fleet growth of 3.1%.

    Suezmax fleet growth of 1.0% was down from 4.0% in 2022 and 2.3% in 2021, which is  the lowest it has been since 2015. The preceding ten-year average fleet growth was 3.4%. Seven vessels were delivered and one demolished, vs. thirty-three and eight, respectively, in 2022. This took the total fleet at the end of 2023 to 608 vessels. Deliveries in 2023 were evenly distributed through the year. By the end of 2023, slightly more than 37% of the fleet were modern, fuel-efficient vessels, reflecting a marginal increase from 2022.

    With continued strong earnings there was very little tanker demolition last year. Only a handful of vessels were broken up last year, totalling 0.5m dwt. This was significantly below the 5.2m dwt demolished in 2022, which itself was well below the historical annual average of 7.5m. As of the beginning of 2024 there were 63 vessels at or above the past 10-years’ average demolition age of 22 years, and 84 vessels which were more than 20 years old.

    At the beginning of 2024 the Suezmax orderbook stood at 58 vessels, or 9.5% of  the fleet. This was up from 1.7% of the fleet a year earlier. The total crude oil and product tanker orderbook for vessels above 25,000 dwt counted 38.5m dwt, or 6.2% of the fleet. This was up from 3.9% a year earlier which was the lowest since 1983. The average orderbook to fleet ratio during the last 20 years is 19%.

    2023 started off with continuing OPEC+ production cuts and the last drops of U.S. SPR releases. Neither had longer lasting impact on the tanker market, as other supply sources more than offset this. Strong U.S. crude oil productivity gains and commercial inventory draws contributed to all-time-high exports. Sticky Russia trade diversion continued to support demand for Suez- and Aframaxes. Other than a few spikes, rates followed a more normal seasonal trajectory, until the end of the year when continued and deeper OPEC+ cuts led rates unseasonably lower.

    Oil supply and tanker volumes increased significantly year over year, mostly from Iran, Russia and the U.S. Iranian volumes did not materially affect the ‘normal market’, but Russia’s lent strong support at least in the early part of the year. Once Urals crossed above the G7 price cap, however, the return of former Russia traders to ‘normal tanker markets’ left pressure on especially Afra- and Suezmax rates over the summer period of 2023. Historically high USG crude oil exports increasingly benefited tonne-mile demand for bigger vessels through the year as more of these volumes were shipped long-haul to the East.

    Overall, tanker tonne-mile demand increased by more than 5% year over year to reach record levels, despite volumes being within the historical ranges. However, on an exit to exit basis, Q4 tonne-mile demand was flat compared to the same quarter the year before, explaining the relative end-of-year rate weakness. Suezmax tonne-mile demand increased by slightly more than 3% year over year in 2023.

    Vessel values continued the upward trajectory through the year supported by earnings, apart from a brief ‘pause’ when rates dipped over the summer of 2023. More so than last year, focus among buyers turned to modern assets, although demand remained for older vessels too, supported by demand for vessels to ship oil from Russia especially.

The Tanker Market 2024
 
Reported spot rates in the first quarter of 2024 are more or less at similar levels as in the fourth quarter of 2023. The average Suezmax earnings per day in fourth quarter 2023 was $59,712 per day while the number for the first quarter of 2024 came in at $55,778 per day based on the indicated rates published by Clarkson Research. The indicated rates are an average of observations and routes. Some of the trade routes going into the average are routes involving Russian oil trade and as such not routes representing an average for all market participants.
 
From the time a voyage is booked and the rate is reported to the market, until the vessel loads the cargo and commences the voyage, there can be a delay of up to 30 days. As such, from an accounting perspective, a voyage booked at the end of a quarter may see the majority of its revenues being recorded in the following quarter’s results. The earnings for vessel operators are, for this reason, not necessarily expected to fluctuate in an identical manner as the indicative rates reported by Clarkson Research on a quarter by quarter basis.
 
Historically, geopolitical uncertainty has increased demand for oil tankers. Entering 2024 there is no lack of geopolitical turmoil. With the Russian invasion in Ukraine in 2022, a cold war-like era is back again. The military conflicts in the Middle East have also brought echoes of past conflicts in the region, with the Yom Kippur War (1973), the Iran crisis (1978-79) and the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) where the region turned into a war zone with the parties attacking oil transport in the Arabian Gulf. The differences from that time and now are many, but the China and Taiwan situation adds an extra layer of uncertainty in today’s geopolitical landscape. Wars, sanctions, and uncertainty in general very often changes the energy logistics and increases demand for transportation services.
 
Since the 1990’s, however, many people have been lifted out of poverty and it is estimated that the world consumer class will increase with another 100 million people also in 2024. The vast majority of these will come from Asian countries. The strong middle class that has taken root in this part of the world will have a positive impact on demand for oil and the overall tanker market.
 
Finally, the Tanker Market stands to benefit from the fact that the supply of tanker vessels will remain at historic low levels for at least the next two or three years. As of April 17, 2024, the orderbook for conventional Suezmax tankers stood at 81 vessels in total, which represents 14% of the existing Suezmax fleet. In 2024, a total of six Suezmaxes are expected to be added to the world fleet and one of these have been delivered in the first quarter of 2024. Environmental regulations, increased steel and production costs, and higher interest rates make investing in new ships quite challenging and a smaller order book for new tankers has always helped the tanker industry.
 
The fundamentals in the tanker market looked promising before the geopolitical landscape started changing in 2022. Despite continued OPEC cuts in oil production tanker markets have remained firm. With most analysts agreeing that the world currently is undersupplied with oil, combined with the factors mentioned above (geopolitical uncertainty, increasing demand for oil and muted supply of new oil tankers) an increase in OPEC production during 2024 could trigger an even tighter market balance for tankers.
 
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.
 
In 2013, the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee, or the “MEPC,” adopted a resolution amending MARPOL Annex I Condition Assessment Scheme, or “CAS.” These amendments became effective on October 1, 2014, and require compliance with the 2011 International Code on the Enhanced Programme of Inspections during Surveys of Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers, or “ESP Code,” which provides for enhanced inspection programs. We may need to make certain financial expenditures to comply with these amendments.
 
Air Emissions
 
In September of 1997, the IMO adopted Annex VI to MARPOL to address air pollution from vessels. Effective May 2005, Annex VI sets limits on sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from all commercial vessel exhausts and prohibits “deliberate emissions” of ozone depleting substances (such as halons and chlorofluorocarbons), emissions of volatile compounds from cargo tanks and the shipboard incineration of specific substances. Annex VI also includes a global cap on the sulfur content of fuel oil and allows for special areas to be established with more stringent controls on sulfur emissions, as explained below.  Emissions of “volatile organic compounds” from certain vessels, and the shipboard incineration (from incinerators installed after January 1, 2000) of certain substances (such as polychlorinated biphenyls, or “PCBs”) are also prohibited.  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 were adopted and took effect March 1, 2020, with the exception of vessels fitted with exhaust gas cleaning equipment (“scrubbers”) which can carry fuel of higher sulfur content.  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. Other areas in China are subject to local regulations that impose stricter emission controls. In December 2021, the member states of the Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution (“Barcelona Convention”) agreed to support the designation of a new ECA in the Mediterranean. On December 15, 2022, MEPC 79 adopted the designation of a new ECA in the Mediterranean, with an effective date of May 1, 2025. In July 2023, MEPC 80 announced three new ECA proposals, including the Canadian Arctic waters and the North-East Atlantic Ocean. If other ECAs are approved by the IMO, or other new or more stringent requirements relating to emissions from marine diesel engines or port operations by vessels are adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) or the states where we operate, compliance with these regulations could entail significant capital expenditures or otherwise increase the costs of our operations.
 
Amended Annex VI also establishes new tiers of stringent nitrogen oxide emissions standards for marine diesel engines, depending on their date of installation. At the MEPC meeting held from March to April 2014, amendments to Annex VI were adopted which address the date on which Tier III Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) standards in ECAs will go into effect.  Under the amendments, Tier III NOx standards apply to ships that operate in the North American and U.S. Caribbean Sea ECAs designed for the control of NOx produced by vessels with a marine diesel engine installed and constructed on or after January 1, 2016.  Tier III requirements could apply to areas that will be designated for Tier III NOx in the future. At MEPC 70 and MEPC 71, the MEPC approved the North Sea and Baltic Sea as ECAs for nitrogen oxide for ships built on or after January 1, 2021. The EPA promulgated equivalent (and in some senses stricter) emissions standards in 2010.  As a result of these designations or similar future designations, we may be required to incur additional operating or other costs.
 
As determined at the MEPC 70, the new Regulation 22A of MARPOL Annex VI became effective as of March 1, 2018 and requires ships above 5,000 gross tonnage to collect and report annual data on fuel oil consumption to an IMO database, with the first year of data collection having commenced on January 1, 2019.  The IMO intends to use such data as the first step in its roadmap (through 2023) for developing its strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships, as discussed further below.
 
As of January 1, 2013, MARPOL made mandatory certain measures relating to energy efficiency for ships. All ships are now required to develop and implement Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans (“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.   Additionally, MEPC 75 adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex VI which brings forward the effective date of the EEDI’s “phase 3” requirements from January 1, 2025 to April 1, 2022 for several ship types, including gas carriers, general cargo ships, and LNG carriers.
 
Additionally, MEPC 75 introduced draft amendments to Annex VI which impose new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships.  These amendments introduce requirements to assess and measure the energy efficiency of all ships and set the required attainment values, with the goal of reducing the carbon intensity of international shipping.  The requirements include (1) a technical requirement to reduce carbon intensity based on a new Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (“EEXI”), and (2) operational carbon intensity reduction requirements, based on a new operational carbon intensity indicator (“CII”).  The attained EEXI is required to be calculated for ships of 400 gross tonnage and above, in accordance with different values set for ship types and categories.  With respect to the CII, the draft amendments would require ships of 5,000 gross tonnage to document and verify their actual annual operational CII achieved against a determined required annual operational CII.  Additionally, MEPC 75 proposed draft amendments requiring that, on or before January 1, 2023, all ships above 400 gross tonnage must have an approved SEEMP on board.  For ships above 5,000 gross tonnage, the SEEMP would need to include certain mandatory content. MEPC 75 also approved draft amendments to MARPOL Annex I to prohibit the use and carriage for use as fuel of heavy fuel oil (“HFO”) by ships in Arctic waters on and after July 1, 2024. The draft amendments introduced at MEPC 75 were adopted at the MEPC 76 session on June 2021and entered into force in November 2022, with the requirements for EEXI and CII certification coming into effect 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. MEPC 79 adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex VI, Appendix IX to include the attained and required CII values, the CII rating and attained EEXI for existing ships in the required information to be submitted to the IMO Ship Fuel Oil Consumption Database. MEPC 79 revised the EEDI calculation guidelines to include a CO2 conversion factor for ethane, a reference to the updated ITCC guidelines, and a clarification that in case of a ship with multiple load line certificates, the maximum certified summer draft should be used when determining the deadweight. The amendments will enter into force on May 1, 2024. In July 2023, MEPC 80 approved the plan for reviewing CII regulations and guidelines, which must be completed at the latest by January 1, 2026. There will be no immediate changes to the CII framework, including correction factors and voyage adjustments, before the review is completed.
 
We may incur costs to comply with these revised standards. Additional or new conventions, laws and regulations may be adopted that could require the installation of expensive emission control systems and could adversely affect our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition.
 
Safety Management System Requirements
 
The SOLAS Convention was amended to address the safe manning of vessels and emergency training drills.  The Convention of Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (the “LLMC”) sets limitations of liability for a loss of life or personal injury claim or a property claim against ship owners. We believe that our vessels are in substantial compliance with SOLAS and LLMC standards.
 
Under Chapter IX of the SOLAS Convention, or the International Safety Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (the “ISM Code”), our operations are also subject to environmental standards and requirements. The ISM Code requires the party with operational control of a vessel to develop an extensive safety management system that includes, among other things, the adoption of a safety and environmental protection policy setting forth instructions and procedures for operating its vessels safely and describing procedures for responding to emergencies. We rely upon the safety management system that our technical management teams 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 applicable documents of compliance for our offices and safety management certificates for all of our vessels for which the certificates are required by the IMO. The documents of compliance 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 July 1, 2016 set for application to new oil tankers and bulk carriers.   The SOLAS Convention regulation II-1/3-10 on goal-based ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers, which entered into force on January 1, 2012, requires that all oil tankers and bulk carriers of 150 meters in length and above, for which the building contract is placed on or after July 1, 2016, satisfy applicable structural requirements conforming to the functional requirements of the International Goal-based Ship Construction Standards for Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers (“GBS Standards”).
 
Amendments to the SOLAS Convention Chapter VII apply to vessels transporting dangerous goods and require those vessels be in compliance with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (“IMDG Code”). Effective January 1, 2018, the IMDG Code includes (1) updates to the provisions for radioactive material, reflecting the latest provisions from the International Atomic Energy Agency, (2) new marking, packing and classification requirements for dangerous goods and (3) new mandatory training requirements.  Amendments which took effect on January 1, 2020 also reflect the latest material from the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, including (1) new provisions regarding IMO type 9 tank, (2) new abbreviations for segregation groups, and (3) special provisions for carriage of lithium batteries and of vehicles powered by flammable liquid or gas. Additional 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 are incorporated by ship-owners 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.
 
In June 2022, SOLAS also set out new amendments that took effect January 1, 2024, which include new requirements for: (1) the design for safe mooring operations, (2) the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (“GMDSS”), (3) watertight integrity, (4) watertight doors on cargo ships, (5) fault-isolation of fire detection systems, (6) life-saving appliances, and (7) safety of ships using LNG as fuel.  These new requirements may impact the cost of our operations.
 
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.
 
On December 4, 2013, the IMO Assembly passed a resolution revising the application dates of the BWM Convention so that the dates are triggered by the entry into force date and not the dates originally in the BWM Convention.  This, in effect, makes all vessels delivered before the entry into force date “existing vessels” and allows for the installation of ballast water management systems on such vessels at the first International Oil Pollution Prevention (“IOPP”) renewal survey following entry into force of the convention. The MEPC adopted updated guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems (G8) at MEPC 70. At MEPC 71, the schedule regarding the BWM Convention’s implementation dates was also discussed and amendments were introduced to extend the date existing vessels are subject to certain ballast water standards.  Those changes were adopted at MEPC 72.  Ships over 400 gross tons generally must comply with a “D-1 standard,” requiring the exchange of ballast water only in open seas and away from coastal waters.  The “D-2 standard” specifies the maximum amount of viable organisms allowed to be discharged, and compliance dates vary depending on the IOPP renewal dates. Depending on the date of the IOPP renewal survey, existing vessels must comply with the D-2 standard on or after September 8, 2019. For most ships, compliance with the D-2 standard will involve installing on-board systems to treat ballast water and eliminate unwanted organisms.  Ballast water management systems, which include systems that make use of chemical, biocides, organisms or biological mechanisms, or which alter the chemical or physical characteristics of the ballast water, must be approved in accordance with IMO Guidelines (Regulation D-3).  As of October 13, 2019, MEPC 72’s amendments to the BWM Convention took effect, making the Code for Approval of Ballast Water Management Systems, which governs assessment of ballast water management systems, mandatory rather than permissive, and formalized an implementation schedule for the D-2 standard.  Under these amendments, all ships must meet the D-2 standard by September 8, 2024.    Costs of compliance with these regulations may be substantial. Additionally, in November 2020, MEPC 75 adopted amendments to the BWM Convention which would require a commissioning test of the ballast water management system for the initial survey or when performing an additional survey for retrofits.  This analysis will not apply to ships that already have an installed BWM system certified under the BWM Convention.   These amendments have entered into force on June 1, 2022. In December 2022, MEPC 79 agreed that it should be permitted to use ballast tanks for temporary storage of treated sewage and grey water.  MEPC 79 also established that ships are expected to return to D-2 compliance after experiencing challenging uptake water and bypassing a BWM system should only be used as a last resort. In July 2023, MEPC 80 approved a plan for a comprehensive review of the BWM Convention. over the next three years and the corresponding development of a package of amendments to the Convention. MEPC 80 also adopted further amendments relating to Appendix II of the BWM Convention concerning the form of the Ballast Water Record Book, which are expected to enter into force in February 2025. A protocol for ballast water compliance monitoring devices and unified interpretation of the form of the BWM Convention certificate were also adopted.
 
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 adopted the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage of 1969, as amended by different Protocols in 1976, 1984 and 1992, and amended in 2000 (“the CLC”).  Under the CLC and depending on whether the country in which the damage results is a party to the 1992 Protocol to the CLC, a vessel’s registered owner may be strictly liable for pollution damage caused in the territorial waters of a contracting state by discharge of persistent oil, subject to certain exceptions.  The 1992 Protocol changed certain limits on liability expressed using the International Monetary Fund currency unit, the Special Drawing Rights.  The limits on liability have since been amended so that the compensation limits on liability were raised.  The right to limit liability is forfeited under the CLC where the spill is caused by the shipowner’s actual fault and under the 1992 Protocol where the spill is caused by the shipowner’s intentional or reckless act or omission where the shipowner knew pollution damage would probably result.  The CLC requires ships over 2,000 tons covered by it to maintain insurance covering the liability of the owner in a sum equivalent to an owner’s liability for a single incident.  We have protection and indemnity insurance for environmental incidents. P&I Clubs in the International Group issue the required Bunkers Convention “Blue Cards” to enable signatory states to issue certificates.  All of our vessels are in possession of a CLC State issued certificate attesting that the required insurance coverage is in force.
 
The IMO also adopted the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (the “Bunker Convention”) to impose strict liability on ship owners (including the registered owner, bareboat charterer, manager or operator) for pollution damage in jurisdictional waters of ratifying states caused by discharges of bunker fuel. The Bunker Convention requires registered owners of ships over 1,000 gross tons to maintain insurance for pollution damage in an amount equal to the limits of liability under the applicable national or international limitation regime (but not exceeding the amount calculated in accordance with the LLMC).  With respect to non-ratifying states, liability for spills or releases of oil carried as fuel in ship’s bunkers typically is determined by the national or other domestic laws in the jurisdiction where the events or damages occur.
 
