UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
☒ ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2020
☐ TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
Commission File Number 001-33831
EAGLE BULK SHIPPING INC.
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
|Republic of the Marshall Islands||98-0453513|
|(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)||(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)|
300 First Stamford Place, 5th Floor
|(Address of principal executive offices)||(Zip Code)|
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (203) 276–8100
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each class
Name of each exchange on which registered
|Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share ||EGLE||The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC|
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☐ No ☒
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ☐ No ☒
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 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ☒ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer”, “accelerated filer”, “smaller reporting company”, and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer
Smaller reporting company
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, 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 provide pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ☐ No ☒
The aggregate market value of the registrant’s common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant on June 30, 2020, the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second quarter, was approximately $70,031,332 based on the closing price of $15.33 per share on The Nasdaq Global Select Market on that date. (For this purpose, all outstanding shares of common stock have been considered held by non-affiliates, other than the shares beneficially owned by directors, officers and certain shareholders of the registrant holding above 10% of the outstanding shares of common stock; without conceding that any of the excluded parties are "affiliates" of the registrant for purposes of the federal securities laws.)
As of March 10, 2021, 12,442,798 shares of the registrant’s common stock were outstanding.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Section 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 ☐
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s definitive proxy statement for its 2021 annual meeting of shareholders, which will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days of December 31, 2020, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for the registrant's fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
References in this Annual Report on Form 10-K (this “Form 10-K” or “Annual Report”) to “we,” “us,” “our,” “Eagle Bulk,” “Eagle”, the “Company” and similar terms all refer to Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc. and its subsidiaries, unless otherwise stated or the context otherwise requires.
A glossary of shipping terms (the “Glossary”) that should be used as a reference when reading this Annual Report can be found immediately prior to Item 1A. Capitalized terms that are used in this Annual Report are either defined when they are first used or in the Glossary.
All dollar amounts are stated in United States (“U.S.”) dollars unless otherwise stated.
Reverse Stock Split
Effective as of September 15, 2020, the Company completed a 1-for-7 reverse stock split (the “Reverse Stock Split”) of the Company's issued and outstanding shares of common stock, par value $0.01 per share. Proportional adjustments were made to the Company’s issued and outstanding common stock and to the exercise price and the number of shares issuable upon exercise of all of the Company’s outstanding warrants, the exercise price and number of shares issuable upon exercise of the options outstanding under the Company’s equity incentive plans, and the number of shares subject to restricted stock awards under the Company’s equity incentive plans. Furthermore, the conversion rate set forth in the indenture governing the Company’s Convertible Bond Debt was adjusted to reflect the Reverse Stock Split. No fractional shares of common stock were issued in connection with the Reverse Stock Split. Furthermore, if a shareholder held less than seven shares prior to the Reverse Stock Split, then such shareholder received cash in lieu of the fractional share. All references to common stock and all per share data contained in this Annual Report have been retrospectively adjusted to reflect the Reverse Stock Split unless explicitly stated otherwise.
Forward-Looking Statements and Risk Factor Summary
This Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), and the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, and are intended to be covered by the safe harbor provided for under these sections. These statements may include words such as “believe,” “estimate,” “project,” “intend,” “expect,” “plan,” “anticipate,” and similar expressions in connection with any discussion of the timing or nature of future operating or financial performance or other events. Forward-looking statements reflect management's current expectations and observations with respect to future events and financial performance.
Where we express an expectation or belief as to future events or results, such expectation or belief is expressed in good faith and believed to have a reasonable basis. However, our forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties, and other factors, which could cause actual results to differ materially from future results expressed, projected or implied by those forward-looking statements. The principal factors that affect our financial position, results of operations and cash flows include charter market rates, which have declined significantly from historic highs, periods of charter hire, vessel operating expenses and voyage costs, which are incurred primarily in U.S. dollars, depreciation expenses, which are a function of the purchase price of our vessels and our vessels’ estimated useful lives and scrap value, general and administrative expenses, and financing costs related to our indebtedness. The accuracy of the Company’s assumptions, expectations, beliefs and projections depends on events or conditions that change over time and are thus susceptible to change based on actual experience, new developments and known and unknown risks. The Company gives no assurance that the forward-looking statements will prove to be correct and does not undertake any duty to update them. Our business is subject to a number of risks that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by forward-looking statements made herein and presented elsewhere by management from time to time. These risks are discussed more fully under “Item 1A. Risk Factors” and include, but are not limited to the following:
•changes in demand in the drybulk market, including, without limitation, changes in production of, or demand for, commodities and bulk cargoes, generally or in particular regions;
•greater than anticipated levels of drybulk vessel newbuilding orders or lower than anticipated rates of drybulk vessel scrapping;
•unavailability of spot charters;
•failure of our charterers or other counterparties to meet their obligations under our charter agreements;
•changes in rules and regulations applicable to the drybulk industry, including, without limitation, legislation adopted by international bodies or organizations such as the International Maritime Organization and the European Union (the “EU”) or by individual countries;
•actions taken by regulatory authorities including without limitation the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”);
•the global economic environment;
•changes in trading patterns significantly impacting overall drybulk tonnage requirements;
•increased fuel costs or bunker prices;
•changes in the typical seasonal variations in drybulk charter rates and other seasonal fluctuations;
•changes in the cost of other modes of bulk commodity transportation;
•an over-supply of dry bulk carrier capacity across the industry may depress charter rates;
•changes in general domestic and international political conditions, including China;
•a decrease in the level of China's export of goods or an increase in trade protectionism globally or by certain countries;
•the instability of the euro or the inability of countries to refinance their debts;
•changes in the condition of the Company’s vessels or applicable maintenance or regulatory standards (which may affect, among other things, our anticipated dry docking costs);
•increased costs due to compliance with safety and other vessel requirements imposed by classification societies and complex laws and regulations, including environmental regulations;
•significant deterioration in charter hire rates from current levels or the inability of the Company to achieve its cost-cutting measures;
•the duration and impact of the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic;
•the relative cost and availability of low and high sulfur fuel oil;
•our ability to realize the economic benefits or recover the cost of the scrubbers (as defined below) we have installed;
•any legal proceedings which we may be involved from time to time; and other factors listed from time to time in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”);
•the state of the global financial markets may adversely impact our ability to obtain additional financing;
•the market value of our vessels are volatile and may decline;
•world events, such as terrorist attacks and international conflicts or instability;
•acts of piracy on ocean going vessels;
•the imposition of sanctions by the UN, U.S., EU or other relevant authorities;
•our noncompliance with international safety regulations could result in increased liability or adversely affect our insurance coverage;
•increased costs due to increased inspection procedures and tighter import and export controls;
•arrests of our vessels by maritime claimants;
•risks associated with operating ocean-going vessels;
•inherent risks of our business that might not be adequately covered by insurance;
•requisitions of our vessels by governments during a period of war;
•costs due to our failure to comply with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”);
•costs and reputational harm due to cyber-attacks or other security breaches;
•risks of default under our loan agreements;
•our failure to manage our planned growth properly or integrate newly acquired vessels;
•risks associated with purchasing and operating secondhand vessels;
•the loss of one or more of our significant customers;
•our failure to employ our vessels profitably due to the competitive international shipping industry;
•our failure to attract and retain key management personnel;
•costs due to the aging of our fleet;
•technological innovations could reduce our charter hire income and the value of our vessels;
•if we are required to pay tax on U.S. source income;
•if we are treated as a “passive foreign investment company”;
•the inability of our subsidiaries to declare or pay dividends;
•costs associated with expanding our business;
•losses from derivative instruments;
•interest rate risks under our debt facilities;
•the phase out of LIBOR on our interest rates and interest rate swaps;
•our common stock might be affected by the under-developed corporate laws of the Marshall Islands;
•the fluctuation of the price of our common stock;
•the inactivity of the public market for our common stock;
•certain shareholders own large portions of our outstanding common stock, which may limit stockholders’ ability to influence our actions;
•our shareholders are limited in their ability to elect or remove directors;
•our shareholders are subject to advance notice requirements for shareholder proposals and director nominations;
•our organizational documents contain super majority provisions;
•our organizational documents provide that disputes between us and our shareholders shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. federal courts located in the southern District of New York.