Ships are required to maintain a certificate attesting that they maintain adequate insurance to cover an incident. In jurisdictions, such as the United States where the CLC or the Bunker Convention has not been adopted, various legislative schemes or common law govern, and liability is imposed either on the basis of fault or on a strict-liability basis.
 
Anti‑Fouling Requirements

In 2001, the IMO adopted the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti‑fouling Systems on Ships, or the “Anti‑fouling Convention.” The Anti‑fouling Convention, which entered into force on September 17, 2008, prohibits the use of organotin compound coatings to prevent the attachment of mollusks and other sea life to the hulls of vessels. Vessels of over 400 gross tons engaged in international voyages will also be required to undergo an initial survey before the vessel is put into service or before an International Anti‑fouling System Certificate (the “IAFS Certificate”) is issued for the first time; and subsequent surveys when the anti‑fouling systems are altered or replaced. Vessels of 24 meters in length or more but less than 400 gross tonnage engaged in international voyages will have to carry a Declaration on Anti-fouling Systems signed by the owner or authorized agent.

In November 2020, MEPC 75 approved draft amendments to the Anti-fouling Convention to prohibit anti-fouling systems containing cybutryne, which would apply to ships from January 1, 2023, or, for ships already bearing such an anti-fouling system, at the next scheduled renewal of the system after that date, but no later than 60 months following the last application to the ship of such a system.  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. These amendments were formally adopted at MEPC 76 in June 2021 and entered into force on January 1, 2023.

We have obtained Anti‑fouling System Certificates for all of our vessels that are subject to the Anti‑fouling Convention.
 
Compliance Enforcement
 
Noncompliance with the ISM Code or other IMO regulations may subject the ship owner or bareboat charterer to increased liability, may lead to decreases in available insurance coverage for affected vessels and may result in the denial of access to, or detention in, some ports. The USCG and European Union authorities have indicated that vessels not in compliance with the ISM Code by applicable deadlines will be prohibited from trading in U.S. and European Union ports, respectively.  As of the date of this report, each of our vessels is ISM Code certified. However, there can be no assurance that such certificates will be maintained in the future.  The IMO continues to review and introduce new regulations. It is impossible to predict what additional regulations, if any, may be passed by the IMO and what effect, if any, such regulations might have on our operations.
 
United States Regulations
 
The U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act
 
The U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”) established an extensive regulatory and liability regime for the protection and cleanup of the environment from oil spills. OPA affects all “owners and operators” whose vessels trade or operate within the U.S., its territories and possessions or whose vessels operate in U.S. waters, which includes the U.S.’s territorial sea and its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone around the U.S.  The U.S. has also enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), which applies to the discharge of hazardous substances other than oil, except in limited circumstances, whether on land or at sea.  OPA and CERCLA both define “owner and operator” in the case of a vessel as any person owning, operating or chartering by demise, the vessel.  Both OPA and CERCLA impact our operations.
 
Under OPA, vessel owners and operators are “responsible parties” and are jointly, severally and strictly liable (unless the spill results solely from the act or omission of a third party, an act of God or an act of war) for all containment and clean-up costs and other damages arising from discharges or threatened discharges of oil from their vessels, including bunkers (fuel).  OPA defines these other damages broadly to include:
 
(i)        injury to, destruction or loss of, or loss of use of, natural resources and related assessment costs;
 
(ii)       injury to, or economic losses resulting from, the destruction of real and personal property;
 
(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 clean-up costs.  Effective November 12, 2019, the USCG adjusted the limits of OPA liability for a tank vessel, other than a single-hull tank vessel, over 3,000 gross tons liability to the greater of $2,300 per gross ton or $19,943,400 (subject to periodic adjustment for inflation). On December 23, 2022, the USCG issued a final rule to adjust the limitation of liability under the OPA.  Effective March 23, 2022, the new adjusted limits of OPA liability for a tank vessel, other than a single-hull tank vessel, over 3,000 gross tons liability to the greater of $2,500 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 clean-up, removal and remedial costs, as well as damages for injury to, or destruction or loss of, natural resources, including the reasonable costs associated with assessing the same, and health assessments or health effects studies. There is no liability if the discharge of a hazardous substance results solely from the act or omission of a third party, an act of God or an act of war. Liability under CERCLA is limited to the greater of $300 per gross ton or $5.0 million for vessels carrying a hazardous substance as cargo and the greater of $300 per gross ton or $500,000 for any other vessel. These limits do not apply (rendering the responsible person liable for the total cost of response and damages) if the release or threat of release of a hazardous substance resulted from willful misconduct or negligence, or the primary cause of the release was a violation of applicable safety, construction or operating standards or regulations.  The limitation on liability also does not apply if the responsible person fails or refused to provide all reasonable cooperation and assistance as requested in connection with response activities where the vessel is subject to OPA.
 
OPA and CERCLA each preserve the right to recover damages under existing law, including maritime tort law.  OPA and CERCLA both require owners and operators of vessels to establish and maintain with the USCG evidence of financial responsibility sufficient to meet the maximum amount of liability to which the particular responsible person may be subject. Vessel owners and operators may satisfy their financial responsibility obligations by providing a proof of insurance, a surety bond, qualification as a self-insurer or a guarantee. We comply and plan to comply going forward with the USCG’s financial responsibility regulations by providing applicable certificates of financial responsibility.
 
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in additional regulatory initiatives or statutes, including higher liability caps under OPA, new regulations regarding offshore oil and gas drilling and a pilot inspection program for offshore facilities.  However, several of these initiatives and regulations have been or may be revised.  For example, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (“BSEE”) revised Production Safety Systems Rule (“PSSR”), effective December 27, 2018, modified and relaxed certain environmental and safety protections under the 2016 PSSR.  Additionally, the BSEE amended the Well Control Rule, effective July 15, 2019, which rolled back certain reforms regarding the safety of drilling operations, and former U.S. President Trump had proposed leasing new sections of U.S. waters to oil and gas companies for offshore drilling.  In January 2021, current U.S. President Biden signed an executive order temporarily blocking new leases for oil and gas drilling in federal waters.  However, attorney generals from 13 states filed suit in March 2021 to lift the executive order, and in June 2021, a federal judge in Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction against the Biden administration, stating that the power to pause offshore oil and gas leases “lies solely with Congress.” In August 2022, a federal judge in Louisiana sided with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with the other 12 plaintiff states, by issuing a permanent injunction against the Biden Administration’s moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal public lands and offshore waters. After being blocked by the courts, in September 2023, the Biden administration announced a scaled back offshore oil drilling plan, including just three oil lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico. With these rapid changes, compliance with any new requirements of OPA and future legislation or regulations applicable to the operation of our vessels could impact the cost of our operations and adversely affect our business.
 
OPA specifically permits individual states to impose their own liability regimes with regard to oil pollution incidents occurring within their boundaries, provided they accept, at a minimum, the levels of liability established under OPA and some states have enacted legislation providing for unlimited liability for oil spills.  Many U.S. states that border a navigable waterway have enacted environmental pollution laws that impose strict liability on a person for removal costs and damages resulting from a discharge of oil or a release of a hazardous substance.  These laws may be more stringent than U.S. federal law.  Moreover, some states have enacted legislation providing for unlimited liability for discharge of pollutants within their waters, although in some cases, states which have enacted this type of legislation have not yet issued implementing regulations defining vessel owners’ responsibilities under these laws. The Company intends to comply with all applicable state regulations in the ports where the Company’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. Our vessels are subject to vapor control and recovery requirements for certain cargoes when loading, unloading, ballasting, cleaning and conducting other operations in regulated port areas. The CAA also requires states to draft State Implementation Plans, or “SIPs,” designed to attain national health-based air quality standards in each state. Although state-specific, SIPs may include regulations concerning emissions resulting from vessel loading and unloading operations by requiring the installation of vapor control equipment. Our vessels operating in such regulated port areas with restricted cargoes are equipped with vapor recovery systems that satisfy these existing requirements.
 
The U.S. Clean Water Act (“CWA”) prohibits the discharge of oil, hazardous substances and ballast water in U.S. navigable waters unless authorized by a duly-issued permit or exemption, and imposes strict liability in the form of penalties for any unauthorized discharges.  The CWA also imposes substantial liability for the costs of removal, remediation and damages and complements the remedies available under OPA and CERCLA.  In 2015, the EPA expanded the definition of “waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”), thereby expanding federal authority under the CWA.  Following litigation on the revised WOTUS rule, in December 2018, the EPA and Department of the Army proposed a revised, limited definition of WOTUS.  In 2019 and 2020, the agencies repealed the prior WOTUS Rule and promulgated the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (“NWPR”) which significantly reduced the scope and oversight of EPA and the Department of the Army in traditionally non-navigable waterways. On August 30, 2021, a federal district court in Arizona vacated the NWPR and directed the agencies to replace the rule with the pre-2015 definition. In January 2023, ,  the revised WOTUS rule was codified in place of the vacated NWPR. . On May 25, 2023, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case Sackett v. EPA that only wetlands and permanent bodies of water with a “continuous surface connection” to “traditional interstate navigable waters” are covered by the CWA, further narrowing the application of the WOTUS rule.  On August 2023, the EPA and the Department of Army issued the final WOTUS rule, effective on September 8, 2023, that largely reinstated the pre-2015 definition and applied the Sackett ruling.
 
The EPA and the USCG have also enacted rules relating to ballast water discharge, compliance with which requires the installation of equipment on our vessels to treat ballast water before it is discharged or the implementation of other port facility disposal arrangements or procedures at potentially substantial costs, and/or otherwise restrict our vessels from entering U.S. Waters.  The EPA will regulate these ballast water discharges and other discharges incidental to the normal operation of certain vessels within United States waters pursuant to the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (“VIDA”), which was signed into law on December 4, 2018 and replaces the 2013 Vessel General Permit (“VGP”) program (which authorizes discharges incidental to operations of commercial vessels and contains numeric ballast water discharge limits for most vessels to reduce the risk of invasive species in U.S. waters, stringent requirements for exhaust gas scrubbers, and requirements for the use of environmentally acceptable lubricants) and current Coast Guard ballast water management regulations adopted under the U.S. National Invasive Species Act (“NISA”), such as mid-ocean ballast exchange programs and installation of approved USCG technology for all vessels equipped with ballast water tanks bound for U.S. ports or entering U.S. waters.  VIDA establishes a new framework for the regulation of vessel incidental discharges under Clean Water Act (CWA), requires the EPA to develop performance standards for those discharges within two years of enactment, and requires the U.S. Coast Guard to develop implementation, compliance and enforcement regulations within two years of EPA’s promulgation of standards.  Under VIDA, all provisions of the 2013 VGP and USCG regulations regarding ballast water treatment remain in force and effect until the EPA and U.S. Coast Guard regulations are finalized.  Non-military, non-recreational vessels greater than 79 feet in length must continue to comply with the requirements of the VGP, including submission of a Notice of Intent (“NOI”) or retention of a PARI form and submission of annual reports. We have submitted NOIs for our vessels where required. 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 European Union amended a directive to impose criminal sanctions for illicit ship-source discharges of polluting substances, including minor discharges, if committed with intent, recklessly or with serious negligence and the discharges individually or in the aggregate result in deterioration of the quality of water. Aiding and abetting the discharge of a polluting substance may also lead to criminal penalties. The directive applies to all types of vessels, irrespective of their flag, but certain exceptions apply to warships or where human safety or that of the ship is in danger. Criminal liability for pollution may result in substantial penalties or fines and increased civil liability claims.  Regulation (EU) 2015/757 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2015 (amending EU Directive 2009/16/EC) governs the monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport, and, subject to some exclusions, requires companies with ships over 5,000 gross tonnage to monitor and report carbon dioxide emissions annually, which may cause us to incur additional expenses.
 
The European Union has adopted several regulations and directives requiring, among other things, more frequent inspections of high-risk ships, as determined by type, age and flag as well as the number of times the ship has been detained. The European Union also adopted and extended a ban on substandard ships and enacted a minimum ban period and a definitive ban for repeated offenses. The regulation also provided the European Union with greater authority and control over classification societies, by imposing more requirements on classification societies and providing for fines or penalty payments for organizations that failed to comply. Furthermore, the EU has implemented regulations requiring vessels to use reduced sulfur content fuel for their main and auxiliary engines. The EU Directive 2005/33/EC (amending Directive 1999/32/EC) introduced requirements parallel to those in Annex VI relating to the sulfur content of marine fuels. In addition, the EU imposed a 0.1% maximum sulfur requirement for fuel used by ships at berth in the Baltic, the North Sea and the English Channel (the so called “SOx-Emission Control Area”). As of January 2020, EU member states must also 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 European Union’s carbon market, the EU Emissions Trading System (“EU ETS”) as part of its “Fit-for-55” legislation to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030.  On July 14, 2021, the European Parliament formally proposed its plan, which would involve gradually including the maritime sector from 2023 and phasing the sector in over a three-year period. This will require shipowners to buy permits to cover these emissions.  The Environment Council adopted a general approach on the proposal in June 2022. On December 18, 2022, the Environmental Council and European Parliament agreed on a gradual introduction of obligations for shipping companies to surrender allowances equivalent to a portion of their carbon emissions: 40% for verified emissions from 2024, 70% for 2025 and 100% for 2026.  Most large vessels will be included in the scope of the EU ETS from the start.  Big offshore vessels of 5,000 gross tonnage and above will be included in the ‘MRV’ on the monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions from maritime transport regulation from 2025 and in the EU ETS from 2027. General cargo vessels and off-shore vessels between 400-5,000 gross tonnage will be included in the MRV regulation from 2025 and their inclusion in EU ETS will be reviewed in 2026. Furthermore, starting from January 1, 2026, the ETS regulations will expand to include emissions of two additional greenhouse gases: nitrous oxide and methane.  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.
 
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 is required to ensure compliance with the MLC 2006 for all ships that are 500 gross tonnage or over and are either engaged in international voyages or flying the flag of a Member and operating from a port, or between ports, in another country. We believe that 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 U.S. initially entered into the agreement, but on June 1, 2017, former U.S. President Trump announced that the United States intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and the withdrawal became effective on November 4, 2020. On January 20, 2021, U.S. President Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris Agreement, which the U.S. officially rejoined 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. In July 2023, MEPC 80 adopted a revised strategy, which includes an enhanced common ambition to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping around or close to 2050, a commitment to ensure an uptake of alternative zero and near-zero greenhouse gas fuels by 2030, as well as i). reducing the total annual greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by at least 20%, striving for 30%, by 2030, compared to 2008; and ii). reducing the total annual greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by at least 70%, striving for 80%, by 2040, compared to 2008.
 
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. Under the European Climate Law, the EU committed to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 through its “Fit-for-55” legislation package.  As part of this initiative, regulations relating to the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions from the maritime sector in the European Union’s carbon market, EU ETS, are also forthcoming.
 
In the United States, the EPA issued a finding that greenhouse gases endanger the public health and safety, adopted regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from certain mobile sources and proposed regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from large stationary sources. However, in March 2017, former U.S. President Trump signed an executive order to review and possibly eliminate the EPA’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and in August 2019, the Administration announced plans to weaken regulations for methane emissions. On August 13, 2020, the EPA released rules rolling back standards to control methane and volatile organic compound emissions from new oil and gas facilities.  However, U.S. President Biden recently directed the EPA to publish a proposed rule suspending, revising, or rescinding certain of these rules. 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. EPA also issued a supplemental proposed rule in November 2022 to include additional methane reduction measures. On December 2, 2023, the Biden Administration announced the final rule that includes updated and strengthened standards for methane and other air pollutants from new, modified, and reconstructed sources, as well as Emissions Guidelines to assist states in developing plans to limit methane emissions from existing sources.  These new regulations could potentially 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; ship identification number to be permanently marked on a vessel’s hull; a continuous synopsis record kept onboard showing a vessel’s history including the name of the ship, the state whose flag the ship is entitled to fly, the date on which the ship was registered with that state, the ship’s identification number, the port at which the ship is registered and the name of the registered owner(s) and their registered address; and compliance with flag state security certification requirements.
 
The USCG regulations, intended to align with international maritime security standards, exempt non-U.S. vessels from MTSA vessel security measures, provided such vessels have on board a valid ISSC that attests to the vessel’s compliance with the SOLAS Convention security requirements and the ISPS Code. Future security measures could have a significant financial impact on us.  We intend to comply with the various security measures addressed by MTSA, the SOLAS Convention and the ISPS Code.
 
The cost of vessel security measures has also been affected by the escalation in the frequency of acts of piracy against ships, notably off the coast of Somalia, including the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea area.  Substantial loss of revenue and other costs may be incurred as a result of detention of a vessel or additional security measures, and the risk of uninsured losses could significantly affect our business. Costs are incurred in taking additional security measures in accordance with Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy, notably those contained in the 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., American Bureau of Shipping, Lloyd’s Register of Shipping).
 
A vessel must undergo annual surveys, intermediate surveys, drydockings and special surveys. In lieu of a special survey, a vessel’s machinery may be on a continuous survey cycle, under which the machinery would be surveyed periodically over a five-year period. Every vessel is also required to be drydocked every 30 to 36 months for inspection of the underwater parts of the vessel.  If any vessel does not maintain its class and/or fails any annual survey, intermediate survey, drydocking or special survey, the vessel will be unable to carry cargo between ports and will be unemployable and uninsurable which could cause us to be in violation of certain covenants in our loan agreements. Any such inability to carry cargo or be employed, or any such violation of covenants, could have a material adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations.
 
Risk of Loss and Liability Insurance
 
General
 
The operation of any cargo vessel includes risks such as mechanical failure, physical damage, collision, property loss, cargo loss or damage and business interruption due to political circumstances in foreign countries, piracy incidents, hostilities and labor strikes. In addition, there is always an inherent possibility of marine disaster, including oil spills and other environmental mishaps, and the liabilities arising from owning and operating vessels in international trade. OPA, which imposes virtually unlimited liability upon shipowners, operators and bareboat charterers of any vessel trading in the exclusive economic zone of the United States for certain oil pollution accidents in the United States, has made liability insurance more expensive for shipowners and operators trading in the United States market. We carry insurance coverage as customary in the shipping industry. However, not all risks can be insured, specific claims may be rejected, and we might not be always able to obtain adequate insurance coverage at reasonable rates.
 