We have based these statements on assumptions and analyses formed by applying our experience and perception of historical trends, current conditions, expected future developments and other factors we believe are appropriate in the circumstances. The Company’s future results may be impacted by adverse economic conditions, such as inflation, deflation, or lack of liquidity in the capital markets, that may negatively affect it or parties with whom it does business. Should one or more of the foregoing risks or uncertainties materialize in a way that negatively impacts the Company, or should the Company’s underlying assumptions prove incorrect, the Company’s actual results may vary materially from those anticipated in its forward-looking statements, and its business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Other unknown or unpredictable factors also could harm our results. We disclaim any intent or obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as may be required under applicable securities laws.
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
Overview and Recent Developments
Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc. (“Eagle” or the “Company”) is a U.S. based fully integrated shipowner-operator providing global transportation solutions to a diverse group of customers including miners, producers, traders, and end users. Headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, with offices in Singapore and Copenhagen, Eagle focuses exclusively on the versatile mid-size drybulk vessel segment and owns one of the largest fleets of Supramax/Ultramax vessels in the world. The Company performs all management services in-house (strategic, commercial, operational, technical, and administrative services) and employs an active management approach to fleet trading with the objective of optimizing revenue performance and maximizing earnings on a risk-managed basis.
As of December 31, 2020, our owned fleet totaled 45 vessels, or 2,686,570 dwt, with an average age of 8.8 years.
Vessel acquisitions and sales
For the year ended December 31, 2020, the Company sold five vessels (Goldeneye, Skua, Shrike, Osprey I and Hawk) for total net proceeds of $23.2 million after brokerage commissions and associated selling expenses. The Company recorded a net loss of $0.5 million from the sale of the five vessels in its Consolidated Statement of Operations for the year ended December 31, 2020.
During the fourth quarter of 2020, the Company entered into a series of memorandum of agreements to purchase three high specification scrubber-fitted Ultramax bulkcarriers for a total purchase price of $50.2 million excluding direct expenses of acquisition. The Company paid $3.3 million in advance on two of the above mentioned vessels and these advances are recorded in Advances for vessel purchases in the Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2020. The vessels, which will be renamed M/V Oslo Eagle, M/V Stockholm Eagle and M/V Helsinki Eagle will be delivered in the first quarter of 2021.
On January 28, 2021, the Company signed a memorandum of agreement to acquire a high-specification 2017 built scrubber-fitted Ultramax vessel for $15.0 million in cash and a warrant for 212,315 common shares of the Company. The vessel, which will be renamed the M/V Rotterdam Eagle is expected to be delivered in the second quarter of 2021.
On February 5, 2021, the Company signed memorandums of agreement to acquire three 2011 built Supramax vessels for $21.2 million cash and a warrant for 329,583 common shares of the Company. The vessels, which will be renamed the M/V Sankaty Eagle, M/V Newport Eagle, and M/V Montauk Eagle are expected to be delivered in the first and second quarters of 2021.
Vessel upgrades - scrubbers and ballast water systems
During the third quarter of 2018, the Company entered into a series of agreements to purchase up to 37 scrubbers, which were fitted on the Company's vessels. The actual costs, including installation, were approximately $2.4 million per scrubber. During the second quarter of 2020, the Company completed the scrubber retrofit project of 37 scrubbers and recorded $88.9 million in Vessels and vessel improvements in the Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2020.
During the third quarter of 2018, the Company entered into a contract for the installation of ballast water treatment systems ("BWTS") on 39 of our owned vessels. The projected costs, including installation, are approximately $0.5 million per BWTS. The Company intends to complete the majority of the installations during scheduled drydockings. The Company completed installation of BWTS on 15 vessels and recorded $7.1 million in Vessels and vessel improvements in the Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2020. Additionally, the
Company recorded $2.3 million as advances paid towards installation of BWTS on the remaining vessels as a noncurrent asset in its Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2020. During the second quarter of 2020, the Company applied for and received extensions from the United States Coast Guard the (“USCG”) of up to one year from their installation deadline for BWTS installation on 18 of our vessels. Additionally, the Company cancelled the BWTS installation orders on three of its oldest vessels.
Our vision is to be the leading integrated drybulk shipowner-operator through consistent outperformance and sustainable growth. We plan to achieve our vision by:
•Focusing on the most versatile drybulk vessel segment
We focus on owning-operating vessels primarily within the mid-size Supramax/Ultramax segment. We consider this vessel segment to be the most versatile amongst the various drybulk asset classes due to the optimal size and specifications of Supramax/Ultramax ships. With a size ranging from 50,000 to 65,000 dwt and a length of approximately 200 meters, Supramax/Ultramax vessels are able to accommodate large cargo quantities and call on the majority of ports around the globe. In addition, these vessels are equipped with onboard cranes and grabs, giving them the ability to load and discharge cargoes without the need for shore-based port equipment/infrastructure. We believe the versatility and flexibility of Supramax/Ultramax vessels provide for improved risk-adjusted returns.
•Employing an active management strategy for fleet trading
We employ an active management strategy for fleet employment with the objective of optimizing revenue performance and maximizing earnings on a risk managed basis. Through the execution of various commercial strategies employed across our global trading desks in the United States, Europe, and Asia, the Company has been able to achieve optimal time charter equivalent results and outperform the relevant market index on a consistent basis.
•Executing on fleet renewal and growth
Since 2016, we have executed on a comprehensive fleet renewal program totaling 46 vessel transactions, inclusive of acquisitions made thus far in 2021. We have acquired 27 modern Ultramax vessels and sold 19 of our older and less efficient Supramax vessels. We believe these transactions have vastly improved our fleet makeup. The average size of our ships has increased, the average age of our fleet has remained fairly static (over the period), and our fleet emissions profile has significantly improved (as measured by fuel consumption per deadweight-ton).
•Performing technical management in-house
We perform all technical management services relating to vessel maintenance, vessel repairs and crewing. We believe maintaining technical management in-house allows us to better optimize operating costs and vessel performance.
•Implementing a prudent approach to balance sheet management
We believe the long-term success of our Company is contingent on maintaining a prudent approach to balance sheet management, including working capital optimization, diversifying capital sources, lowering cost of capital, limiting interest rate exposure, and optimizing debt profile.