Hull and Machinery Insurance

We procure marine hull and machinery and war risk insurance, which include the risk of actual or constructive total loss, for all of the vessels in our fleet. The vessels in our fleet are each covered up to at least fair market value, with deductibles of $350,000 per vessel per incident. We also arranged increased value coverage for each vessel. Under this increased value coverage, in the event of total loss of a vessel, we will be able recover for amounts not recoverable under the hull and machinery policy.  We generally do not maintain insurance against loss of hire (except for certain charters for which we consider it appropriate), which covers business interruptions that result in the loss of use of a vessel.
 
Protection and Indemnity Insurance
 
Protection and indemnity insurance is provided by mutual protection and indemnity associations, or “P&I Associations,” and covers our third-party liabilities in connection with our shipping activities. This includes third-party liability and other related expenses of injury or death of crew, passengers and other third parties, loss or damage to cargo, claims arising from collisions with other vessels, damage to other third-party property, pollution arising from oil or other substances and salvage, towing and other related costs, including wreck removal. Protection and indemnity insurance is a form of mutual indemnity insurance, extended by protection and indemnity mutual associations, or “clubs.”
 
Our current protection and indemnity insurance coverage for pollution is $1.0 billion per vessel per incident. The 12 P&I Associations that comprise the International Group insure approximately 90% of the world’s commercial tonnage and have entered into a pooling agreement to reinsure each association’s liabilities. The International Group’s website states that the Pool provides a mechanism for sharing all claims in excess of US$ 10 million up to, currently, approximately $8.9 billion.  As a member of a P&I Association, which is a member of the International Group, we are subject to calls payable to the associations based on our claim records as well as the claim records of all other members of the individual associations and members of the shipping pool of P&I Associations comprising the International Group.
 
Competition
 
We operate in what we refer to as the Nordic American System, which describes our operation of our homogenous Suezmax tanker fleet in markets that are highly competitive and based primarily on supply and demand. We currently operate the majority of our vessels in the spot market. We compete for charters on the basis of price, vessel location, size, age and condition of the vessel, as well as on our reputation as an operator. For more information on the “Nordic American System”, please see “Item 4.A. History and Development of the Company.”
 
Permits and Authorizations
 
We are required by various governmental and quasi-governmental agencies to obtain certain permits, licenses and certificates with respect to our vessels. The kinds of permits, licenses and certificates required depend upon several factors, including the commodity transported, the waters in which the vessel operates, the nationality of the vessel’s crew and the age of a vessel. We have been able to obtain all permits, licenses and certificates currently required to permit our vessels to operate. Additional laws and regulations, environmental or otherwise, may be adopted which could limit our ability to do business or increase our cost of doing business.
 
Seasonality
 
Historically, oil trade and, therefore, charter rates increased in the winter months and eased in the summer months as demand for oil in the Northern Hemisphere rose in colder weather and fell in warmer weather. The tanker industry, in general, has become less dependent on the seasonal transport of heating oil than a decade ago as new uses for oil and oil products have developed, spreading consumption more evenly over the year. This is most apparent from the higher seasonal demand during the summer months due to energy requirements for air conditioning and motor vehicles.
 
C.
Organizational Structure
 
See Exhibit 8.1 to this Form 20-F for a list of our significant subsidiaries.
 
D.
Property, Plant and Equipment
 
Please see “Item 4. Information on the Company B. Business Overview—Our Fleet”, for a description of our vessels. The vessels are mortgaged as collateral under the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility including the $30 million Accordion Loan and the financing agreements with Ocean Yield.
 
ITEM 4A.
UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
 
None.
 
ITEM 5.
OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS
 
The following management’s discussion and analysis should be read in conjunction with our historical financial statements and notes thereto included elsewhere in this report. This discussion contains forward-looking statements that reflect our current views with respect to future events and financial performance. Our actual results may differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of certain factors, such as those set forth in the section entitled “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this annual report.
 
A.
Operating Results
 
Business overview
 
Our fleet as of December 31, 2023, consisted of 20 Suezmax crude oil tankers. In 2022, we sold five vessels and took delivery of two Suezmax newbuildings from Samsung shipyard in South Korea. In 2023, we have added one 2016-built vessel to the fleet and increasing the fleet from 19 to 20 vessels. The majority of our vessels are employed in the spot market. The two vessels built in 2022 are chartered out on six-year time charter agreements that expires in 2028. As of December 31, 2023, we have further two vessels that are chartered out on longer term time-charter agreements expiring in the latter part of 2024. Occasionally, we also charter out our vessels on shorter term time-charter parties.
 
The vessels in our fleet are considered homogenous and interchangeable as they have approximately the same freight capacity and ability to transport the same type of cargo.
 
YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2023 COMPARED TO YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2022
 
   
Years Ended
December 31,
       
All figures in USD ‘000
 
2023
   
2022
   
Variance
 
Voyage Revenues
   
391,687
     
339,340
     
15.4
%
Voyage Expenses
   
(129,507
)
   
(170,515
)
   
-24.0
%
Vessel Operating Expenses
   
(60,003
)
   
(63,430
)
   
-5.4
%
Impairment Loss on Vessels
   
-
     
(314
)
   
N/A
 
Depreciation Expenses
   
(51,397
)
   
(50,421
)
   
1.9
%
Gain on Disposal of Vessels
   
-
     
6,005
     
N/A
 
General and Administrative Expenses
   
(22,890
)
   
(18,798
)
   
21.8
%
Net Operating Income
   
127,890
     
41,867
     
205.5
%
Interest Income
   
1,302
     
266
     
389.5
%
Interest Expenses
   
(30,498
)
   
(27,055
)
   
12.7
%
Other Financial Income (Expenses)
   
137
     
46
     
197.8
%
Net Income Before Income Taxes
   
98,831
     
15,124
     
553.5
%
Income Tax
   
(120
)
   
(23
)
   
421.7
%
Net Income
   
98,711
     
15,101
     
553.7
%

Management believes that net voyage revenue, a non-GAAP financial measure, provides additional meaningful information because it enables us to compare the profitability of our vessels that are employed under bareboat charters, spot related time charters and spot charters. Net voyage revenues divided by the number of days on the charter provides the Time Charter Equivalent (TCE) Rate. Net voyage revenues and TCE rates are widely used by investors and analysts in the tanker shipping industry for comparing the financial performance of companies and for preparing industry averages. We believe that our method of calculating net voyage revenue is consistent with industry standards. The table below reconciles our net voyage revenues to voyage revenues.
 

   
Years Ended
December 31,
       
All figures in USD ‘000, except TCE rate per day
 
2023
   
2022
   
Variance
 
Voyage Revenues
   
391,687
     
339,340
     
15.4
%
Less Voyage expenses
   
(129,507
)
   
(170,515
)
   
-24.0
%
Net Voyage Revenue
   
262,180
     
168,825
     
55.3
%
Vessel Calendar Days (1)
   
6,917
     
7,340
     
-5.8
%
Less off-hire days
   
447
     
512
     
-12.7
%
Total TCE days
   
6,470
     
6,828
     
-5.2
%
TCE Rate per day (2)
 
$
40,522
   
$
24,725
     
63.9
%
(1)
Vessel Calendar Days is the total number of days the vessels were in our fleet.
(2)
Time Charter Equivalent (“TCE”) Rate, results from Net Voyage Revenue divided by total TCE days.

Voyage Revenues increased by $52.3 million, or 15.4%, from $339.3 million in 2022 to $391.7 million in 2023 as a result of increased tanker rates in 2023 compared to 2022.
 
The change in Net Voyage Revenue is due to two main factors:
 

i)
The number of TCE days

ii)
The change in the TCE rate achieved.

Number of vessel calendar days decreased by 5.8% and reflects that we had a net reduction of three vessels to our fleet during 2022 with full effect in 2023. One vessel has been added to the fleet in late 2023 and adding less than 30 days. However, this additional vessel will come into full effect in 2024.
 
With regards to i), the decrease of 65 days in offhire days was a result of less vessels undergoing planned maintenance in 2023 compared to 2022.
 
With regards to ii), the TCE rate per day increased by $15,797, or 63.9%, from $24,725 in 2022 to $40,522 in 2023. The indicative rates presented by Clarkson Research increased by 26.0% for the twelve months of 2023 compared to the same twelve months in 2022 to $55,847 from $44,324, respectively. Our TCE rate per day improved more in percentage than the indicative rates presented by Clarkson Research on a year-over-year basis, as some voyages with stronger rates booked in the fourth quarter of 2022 materialized in the first quarter of 2023. Further, in the same manner as in 2022, the indicative rates presented by Clarkson Research for 2023 are an average of observations and routes, and some of the trade routes going into the average are routes involving Russian oil trade and as such not routes representing an average for all market participants.
 
As a result of i) and ii) net voyage revenues increased by 55.3% from $168.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2022, to $262.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2023.
 
Voyage expenses decreased to $129.5 million from $170.5 million, or 24.0%. Voyage expenses mainly consist of bunkers, port charges and commissions and the most influential cost is the cost of bunkers. Cost of bunkers is influenced by actual consumption in a year and the price of the fuel. The decrease in voyage expenses in 2023 was primarily due to a decrease of $33.2 million in bunker costs caused by a decrease in fuel oil prices compared to prior year, in combination with less TCE days for the fleet in 2023 compared to 2022. Further, port charges were reduced by $5.6 million, offset by an increase of $1.5 million in commissions from improved freight rates compared to prior year.
 
Vessel operating expenses decreased by $3.4 million, or 5.4%, from $63.4 million in 2022 to $60.0 million in 2023, and reflects that the number of vessel calendar days for our fleet were reduced in 2023 compared to 2022. In cooperation with our technical managers, we maintain our focus on keeping the fleet in top technical condition whilst keeping costs low.
 
General and administrative expenses increased by $4.1 million, or 21.8%, from $18.8 million in 2022 to $22.9 million in 2023. The increase in cost is mainly related to an increase in staff cost, including bonuses and incentive plans, and travel cost as a result of increased marketing activities after periods with travel limitations.
 
Depreciation expenses increased by $1.0 million, or 1.9%, from $50.4 million in 2022 to $51.4 million in 2023. The increase in 2023 compared to 2022 is primarily a result of the addition of two newbuildings in May and June 2022 that are depreciated for the full year in 2023.
 
Gain on Disposal of Vessels decreased by $6.0 million from $6.0 million in 2022 to $nil in 2023, as a result of no vessel disposals in 2023.
 
Interest income increased from $0.3 million in 2022 to $1.3 million in 2023, or 389.5%, as a result of an increase in market interest rates and we earned more interest on bank deposits during 2023 than in 2022.
 
Interest expenses has increased by $3.4 million, or 12.7%, from $27.1 million in 2022 to $30.5 million in 2023. The increase is due to an increase in market interest rates in 2023 as our loans and financing agreements have floating interest rates. We added two new vessels to the fleet in 2022 and has incurred additional interest cost related to the financing of these vessels year over year, offset by reduced interest cost related to our 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility from the full year effect of downpayments made through 2022 and downpayments made in 2023 that lowers the outstanding loan balances and related interest cost.
 
YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2022 COMPARED TO YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2021
 
   
Years Ended December 31,
       
All figures in USD ‘000
 
2022
   
2021
   
Variance
 
Voyage Revenues
   
339,340
     
191,075
     
77.6
%
Other Income
   
-
     
4,684
     
N/A
 
Voyage Expenses
   
(170,515
)
   
(128,263
)
   
32.9
%
Vessel Operating Expenses
   
(63,430
)
   
(67,676
)
   
-6.3
%
Impairment Loss on Vessels
   
(314
)
   
(60,311
)
   
-99.5
%
Depreciation Expenses
   
(50,421
)
   
(68,352
)
   
-26.2
%
Gain on Disposal of Vessels
   
6,005
     
-
     
N/A
 
General and Administrative Expenses
   
(18,798
)
   
(15,620
)
   
20.3
%
Net Operating (Loss) Income
   
41,867
     
(144,463
)
   
N/A
 
Interest Income
   
266
     
3
     
8,766.7
%
Interest Expenses
   
(27,055
)
   
(26,380
)
   
2.6
%
Other Financial Income (Expenses)
   
46
     
(429
)
   
N/A
 
Net Income (Loss) Before Income Taxes
   
15,124
     
(171,269
)
   
N/A
 
Income Tax Expense
   
(23
)
   
(59
)
   
-61.0
%
Net Income (Loss)
   
15,101
     
(171,328
)
   
N/A
 

Management believes that net voyage revenue, a non-GAAP financial measure, provides additional meaningful information because it enables us to compare the profitability of our vessels that are employed under bareboat charters, spot related time charters and spot charters. Net voyage revenues divided by the number of days on the charter provides the Time Charter Equivalent (TCE) Rate. Net voyage revenues and TCE rates are widely used by investors and analysts in the tanker shipping industry for comparing the financial performance of companies and for preparing industry averages. We believe that our method of calculating net voyage revenue is consistent with industry standards. The table below reconciles our net voyage revenues to voyage revenues.
 
   
Years Ended
December 31,
       
All figures in USD ‘000, except TCE rate per day
 
2022
   
2021
   
Variance
 
Voyage Revenues
   
339,340
     
191,075
     
77.6
%
Less Voyage expenses
   
(170,515
)
   
(128,263
)
   
32.9
%
Net Voyage Revenue
   
168,825
     
62,812
     
168.8
%
Vessel Calendar Days (1)
   
7,340
     
8,337
     
-12.0
%
Less off-hire days
   
512
     
527
     
-2.8
%
Total TCE days
   
6,828
     
7,810
     
-12.6
%
TCE Rate per day (2)
 
$
24,725
   
$
8,043
     
207.4
%
(1)
Vessel Calendar Days is the total number of days the vessels were in our fleet.
(2)
Time Charter Equivalent (“TCE”) Rate, results from Net Voyage Revenue divided by total TCE days.

Voyage Revenues increased by $148.2 million, or 77.6%, from $191.1 million in 2021 to $339.3 million in 2022 as a result of higher tanker rates partly offset by a reduction of 12.6% in Total TCE days.
 
The change in Net Voyage Revenue is due to two main factors:
 

i)
The number of TCE days

ii)
The change in the TCE rate achieved.

Number of vessel calendar days decreased by 12.0% and reflects that we took delivery of two vessels and sold five vessels during 2022 compared sale of one vessel in late 2021. With regards to i), there was a marginal reduction of 15 days in offhire days from 527 days in 2021 to 512 days in 2022, where planned offhire in 2022 related to periodical maintenance of our vessels was 398 days.
 
With regards to ii), the TCE rate per day increased by $16,682, or 207.4%, from $8,043 in 2021 to $24,725 in 2022. The indicative rates presented by Clarkson Research increased by 504.0% for the twelve months of 2022 compared to the same twelve months in 2021 to $44,324 from $7,338, respectively. The indicative rates presented by Clarkson Research are an average of observations and routes and some of the trade routes going into the average are routes involving Russian oil trade and as such not routes representing an average for all market participants.
 
As a result of i) and ii) net voyage revenues increased by 168.8% from $62.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2021, to $168.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2022.
 
Voyage expenses increased to $170.5 million from $128.3 million, or 32.9%. The increase in voyage expenses was primarily due to an increase in bunker costs. Consumption of fuel oil was lower in 2022 than in 2021 due to less vessel calendar days, but the price of fuel oil increased sharply in the first half of 2022 with a peak in June 2022, before falling in the latter part of 2022. As such, the average price of fuel oil increased in 2022 compared to 2021 and caused a significant increase in voyage expenses. Further, as a result of improved freight rates in 2022 compared to 2021, there has also been an increase in commission costs incurred.
 
Vessel operating expenses decreased by $4.2 million, or 6.3%, from $67.7 million in 2021 to $63.4 million in 2022, and reflects that there is a net reduction of three vessels in the fleet during 2022. In cooperation with our technical managers, we maintain our focus on keeping the fleet in top technical condition whilst keeping costs low.
 
Impairment Loss on Vessels decreased to $0.3 million in 2022 compared to $60.3 million in 2021. We recorded impairment charges related to six of our 2002 and 2003 built vessels in 2021. One of these vessels was classified as Held for Sale as of December 31, 2021, and this vessel was subject to an additional impairment charge of $0.3 million in 2022 as a result of changes in fair value of the vessel before the vessel was disposed.
 
In 2022, we have sold five of the six vessels where impairment charges were taken in 2021. We have recorded a gain upon disposal of vessels of $6.0 million in 2022 compared to $0 in 2021 and the gain is mainly related to the last vessel sold in October 2022 reflecting rising second-hand vessel prices that evolved during the year.
 
Depreciation expenses decreased by $18.0 million, or 26.2%, from $68.4 million in 2021 to $50.4 million in 2022. The decrease in 2022 compared to 2021 is primarily due to sale of vessels in 2022 resulting in a net reduction of three vessels in the fleet, in combination with impairment charges recorded in 2021 that lowered the carrying values of six vessels built in the years from 2002 and 2003 and accordingly lowering the associated depreciation charges for these vessels in 2022.
 
General and administrative expenses increased by $3.2 million, or 20.3%, from $15.6 million in 2021 to $18.8 million in 2022. The increase in cost is mainly related to an increase in travel and marketing costs and variable staff costs.
 
Interest expenses increased marginally by $0.7 million, or 2.6%, from $26.4 million in 2021 to $27.1 million in 2022. The increase is due to increases in the floating interest rates for our loans during 2022 combined with new financing agreements related to the two newbuildings delivered in 2022, offset by debt repayments during 2022 of $105.4 million.
 
Inflation
 
Construction cost and periodical maintenance costs for oil tankers tend to fluctuate with the cyclicality in raw material costs, especially the price of steel and copper, and the general demand for shipbuilding services. Newbuilding prices for oil tankers have increased further in 2023 as a result of full orderbooks at the shipyards for the coming years and an optimistic outlook for many shipping segments. Operating costs for oil tankers have been stable with little or moderate inflation over the years, and our operating cost in 2023 has been in line with previous years. However, there is currently inflationary pressure in most parts of the world and we are monitoring this closely. The shipping industry has historically been able to absorb and neutralize significant cost increases related to operation of the vessels. However, oil transportation is a specialized area and if number of vessels where to increase significantly, increased demand for qualified crew can be expected, potentially putting pressure on crew cost. A general cost inflation in the world could impact the shipping industry and put inflationary pressure on cost items such as, but not limited to crew costs, spare parts, maintenance, insurance etc.