•Emphasis on Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) factors
We have developed, maintained and expanded on various initiatives relating to ESG matters. To better inform our shareholders and other stakeholders about these matters of strategic importance, we issued our first annual ESG Sustainability Report in May 2020. This report was produced in accordance with the Marine Transportation Framework, established by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and can be accessed on our company website. Initiatives we have undertaken include:
• Executing on a comprehensive fleet renewal program to purchase newer, more technologically advanced vessels that have enhanced the energy efficiency of our fleet and reduced greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions on a ton-mile basis.
• Creating a performance department and implementing performance optimization software, which has resulted in improved vessel performance and reduced fuel consumption.
• Applying high specification hull coatings and installing various energy saving devices around the propeller aperture to improve vessel performance and reduce fuel consumption.
• Reducing sulfur emissions by approximately 85% by following strategies to comply with the International Maritime Organization’s (“IMO”) new fuel regulations which went into effect in January 2020.
• Joining the Getting to Zero Coalition, a global alliance of more than 140 companies committed to the decarbonization of deepsea shipping in line with the IMO GHG emissions reduction strategy and ultimately align emissions from shipping with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement.
• Providing relevant data on fuel compliance and sailing distances for each of our owned vessels to our lenders that are signatories to the Poseidon Principles. The Poseidon Principles establish a framework for assessing and disclosing the climate alignment of ship finance portfolios and are consistent with the policies and ambitions of the IMO to reduce shipping's total annual GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050.
• Becoming a signatory to the Sea Cargo Charter, a global framework for aligning chartering activities with responsible environmental behavior in order to promote international shipping’s decarbonization. The Charter is consistent with the IMO's ambition for GHG emissions from international shipping to peak as soon as possible and to reduce by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.
• Abiding by equal opportunity employer guidelines and promoting diversity in the workforce.
• Recognizing and complying with the Maritime Labor Convention which was adopted by the International Labor Organization (“ILO”) - all of our crew labor contracts are International Transport Workers’ Federation compliant agreements.
• Becoming a signatory to The Neptune Declaration, a global ‘call to action’ initiative to help end the unprecedented crew change crisis affecting the maritime industry as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 and its impact to worldwide travel.
• Implementing a robust safety management system.
• Volunteering with, and donating to, various local charities and causes.
• Providing paid internship opportunities to university students.
• Setting up a best-in-class corporate governance structure.
• Combating corruption through strict internal procedures and training, as well as taking part in collective action through our membership in the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network.
• Adopting a comprehensive code of ethics program within the organization that provides ongoing training and robust controls.
• Focusing on highly transparent reporting of sustainability, operating, and financial performance.
The 45 vessels in our owned fleet as of December 31, 2020 are fitted with cargo cranes and cargo grabs that enable our vessels to load and unload cargo in ports that do not have shore-side cargo handling infrastructure in place. Our owned vessels are flagged in the Marshall Islands and are employed on time and voyage charters. Our owned fleet as of December 31, 2020 included the following vessels:
|Cape Town Eagle||Ultramax||63,707 ||2015|
|Copenhagen Eagle||Ultramax||63,495 ||2015|
|Crested Eagle||Supramax||55,989 ||2009|
|Crowned Eagle||Supramax||55,940 ||2008|
|Dublin Eagle||Ultramax||63,549 ||2015|
|Egret Bulker||Supramax||57,809 ||2010|
|Fairfield Eagle||Ultramax||63,301 ||2013|
|Gannet Bulker||Supramax||57,809 ||2010|
|Golden Eagle||Supramax||55,989 ||2010|
|Grebe Bulker||Supramax||57,809 ||2010|
|Greenwich Eagle||Ultramax||63,301 ||2013|
|Groton Eagle||Ultramax||63,301 ||2013|
|Hamburg Eagle||Ultramax||63,334 ||2014|
|Hong Kong Eagle||Ultramax||63,472 ||2016|
|Ibis Bulker||Supramax||57,809 ||2010|
|Imperial Eagle||Supramax||55,989 ||2010|
|Madison Eagle||Ultramax||63,301 ||2013|
|Mystic Eagle||Ultramax||63,301 ||2013|
|New London Eagle||Ultramax||63,140 ||2015|
|Petrel Bulker||Supramax||57,809 ||2011|
|Puffin Bulker||Supramax||57,809 ||2011|
|Roadrunner Bulker||Supramax||57,809 ||2011|
|Rowayton Eagle||Ultramax||63,301 ||2013|
|Sandpiper Bulker||Supramax||57,809 ||2011|
|Santos Eagle||Ultramax||63,537 ||2015|
|Shanghai Eagle||Ultramax||63,438 ||2016|
|Singapore Eagle||Ultramax||63,386 ||2017|
|Southport Eagle||Ultramax||63,301 ||2013|
|Stamford Eagle||Ultramax||61,530 ||2016|
|Stellar Eagle||Supramax||55,989 ||2009|
|Stonington Eagle||Ultramax||63,301 ||2012|
|Sydney Eagle||Ultramax||63,529 ||2015|
|Westport Eagle||Ultramax||63,344 ||2015|
Nature of Business
The following is a brief description of some of the commercial strategies we use to employ our vessels:
Time charter-out describes a contract for the use of a ship for an agreed period of time, at an agreed hire rate per day. Commercial control of the vessel becomes the responsibility of the time charterer who performs the voyage(s). The time charterer is responsible to pay the agreed hire and also purchase the fuel and port expenses. Time charters can range from as short as one voyage (approximately 20-40 days) to multiple years.
Voyage Chartering involves the employment of a vessel between designated ports for the duration of the voyage only. Freight is earned on the volume of cargo carried. In contrast to the Time charter-out method, in a voyage charter, we maintain control of the commercial operation and are responsible for managing the voyage, including vessel scheduling and routing, as well as any related costs, such as fuel, port expenses and other expenses. Having the ability to control and manage the voyage, we are able to generate increased margin through operational efficiencies, business intelligence and scale. Additionally, contracting to carry cargoes on voyage terms often gives us the ability to utilize a wide range of vessels to perform the contract (as long as the vessel meets the contractual parameters), thereby giving significant operational flexibility to
the fleet. Such vessels include not only ships we own, but also third-party ships which can be chartered-in on an opportunistic basis (the inverse of a Time charter-out strategy).
3)Vessel + Cargo arbitrage
With this strategy, we contract to carry a cargo on voyage terms (as described above under the caption “Voyage Chartering”) with a specific ship earmarked to cover the commitment. As the date of cargo loading approaches, the market may have moved in such a way whereby we elect to substitute a different vessel to perform the voyage, while assigning a different piece of business to the original earmarked ship. Taken as a whole, this strategy can generate increased revenues, on a risk-managed basis, as compared to the original cargo-vessel pairing.
This strategy involves us leasing a vessel from a third-party shipowner at a set U.S. dollar per day rate. As referenced above, vessels can be time-chartered in order to cover existing cargo commitments, resulting in a Vessel+Cargo arbitrage. These ships may be chartered-in for periods longer than required for the initial cargo or arbitrage, and can also be chartered-in opportunistically in order to benefit from rate dislocations and to obtain risk-managed exposure to the market overall.