B.
Liquidity and Capital Resources
 
We operate in a cyclical and capital-intensive industry. Our fleet of Suezmax tankers are financed through a combination of earnings generated from operations, equity and borrowings.
 
Our main liquidity requirements are related to voyage cost and operating cost for our vessels, repayments of loans and related interest charges, general and administration cost, capital expenditure for our vessels including an equity portion on investment in newbuildings and second-hand vessels from time to time and working capital needs.

We have policy of distributing dividends on a quarterly basis and we have distributed dividends for 106 consecutive quarters. Our dividend distributions are normally a reflection of the earnings taking into account other capital commitments and working capital needs. We refer to the description of our Dividend Policy in Item 8. Financial Information, A. Consolidated Statements and other Financial Information.

In 2022, we took delivery of two Suezmax newbuildings and in 2023, we have acquired one second-hand vessel. The financing arrangements for these vessels are described below.

We refer to further information below and in “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—F. Tabular Disclosure of Contractual Obligations” for disclosure of Contractual Obligations and Financing Agreements.


Our Borrowing Activities
 
On February 12, 2019, we entered into the $306 million 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility using twenty of our vessels at that time, built before year 2017, as collateral. On December 16, 2020, we entered into a loan agreement for $30.0 million that is considered an accordion loan under the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility loan agreement. In 2021 and 2022, we sold six vessels and as of December 31, 2023, there were 14 vessels built from 2003 to 2017 used as collateral for the outstanding loan balance as of that date.
 
The three 2018-built vessels, the two newbuildings delivered to us in 2022 and the 2016-built Nordic Hawk that was delivered to us in December 2023, are all financed through Ocean Yield ASA.
 
We refer to further description of the financing arrangements below.
 
2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility and $30 million Accordion Loan

On February 12, 2019, we entered into a five-year senior secured credit facility for $306.1 million (the “2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility”). Borrowings under the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility are secured by first-priority mortgages over fourteen vessels built in the period from 2003 to 2017 and assignments of earnings and insurance. The loan is amortizing with a twenty-year maturity profile, carries a floating interest rate and matures in February 2025. The loan had an original maturity date in February 2024. In 2023, we have signed amendments to the borrowing agreement extending the maturity date to February 2025, revised the required minimum liquidity covenant from $30.0 million to $20.0 million, negotiated a reduced interest rate for the remaining balance of the portion of the loan that was paid out in 2019 and replaced the LIBOR interest rate element in the agreement with the Federal Funds Rate. Further, the agreement contains an excess cash mechanism that equals 50% of the net earnings from the collateral vessels, less capex provision and fixed loan amortization. Net proceeds obtained from sale of a vessel used as security are at our lender’s discretion subject to repayment of the outstanding loan balance. The agreement contains covenants that require a minimum liquidity of $20.0 million and a loan-to-vessel value ratio of maximum 70%.

On December 16, 2020, we entered into a new loan agreement for the borrowing of $30.0 million (the “$30 million Accordion Loan”). The loan is considered an accordion loan to the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility loan agreement and has the same amortization profile, carries a floating interest rate and matures in February 2025.  Modifications made to the loan agreement in 2023 are discussed in the paragraph above. Excess cash flow payments as described above are applied to the balance of the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility before being applied to the $30 million Accordion Loan. The security of the loan is attached to the security of the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility and has equal priority, same financial covenants and repayment clauses.

We have repaid $44.6 million on the facilities in the twelve months ended December 31, 2023, and we had $84.6 million and $129.2 million drawn under our 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility as of December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022, respectively.

 As of December 31, 2023, we have presented $11.7 million, net of deferred financing costs of $0.4 million, under Current Portion of Long-Term Debt. The Excess Cash Flow payment generated from the earnings in the fourth quarter of 2023 has been waived by the lender and we applied this cash to the acquisition of the 2016-built vessel, Nordic Hawk, that was delivered to us in December 2024.

Subsequent to December 31, 2023, we have repaid in total $3.0 million and the total outstanding balance as of the date of this report is $81.6 million.

Financing of 2018-built Vessels

We have the three 2018-built Vessels delivered to us from Samsung shipyard. Under the terms of the financing agreements for these vessels, the lender provided financing of 77.5% of the purchase price for each of the three vessels. Upon delivery of each of the vessels, we commenced ten-year bareboat charter agreements. We have obligations to purchase the vessels for a consideration of $13.6 million for each vessel upon the completion of the ten-year bareboat charter agreements, and we also have the option to purchase the vessels after sixty and eighty-four months. The purchase options have to be declared six months in advance of the sixty- or eighty-four months’ anniversaries for each vessel. The options related to the sixty-month anniversaries expired in 2023 and the next anniversaries are in 2025. In 2023, we have agreed a replacement of the original LIBOR element with a term Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”), plus a Credit Adjustment Spread (“CAS”) of 26 basis points and as of December 31, 2023, the financing agreements include interest charges composed of a floating term SOFR element that is subject to annual adjustment, plus a margin of 4.52% and a credit adjustment spread of 0.26%. The financing agreements contain certain financial covenants requiring us to maintain on a consolidated basis a minimum value adjusted equity of $175.0 million, a minimum value adjusted equity ratio of 25%, minimum liquidity of $20.0 million and a minimum vessel value to outstanding lease clause.
 
The outstanding amounts under this financing arrangement were $87.2 million and $96.0 million as of December 31, 2023 and 2022, respectively, where $8.9 million and $8.5 million, net of deferred financing costs, have been presented as Current Portion of Long-Term Debt, respectively.

Financing of 2022-built Vessels

The two vessels, Nordic Harrier and Nordic Hunter, were delivered to us in 2022. Under the terms of the financing agreements, the lender provided financing of 80.0% of the purchase price for each of the two vessels. Upon delivery of each of the vessels, we commenced ten-year bareboat charter agreements. We have obligations to purchase the vessels upon the completion of the ten-year bareboat charter agreements for a consideration of $16.5 million for each vessel, and we also have the option to purchase the vessels after sixty and eighty-four months. In 2023, we have agreed a replacement of the original LIBOR element with a term Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”), plus a Credit Adjustment Spread (“CAS”) of 26 basis points and as of December 31, 2023, the financing agreements include interest charges composed of a floating term SOFR element that is subject to quarterly adjustment, plus a margin of 4.50% and a credit adjustment spread of 0.26%. The financing agreements contain certain financial covenants requiring us to on a consolidated basis to maintain a minimum liquidity of $20.0 million and a minimum vessel value to outstanding lease clause.
 
The outstanding amounts under this financing arrangement were $79.4 million and $84.9 million as of December 31, 2023 and 2022, respectively, where $5.4 million and $5.4 million, net of deferred financing costs, have been presented as Current Portion of Long-Term Debt, respectively.

Financing of Nordic Hawk

The 2016-built vessel, Nordic Hawk, was delivered to us in December 2023. Under the terms of the financing agreement, the lender provided financing of 75.0% of the purchase price. Upon delivery of the vessel, we entered into an eight-year bareboat charter agreement. We have an obligation to purchase the vessel for $5.9 million upon the completion of the eight-year bareboat charter agreement and we have the option to purchase the vessel after sixty and eighty-four months. The financing agreement has an interest rate as of December 31, 2023, that is composed of a floating term SOFR element subject to quarterly adjustments and a margin of 4.76%. The financing agreement contains certain financial covenants requiring us on a consolidated basis to maintain a minimum liquidity of $20.0 million and a minimum vessel value to outstanding lease clause.
 
The outstanding amounts under this financing arrangement were $53.5 million and $nil as of December 31, 2023, and 2022, respectively, where $5.9 million and $nil, net of deferred financing costs, have been presented as Current Portion of Long-Term Debt, respectively.

Equity

On October 16, 2020, we entered into an equity distribution agreement with B. Riley Securities, Inc., acting as a sales agent, under which we may, from time to time, offer and sell shares of our common stock through the $60 million ATM. In 2021, we raised gross and net proceeds (after deducting sales commissions and other fees and expenses) of $60.0 million and $58.5 million, respectively, by issuing and selling 22,025,978 common shares and this ATM was fully utilized. The $60 million 2020 ATM program was terminated on October 14, 2021.
 
On September 29, 2021, we entered into a new equity distribution agreement with B. Riley Securities, Inc, acting as sales agent, under which the Company may, from time to time, offer and sell common stock through an At-the-Market Offering (the “$60 million 2021 ATM”) program having an aggregate offering price of up to $60,000,000. In the year ended December 31, 2021, we raised gross and net proceeds (after deducting sales commissions and other fees and expenses) of $22.3 million and $21.7 million, respectively, by issuing and selling 10,222,105 common shares. In 2022, we raised gross and net proceeds of $16.9 million and $16.5 million, respectively, by issuing and selling 10,764,990 common shares. The $60 million 2021 ATM was terminated on February 14, 2022, after having utilized $39.2 million of the program.

On February 14, 2022, we entered into a new equity distribution agreement with B. Riley Securities, Inc, acting as sales agent, under which the Company may, from time to time, offer and sell common stock through an At-the-Market Offering (the “$60 million 2022 ATM”) program having an aggregate offering price of up to $60,000,000. In the year ended December 31, 2022, we raised gross and net proceeds of $33.6 million and $32.7 million, respectively, by selling and issuing 14,337,258 commons shares. In 2023, we have not issued any shares under this ATM and there is a gross remaining available balance of $26.4 million under this ATM. Based on the share price of the Company of $3.80 as of April 19, 2024, it would have resulted in 6,958,723 new shares being issued, if fully utilizing the remaining balance available of the $60 million 2022 ATM.

Liquidity and covenant compliance

Cash, restricted cash and cash equivalents are predominantly held in U.S. Dollars and cash and cash equivalents was $31.1 million and $59.6 million as of December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022, respectively. Minor cash balances are held in NOK and EUR. Restricted cash was $2.3 million and $3.7 million as of December 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022, respectively. The restricted cash deposit is nominated and available for use for drydocking and other capex commitments related to the vessels used as collateral under the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility.

We monitor compliance with our financial covenants on a regular basis and as of December 31, 2023, we were in compliance with the financial covenants in our debt facilities. Historically, our financial minimum liquidity covenant of $20.0 million, which have been reduced from $30.0 million through an amendment to the borrowing agreement in 2023, is the most sensitive covenant. We had a cash balance as of December 31, 2023, of $31.1 million.

On a regular basis, we perform cash flow projections to evaluate whether we will be in a position to cover our liquidity needs for the next 12-month period and the compliance with financial and security ratios under our existing and future financing agreements. In developing estimates of future cash flows, we make assumptions about the vessels’ future performance, market rates, operating expenses, capital expenditure, fleet utilization, general and administrative expenses, loan repayments and interest charges. The assumptions applied are based on historical experience and future expectations.

We prepare cash flow projections for different scenarios and a key input factor to the cash flow projections is the estimated freight rates. We apply an average of several broker estimates in combination with own estimates for the coming 12-months period. The average freight rates achieved by us in 2023 have been strong compared to the historical long-term average freight rates achieved. As such, our company has generated significant positive cash flow from operations that could be used for dividends, investments or repayment of outstanding loan balances. Our 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility matures in February 2025 and the remaining loan balance at maturity will have to be repaid from cash generated from operations in the preceding period, refinanced with a new loan or an extension of the agreed maturity date with the current lenders.

 In the first quarter of 2024, we have repaid $3.0 million on the facility and the loan-to-value ratio for the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility and the fourteen vessels used as collateral for the loan, is well below 15%, based on an outstanding balance of $81.6 million as of the date of this report.

The Suezmax freight rates in the first quarter of 2024 has continued to generate significant positive earnings and we expect that additional loan repayments could be made during 2024 due to the excess cash flow mechanism included in the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility. The low loan-to-value ratio for the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility has allowed for the excess cash flow payments to be waived in certain quarters during 2023 that allowed us to increase dividends and to apply excess liquidity as equity in the acquisition of the 2016-built vessel, Nordic Hawk, that we took delivery of in December 2023.

Given the current conditions of the Suezmax tanker market, which we and external market sources expect to continue at least until maturity of the 2019 Senior Secured Credit facility and the $30 million Accordion Loan in February 2025 and considering various reasonable sensitivities, we expect that we could be able to repay the debt from cash flows from operations. The ability to repay the loan balance in full upon maturity with cash flows generated from operations is also impacted by the size of dividends expected to be declared in the period. In the event there is shortfall in liquidity upon maturity, we have financial flexibility through utilization of the existing ATM program, sale of vessels or through extensions or refinancings.

Contractual Obligations

The Company’s contractual obligations as of December 31, 2023, consist mainly of our obligations as borrower under our 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility including our $30 million Accordion Loan and our obligations related to financing of our three 2018-built vessels, the two 2022-built Vessels and the 2016-built Nordic Hawk delivered to us in December 2023.
 
The following table sets out financing and contractual obligations outstanding as of December 31, 2023. The excess cash flow mechanism included in our 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility could result in higher loan repayments than indicated below if we generate excess cash from operations in future periods and this results in additional loan repayments.

Contractual Obligations in $’000s
 
Total
   
Less than
1 year
   
1-3
years
   
3-5 years
   
More than
5 years
 
2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility including Accordion Loan (1)
   
84,640
     
12,079
     
72,561
     
-
     
-
 
Interest Payments (2)
   
9,575
     
8,638
     
937
     
-
     
-
 
Financing of 2018-built Vessels (3)
   
87,239
     
9,138
     
19,508
     
58,593
     
-
 
Interest Payments (4)
   
30,863
     
8,430
     
13,930
     
8,503
     
-
 
Financing of 2022-built Vessels (5)
   
79,351
     
5,515
     
11,000
     
11,015
     
51,821
 
Interest Payments (6)
   
49,628
     
7,995
     
14,264
     
12,023
     
15,346
 
Financing of Nordic Hawk (7)
   
53,540
     
6,016
     
12,016
     
12,016
     
23,492
 
Interest Payments (8)
   
24,676
     
5,253
     
8,635
     
6,178
     
4,610
 
Operating Lease Liabilities (9)
   
601
     
601
     
-
     
-
     
-
 
Total
   
420,113
     
63,665
     
152,851
     
108,328
     
95,269
 
 
 Notes:
 

(1)
Refers to obligation to repay indebtedness outstanding under the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility including the Accordion Loan as of December 31, 2023. The facilities contain an excess cash flow mechanism that equals 50% of the net earnings from the collateral vessels, less capex provision and fixed amortization.

(2)
Refers to the estimated interest payments over the term of indebtedness outstanding under the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility including the Accordion Loan as of December 31, 2023. Estimate is based on applicable interest rate, agreed amortization and balance outstanding as of December 31, 2023.

(3)
Refers to obligation to repay indebtedness outstanding as of December 31, 2023 for three 2018-built vessels.

(4)
Refers to estimated interest payments over the term of the indebtedness outstanding as of December 31, 2023, for the financing of the three 2018-built vessels. Estimate is based on applicable interest rate as of December 31, 2023.

(5)
Refers to obligation to repay indebtedness outstanding as of December 31, 2023 for the two 2022-built Vessels.

(6)
Refers to estimated interest payments over the term of the indebtedness outstanding as of December 31, 2023, for the financing of the two 2022-built Vessels. Estimate is based on applicable interest rate as of December 31, 2023.

(7)
Refers to obligation to repay indebtedness outstanding as of December 31, 2023 for the 2016-built vessel, Nordic Hawk.


(8)
Refers to estimated interest payments over the term of the indebtedness outstanding as of December 31, 2023, for the financing of the 2016-built vessel, Nordic Hawk. Estimate is based on applicable interest rate as of December 31, 2023.

(9)
Refers to the future obligation as of December 31, 2023, to pay for operating lease liabilities at nominal values.

As of December 31, 2023, we do not have any liabilities, contingent or otherwise, that we would consider to be off-balance sheet arrangements.
 
Cash Flows
 
The following table shows our net cash flows from operating, investing and financing activities for the periods ended December 31, 2023, 2022 and 2021.
 
All figures in USD ‘000
 
2023
   
2022
   
2021
 
Net Cash Provided by / (Used in) Operating Activities
   
139,445
     
24,134
     
(44,458
)
Net Cash Used in Investing Activities
   
(73,670
)
   
(14,343
)
   
(3,465
)
Net Cash Provided by / (Used In) Financing Activities
   
(95,672
)
   
9,005
     
30,513
 
Net Increase / (Decrease) in Cash, Cash Equivalents and Restricted cash
   
(29,897
)
   
18,796
     
(17,410
)
Cash, Cash Equivalents and Restricted Cash at Beginning of Year
   
63,302
     
44,648
     
62,070
 
Cash, Cash Equivalents and Restricted Cash at End of Year
   
33,361
     
63,302
     
44,648
 

YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2023, COMPARED TO YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2022
 
Cash flows provided by / (used in) operating activities increased to $139.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2023, from $24.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2022. The change in cash flows provided by operating activities is primarily due to increases in market rates achieved in 2023 compared to 2022.
 
Cash flows used in investing activities increased to ($73.7) million for the year ended December 31, 2023, compared to ($14.3) million for the year ended December 31, 2022. The increase of cash flows used in investing activities is primarily due to no proceeds from sale of vessels in 2023 compared to $81.1 million in proceeds from vessel sales in 2022, offset by cash outlays related to investment in vessels in 2023 of $73.5 million compared to investment in newbuildings of $90.3 million in 2022.
 
Cash flows used in financing activities increased to ($95.7) million for the year ended December 31, 2023, compared to cash flow provided by financing activities of $9.0 million for the year ended December 31, 2022. The increase in cash flows used in financing activities is primarily due to an increase of $67.1 million in dividends distributed in 2023 compared to 2022, no proceeds from issuance of common stock in 2023 compared to proceeds of $49.1 million in 2022 and reduced proceeds from vessel financing of $34.7 million in 2023 compared to 2022, offset by reduced repayments of $46.2 million on our vessel financing and borrowing facility in 2023 compared to 2022.
 
The cash, restricted cash and cash equivalents was $33.4 million (including $2.3 million in restricted cash) as of December 31, 2023.
 
YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2022, COMPARED TO YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2021
 
Cash flows provided by / (used in) operating activities increased to $24.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2022, from ($44.5) million for the year ended December 31, 2021. The change in cash flows provided by operating activities was primarily due to increases in market rates achieved in 2022 compared to 2021.
 