Forward Freight Agreements (“FFAs”) are cleared financial instruments, which we can use to hedge market rate exposure by locking in a fixed rate against the eventual forward market. FFAs are an important tool to manage market risk associated with chartering-in of third-party vessels. FFAs can also be used to lock in revenue streams on owned vessels or against forward cargo commitments the Company may enter into.
This is a blended strategy approach whereby we utilize time charters, cargo commitments and FFAs together to hedge away market exposure while maintaining upside optionality to positive market volatility. As a simplified example, a ship may be time chartered-in for one year with a further optional year. In such a scenario, and dependent on market conditions, we could sell an FFA for the firm 1-year period commitment, essentially eliminating exposure to the market, while maintaining full upside on rate developments for the optional year.
|Typical contract length||Single|
| ||One or multiple|
| ||Six months|
Hire rate basis (1)
|Per MT of cargo|
| ||Daily|| ||Linked to|
Voyage expenses (2)
|We pay|| ||Customer|
Vessel expenses for owned vessels (3)
|We pay|| ||We pay|| ||We pay|
|Charter hire expense for vessels chartered-in||We pay|| ||We pay|| ||We pay|
|Customer does not pay|| ||Customer does not pay|| ||Customer does not pay|
(1)“Hire rate” refers to a sum of money paid to the vessel owner by a charterer under a time charter party for the use of a vessel. "Freight rate basis" means the sum of money paid to the vessel owner under a voyage charter or contract of affreightment based on the unit measurement of cargo loaded. “BSI” refers to the “Baltic Supramax Index” and the daily hire rate varies based on the Index. Please refer to the Glossary for further detail on how the BSI is calculated.
(2)“Voyage expenses” include fuel, port charges, canal tolls, and brokerage commissions.
(3)“Vessel expenses” include crewing, repairs and maintenance, insurance, stores, lubes and communication expenses.
(4)“Off-hire” refers to the time a vessel is unavailable to perform the service either due to scheduled or unscheduled repairs.
The Company employs its fleet opportunistically in an effort to maximize earnings. The Company enters into charters and is continuously developing contractual relationships directly with cargo interests. These relationships and the related cargo contracts have the dual benefit of providing greater operational efficiencies and act as a balance to the Company’s naturally long position to the market. Notwithstanding the focus on short term chartering, the Company consistently monitors the drybulk shipping market and, based on market conditions, will consider entering into long-term time charters on our owned fleet when appropriate.
The following summary represents the charter characteristics of our vessels as of December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018.
| ||December 31, 2020||December 31, 2019||December 31, 2018|
(1) The vessels are in shipyard as of the year end undergoing drydock, BWTS, scrubber and repairs.
In connection with the charters of each of our vessels, unaffiliated third-party ship brokers earn commissions ranging from 1.25% to 5.00% of the total daily charter hire rate of each charter with the commission rate depending on the number of brokers involved with arranging the relevant charter.
Our vessels operate worldwide within the trading limits imposed by governmental economic sanctions regimes and insurance terms and do not operate in countries or territories that are subject to United States, European Union (“EU”), United Kingdom or United Nations (“UN”) comprehensive country-wide or territory-wide sanctions.
Our customers include some of the world's leading agricultural, mining, manufacturing and trading companies, as well as smaller, privately owned companies. Our assessment of customers’ financial condition and reliability is an important factor in negotiating employment for our vessels. We evaluate the counterparty risk of potential customers based on our management's experience in the shipping industry combined with the additional input of an independent credit risk consultant. In 2020, 2019 and 2018, we did not have a customer who accounted for more than 10% of our revenue.
There are two central aspects to the operation of our fleet:
•Commercial operations, which involve chartering and operating a vessel; and
•Technical operations, which involve maintaining, crewing and repairing a vessel.
We carry out the commercial, technical and strategic management of our fleet through our indirectly wholly-owned subsidiary, Eagle Bulk Management LLC, a Marshall Islands limited liability company which maintains its principal executive offices in Stamford, Connecticut. We also have an office in Singapore which provides commercial and technical management services for our vessels. Additionally, our office in Copenhagen,
Denmark provides commercial management services for our vessels. Our staff in the three offices worldwide provide the following services:
•Commercial operations and technical supervision;
•Vessel maintenance and repair;
•Vessel acquisition and sale;
•Legal, compliance and insurance services and
•Finance, accounting, treasury and information technology services.
Each of the Company’s vessels serve the same type of customer, have similar operation and maintenance requirements, operate in the same regulatory environment, and are subject to similar economic characteristics. Based on this, the Company has determined that it operates in one reportable segment which is engaged in the ocean transportation of drybulk cargoes worldwide through the ownership and operation of drybulk vessels.
Commercial and Strategic Management
We perform the commercial and strategic management of our fleet including obtaining employment for our vessels and maintaining relationships with the charterers of our vessels. We have three offices across the globe including Copenhagen, Singapore and Stamford, Connecticut which allows for 24 hour global market coverage. We believe that due to our management team’s experience in operating drybulk vessels, we have access to a broad range of charterers and can employ our fleet efficiently in diverse market conditions and achieve high utilization rates.
Being an active owner-operator means effectively seeking to operate our own vessels when possible, as compared with time chartering them to other operators, all with a view toward achieving higher-than-market net charter hire income. In doing so, we believe we can take advantage of rapidly changing market conditions and obtain better operational efficiencies from our fleet. In addition, we constantly look to arbitrage cargo and vessel positions by taking in additional vessels on time charter, and/or reletting cargo commitments on a voyage basis. We also constantly monitor the drybulk shipping market, and opportunistically charter-in vessels in for a period of time, where we typically obtain some optionality on the duration of the period. We also enter into FFAs contracts and bunker swaps to hedge exposures of physical commitments in order to mitigate market risk.
We have established in-house technical management capabilities, through which we provide technical management services to all vessels in our fleet. Technical management includes managing day-to-day operation of the vessel and machinery, performing general maintenance, ensuring regulatory and classification society compliance, supervising the general efficiency of vessels, arranging the hire of qualified officers and crew, planning, arranging and supervising drydocking and repairs, purchasing supplies, spare parts, lubes, and new equipment for vessels, appointing supervisors and technical consultants.
Human Capital Management
As of December 31, 2020, we have an aggregate of 92 shore-based personnel employed in our principal executive office in Stamford, Connecticut, as well as our offices in Copenhagen and Singapore. We value a diverse work force and our shore-based personnel comprises of 25 different nationalities across three worldwide offices. We are an Equal Opportunity Employer in our hiring and promoting practices, benefits and wages.
•PASSION for excellence drives us
•EMPOWERMENT of our people leads to better results
•INTEGRITY defines our culture
•RESPONSIBILITY to safety underpins every decision
•FORWARD THINKING takes us to a more successful tomorrow
Talent management and leadership
We take a systemic approach to hiring, training and developing our employees based on our code of ethics. This includes creating individual goals based on company priorities and providing employees periodic feedback in order to assess individual performance. We practice internal promoting practices based on objective annual performance evaluations, encouraging employees to develop within their chosen career path and providing necessary professional trainings as needed. We also employ a succession planning process that identifies suitable candidates, and their development needs, for key positions in the company.