Cash flows used in investing activities increased to ($14.3) million for the year ended December 31, 2022, compared to ($3.5) million for the year ended December 31, 2021. The increase of cash flows used in investing activities was primarily due to proceeds of $81.1 million from sale of vessels in 2022 compared to $14.3 million in 2021, offset by increased investment in vessels of $1.2 million in 2022 compared to 2021, and an increase in investment in vessels under construction in 2022 of $77.0 million compared to 2021 related to the delivery of the two newbuildings in May and June 2022.
 
Cash flows provided by financing activities decreased to $9.0 million for the year ended December 31, 2022, compared to cash flow provided by financing activities of $30.5 million for the year ended December 31, 2021. The decrease was primarily due to an increase of $ 13.0 million in distributed dividends in 2022 compared to 2021, a decrease of $31.0 million in proceeds from issuance of common stock in 2022 compared to 2021, increases of $63.1 million in repayments of borrowings and $3.5 million in repayments of vessel financing in 2022 compared to 2021, offset by an increase of $88.0 million in proceeds from borrowing activities related to the two newbuildings delivered to us in 2022.
 
The cash, restricted cash and cash equivalents was $63.3 million (including $2.3 million in restricted cash) as of December 31, 2022.
 
C.
Research and Development, Patents and Licenses, Etc.
 
Not applicable.
 
D.
Trend Information
 
The oil tanker industry has been highly cyclical, experiencing volatility in charter hire rates and vessel values resulting from changes in the supply of and demand for crude oil and tanker capacity. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview –The International Tanker Market.”
 
E.
Critical Accounting Estimates
 
We prepare our financial statements in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States, or U.S. GAAP. On a regular basis, management reviews the accounting policies, assumptions, estimates and judgments to ensure that our consolidated financial statements are presented fairly and in accordance with U.S. GAAP. However, 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. For a description of our material accounting policies, please read Item 18. Financial Statements Note 2 - Summary of Significant Accounting Policies.
 
Revenues and voyage expenses
 
Revenues and voyage expenses are recognized on an accruals basis over the duration of each spot charter.
 
For vessels operating on spot charters, voyage revenues are recognized ratably over the estimated length of each voyage, calculated on a load-to-discharge basis under ASC 606 and, therefore, are allocated between reporting periods based on the relative transit time in each period, and revenue is therefore recognized on a pro-rata basis commencing on the date that the cargo is loaded and concluded on the date of discharge of the cargo. Voyage expenses are capitalized between the discharge port of previous cargo, or contract date if later, and the load port of the cargo to be chartered if they qualify as fulfillment costs. Incremental cost to obtain a contract is capitalized and amortized ratably over the estimated length of each voyage, calculated on a load-to-discharge basis. The impact of recognizing voyage expenses ratably over the length of each voyage is not materially different on a quarterly and annual basis from a method of recognizing such costs when incurred. We do not capitalize fulfilment cost or recognize revenue when a charter has not been contractually committed to by a customer.
 
Vessels – Depreciation, Impairment, Useful life and Residual values
 
The carrying value of the Company’s vessels is reflecting each vessel’s original cost price at the time it was acquired less accumulated depreciation calculated using an estimated useful life of 25 years from the date of delivery from the shipyard. Depreciation is calculated based on cost less estimated residual value using the straight-line method. The carrying values of the Company’s vessels may not represent their fair value at any point in time since the market prices of second-hand vessels tend to fluctuate with changes in charter rates and the cost of newbuildings. Historically, both charter rates and vessel values tend to be cyclical.
 
Our vessels are evaluated for possible impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of a vessel may not be recoverable. Undiscounted future cash flows are estimated on a vessel-by-vessel basis if events or circumstances indicate that carrying amounts may not be recoverable. If the estimated undiscounted future cash flows expected from continued use of the vessel and its eventual disposal is less than the carrying amount of the vessel, the vessel is deemed to be impaired. When applicable, we also consider if there are other factors that impact the probability for disposal of a vessel at its fair value before the end of its useful life. If a vessel is deemed to be impaired, the impairment charge is recognized based on the difference between the fair value of the vessel and its carrying value. Fair value is based on broker estimates that could be adjusted if there are actual entity-specific comparable transactions available. A new cost basis is established if the vessel’s carrying value is reduced after impairment charge is recorded.
 
As of December 31, 2023, we have considered as a first step whether there were events or changes in circumstances that may indicate that the carrying value of our vessels may not be recoverable including a consideration of whether any of the key forward-looking assumptions applied in an impairment analysis, which include preparing estimates of future undiscounted cash flows, have developed negatively. There are several positive factors identified in the areas we closely monitor, such as (1) the expected upturn in freight rates materialized towards the end of 2022 and resulted in improved current earnings through 2023, (2) broker estimates for the coming years predict freight rates significantly above historical earnings and above broker estimates obtained one year ago, (3) a continued muted order book for Suezmax tankers and (4) higher vessel values than a year ago despite adding one year of age to the vessels. As a result, no indicators of impairment were identified in 2023.
 
When impairment indicators are identified, we develop estimates of future undiscounted cash flows, where we make assumptions and estimates about the vessels’ future performance, with the significant assumptions being related to charter rates, fleet utilization, operating expenses, capital expenditures/periodical maintenance, residual value and the estimated remaining useful life of each vessel. Many of these assumptions are relatively stable over time. However, charter rates are volatile and require management to apply significant judgment when assessing if impairment indicators are present, and when they are, for estimating future charter rates when preparing estimates of undiscounted cash flows.
 
The assumptions used to develop estimates of future undiscounted cash flows, when necessary, are based on historical trends as well as future expectations. The estimated net operating revenues are determined by considering an estimated daily time charter equivalent for the remaining operating days over the useful life of the vessel. The daily time charter equivalent rates are converted to annual forecasted revenues by multiplying the daily rate by the number of days in the year less days for expected off-hire and dry-docking. Although the Company believes that the assumptions used to evaluate potential impairment are reasonable and appropriate, such assumptions are subjective. There can be no assurance whether the actual outcome will be close to the estimates and assumptions applied, as the tanker market is volatile in respect of both vessel values and charter rates, and we might experience changes in demand for transportation services, oil production, regulations and the size of the global tanker fleet.
 
The most important assumption in determining undiscounted cash flows, when necessary, is the estimated charter rates. Charter rates are volatile and the analyses have in prior periods been based on market rates obtained from third parties, in combination with historical achieved rates by us. We have historically applied an estimated daily time charter equivalents based on an average of several broker estimates for the first two years of our analysis. For the remaining period from year three and to the end of the useful life of each vessel, we have applied a daily time charter equivalent equalling the trailing fifteen-year historical company-specific average spot market rate. The broker estimates applied in year one and two are considered a more precise forecast as it captures the shorter-term expected market development of our business. The broker estimates are normally not available for a period exceeding two years. For year 3 and beyond, we believe that the 15-year historical company-specific average is a reasonable proxy for our expected cash flows as this average is most likely to encompass the charter rate cycles that our vessels will experience. We also monitor other external and internal factors including, but not limited to, our market capitalization, industry regulations, cost of operating the vessels and technological developments.
 
When we calculate the expected undiscounted net cash flows for the vessels, we deduct operating expenses and expected cost of dry-docking and other expected capital expenditures from the operating revenues before adding an estimated residual value of the vessel at the end of its useful life. The operating expenses applied are based on the forecasted operating cost for the vessels, which is adjusted in subsequent periods for expected growth. We have historically applied a compounded growth factor to the operating expenses, which is calculated based on the average increase in our operating expenses over the last fifteen years. Estimated cash outflows for dry-docking are based on historical and forecasted expenditure. Vessel utilization is based on historical average levels achieved. The residual value applied is a long-term estimate based on an estimated market price of scrap per ton multiplied by lightweight tonnage of the vessel, less estimated cost associated with scrapping the vessel. The scrap price applied is less than the prevailing scrap price for steel and is based on observation over a longer period of time to capture both peaks and troughs in metal prices. A residual value of $8.0 million has been applied for depreciation purposes in the financial year ended December 31, 2023.  All vessels are maintained for and assumed to have a useful life of 25 years.
 
Further, we consider if there are present factors that impact the probability of disposal of a vessel before the end of its estimated useful life. These factors could include the current price of second-hand vessels, expected capital expenditure, prevailing freight rates and the price of oil. All vessels are held for use as of December 31, 2023.
 
Our fleet of Suezmax vessels experienced a positive valuation curve over the last years three years with values at the end of 2023 above the valuations received at the end of 2022 and 2021. The increase in 2021 was mainly driven by the increase in steel prices and the further increase in 2022 was considered as a reflection of strengthening of the freight rates in the Suezmax tanker market. The historically strong tanker market has continued in 2023 with a further surge in vessel values as reflection of the current freight market and the positive outlooks for the industry. According to Clarkson Research 205 Suezmax tankers were sold and bought in the five-year period from 2019 to 2023, however such transactions may not be vessels as well maintained as the vessels in our fleet.
 
Estimates of market value assume that vessels are in good and seaworthy condition without need for repair and would be certified in class without notations of any kind. Most oil companies require CAP 2 notation or better. All relevant vessels in our fleet have CAP1 notation for Hull, as well as Machinery & Cargo. CAP is an abbreviation for Condition Assessment Program. The quality of the NAT fleet is at the top as evidenced by our vetting statistics, that is, inspections of our ships by clients. In such vetting processes safety for our crew, the environment and our assets are main considerations.
 
We believe that our fleet should be valued as a transportation system as it is not meaningful under our strategy to solely assess the value of each individual vessel and view the valuation of the Company solely based upon net asset value (“NAV”), a measure that only is linked to the steel value of our ships. We have our own ongoing system value with a large and homogenous fleet allowing us to offer our transportation services to our clients across the globe, well-functioning processes and established customer relationships with oil majors and other reputable customers.
 
The carrying value of our vessels as of December 31, 2023, is $768.6 million. We have obtained broker estimates from two independent shipbrokers indicating a fair market value of our vessels held and used on a charter free basis to be $1,133.9 million, based on an average of the two estimates including the inherent uncertainty in such estimates.
 
Vessel
 
Built
Deadweight Tons
 
Carrying
Value $
(millions)
Dec 31,
2023
Carrying
Value
$ (millions)
Dec 31,
2022
 
Nordic Apollo
2003
159,998
 
16.9
14.5
 
Nordic Pollux
2003
150,103
 
16.4
19.0
 
Nordic Luna
2004
150,037
 
19.0
22.0
 
Nordic Castor
2004
150,249
 
16.7
19.1
 
Nordic Freedom
2005
159,331
 
26.9
30.6
 
Nordic Sprinter
2005
159,089
 
21.1
23.8
 
Nordic Skier
2005
159,089
 
21.7
22.3
 
Nordic Light
2010
158,475
 
38.6
41.6
 
Nordic Cross
2010
158,475
 
38.8
41.9
 
Nordic Vega*
2010
163,940
 
48.5
52.3
 
Nordic Breeze
2011
158,597
 
39.8
42.7
 
Nordic Zenith
2011
158,645
 
40.4
43.2
 
Nordic Hawk**
2016
157,594
 
72.0
-
 
Nordic Star
2016
157,738
 
49.2
51.8
 
Nordic Space
2017
157,582
 
50.0
52.9
 
Nordic Tellus
2018
157,407
 
49.1
49.2
 
Nordic Aquarius
2018
157,338
 
47.7
47.9
 
Nordic Cygnus
2018
157,526
 
48.0
48.4
 
Nordic Hunter
2022
157,037
 
54.1
56.2
 
Nordic Harrier
2022
157,094
 
53.7
55.7
 
* The vessel marked with an asterisk has a fair value that is lower than the carrying value. The fair market value indicated by brokers has increased more than 10% compared to the broker valuation received at the end of 2022.
** Nordic Hawk was acquired in December 2023

Events and circumstances which could impact assumptions related to future cash flows of our vessels include:
 

Declines in prevailing market charter rates
 

Changes in behaviours and attitudes of our charterers towards actual and preferred technical, operational and environmental standards
 

Changes in regulations over the requirements for the technical and environmental capabilities of our vessels
 

Unexpected changes in the levels of Suezmax tanker newbuilding orders or recycling
 

Increased inflation as a result of factors outside our control
 

Changes in steel prices
 

Political uncertainty including changes in trading routes and demand
 

ITEM 6.
DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES
 
A.
Directors and Senior Management
 
Set forth below are the names and positions of our directors of the Company and senior management of the Company. The directors of the Company are elected annually, and each elected director holds office until a successor is elected. Officers are elected from time to time by vote of the Board and holds office until a successor is elected.
 
The Company
 
Name
Age
Position
Herbjørn Hansson
76
Founder, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Director
Alexander Hansson
42
Non-Executive Vice Chairman
Jenny Chu
70
Non-Executive Director and Audit Committee Chair
Jim Kelly
70
Non-Executive Director
Bjørn Giaever
56
Chief Financial Officer

Certain biographical information with respect to each director and senior management of the Company listed above is set forth below.
 
Herbjørn Hansson earned his M.B.A. at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration and attended Harvard Business School. In 1974 he was employed by the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association. In the period from 1975 to 1980, he was Chief Economist and Research Manager of INTERTANKO, an industry association whose members control about 70% of the world’s independently owned tanker fleet, excluding state owned and oil company fleets. During the 1980s, he was Chief Financial Officer of Kosmos/Anders Jahre, at the time one of the largest Norwegian based shipping and industry groups. In 1989, Mr. Hansson founded Ugland Nordic Shipping AS, or UNS, which became one of the world’s largest owners of specialized shuttle tankers. He served as Chairman in the first phase and as Chief Executive Officer as from 1993 to 2001 when UNS, under his management, was sold to Teekay Shipping Corporation, or Teekay, for an enterprise value of $780.0 million. He continued to work with Teekay, and reached the position of Vice Chairman of Teekay Norway AS, until he started working full-time for the Company on September 1, 2004. Mr. Hansson is the founder and has been Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Company since its establishment in 1995. He also has been a member of various governing bodies of companies within shipping, insurance, banking, manufacturing, national/international shipping agencies including classification societies and protection and indemnity associations. Mr. Hansson is fluent in Norwegian and English, and has a command of German and French for conversational purposes.
 
Alexander Hansson has been a director of the Company since November 2019 and has been employed by the Company since 2009. In February 2024, Alexander Hansson has been promoted to Vice Chairman. Mr. Hansson is an investor in various markets globally and has made several successful investments in both listed and privately held companies. Mr. Hansson is the son of the Company’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and he has built a network over the last 20 years in the shipping and finance sector. He has operated shipping and trading offices in London and Monaco. He studied at EBS Regents College in London, United Kingdom.
 
Jim Kelly has been a director of the Company since June 2010. Mr. Kelly has worked for Time Inc., the world’s largest magazine publisher, since 1978. He served as Foreign Editor during the fall of the Soviet Union and the first Gulf War and was named Deputy Managing Editor in 1996. In 2001, Mr. Kelly became the magazine’s managing editor, and during his tenure the magazine won a record four National Magazine awards. In 2004, Time Magazine received its first EMMA for its contribution to the ABC News Series “Iraq: Where Things Stand.” In late 2006, Mr. Kelly became the managing editor of all of Time Inc., helping supervise the work of more than 2,000 journalists working at 125 titles, including Fortune, Money, Sports Illustrated and People. Since 2009, Mr. Kelly has worked as a consultant at Bloomberg LP and taught at Princeton and Columbia Universities. Jim Kelly was elected as member of our Audit Committee in February 2012. Mr. Kelly was appointed as the Chairman of the Audit Committee on March 8, 2020. Ms. Jenny Chu took over the role as Chair of the Audit Committee in May 2022.
 
Jenny Chu was appointed to the Board of Nordic American Tankers on April 4, 2022. Ms. Chu is a US citizen, born in South-Korea, with more than 25 years of experience in the financial services industry working with wealth planning for ultra-high net worth individuals in Morgan Stanley, UBS, JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. She was Managing Director at JP Morgan Securities and Senior Vice President for Merrill Lynch both in Century City, California, US. She is currently Head of Global Business Development in The Boars’ Club, a by-invitation private international investment club for principals of single family offices. She is a director at the Korean American Chamber of Commerce, member of the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) and several other director- and memberships. Ms. Chu knows and has been a close contact for NAT for many years and she brings valuable knowledge, experience and network to NAT, both in the US and in Asia. Jenny Chu has been the Chair of the Audit Committee since May 2022.

Bjørn Giaever joined the Company as Chief Financial Officer and Secretary on October 16, 2017. Mr. Giaever has over 25 years of experience in the shipping & offshore industry, holding key roles in corporate finance and equity research. He joined the Company from Fearnley Securities AS, where he served as partner and director in the Corporate Finance division. From 2006 to 2010, Mr. Giaever served as a senior corporate advisor in the John Fredriksen group in London. In addition, Mr. Giaever has been a top-rated Shipping Analyst at DNB Markets and partner at Inge Steensland AS, specializing in chemical, gas and product shipping. Mr. Giaever holds a BSc in business and economics.
 
B.
Compensation
 
During the year ended December 31, 2023, we have paid aggregate cash compensation of $6.0 million to our directors and executive officers (five persons). The amount includes the cash compensation paid for managing our operations in Monaco. In addition, we have in 2023 expensed $1.4 million related to stock options granted to our directors and executive officers under the 2011 Equity Incentive Plan.
 
We entered into an agreement in 2020, whereby our Founder, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer has a right to have his present position until 2027, after which he may become non-executive Chairman as long as he lives. Our Chief Financial Officer has a regular contribution pension plan in line with the Company’s policy for employees.
 
2011 Equity Incentive Plan
 
The Board of Directors approved an equity incentive plan in 2011, which subsequently has been amended on several occasions. In October 2019, we amended and restated the 2011 Equity Incentive Plan to reserve 1,000,000 stock options for issuance to persons employed in the management of the Company and members of the Board of Directors. On October 28, 2019, the Company granted 755,000 and 234,000 stock options with vesting over a period of two and three years, respectively, and an exercise price of $4.70 per share. In October 2021, the vesting period for the 755,000 stock options that originally vested in October 2021 was prolonged with one year. The stock options vested in October 2022 without any options being exercised as the strike price of the options was above the share price at the vesting date. After the expiration in October 2022, these options became eligible for re-distribution.
 
In November 2022, the 2011 Equity Incentive Plan was amended to reserve an additional 3,000,000 stock options for issuance to persons employed in the management of the Company and members of the Board of Directors. On November 1, 2022, we granted 3,990,000 stock options with vesting over a period of two years and an exercise price of $3.60 per share, adjusted for dividends in the period, to 21 persons amongst our directors, employees and consultants. The options are exercisable in a period of 12 months following the vesting date. As of December 31, 2023, there are 3,855,000 options outstanding after forfeiture of 135,000 options during 2023.
 
A copy of the Amended and Restated 2011 Equity Incentive Plan is filed as Exhibit 4.11 to this annual report.
 
C.
Board Practices
 
The members of our Board of Directors serve until the next annual general meeting following his or her election.  The members of our current Board of Directors were elected at the annual general meeting held in 2023.  Our Board of Directors has established an Audit Committee, consisting of a single independent director, Ms. Chu.  Ms. Chu serves as the audit committee financial expert. The Audit Committee provides assistance to our Board of Directors in fulfilling their responsibility to shareholders, and investment community relating to corporate accounting, reporting practices of the Company, and the quality and integrity of the financial reports of the Company.  The Audit Committee, among other duties, recommends to the Board of Directors the independent auditors to be selected to audit our financial statements; meets with the independent auditors and our financial management to review the scope of the proposed audit for the current year and the audit procedures to be utilized; reviews with the independent auditors, and financial and accounting personnel, the adequacy and effectiveness of the accounting and financial controls of the Company; and reviews the financial statements contained in the annual report to shareholders with management and the independent auditors.
 
Pursuant to an exemption for foreign private issuers, we are not required to comply with many of the corporate governance requirements of the NYSE that are applicable to U.S. listed companies. For more information, please see “Item 16G. Corporate Governance.”
 
There are no contracts between us and any of our directors providing for benefits upon termination of their employment.
 
Clawback Policy

In December 2023, our Board of Directors adopted a policy regarding the recovery of erroneously awarded compensation (“Clawback Policy”) in accordance with the applicable rules of NYSE and Section 10D and Rule 10D-1 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Our Clawback Policy shall be administered by our Board of Directors who has the authority, in accordance with the applicable laws, rules and regulations, to interpret and make determinations necessary for the administration of the Clawback Policy, and may forego recovery in certain instances, including if it determines that recovery would be impracticable. The full text of our Clawback Policy is included as Exhibit 97.1 to this annual report.
 
D.
Employees
 
All our shore-based employees have employment contracts and as of December 31, 2023, the Company had a total of about 17 full time employees. We have fixed contracts with three ship managers, which operate under our direct instructions. All seafarers onboard our vessels have employment contracts via the technical management companies.
 
E.
Share Ownership
 
With respect to the total amount of common shares owned by all of our officers and directors individually and as a group, please see “Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions.”
 
F.
Disclosure Of Registrant’s Action to Recover Erroneously Awarded Compensation
 
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 7.
MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS
 
A.
Major Shareholders
 
The following table sets forth information regarding beneficial ownership of our common shares for (i) owners of more than five percent of our common shares and (ii) our directors and officers, of which we are aware of the date of this annual report.
 
Title
 
Identity of Person
 
No. of Shares
   
Percent of Class(1)
 
Common
 
Hansson family (2)
   
6,905,659
     
3.31%
 
   
Jim Kelly
           
*
 
   
Jenny Chu
           
*
 
   
Bjørn Giæver
           
*
 
   
BlackRock, Inc (3)
           
5.86%
 
                     
* Less than 1% of our common outstanding shares.
 
(1) Based on 208,796,444 common shares outstanding as of the date of this annual report.
 
(2) The holdings between our founder, chairman & CEO, Herbjørn Hansson, and Alexander Hansson, are reported herein. Alexander Hansson is holding 2,650,000 of these shares personally.
 
(3) Based solely on the Schedule 13G filed on February 2, 2024.
 
As of April 25, 2024, we had 453 holders of record in the United States, including Cede & Co., which is the Depositary Trust Company’s nominee for holding shares on behalf of brokerage firms, as a single holder of record. We had a total of 208,796,444 Common Shares outstanding as of the date of this annual report.
 
B.
Related Party Transactions
 
Board Members and Employees:
 
We have an agreement with a company owned by a Board member for the use of an asset for corporate and marketing activities. We have in 2023 paid operating cost of $1.3 million and fees associated with actual use. In 2023, 2022 and 2021, we recognized $0.2 million, $0.3 million and $0.3 million, respectively, for utilization of the asset. No amounts were due to the related party as of December 31, 2023 and 2022 related to use of the asset.
 
C.
Interests of Experts and Counsel
 
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 8.
FINANCIAL INFORMATION
 
A.
Consolidated Statements and other Financial Information
 
See Item 18.
 
Legal Proceedings
 
To our knowledge, we are not currently a party to any lawsuit that, if adversely determined, would have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations or liquidity.
 
Dividend Policy
 
Our policy is to declare quarterly dividends to shareholders as decided by the Board of Directors.  The dividend to shareholders could be higher than the operating cash flow or the dividend to shareholders could be lower than the operating cash flow after reserves as the Board of Directors may from time to time determine are required, taking into account contingent liabilities, the terms of our borrowing agreements, our other cash needs and the requirements of Bermuda law.
 
Dividends declared in 2023 totalled $102.3 million and cash dividends distributed in 2023 totalled $89.8 million. The dividend of $0.06 per share declared in the fourth quarter of 2023 was paid on January 17, 2024. The quarterly cash dividend payments per share over the last 5 years have been as follows:
 
Period
 
2023
   
2022
   
2021
   
2020
   
2019
 
1st Quarter
 
$
0.15
   
$
0.01
   
$
0.02
   
$
0.07
   
$
0.04
 
2nd Quarter
 
$
0.15
   
$
0.02
   
$
0.02
   
$
0.14
   
$
0.03
 
3rd Quarter
 
$
0.13
   
$
0.03
   
$
0.01
   
$
0.20
   
$
0.01
 
4th Quarter
 
$
0.06
   
$
0.05
   
$
0.01
   
$
0.04
   
$
0.02
 
Total
 
$
0.49
   
$
0.11
   
$
0.06
   
$
0.45
   
$
0.10
 

The Company declared a dividend of $0.12 per share on February 29, 2024, in respect of the fourth quarter of 2023, which was paid to shareholders on April 10, 2024.
 
B.
Significant Changes
 
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 9.
THE OFFER AND LISTING
 
Not applicable except for Item 9.A.4. and Item 9.C.
 
Share History and Markets
 
Since November 16, 2004, the primary trading market for our common shares has been the NYSE on which our shares are listed under the symbol “NAT.”
 
ITEM 10.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
 
A.
Share Capital
 
Not applicable.
 
B.
Memorandum and Articles of Association
 
    Our current Memorandum of Association is filed as exhibit 1.1 hereto, and our current by-laws are filed as exhibit 1.2 hereto. The information contained in these exhibits is incorporated by reference herein.
 
    Information regarding the rights, preferences and restrictions attaching to each class of our shares is described in Exhibit 2.3 to this annual report titled “Description of Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.”
 
Dividend Reinvestment and Direct Stock Purchase Plan
 
The Company’s transfer agent, Computershare, maintains a dividend reinvestment program under which shareholders may reinvest their dividends for shares.
 
Listing
 
Our common shares are listed on the NYSE under the symbol “NAT.”
 
Transfer Agent
 
The registrar and transfer agent for our common shares is Computershare Trust Company, N.A.
 
C.
Material Contracts
 
For a description of our 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility, including the $30 million Accordion Loan, which the Company entered into on February 12, 2019, and other vessel financing arrangements, please see “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospectus B. Liquidity and Capital Resources - Our Borrowing Activities”.
 
D.
Exchange Controls
 
The Company has been designated as a non-resident of Bermuda for exchange control purposes by the Bermuda Monetary Authority, whose permission for the issue of its common shares was obtained prior to the offering thereof.
 
The Company’s common shares are currently listed on an appointed stock exchange. For so long as the Company’s shares are listed on an appointed stock exchange the transfer of shares between persons regarded as resident outside Bermuda for exchange control purposes and the issuance of common shares to or by such persons may be effected without specific consent under the Bermuda Exchange Control Act of 1972 and regulations made thereunder. Issues and transfers of common shares between any person regarded as resident in Bermuda and any person regarded as non-resident for exchange control purposes require specific prior approval under the Bermuda Exchange Control Act 1972 unless such common shares are listed on an appointed stock exchange.
 
Subject to the foregoing, there are no limitations on the rights of owners of shares in the Company to hold or vote their shares. Because the Company has been designated as non-resident for Bermuda exchange control purposes, there are no restrictions on its ability to transfer funds in and out of Bermuda or to pay   to United States residents who are holders of common shares, other than in respect of local Bermuda currency.
 
In accordance with Bermuda law, share certificates may be issued only in the names of those with legal capacity. In the case of an applicant acting in a special capacity (for example, as an executor or trustee), certificates may, at the request of the applicant, record the capacity in which the applicant is acting. Notwithstanding the recording of any such special capacity, the Company is not bound to investigate or incur any responsibility in respect of the proper administration of any such estate or trust.
 
The Company will take no notice of any trust applicable to any of its shares or other securities whether or not it had notice of such trust.
 
As an “exempted company,” the Company is exempt from Bermuda laws which restrict the percentage of share capital that may be held by non-Bermudians, but as an exempted company, the Company may not participate in certain business transactions including: (i) the acquisition or holding of land in Bermuda except for land required for its business by way of lease for a term not exceeding 50 years or otherwise, with the express authorization of the Ministers of Finance of Bermuda, land by way of lease for a term not exceeding 21 years in order to provide accommodation or recreational facilities for its officers and employees; (ii) the taking of mortgages on land in Bermuda to secure an amount in excess of $50,000 without the consent of the Minister of Finance of Bermuda; (iii) the acquisition of securities created or issued by, or any interest in, any local company or business, other than certain types of Bermuda government securities or securities of another “exempted company, exempted partnership or other corporation or partnership resident in Bermuda but incorporated abroad”; or (iv) the carrying on of business of any kind in Bermuda, except in so far as may be necessary for the carrying on of its business outside Bermuda or under a license granted by the Minister of Finance of Bermuda.
 
The Bermuda government actively encourages foreign investment in “exempted” entities like the Company that are based in Bermuda but do not operate in competition with local business. In addition to having no restrictions on the degree of foreign ownership, the Company is subject neither to taxes on its income or dividends nor to any exchange controls in Bermuda other than outlined above. In addition, there is no capital gains tax in Bermuda, and profits can be accumulated by the Company, as required, without limitation.
 
E.
Taxation
 
Bermuda Tax Considerations
 
Under current Bermuda law, there are no taxes on profits, income or dividends nor is there any capital gains tax.  Furthermore, the Company has received from the Minister of Finance of Bermuda under the Exempted Undertakings Tax Protection Act of 1966, as amended, an undertaking that, in the event that Bermuda enacts any legislation imposing tax computed on profits or income, or computed on any capital asset, gain or appreciation, or any tax in the nature of estate duty or inheritance tax, then the imposition of any such tax shall not be applicable to the Company or to any of its operations, or the common shares, debentures or other obligations of the Company, until March 31, 2035.  This undertaking does not, however, prevent the imposition of any such tax or duty on such persons as are ordinarily resident in Bermuda and holding such shares, debentures or obligations of the Company or of property taxes on Company-owned real property or leasehold interests in Bermuda.
 
The United States does not have a comprehensive income tax treaty with Bermuda. However, Bermuda has legislation in place (U.S.A. – Bermuda Tax Convention Act 1986) which authorizes the enforcement of certain obligations of Bermuda pursuant to the Convention Between The Government Of The United Kingdom of Great Britain And Northern Ireland (On Behalf Of The Government Of Bermuda) And The Government Of The United States Of America Relating To The Taxation Of Insurance Enterprises And Mutual Assistance In Tax Matters entered into on 11 July 1986 (the “Convention”). Article 5 of the Convention states that the U.S.A. and Bermuda “shall provide assistance as appropriate in carrying out the laws of the respective covered jurisdictions (Bermuda and U.S.A.) relating to the prevention of tax fraud and the evasion of taxes. In addition, the competent authorities shall, through consultations, develop appropriate conditions, method, and techniques for providing, and shall thereafter provide, assistance as appropriate in carrying out the fiscal laws of the respective covered jurisdictions other than those relating to tax fraud and the evasion of taxes.”
 
United States Federal Income Tax Considerations
 
The following discussion is a summary of the material United States federal income tax considerations relevant to the Company and to a United States Holder and Non-United States Holder (each defined below) of our common shares.  This discussion is based on advice received by us from Seward & Kissel LLP, our United States counsel.  This discussion does not purport to deal with the tax consequences of owning common shares to all categories of investors, some of which (such as dealers in securities or currencies, investors whose functional currency is not the United States dollar, financial institutions, regulated investment companies, real estate investment trusts, tax-exempt organizations, insurance companies, persons holding our common shares as part of a hedging, integrated, conversion or constructive sale transaction or a straddle, persons liable for alternative minimum tax, persons subject to the “base erosion and anti-avoidance” tax, persons required to recognize income for U.S. federal income tax purposes no later than when such income is included on an “applicable financial statement” and persons who are investors in pass-through entities) may be subject to special rules. This discussion only applies to shareholders who (i) own our common shares as a capital asset and (ii) own less than 10%, actually or constructively, of our common shares. Shareholders are encouraged to consult their own tax advisors with respect to the specific tax consequences to them of purchasing, holding or disposing of common shares.
 
United States Federal Income Taxation of the Company
 
Operating Income: In General
 
Unless exempt from United States federal income taxation under section 883 of the United Stated Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code, a foreign corporation is subject to United States federal income taxation in the manner described below in respect of any income that is derived from the use of vessels, from the hiring or leasing of vessels for use on a time, voyage or bareboat charter basis, or from the performance of services directly related to such use, which we refer to as Shipping Income, to the extent that such Shipping Income is derived from sources within the United States, which we refer to as United States-Source Shipping Income.
 
Shipping Income that is attributable to transportation that begins or ends, but that does not both begin and end, in the United States will be considered to be 50% derived from sources within the United States. Shipping Income that is attributable to transportation that both begins and ends in the United States will be considered to be 100% derived from sources within the United States.
 
Shipping Income that is attributable to transportation exclusively between non-United States ports will be considered to be 100% derived from sources outside the United States and will not be subject to United States federal income tax.
 
Our vessels will be operated in various parts of the world and, in part, are expected to be involved in transportation of cargoes that begins or ends, but that does not both begin and end, in United States ports. Accordingly, it is not expected that we will engage in transportation that gives rise to 100% United States-Source Shipping Income.
 
Exemption of Operating Income from United States Federal Income Taxation
 
Pursuant to section 883 of the Code, we will be exempt from United States federal income taxation on our United States-Source Shipping Income if (i) we are organized in a foreign country that grants an equivalent exemption from income taxation to corporations organized in the United States, which we refer to as the Country of Organization Requirement, and (ii) either (A) more than 50% of the value of our common shares is owned, directly or indirectly, by individuals who are “residents” of such country or of another foreign country that grants an equivalent exemption to corporations organized in the United States, which we refer to as the 50% Ownership Test, or (B) our common shares are “primarily and regularly traded on an established securities market” in such country, in another country that grants an equivalent exemption to United States corporations, or in the United States, which we refer to as the Publicly-Traded Test.
 
Bermuda, the country in which we are incorporated, grants an equivalent exemption to United States corporations. Therefore, we will satisfy the Country of Organization Requirement and will be exempt from United States federal income taxation with respect to our United States-Source Shipping Income if we satisfy either the 50% Ownership Test or the Publicly-Traded Test.
 
The regulations promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury (the “Treasury Regulations”) under section 883 of the Code provide that stock of a foreign corporation will be considered to be “primarily traded” on an established securities market in a country if the number of shares of each class of stock that is traded during any taxable year on all established securities markets in that country exceeds the number of shares in each such class that is traded during that year on established securities markets in any other single country.
 
The Publicly-Traded Test also requires our common shares be “regularly traded” on an established securities market.  Under the Treasury Regulations, our common shares are considered to be “regularly traded” on an established securities market if shares representing more than 50% of our outstanding common shares, by both total combined voting power of all classes of stock entitled to vote and total value, are listed on the market, referred to as the “Listing Threshold.” The Treasury Regulations further require that with respect to each class of stock relied upon to meet the listing threshold, (i) such class of stock is traded on the market, other than in minimal quantities, on at least 60 days during the taxable year or 1/6 of the days in a short taxable year, which is referred to as the Trading Frequency Test; and (ii) the aggregate number of shares of such class of stock traded on such market during the taxable year is at least 10% of the average number of shares of such class of stock outstanding during such year (as appropriately adjusted in the case of a short taxable year), which is referred to as the Trading Volume Test.  Even if we do not satisfy both the Trading Frequency and Trading Volume Tests, the Treasury Regulations provide that the Tests will be deemed satisfied if our common shares are traded on an established securities market in the United States and such stock is regularly quoted by dealers making a market in our common shares.
 
We believe that we satisfied the Publicly-Traded Test for our 2023 taxable year since, on more than half the days of the taxable year, we believe the Company’s common shares were primarily and regularly traded on an established securities market in the United States, namely the NYSE.
 
Notwithstanding the foregoing, we will not satisfy the Publicly-Traded Test if 50% or more of the vote and value of our common shares is owned (or is treated as owned under certain stock ownership attribution rules) by persons each of whom owns (or is treated as owning under certain stock ownership attribution rules) 5% or more of the value of our common shares, or 5% Shareholders, for more than half the days during the taxable year, to which we refer to as the 5% Override Rule.   In the event the 5% Override Rule is triggered, the 5% Override Rule will nevertheless not apply if we can establish that among the closely-held group of 5% Shareholders, there are sufficient 5% Shareholders that are considered to be “qualified shareholders” for purposes of section 883 of the Code to preclude non-qualified 5% Shareholders in the closely-held group from owning 50% or more of our common shares for more than half the number of days during the taxable year.  In order to determine the persons who are 5% Shareholders, we are permitted to rely on those persons that are identified on Schedule 13G and Schedule 13D filings with the SEC as having a 5% or more beneficial interest in our common shares.
 