In addition to our shore based personnel, we currently crew our vessels primarily with officers and crew members from Ukraine, Russia, Georgia and the Philippines who are hired through third-party crew managers. As of December 31, 2020, we employed approximately 900 officers and crew members on our owned fleet. The third-party crew managers recruit crew members with training, licenses and experience appropriate for our vessels. On board, our crews perform most operational and maintenance work and assist in supervising work during cargo operations and at drydock facilities. We often man our vessels with more crew members than are required by the vessel's Flag State safe manning requirement in order to allow for the performance of routine maintenance duties. All of our crew members are subject to and are paid commensurate with international collective bargaining agreements and, therefore, we do not anticipate any labor disruptions. The international collective bargaining agreements, to which we are a party, are typically renewed for a two-year term.
Human rights, health and safety
We continuously strive to provide a secure working environment for both our shore based personnel as well as our crew members on our ships. During COVID-19, we have taken extraordinary measures to protect the health of our shore based employees by allowing our employees to work from home during the peak of the pandemic. We took measures to adapt all of our offices to the new safety precautions to include social distancing guidelines as well as ensuring mask wearing compliance.
For our crew members on our ships, we maintain security measures to ensure well-being and safety on our ships. We developed and implemented a safety management system in compliance with the International Safety Management Code. All necessary certificates required by the IMO were obtained by our in-house technical managers. We comply with the Maritime Labor Convention adopted by the ILO in 2006. The Convention outlines the minimum requirements for seafarers to work, conditions of employment, facilities while on board, and health and welfare protection. The Convention obliges all ships above 500 gross tons in international trade to have a Maritime Labor Certificate and a Declaration of Maritime Labor Compliance. All our vessels and crew are compliant with the Convention, and we intend to maintain them accordingly. We also publish our ESG report on an annual basis where we report key metrics such as marine casualties, lost time incident rate and port state control.
During the pandemic, government-imposed travel restrictions which were put in place in order to curtail the spread of the virus created substantial challenges with respect to being able to effect crew changes and repatriation, and our seafarers had to work well past their contractual employment periods. At Eagle, it has been a strategic priority to relieve our seafarers which were overdue, and we have successfully conducted the changeover of majority of our crew. In order to achieve this result, we had to divert some of our ships and/or incur additional offhire costs in addition to higher crew change expenses. These costs notwithstanding, we felt it was our obligation to Eagle’s seafarers to ensure their overall health and safety.
Permits, Authorizations and Regulations
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 expect to be 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 increase the cost of us doing business.
Our vessels operate worldwide within the trading limits imposed by our insurance terms and do not operate in countries or territories that are subject to United States, EU, UK or United Nations (“UN”) comprehensive country-wide or territory wide sanctions.
Environmental and Other Regulations
Government regulation significantly affects the trading locations and operation of our vessels. 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 transit or operate 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 required 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 (including national Coast Guards, harbor masters and port state control authorities), classification societies, flag state administrations (country of vessel registry) as well as our charterers, and terminal operators. Certain of these entities require us to obtain permits, licenses and certificates for the operation of our vessels, many of which are provided after inspection to our insurers, flag state, and classification societies. Failure to maintain the necessary permits or approvals could result in substantial costs in fines and penalties, as well as operational delays.
We believe that the heightening levels of environmental and quality concerns among regulators, charterers and the insurance industry is leading to greater inspection and safety requirements on all vessels which may accelerate the scrapping of older vessels throughout the shipping industry. Increasing environmental regulations have created a demand for vessels that conform to the most up-to-date environmental standards, whether through retrofitting or new design. We strive to maintain operating standards for all of our vessels that emphasize operational safety, quality maintenance, continuous training of our officers and crews and adherence to applicable international regulations. We believe that our vessels are in substantial compliance with 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 are subject to 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.
International Maritime Organization
The UN’s IMO has adopted several international conventions, including the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (“MARPOL”). MARPOL has been in effect since October 2, 1983 and has been adopted by over 150 nations, including many of the jurisdictions in which our vessels operate. MARPOL sets forth pollution-prevention requirements applicable to different types of 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 packaged form, respectively; and Annexes IV and V relate to sewage and garbage management, respectively. Annex VI was separately adopted by the IMO in September of 1997, and relates to air emissions.
In 2013, the Marine Environmental Protection Committee ("MEPC") adopted by resolution amendments to MARPOL Annex I Conditional Assessment Scheme (“CAS”). The amendments, which became effective on October 1, 2014, pertain to the inspections of bulk carriers and tankers after the 2011 Enhanced Survey Programme Code, which enhances the programs of inspections, became mandatory. We made the necessary financial expenditures to comply with these amendments.
Effective May 2005, Annex VI to MARPOL sets limits on nitrogen oxide emissions from ships whose diesel engines were constructed (or underwent major conversions) on or after January 1, 2000. 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 of sulfur emissions known as “Emission Control Areas” (“ECAs”).
MEPC adopted amendments to Annex VI on October 10, 2008, 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. As of January 1, 2012, the amended Annex VI requires that fuel oil contain no more than 3.50% sulfur. By January 1, 2020, sulfur content must not exceed 0.50%. Accordingly, ships now have to reduce sulfur emissions, for which the principal solutions are the use of exhaust gas cleaning systems (“scrubbers”) or buying fuel with low sulfur content (often referred to as "compliant fuel"). If a vessel is not equipped with a scrubber, it will need to use one of several types of low sulfur fuel, which is more expensive than marine fuel containing 3.5% 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 scrubbers which can carry fuel of higher sulfur content.
We have implemented a comprehensive approach to compliance with IMO sulfur regulations. We are fully committed to compliance with the IMO's sulfur regulations and believe that fitting scrubbers is the most cost-effective approach to achieve compliance for the majority of the ships in our fleet. As of December 31, 2020 there were 41 out of our 45 vessels fitted with scrubbers, making us the largest owner of scrubber fitted Supramax/Ultramax vessels in the world. The balance of our fleet will achieve compliance through consumption of compliant fuels.
Sulfur content standards are stricter within certain ECAs. As of January 1, 2015, ships operating within an ECA may not use fuel with sulfur content in excess of 0.1%. Amended Annex VI establishes procedures for designating new ECAs. Currently, the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, certain coastal areas of North America and United States Caribbean area have been designated as ECAs. Ocean-going vessels in these areas will be subject to stringent emissions controls which may cause us to incur additional costs to procure compliant fuel and/or install scrubbers. If additional ECAs are approved by the IMO or other new or more stringent requirements relating to emissions from marine engines or port operations by vessels are adopted by the states where our vessels operate, compliance with these regulations could entail additional expenses relating to operation of scrubbers, purchase of compliant fuel or otherwise increase the costs of our operations.
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 IMO also adopted the Safety of Life at Sea ("SOLAS"), and the International Convention on Load Lines (the “LL Convention”), which impose a variety of standards that regulate the design and operational features of ships. The IMO periodically revises the SOLAS and LL Convention standards. The May 2012 SOLAS amendments entered into force on January 1, 2014. The Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims was amended and the amendments went into effect on June 8, 2015. The amendments alter the limits of liability for loss of life or personal injury claim and property claims against ship-owners.
The operation of our ships is also affected by Chapter IX of SOLAS, which sets forth the IMO's International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and Pollution Prevention (the “ISM Code”). The ISM Code requires ship owners and bare boat charterers to develop and maintain an extensive Safety Management System (“SMS”) that includes among other things the adoption of a safety and environmental protection policy
setting forth instructions and procedures for safe operation and describing procedures for emergency response. We rely upon the SMS that we have developed for compliance with the ISM Code. The failure of a ship 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. As of the date of this filing, all of the vessels in our owned fleet are ISM code-certified.
The ISM Code requires that vessel operators obtain a safety management certificate (“SMC”), for each vessel they operate. This certificate evidences compliance by a vessel’s operators with the ISM Code requirements for a SMS. No vessel can obtain an SMC under the ISM Code unless its manager has been awarded a document of compliance, issued in most instances by the vessel's flag state. Our in-house technical managers have obtained documents of compliance with their offices and safety management certificates for all of our vessels for which the certificates are required by the IMO, which certificates are renewed as needed.
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 the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments in February 2004 (the “BWM Convention”). The BWM Convention’s implementing regulations called for a phased introduction of mandatory ballast water exchange requirements, to be replaced in time with mandatory concentration limits. On September 8, 2016, the BWM Convention met the requirement to be adopted by 30 states, the combined merchant fleets of which represent not less than 35% of the gross tonnage of the world's merchant shipping, becoming effective 12 months later on September 8, 2017. Many of the implementation dates originally written in the BWM Convention have already passed, so that once the BWM Convention enters into force, the period for installation of mandatory ballast water exchange requirements would be extremely short, with several thousand ships a year needing to install BWTS. For this reason, on December 4, 2013, the IMO Assembly passed a resolution revising the implementation dates of the BWM Convention so that they are triggered by the entry into force date and not the dates originally in the BWM Convention. This in effect makes all vessels constructed before the entry into force date “existing” vessels and allows for the installation of a BWTS on such vessels at the first renewal survey following entry into force. The mid-ocean ballast exchange or ballast water treatment requirements became mandatory. On March 23, 2012, the USCG issued amended regulations relating to ballast water management for vessels operating in United States waters.
Under relevant U.S. federal laws, USCG approved BWTS will be required to be installed in all vessels at the first out of water drydocking after January 1, 2016 if these vessels are to discharge ballast water inside 12 nautical miles of the coast of the United States. An Alternative Management System (“AMS”) may be installed in lieu of a USCG approved BWTS. An AMS is valid for five years from the date of required compliance with ballast water discharge standards, by which time it must be replaced by an approved system unless the AMS itself achieves approval.
On August 14, 2018, the Company entered into a contract for the installation of BWTS on all of our owned vessels. The projected costs, including installation, is approximately $0.5 million per BWTS. The Company intends to complete the majority of the installations during scheduled drydockings. The Company completed installation of BWTS on 15 vessels and recorded $7.1 million in vessels and vessel improvements in the Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2020. Additionally, the Company recorded $2.3 million as advances paid towards installation of BWTS on the remaining vessels as a noncurrent asset in its Consolidated Balance Sheet as of December 31, 2020. During the second quarter of 2020, the Company applied for and received extensions from the USCG of up to one year from the initial deadline for BWTS installation on 18 of our vessels. Additionally, the Company cancelled the BWTS installation orders on three of its oldest vessels.
The IMO adopted the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (the “Bunker Convention”) to impose strict liability on ship owners 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 Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims of 1976, as amended). 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. Our ships carry insurance in excess of the statutory requirements.
In March 2006, the IMO amended Annex I to MARPOL, including a regulation relating to oil fuel tank protection, which became effective August 1, 2007. The regulation applies to various ships delivered on or after August 1, 2010. The requirements it contains address issues such as fuel tanks, protected location accidental oil fuel outflow performance standards, a tank capacity limit and certain other maintenance, inspection and engineering standards.
IMO regulations also require owners and operators of certain vessels to adopt Ship Oil Pollution Emergency Plans. Periodic training and drills for response personnel and for vessels and their crews are required.
In 2001, the IMO adopted the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships (the "Anti-Fouling Convention"). The Anti-Fouling Convention 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 are required to undergo an initial survey before the vessel is put into service or before an International Anti-Fouling System Certificate is issued for the first time; and subsequent surveys when the anti-fouling systems are altered or replaced. We have obtained Anti-Fouling System Certificates for all of our vessels that are subject to the Anti-Fouling Convention.
In November 2020, MEPC 75 approved draft amendments to the Anti-fouling Convention to prohibit anti-fouling systems containing cybutryne, which amendments would apply to ships from January 1, 2023, or, for ships already bearing such an antifouling system, at the next scheduled renewal of the system after that date, but no later than 60 months following the last application to the ship of such a system. These amendments may be formally adopted at MEPC 76 in 2021.
The flag state, as defined by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, is responsible for implementing and enforcing a broad range of international maritime regulations with respect to all ships granted the right to fly its flag. The “Shipping Industry Guidelines on Flag State Performance” evaluates and reports on flag states based on factors such as sufficiency of infrastructure, ratification, implementation, and enforcement of principal international maritime treaties, supervision of statutory ship surveys, casualty investigations, and participation at IMO and ILO meetings. Our vessels are flagged in the Marshall Islands. Marshall Islands-flagged vessels have historically received a good assessment in the shipping industry. We recognize the importance of a credible flag state and do not intend to use flag states with poor performance indicators.
Noncompliance with the ISM Code or other IMO regulations may subject the ship owner or bareboat charterer to increased liability, lead to decreases in available insurance coverage for affected vessels or result in the denial of access to, or detention in some ports. As of the date of this report, each of our vessels is ISM Code certified and it is our intent to maintain ISM code certification. However, there can be no assurance that such certificates will be maintained in the future.
The IMO continues to 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 may have on our operations.
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 with the United States, its territories and possessions or whose vessels operate in United States waters, which includes the United States’ territorial sea and its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone around the United States. The United States 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. OPA defines these other damages broadly to include:
•Injury to, destruction or loss of, or loss of use of, natural resources and related assessment costs;
•Injury to, or economic losses resulting from, the destruction of real and personal property;
•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;
•Loss of subsistence use of natural resources that are injured, destroyed, or lost;
•Lost profits or impairment of earning capacity due to injury, destruction or loss of real or personal property or natural resources; and
•Net cost of increased of additional public services necessitated by removal activities following a discharge of oil such as protection from fire, safety or health hazards, and loss of subsistence use of natural resources.
OPA contains statutory caps on liability and damages; such caps do not apply to direct cleanup costs. Effective November 19, 2019, the USCG adjusted the limits of OPA liability for non-tank vessels (e.g. drybulk) to the greater of $1,200 per gross ton or $997,100 (subject to periodic adjustment for inflation). These limits of liability may not apply if an incident was caused by the violation of an applicable United States 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 may not apply if the responsible party fails or refuses to (i) report the incident where the responsibility party knows or has reason to know of the incident; (ii) reasonably cooperate and assist as requested in connection with oil removal activities; or (iii) without sufficient cause, comply with an order issued under the Federal Water Pollution Act (Section 311 (c), (e)) or the Intervention on the High Seas Act.