We are not aware of any facts which would indicate that 50% or more of our common shares were actually or constructively owned by 5% Shareholders during our 2023 taxable year.  Accordingly, we expect that our common shares will be considered to be “primarily and regularly traded on an established securities market” and that we will, therefore, qualify for the exemption under section 883 of the Code for our 2023 taxable year.  However, because of the factual nature of the issues relating to this determination, no assurance can be given that we will qualify for the exemption in any future taxable year. For example, if 5% Shareholders owned 50% or more of our common shares, then we would have to satisfy certain requirements regarding the identity and residence of our 5% Shareholders. These requirements are onerous and there is no assurance that we could satisfy them.
 
United States Federal Income Taxation of Gain on Sale of Vessels
 
Regardless of whether we qualify for exemption under section 883 of the Code, we will generally not be subject to United States federal income taxation with respect to gain realized on the sale of a vessel, provided the sale is considered to occur outside of the United States under United States federal income tax principles.  In general, a sale of a vessel will be considered to occur outside of the United States for this purpose if title to the vessel, and risk of loss with respect to the vessel, pass to the buyer outside of the United States.  It is expected that any sale of a vessel by us will be considered to occur outside of the United States.
 
4% Gross Basis Tax Regime
 
To the extent that the benefits of section 883 of the Code are unavailable with respect to any item of United States-Source Shipping Income, such Shipping Income that is considered not to be “effectively connected” with the conduct of a trade or business in the United States, as discussed below, would be subject to a 4% tax imposed by section 887 of the Code on a gross basis, without benefit of deductions, which we refer to as the 4% Gross Basis Tax Regime. Since under the sourcing rules described above, no more than 50% of our Shipping Income would be derived from United States sources, the maximum effective rate of United States federal income tax on our gross Shipping Income would never exceed 2% under the 4% Gross Basis Tax Regime.
 
Net Basis and Branch Profits Tax Regime
 
To the extent that the benefits of the exemption under section 883 of the Code are unavailable and our United States-Source Shipping Income is considered to be “effectively connected” with the conduct of a United States trade or business, as described below, any such “effectively connected” United States-Source Shipping Income, net of applicable deductions, would be subject to the United States federal income tax imposed at corporate rate of 21% under present law. In addition, we may be subject to the 30% “branch profits” taxes on earnings effectively connected with the conduct of such trade or business, as determined after allowance for certain adjustments, and on certain interest paid or deemed paid attributable to the conduct of the United States trade or business.
 
Our United States-Source Shipping Income would be considered “effectively connected” with the conduct of a U.S. trade or business only if (i) we have, or are considered to have, a fixed place of business in the United States involved in the earning of Shipping Income and (ii) substantially all of our United States-Source Shipping Income is attributable to regularly scheduled transportation, such as the operation of a vessel that followed a published schedule with repeated sailings at regular intervals between the same points for voyages that begin or end in the United States, or, in the case of income from the chartering of a vessel, is attributable to a fixed place of business in the United States.
 
We do not intend to have a fixed place of business in the United States involved in the earning of Shipping Income. Based on the foregoing and on the expected mode of our shipping operations and other activities, we believe that none of our United States-Source Shipping Income will be “effectively connected” with the conduct of a United States trade or business.
 
United States Federal Income Taxation of United States Holders
 
As used herein, the term “United States Holder” means, for United States federal income tax purposes, a beneficial owner of common shares who is (A) an individual citizen or resident of the United States, (B) a corporation (or other entity treated as a corporation) created or organized in or under the laws of the United States or of any state or the District of Columbia, (C) an estate the income of which is includible in gross income for United States federal income tax purposes regardless of its source, or (D) a trust if (a) a court within the United States is able to exercise primary supervision over the administration of the trust and one or more United States persons have the authority to control all substantial decisions of the trust or (b) it has an election in place to be treated as a United States person.
 
If a partnership holds our common shares, the U.S. federal income tax treatment of a partner will generally depend on the status of the partner and the activities of the partnership. If you are a partner in a partnership holding our common shares, you are urged to consult your tax advisors.
 
Distributions

Subject to the discussion below of passive foreign investment companies, or PFICs, any distributions made by us with respect to our common shares to a United States Holder will generally constitute dividends, which may be taxable as ordinary income or “qualified dividend income,” as described in more detail below, to the extent of our current or accumulated earnings and profits, as determined under United States federal income tax principles. Distributions in excess of our earnings and profits will be treated first as a non-taxable return of capital to the extent of the United States Holder’s tax basis in his common shares on a dollar-for-dollar basis and thereafter as capital gain. Because we are not a United States corporation, United States Holders that are corporations will generally not be entitled to claim a dividends received deduction with respect to any distributions they receive from us. Dividends paid with respect to our common shares will generally be treated as “passive category income” or, in the case of certain types of United States Holders, “general category income” for purposes of computing allowable foreign tax credits for United States foreign tax credit purposes.
 
Dividends paid on our common shares to a United States Holder who is an individual, trust or estate, or a United States Individual Holder, will generally be treated as “qualified dividend income” that is taxable to such United States Individual Holders at preferential tax rates provided that (1) the common shares are readily tradable on an established securities market in the United States (such as the NYSE on which our common shares are traded); (2) we are not a PFIC for the taxable year during which the dividend is paid or the immediately preceding taxable year (as discussed below); (3) the United States Individual Holder has owned the common shares for more than 60 days in the 121-day period beginning 60 days before the date on which the common shares become ex-dividend, and (4) the United States Individual Holder is not under an obligation (whether pursuant to a short sale or otherwise) to make payments with respect to positions in substantially similar or related property. There is no assurance that any dividends paid on our common shares will be eligible for these preferential rates in the hands of a United States Individual Holder. Any dividends paid by us which are not eligible for these preferential rates will be taxed as ordinary income to a United States Individual Holder.
 
If we pay an “extraordinary dividend” on our common shares (generally, a dividend in an amount which is equal to or in excess of 10% of a shareholder’s adjusted tax basis (or fair market value in certain circumstances) in the common shares or dividends received within a one-year period that, in the aggregate, equal or exceed 20% of a shareholder’s adjusted tax basis (or fair market value upon the shareholder’s election)) that is treated as “qualified dividend income,” then any loss derived by a United States Individual Holder from the sale or exchange of such common shares will be treated as long-term capital loss to the extent of such dividend.
 
Sale, Exchange or other Disposition of Common Shares
 
Assuming we do not constitute a PFIC for taxable years after 2004, a United States Holder generally will recognize taxable gain or loss upon a sale, exchange or other disposition of our common shares in an amount equal to the difference between the amount realized by the United States Holder from such sale, exchange or other disposition and the United States Holder’s tax basis in such common shares. Such gain or loss will be treated as long-term capital gain or loss if the United States Holder’s holding period is greater than one year at the time of the sale, exchange or other disposition. Such capital gain or loss will generally be treated as United States-source income or loss, as applicable, for United States foreign tax credit purposes. A United States Holder’s ability to deduct capital losses is subject to certain limitations.
 
Special rules may apply to a United States Holder who purchased shares before 2005 and did not make a timely QEF election or a mark-to-market election (as discussed below).  Such United States Holders are encouraged to consult their tax advisors regarding the United States federal income tax consequences to them of the disposal of our common shares.
 
Passive Foreign Investment Company Considerations
 
Special United States federal income tax rules apply to a United States Holder that holds shares in a foreign corporation classified as a PFIC for United States federal income tax purposes. In general, we will be treated as a PFIC with respect to a United States Holder if, for any taxable year in which such Holder held our common shares, either
 

at least 75% of our gross income for such taxable year consists of passive income (e.g., dividends, interest, capital gains and rents derived other than in the active conduct of a rental business), or
 

at least 50% of the average value of the assets held by us during such taxable year produce, or are held for the production of, such passive income.
 
For purposes of determining whether we are a PFIC, we will be treated as earning and owning our proportionate share of the income and assets, respectively, of any of our subsidiary corporations in which we own at least 25% of the value of the subsidiary’s shares. Income earned, or deemed earned, by us in connection with the performance of services would not constitute passive income. By contrast, rental income would generally constitute passive income unless we were treated under specific rules as deriving our rental income in the active conduct of a trade or business.
 
For taxable years through 2004, we were a PFIC. However, based on our current operations and future projections, we do not believe that we have been, or will become, a PFIC with respect to our taxable years after 2004. Although there is no legal authority directly on point, and we are not relying upon an opinion of counsel on this issue, our belief is based principally on the position that, for purposes of determining whether we are a PFIC, the gross income we derive or are deemed to derive from our time chartering and voyage chartering activities should constitute services income, rather than rental income. Correspondingly, such income should not constitute passive income, and the assets that we own and operate or are deemed to own and operate in connection with the production of such income, in particular, the vessels, should not constitute passive assets for purposes of determining whether we are a PFIC. We believe there is substantial legal authority supporting our position consisting of case law and Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, pronouncements concerning the characterization of income derived from time charters and voyage charters as services income for other tax purposes. However, we note that there is also authority which characterizes time charter income as rental income rather than services income for other tax purposes. In the absence of any legal authority specifically relating to the statutory provisions governing PFICs, the IRS or a court could disagree with our position. In addition, although we intend to conduct our affairs in a manner to avoid being classified as a PFIC, we cannot assure you that the nature of our operations will not change in the future.
 
As discussed more fully below, if we were to be treated as a PFIC for any taxable year which included a United States Holder’s holding period in our common shares, then such United States Holder would be subject to different United States federal income taxation rules depending on whether the United States Holder makes an election to treat us as a “qualified electing fund,” which election we refer to as a QEF Election. As an alternative to making a QEF election, a United States Holder should be able to make a “mark-to-market” election with respect to our common shares, as discussed below.  In addition, if we were to be treated as a PFIC for a taxable year ending on or after December 31, 2013, a United States Holder of our common shares would be required to file an annual information return with the IRS for such year.
 
United States Holders Making a Timely QEF Election
 
Pass-Through of Ordinary Earnings and Net Capital Gain. A United States Holder who makes a timely QEF Election with respect to our common shares, or an Electing Holder, would report for United States federal income tax purposes his pro rata share of our “ordinary earnings” (i.e., the net operating income determined under United States federal income tax principles) and our net capital gain, if any, for our taxable year that ends with or within the taxable year of the Electing Holder. Our “net capital gain” is any excess of any of our net long term capital gains over our net short term capital losses and is reported by the Electing Holder as long term capital gain. Our net operating losses or net capital losses would not pass through to the Electing Holder and will not offset our ordinary earnings or net capital gain reportable to Electing Holders in subsequent years (although such losses would ultimately reduce the gain, or increase the loss, if any, recognized by the Electing Holder on the sale of his common shares).
 
For purposes of calculating our ordinary earnings, the cost of each vessel is depreciated on a straight-line basis over the applicable recovery period for vessels. Any gain on the sale of a vessel would be treated as ordinary income, rather than capital gain, to the extent of such depreciation deductions with respect to such vessel.
 
In general, an Electing Holder would not be taxed twice on his share of our income. Thus, distributions received from us by an Electing Holder are excluded from the Electing Holder’s gross income to the extent of the Electing Holder’s prior inclusions of our ordinary earnings and net capital gain. The Electing Holder’s tax basis in his shares would be increased by any amount included in the Electing Holder’s income. Distributions received by an Electing Holder, which are not includible in income because they have been previously taxed, would decrease the Electing Holder’s tax basis in the common shares. Distributions, if any, in excess of such tax basis would be treated as capital gain (which gain will be treated as long-term capital gain if the Electing Holder held its common shares for more than one year at the time of distribution).
 
Disposition of Common Shares. An Electing Holder would generally recognize capital gain or loss on the sale or exchange of common shares in an amount equal to the difference between the amount realized by the Electing Holder from such sale or exchange and the Electing Holder’s tax basis in the common shares. Such gain or loss would generally be treated as long-term capital gain or loss if the Electing Holder’s holding period in the common shares at the time of the sale or exchange is more than one year. A United States Holder’s ability to deduct capital losses may be limited.
 
Making a QEF Election. A United States Holder makes a QEF Election for a taxable year by completing and filing IRS Form 8621 (Return by a Shareholder of a Passive Foreign Investment Company or Qualified Electing Fund) in accordance with the instructions thereto. If we were aware that we were to be treated as a PFIC for any taxable year, we would provide each United States Holder with all necessary information in order to make the QEF Election described above.
 
United States Holders Making a Timely Mark-to-Market Election
 
Mark-to-Market Regime. A United States Holder who does not make a QEF Election may make a “mark-to-market” election under section 1296 of the Code, provided that the common shares are regularly traded on a “qualified exchange.” The NYSE, on which the common shares are traded, is a “qualified exchange” for these purposes. A United States Holder who makes a timely mark-to-market election with respect to the common shares would include annually in the United States Holder’s income, as ordinary income, any excess of the fair market value of the common shares at the close of the taxable year over the United States Holder’s then adjusted tax basis in the common shares. The excess, if any, of the United States Holder’s adjusted tax basis at the close of the taxable year over the then fair market value of the common shares would be deductible in an amount equal to the lesser of the amount of the excess or the net mark-to-market gains that the United States Holder included in income in previous years with respect to the common shares. A United States Holder’s tax basis in his common shares would be adjusted to reflect any income or loss amount recognized pursuant to the mark-to-market election.
 
Disposition of Common Shares. A United States Holder who makes a timely mark-to-market election would recognize ordinary income or loss on a sale, exchange or other disposition of the common shares in an amount equal to the difference between the amount realized by the United States Holder from such sale, exchange or other disposition and the United States Holder’s tax basis in the common shares; provided, however, that any ordinary loss on the sale, exchange or other disposition may not exceed the net mark-to-market gains that the United States Holder included in income in previous years with respect to the common shares. The amount of any loss in excess of such net mark-to market gains is treated as capital loss.
 
Making the Mark-to-Market Election. A United States Holder makes a mark-to-market election for a taxable year by completing and filing IRS Form 8621 (Return by a Shareholder of a Passive Foreign Investment Company or Qualified Electing Fund) in accordance with the instructions thereto.
 
United States Holders Not Making a Timely QEF Election or Mark-to-Market Election
 
A United States Holder who does not make a timely QEF Election or a timely mark-to-market election, which we refer to as a Non-Electing Holder, would be subject to special rules with respect to (i) any “excess distribution” (generally, the portion of any distributions received by the Non-Electing Holder on the common shares in a taxable year in excess of 125% of the average annual distributions received by the Non-Electing Holder in the three preceding taxable years, or, if shorter, the Non-Electing Holder’s holding period for the common shares), and (ii) any gain realized on the sale or other disposition of common shares. Under these rules, (i) the excess distribution or gain would be allocated ratably over the Non-Electing Holder’s holding period for the common shares; (ii) the amount allocated to the current taxable year, and any taxable year prior to the first taxable year in which we were a PFIC, would be taxed as ordinary income; and (iii) the amount allocated to each of the other prior taxable years would be subject to tax at the highest rate of tax in effect for the applicable class of taxpayer for that year, and an interest charge for the deemed tax deferral benefit would be imposed with respect to the resulting tax attributable to each such other taxable year. If a Non-Electing Holder dies while owning common shares, the Non-Electing Holder’s successor would be ineligible to receive a step-up in the tax basis of those common shares.
 
Distributions received by a Non-Electing Holder that are not “excess distributions” would be includible in the gross income of the Non-Electing Holder as dividend income to the extent that such distributions are paid out of our current or accumulated earnings and profits as determined under United States federal income tax principles. Such dividends would not be eligible to be treated as “qualified dividend income” eligible for preferential tax rates. Distributions in excess of our current or accumulated earnings and profits would be treated first as a return of the United States Holder’s tax basis in the common shares (thereby increasing the amount of any gain or decreasing the amount of any loss realized on the subsequent sale or disposition of such common shares) and thereafter as capital gain.
 
United States Holders Who Acquired Shares Before 2005
 
We were a PFIC through the 2004 taxable year.  Therefore, a United States Holder who acquired our common shares before 2005 may be subject to special rules with respect to our common shares.  In particular, a United States Holder who did not make a timely QEF Election or a mark-to-market election may continue to be subject to the PFIC rules with respect to our common shares.  Such United States Holders are encouraged to consult their tax advisors regarding the application of these rules as well as the availability of certain elections which may ameliorate the application of these rules.
 
United States Federal Income Taxation of Non-United States Holders
 
A beneficial owner of common shares (other than a partnership) that is not a United States Holder is referred to herein as a Non-United States Holder.
 
Dividends on Common Shares
 
Non-United States Holders generally will not be subject to United States federal income or withholding tax on dividends received from us with respect to our common shares, unless that income is effectively connected with the Non-United States Holder’s conduct of a trade or business in the United States. If the Non-United States Holder is entitled to the benefits of a United States income tax treaty with respect to those dividends, that income is taxable only if it is attributable to a permanent establishment maintained by the Non-United States Holder in the United States.
 
Sale, Exchange or Other Disposition of Common Shares
 
Non-United States Holders generally will not be subject to United States federal income or withholding tax on any gain realized upon the sale, exchange or other disposition of our common shares, unless:
 

the gain is effectively connected with the Non-United States Holder’s conduct of a trade or business in the United States (and, if the Non-United States Holder is entitled to the benefits of a United States income tax treaty with respect to that gain, that gain is attributable to a permanent establishment maintained by the Non-United States Holder in the United States); or
 

the Non-United States Holder is an individual who is present in the United States for 183 days or more during the taxable year of disposition and other conditions are met.
 
If the Non-United States Holder is engaged in a United States trade or business for United States federal income tax purposes, the income from the common shares, including dividends and the gain from the sale, exchange or other disposition of the common shares, that is effectively connected with the conduct of that trade or business will generally be subject to regular United States federal income tax in the same manner as discussed in the previous section relating to the taxation of United States Holders. In addition, if you are a corporate Non-United States Holder, your earnings and profits that are attributable to the effectively connected income, subject to certain adjustments, may be subject to an additional branch profits tax at a rate of 30%, or at a lower rate as may be specified by an applicable United States income tax treaty.
 
Backup Withholding and Information Reporting
 
In general, dividend payments, or other taxable distributions, made within the United States to you will be subject to information reporting requirements if you are a United States Individual Holder. Such payments may also be subject to backup withholding tax if you are a United States Individual Holder and you:
 

fail to provide an accurate taxpayer identification number;
 

are notified by the IRS that you have failed to report all interest or dividends required to be shown on your United States federal income tax returns; or
 

in certain circumstances, fail to comply with applicable certification requirements.
 
Non-United States Holders may be required to establish their exemption from information reporting and backup withholding by certifying their status on an IRS Form W-8.
 
If you are a Non-United States Holder and you sell your common shares to or through a United States office of a broker, the payment of the proceeds is subject to both United States backup withholding and information reporting unless you certify that you are a non-United States person, under penalties of perjury, or you otherwise establish an exemption. If you are a Non-United States Holder and you sell your common shares through a non-United States office of a non-United States broker and the sales proceeds are paid to you outside the United States, then information reporting and backup withholding generally will not apply to that payment. However, information reporting requirements, but not backup withholding, will apply to a payment of sales proceeds, even if that payment is made to you outside the United States, if you sell your common shares through a non-United States office of a broker that is a United States person or has some other contacts with the United States. Such information reporting requirements will not apply, however, if the broker has documentary evidence in his records that you are a non-United States person and certain other conditions are met, or you otherwise establish an exemption.
 
Backup withholding is not an additional tax. Rather, you generally may obtain a refund of any amounts withheld under backup withholding rules that exceed your United States federal income tax liability by filing a refund claim with the IRS.
 
Individuals who are United States Holders (and to the extent specified in applicable Treasury regulations, certain individuals who are Non-United States Holders and certain United States entities) who hold “specified foreign financial assets” (as defined in section 6038D of the Code) are required to file IRS Form 8938 with information relating to the asset for each taxable year in which the aggregate value of all such assets exceeds $75,000 at any time during the taxable year or $50,000 on the last day of the taxable year (or such higher dollar amount as prescribed by applicable Treasury regulations).  Specified foreign financial assets would include, among other assets, our common shares, unless the shares are held through an account maintained with a United States financial institution. Substantial penalties apply to any failure to timely file IRS Form 8938, unless the failure is shown to be due to reasonable cause and not due to wilful neglect. Additionally, in the event an individual United States Holder (and to the extent specified in applicable Treasury regulations, an individual Non-United States Holder or a United States entity) that is required to file IRS Form 8938 does not file such form, the statute of limitations on the assessment and collection of United States federal income taxes of such holder for the related tax year may not close until three years after the date that the required information is filed.  United States Holders (including United States entities) and Non- United States Holders are encouraged consult their own tax advisors regarding their reporting obligations under this legislation.
 
In addition to the tax consequences discussed above, we may be subject to tax in one or more other jurisdictions where we conduct activities. The amount of any such tax imposed upon our operations may be material.
 
The above-mentioned tax considerations does not purport to be a comprehensive description of all the tax considerations that may be relevant to a decision to purchase, own or dispose of the shares. Shareholders who wish to clarify their own tax situation should consult and rely upon their own tax advisors.
 
Changes in Global Tax Laws

Long-standing international tax initiatives that determine each country’s jurisdiction to tax cross-border international trade and profits are evolving as a result of, among other things, initiatives such as the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directives, as well as the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting reporting requirements, mandated and/or recommended by the EU, G8, G20 and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, including the imposition of a minimum global effective tax rate for multinational businesses regardless of the jurisdiction of operation and where profits are generated (Pillar Two). As these and other tax laws and related regulations change (including changes in the interpretation, approach and guidance of tax authorities), our financial results could be materially impacted. Given the unpredictability of these possible changes and their potential interdependency, it is difficult to assess whether the overall effect of such potential tax changes would be cumulatively positive or negative for our earnings and cash flow, but such changes could adversely affect our financial results.
 
On December 12, 2022, the European Union member states agreed to implement the OECD’s Pillar Two global corporate minimum tax rate of 15% on companies with revenues of at least €750 million effective from 2024. Various countries have either adopted implementing legislation or are in the process of drafting such legislation. Any new tax law in a jurisdiction where we conduct business or pay tax could have a negative effect on our company.
 
Other Tax Considerations
 
In addition to the tax consequences discussed above, we may be subject to tax in one or more other jurisdictions where we conduct activities. The amount of any such tax imposed upon our operations may be material.
 
F.
Dividends and Paying Agents
 
Not applicable.
 
G.
Statement by Experts
 
Not applicable.
 
H.
Documents on Display
 
We are subject to the informational requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. In accordance with these requirements we file reports and other information with the SEC. These materials, including this annual report and the accompanying exhibits may be inspected and copied at the public reference facilities maintained by the SEC at 100 F Street, NE, Room 1580, Washington, D.C. 20549.  The SEC maintains a website (http://www.sec.gov) that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information that we and other registrants have filed electronically with the SEC. Our filings are also available on our website at www.nat.bm. This web address is provided as an inactive textual reference only. Information contained on our website does not constitute part of this annual report.
 
Shareholders may also request a copy of our filings at no cost, by writing or telephoning us at the following address:
 
Nordic American Tankers Limited
Swan Building
26 Victoria Street
Hamilton, HM12, Bermuda.
Tel: +1 441 292 7202

I.
Subsidiary Information
 
Not applicable.

J.
Annual Report to Security Holders
 
Not applicable.

ITEM 11.
QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK
 
The Company is exposed to market risk from changes in interest rates related to the variable rate of the Company’s borrowings under our 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility including the $30.0 million Accordion Loan, Financing of 2018-built Vessels, Financing of 2022-built Vessels and Financing of Nordic Hawk.
 
Amounts borrowed under these agreements, excluding the Financing of Nordic Hawk entered into in December 2023, had interest at a rate equal to LIBOR plus a margin. LIBOR was terminated as of June 30, 2023, and our borrowing agreements were amended to replace the LIBOR element with a term Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”), plus a Credit Adjustment Spread (“CAS”) of 26 basis points, for the Financing of 2018-built Vessels and for the Financing of the 2022-built Vessels, and with an interest rate based on Federal Funds Rate for the 2019 Senior Secured Credit Facility including the $30 million Accordion Loan. The Financing of Nordic Hawk agreement that was entered into in December 2023 as part of taking delivery of the 2016-built vessel, Nordic Hawk, includes a floating term SOFR interest, plus a margin. Increasing interest rates could affect our future profitability. In certain situations, the Company may enter into financial instruments to reduce the risk associated with fluctuations in interest rates.
 
A 100 basis point increase in term SOFR or the Federal Funds Rate would have resulted in an increase of approximately $2.7 million in our interest expense for the year ended December 31, 2023.
 
The Company is exposed to the spot Suezmax tanker market. Historically, the tanker markets have been volatile as a result of the many conditions and factors that can affect the price, supply and demand for tanker capacity. Changes in demand for transportation of oil over longer distances and supply of tankers to carry that oil may materially affect our revenues, profitability and cash flows. The majority of our vessels are operated in the spot market and we had four vessels on longer-term time charter agreements.  We believe that over time, spot employment generates premium earnings compared to longer-term employment.
 
We estimate that during 2023, a $1,000 per day per vessel decrease in the spot market rate would have decreased our voyage revenue by approximately $6.5 million.
 
ITEM 12.
DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES
 
Not applicable.
 
PART II
 
ITEM 13.
DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES
 
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 14.
MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS
 
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 15.
CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES
 
A.
Disclosure Controls and Procedures.
 
Pursuant to Rules 13a-15(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), the Company’s management, under the supervision and with the participation of the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer, evaluated the effectiveness of the design and operation of the Company’s disclosure controls and procedures as of December 31, 2023. Disclosure controls and procedures are designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed by the issuer in the reports that it files or submits under the Act is recorded, processed, summarized and reported, within the time periods specified in the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission’s rules and forms. Disclosure controls and procedures include, without limitation, controls and procedures designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed by the Company in the reports that it files or submits under the Act is accumulated and communicated to the issuer’s management, including its chief executive and chief financial officers, or persons performing similar functions, as appropriate to allow timely decisions regarding required disclosure. Based on this evaluation, management has concluded that our disclosure controls and procedures were effective as of December 31, 2023.
 
B.
Management’s annual report on internal control over financial reporting.
 
Our internal control system is designed to provide reasonable assurance to the Company’s management and Board of Directors regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of published financial statements for external purposes in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Our system of internal control over financial reporting includes those policies and procedures that:
 

pertain to the maintenance of records that, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the transactions and dispositions of our assets;
 

provide reasonable assurance that transactions are recorded as necessary to permit preparation of financial statements in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America and that our receipts and expenditures are being made only in accordance with authorization of our management and directors; and
 

provide reasonable assurance regarding prevention or timely detection of unauthorized acquisition, use or disposition of assets that could have a material effect on the consolidated financial statements.
 
Because of its inherent limitations, internal control over financial reporting may not prevent or detect all misstatements. All internal control systems, no matter how well designed and operated, can only provide reasonable, not absolute, assurance that the objectives of the control system will be met. Therefore, even those systems determined to be effective can provide only reasonable assurance with respect to financial statement preparation and presentation. Additionally, any projections of any evaluations of effectiveness to future periods are subject to the risk that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions or deterioration in the degree of compliance with our policies and procedures.
 
Our management, including the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Financial Officer, evaluated the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as at December 31, 2023, based on the framework established in Internal Control – Integrated Framework (2013) issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (“COSO”). Based on this evaluation, management has concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2023.
 
C.
Attestation report of the registered public accounting firm.
 
The effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2023, has been audited by KPMG AS, an independent registered public accounting firm, as stated in their report that appears herein.
 
D.
Changes in internal control over financial reporting.
 
There have been no changes in internal controls over financial reporting that occurred during the year covered by this annual report, that have materially affected, or are reasonably likely to materially affect, the Company’s internal controls over financial reporting.
 
 
ITEM 16.
[RESERVED]
 
ITEM 16A.
AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT
 
The Board of Directors has determined that Ms. Chu, who serves as Chairman of the Audit Committee, qualifies as an “audit committee financial expert” under SEC rules, and that Ms. Chu is “independent” under applicable NYSE rules and SEC standards.
 
ITEM 16B.
CODE OF ETHICS
 
The Company has adopted a code of ethics that applies to all of the Company’s employees, including our chief executive officer, chief financial officer, principal accounting officer or controller.  The code of ethics may be downloaded at our website (www.nat.bm).
 
ITEM 16C.
PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES
 
A.
Audit Fees
 
Our Board of Directors has established preapproval and procedures for the engagement of the Company’s independent public accounting firms for all audit and non-audit services. The following table sets forth, for the two most recent fiscal years, the aggregate fees billed for professional services rendered by our principal accountant, KPMG AS, Oslo, Norway, Auditor Firm ID: 1363, for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, respectively, for the audit of the Company’s annual financial statements and services provided by the principal accountant in connection with statutory and regulatory filings or engagements for the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022.
 
FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2023
 
$
911,360
 
FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2022
 
$
836,921
 

B. Audit-Related Fees

FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2023
 
$
0
 
FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2022
 
$
0
 

C.
Tax Fees
 
Not applicable.
 
D.
All Other Fees
 
Not applicable.
 
E.
Audit Committee’s Pre-Approval Policies and Procedures
 
Our audit committee pre-approves all audit, audit-related and non-audit services not prohibited by law to be performed by our independent auditors and associated fees prior to the engagement of the independent auditor with respect to such services.
 
F.
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 16D.
EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES
 
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 16E.
PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PERSONS.
 
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 16F.
CHANGE IN REGISTRANT`S CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT.
 
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 16G.
CORPORATE GOVERNANCE
 
Pursuant to an exception for foreign private issuers, we, as a Bermuda company, are not required to comply with the corporate governance practices followed by U.S. companies under the NYSE listing standards (which are available at www.nyse.com) because in certain cases we follow our home country (Bermuda) practice. We believe that our established practices in the area of corporate governance are in line with the spirit of the NYSE standards and provide adequate protection to our shareholders. Transparency and integrity are two main values associated with Nordic American Tankers Ltd. (NAT). NAT is one of the most transparent transportation companies of its type listed on NYSE.  Further information on NAT is on www.nat.bm. Corporate governance principles are important for NAT.

There are four significant differences between our corporate governance practices and the NYSE standards applicable to listed U.S. companies. The NYSE requires that non-management directors meet regularly in executive sessions without management. The NYSE also requires that all independent directors meet in an executive session at least once a year. As permitted under Bermuda law and our bye-laws, our non-management directors do not regularly hold executive sessions without management and we do not expect them to do so in the future. The NYSE requires that a listed U.S. company have a nominating/corporate governance committee of independent directors and a committee charter specifying the purpose, duties and evaluation procedures of the committee. As permitted under Bermuda law and our bye-laws, we do not currently have a nominating or corporate governance committee. The NYSE requires, among other things, that a listed U.S. company have an audit committee with a minimum of three members, all of whom are independent. As permitted by Rule 10A-3 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, our audit committee consists of one independent member of our Board of Directors. The NYSE requires U.S. companies to adopt and disclose corporate governance guidelines. The guidelines must address, among other things: director qualification standards, director responsibilities, director access to management and independent advisers, director compensation, director orientation and continuing education, management succession and an annual performance evaluation. We are not required to adopt such guidelines under Bermuda law and we have not adopted such guidelines.
 
ITEM 16H.
MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE
 
Not applicable.
 
ITEM 16I.
DISCLOSURE REGARDING FOREIGN JURISDICTIONS THAT PREVENT INSPECTIONS
 
Not applicable.
 

ITEM 16J.
INSIDER TRADING POLICIES
 
Pursuant to applicable SEC transition guidance, the disclosure required by Item 16J will be applicable to us beginning in the fiscal year ending December 31, 2024.

ITEM 16K.
CYBERSECURITY
 
We maintain various cybersecurity measures to safeguard our systems and data. We have implemented processes for assessing, identifying, and managing material risks from cybersecurity threats, which are integrated into our overall risk management framework. These processes include access controls to organizational systems and data encryption and are designed to evaluate potential vulnerabilities and cybersecurity threats and minimize their potential impact on our organization’s operations, assets, and stakeholders. We engage and rely on third-party cybersecurity specialists to enhance the effectiveness of our cybersecurity processes, improve our internal capabilities and stay abreast of evolving cybersecurity risks and best practices. We evaluate potential cybersecurity risks associated with our use of these third-party service providers and manage any identified risks in conjunction with such parties. In 2023, we did not detect any cybersecurity incidents that have materially affected or are reasonably likely to materially affect us, including our business strategy, results of operations, or financial condition.
 
As we do not have a dedicated board committee solely focused on cybersecurity, our full Board oversees the implementation of our cybersecurity strategy, as well as cybersecurity risks, with the aim of protecting our interests and assets. Our Chief Executive Officer has oversight responsibility for risks and incidents relating to cybersecurity threats and reports any findings and recommendations, as appropriate, to our Board of Directors for consideration.
 
We continue to invest in our cybersecurity systems and to enhance our internal controls and processes. Our business strategy, results of operations and financial condition have not been materially affected by risks from cybersecurity threats, but we cannot provide assurance that they will not be materially affected in the future by such risks or any future material incidents. For more information about risks associated with cybersecurity, see “Item 3.D. Risk Factors— Risks Related to Our Business and Financial Condition — We rely on our information systems to conduct our business, and failure to protect these systems against security breaches could adversely affect our business and results of operations. Additionally, if these systems fail or become unavailable for any significant period of time, our business could be harmed.

PART III
 
ITEM 17.
FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
 
See Item 18.
 
ITEM 18.
FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
 
The financial information required by this Item is set forth on pages F-1 to F-24 filed as part of this annual report.
 
ITEM 19.
EXHIBITS
 
Memorandum of Association of the Company incorporated by reference to Exhibit 1.1 to the Company’s annual report on Form 20-F filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 17, 2012.
   
By-Laws of the Company incorporated by reference to Form 6-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on January 18, 2012.
   
Form of Share Certificate incorporated by reference to Exhibit 2.1 to the Company’s annual report on Form 20-F filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 17, 2012.
   
Shareholder Rights Agreement dated as of June 16, 2017 by and between the Company and Computershare Trust Company, N.A., as rights agent incorporated by reference to Form 6-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 16, 2017.
   
Description of Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 incorporated by reference to Exhibit 2.3 to the Company’s annual report on Form 20-F filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 16, 2020.
   
Amended and Restated 2011 Equity Incentive Plan incorporated by reference to Exhibit 4.11 to the Company’s annual report on Form 20-F for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2022 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 27, 2023.
   
Equity Distribution Agreement dated March 29, 2019, by and between Nordic American Tankers Limited and B. Riley FBR, Inc, incorporated by reference to Exhibit 4.14 to the Company’s annual report on Form 20-F for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 16, 2020.
   
Equity Distribution Agreement dated October 16, 2020, by and between Nordic American Tankers Limited and B. Riley Securities, Inc. incorporated by reference to Exhibit 4.13 to the Company’s annual report on Form 20-F for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 29, 2021.
   
Equity Distribution Agreement dated September 29, 2021, by and between Nordic American Tankers Limited and B. Riley Securities, Inc. incorporated by reference to Exhibit 4.14 to the Company’s annual report on Form 20-F for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021 filed with Securities and Exchange Commission on May 11, 2022.
   
Equity Distribution Agreement dated February 14, 2022, by and between Nordic American Tankers Limited and B. Riley Securities, Inc. incorporated by reference to Exhibit 4.15 to the Company’s annual report on Form 20-F for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021 filed with Securities and Exchange Commission on May 11, 2022.
   
Subsidiaries of Nordic American Tankers Limited
   
Rule 13a-14(a)/15d-14(a) Certification of the Chief Executive Officer.
   
Rule 13a-14(a) /15d-14(a) Certification of the Chief Financial Officer.
   
Certification of the Chief Executive Officer pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 1350, as adopted pursuant to Section 906 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.
   
Certification of the Chief Financial Officer pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 1350, as adopted pursuant to Section 906 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.
   
Consent of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm – KPMG AS.
   
Consent of Fearnleys
   
Policy Regarding the Recovery of Erroneously Awarded Compensation
   
101.INS
XBRL Instance Document
   
101.SCH
XBRL Taxonomy Extension Schema Document
   
101.CAL
XBRL Taxonomy Extension Schema Calculation Linkbase Document