CERCLA contains a similar liability regime whereby owners and operators of vessels are liable for cleanup, removal and remedial costs, as well as damage for, injury to, or destruction or loss of, natural resources, including the reasonable costs associated with assessing 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 or residue 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 gross 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.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in additional regulatory initiatives and 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. The effects of these changes and proposals are currently unknown, and recently, current U.S. President Biden signed an executive order temporarily blocking new leases for oil and gas drilling in federal waters. 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 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 have complied with the regulations by providing a certificate of responsibility from third party entities that are acceptable to the USCG.
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 coverages, it could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operation.
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. In some cases, states which have enacted such legislation have not yet issued implementing regulations defining vessel owners’ responsibilities under these laws. We intend to comply with all applicable state regulations in the ports where our vessels call. We believe that we are in substantial compliance with all applicable existing state requirements. In addition, we intend to comply with all future applicable state regulations in the ports where our vessels call.
Other Environmental Initiatives
The United States Clean Water Act (the “CWA”) prohibits the discharge of oil, hazardous substances and ballast water in United States 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. Furthermore, 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 United States federal law. In 2015, the EPA expanded the definition of “waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”), thereby expanding federal authority under the CWA. Following litigation on the revised WOTUS rule, in December 2018, the EPA and Department of the Army proposed a revised, limited definition of “waters of the United States.” The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on February 14, 2019, and was subject to public comment. On October 22, 2019, the agencies published a final rule repealing the 2015 Rule defining “waters of the United States” and recodified the regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 Rule. The final rule became effective on December 23, 2019. On January 23, 2020, the EPA published the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” which replaces the rule published on October 22, 2019, and redefines “waters of the United States.” This rule became effective on June 22, 2020, although the effective date has been stayed in at least one U.S. state pursuant to court order. The effect of this rule is currently unknown.
The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) has enacted rules requiring a permit regulating ballast water discharges and other discharges incidental to the normal operation of certain vessels within United States waters under the Vessel General Permit for Discharges Incidental to the Normal Operation of Vessels (the “VGP”). For a new vessel delivered to an owner or operator after September 19, 2009 to be covered by the VGP, the owner must submit a Notice of Intent (“NOI”) at least 30 days before the vessel operates in United States waters. On March 28, 2013, the EPA re-issued the VGP for another five years; this 2013 VGP took effect December 19, 2013. The 2013 VGP contains numeric ballast water discharge limits for most vessels to reduce the risk of invasive species in United States waters, more stringent requirements for scrubbers and the use of environmentally acceptable lubricants. We have submitted NOIs for our vessels where required and do not believe that the costs associated with obtaining and complying with the VGP may have a material impact on our operations.
In addition, under Section 401 of the CWA, the VGP must be certified by the state where the discharge is to take place. Certain states have enacted additional discharge standards as conditions to their certification of the VGP. These local standards bring the VGP into compliance with more stringent state requirements, such as those further restricting ballast water discharges and preventing the introduction of non-indigenous species considered to be invasive. The VGP and its state-specific regulations and any similar restrictions enacted in the future may increase the costs of operating in the relevant waters.
The U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970 (including its amendments of 1977 and 1990) (the “CAA”) requires the EPA to promulgate standards applicable to emissions of volatile organic compounds and other air contaminants. The CAA also requires states to draft State Implementation Plans (“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 operations occasionally generate and require the transportation, treatment and disposal of both hazardous and non-hazardous solid wastes that are subject to the requirements of the U.S. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA,”) or comparable state, local or foreign requirements. The RCRA imposes significant record keeping and reporting requirements on transporters of hazardous waste. In addition, from time to time we arrange for the disposal of hazardous waste or hazardous substances at off-site disposal facilities. If such materials are improperly disposed of by third parties, we may still be held liable for cleanup costs under applicable laws.
In October 2009, the EU amended a directive to impose criminal sanctions for illicit ship-source discharges of polluting substances, including minor discharges, if committed with intent, recklessly or with serious negligence and the discharges individually or in the aggregate result in deterioration of the quality of water. Aiding and abetting the discharge of a polluting substance may also lead to criminal penalties. Member States were required to enact laws or regulations to comply with the directive by the end of 2010. Criminal liability for pollution may result in substantial penalties or fines and increased civil liability claims. The directive applies to all types of vessels, irrespective of their flag, but certain exceptions apply to warships or where human safety or the safety of the ship is in danger.
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. Regulations 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 are, use fuels with a 0.5% maximum sulfur content. On September 15, 2020, the European Parliament voted to include green house gas ("GHG") emissions from the maritime sector in the European Union’s
carbon market from 2022. This will require shipowners to buy permits to cover these emissions. Contingent on another formal approval vote, specific regulations are forthcoming and are expected to be proposed in 2021.
Greenhouse Gas Regulation
Currently, GHG emissions 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. Although the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Agreement effective November 4, 2020, the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement on February 19, 2021, following a January 20, 2021, executive order by U.S. President Biden.
Although the international agreements discussed above do not currently provide for GHG emissions limits or reporting for international shipping, the IMO and EU have imposed reporting requirements and the IMO has proposed emissions requirements. As of January 1, 2019, owners and operators of ships above 5,000 gross tonnage are required to have a documented plan in place to monitor CO2 emissions to comply with the IMO’s data collection system (“IMO DCS”) requirement. The Company updated its existing Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans (“SEEMP”) in 2018 documenting the methodologies we decided to use for collecting and reporting the required data to flag state. Our updated SEEMPs have been verified by a recognized independent organization and we are collecting all relevant data in our onboard data collection system since the start of 2019. Starting January 1, 2020, a recognized independent organization will review and certify the annual emissions data submitted by each vessel and issue each vessel a Statement of Compliance. The independent organization will then submit the data annually to the IMO Ship Fuel Oil Consumption Database. The IMO will utilize this data to produce an annual report to the MEPC, summarizing the data collected.
The Company also established and received approval for its EU Monitoring, Reporting, Verification (“MRV”) monitoring plans from an independent verifier in 2017. The reporting requirements of the EU MRV are similar to those under IMO DCS but only apply to ships calling at European Economic Area (EU, Norway and Iceland) ports. Data collection takes place on a per voyage basis and started January 1, 2018. The reported CO2 emissions, together with additional data, are independently verified before being sent to a central database managed by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). The aggregated ship emission and efficiency data is published annually by the European Commission starting June 30, 2019.
During MEPC 75 in November 2020, the IMO approved draft regulations to cut the carbon intensity of existing ships. The draft amendments would require ships to combine a technical and an operational approach to reduce their carbon intensity, in line with the ambition of the Initial IMO GHG Strategy, which aims to reduce carbon intensity of international shipping by 40% by 2030, compared to 2008. These draft amendments are expected to incentivize reduced sailing speeds for all but the newest and most efficient ships in order to limit emissions and may lead to increased demolition of older, less efficient tonnage that is unable to comply with the amendments. The IMO also adopted draft amendments to significantly strengthen the Energy Efficiency Design Index “phase 3” requirements for new ships of several types, with expected entry into force date of April 1, 2022. This means that new ships built from that date must be significantly more energy efficient than the baseline. The draft amendments will be put forward for formal adoption at MEPC 76, to be held in June 2021.
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. Revenue generation and strategic growth opportunities may also be adversely affected. 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 more intense weather events such as those which may present a risk of damage or loss to our vessels.
International Labour Organization
The ILO is a specialized agency of the UN with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The ILO has adopted the Maritime Labor Convention 2006 (the “MLC 2006”). A Maritime Labor Certificate and a Declaration of Maritime Labor Compliance will be required to ensure compliance with the MLC 2006 for all ships above 500 gross tons in international trade. All of our vessels are compliant with the MLC 2006 and we intend to maintain them accordingly.
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 Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (“MTSA”). To implement certain portions of the MTSA, in July 2003, the USCG issued regulations requiring the implementation of certain security requirements aboard vessels operating in waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. The regulations also impose requirements on certain ports and facilities, some of which are regulated by the EPA. We have implemented measures to comply with the requirements when calling at U.S. ports.
Similarly, in December 2002, amendments to SOLAS created a new chapter of the convention dealing specifically with maritime security. The new Chapter V became effective in July 2004 and imposes various detailed security obligations on vessels and port authorities, and mandates compliance with the International Ship and Port Facilities Security Code (“ISPS Code”). The ISPS Code is designed to enhance the security of ports and ships against terrorism. Amendments to SOLAS Chapter VII, made mandatory in 2004, apply to vessels transporting dangerous goods and require those vessels be in compliance with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. 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. Among the various requirements are:
•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.
Ships operating without a valid certificate may be detained at port until it obtains an ISSC, or it may be expelled from port, or refused entry at port.
Furthermore, additional security measures could be required in the future which could have a significant financial impact on us. The USCG regulations, intended to be aligned 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 SOLAS security requirements and the ISPS Code. Our vessels have a valid ISSC and it is our intent to maintain such certificates. We have implemented the various security measures addressed by the MTSA, SOLAS and the ISPS Code.
During 2020, the Company had one major security incident with a third party security guard hired during the vessel's transit from the Indian Ocean towards the Red Sea. The hired guard took control of one of our vessels, including crew and cargo. The Company, in coordination with maritime security experts, worked to resolve the
incident peacefully. The safety of crew, vessel and cargo were re-established during the voyage. Applicable procedures have been evaluated and enhanced to mitigate a recurrence.
Our business operations in countries outside the United States are subject to a number of laws and regulations, including restrictions imposed by the FCPA, as well as economic sanctions and trade embargoes administered by Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC"). The FCPA prohibits bribery of foreign officials and requires us to keep books and records that accurately and fairly reflect our transactions. OFAC administers and enforces economic sanctions and trade embargoes based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign states, organizations and individuals.
In November 2015, the Company filed a voluntary self-disclosure report with OFAC regarding certain apparent violations of U.S. sanctions regulations in the provision of shipping services for third party charterers with respect to the transportation of cargo to or from Myanmar (formerly Burma). The Company had a different senior management team at the time of the apparent violations which occurred between 2011 and 2014. The Company’s new senior management and new Board of Directors self-reported the apparent violation and cooperated fully with OFAC's investigation and has since implemented robust remedial measures and significantly enhanced its compliance safeguards.
On January 23, 2020, Eagle Shipping International (USA) LLC (“ESI”), a subsidiary of the Company, entered into a settlement agreement with OFAC in which ESI agreed to make a one-time payment to the U.S. Department of the Treasury in the amount of $1.125 million and undertake certain compliance commitments in exchange for OFAC agreeing to release and forever discharge the Company and its subsidiaries, including ESI, without any finding of fault, from any and all civil liability in connection with the apparent violations. The settlement does not constitute an admission of fault or wrongdoing by the Company or any of its subsidiaries.
Inspection by Classification Societies
Every ocean-going vessel must be inspected and certified by a classification society. The classification society certifies that the vessel is "in class," signifying that the vessel has been built and maintained in accordance with the rules of the classification society and complies with applicable rules and regulations of the vessel's country of registry and the international conventions of which that country is a member. In addition, where surveys are required by international conventions and corresponding laws and ordinances of a flag state, the classification society will undertake them on application or by official order, acting on behalf of the authorities concerned.
The classification society also undertakes on request other surveys and checks that are required by regulations and requirements of the flag state. These surveys are subject to agreements made in each individual case and/or to the regulations of the country concerned.
For maintenance of the class certification, regular and extraordinary surveys of hull, machinery, including the electrical plant, and any special equipment classed are required to be performed as follows:
•Annual Surveys. For ocean-going ships, annual surveys are conducted for the hull and the machinery, including the electrical plant, and where applicable for special equipment classed, within three months before or after each anniversary date of the date of commencement of the class period indicated in the certificate.
•Intermediate Surveys. Intermediate surveys typically are required two and one-half years after the vessel is commissioned, and thereafter at five year intervals. The first three intermediate surveys may be conducted while the vessel remains in the water, and thereafter the vessel must be dry-docked for each Intermediate Survey.
•Class Renewal Surveys. Class renewal surveys, also known as special surveys, are carried out for the ship’s hull, machinery, including the electrical plant and for any special equipment classed, at the intervals indicated by the character of classification for the hull. At the special survey the vessel is thoroughly examined, including audio-gauging to determine the thickness of the steel structures. Should the thickness be found to be less than class requirements, the classification society would prescribe steel renewals. The classification society may grant a one year grace period for completion of the special survey. Substantial amounts of money may have to be spent for steel renewals to pass a special survey if the vessel experiences excessive wear and tear. In lieu of the special survey approximately every five years, depending on whether a grace period was granted, a ship owner has the option of arranging with the classification society for the vessel’s hull or machinery to be on a continuous survey cycle, in which every part of the vessel would be surveyed within a five year cycle. At an owner’s application, the surveys required for class renewal may be split according to an agreed schedule to extend over the entire period of class. This process is referred to as continuous class renewal.
All areas subject to survey as defined by the classification society are required to be surveyed at least once per class period, unless shorter intervals between surveys are prescribed elsewhere. The period between two subsequent surveys of each area must not exceed five years.
Most vessels are also drydocked every 30 to 60 months for inspection of the underwater parts and for repairs related to inspections. If any defects are found, the classification surveyor will issue a "recommendation" which must be rectified by the ship owner within prescribed time limits.
Most insurance underwriters make it a condition for insurance coverage that a vessel be certified as “in class” by a classification society which is a member of the International Association of Classification Societies (the “IACS”). In December 2013, the IACS adopted new harmonized Common Structure Rules, which apply to bulk carriers constructed on or after July 1, 2015. All our vessels must be certified as being “in class” prior to their delivery under our standard purchase contracts and memorandum of agreement. If the vessel is not class certified on the date of closing, we have no obligation to take delivery of the vessel. We have all of our vessels and intend to have all vessels that we acquire in the future, classed by IACS members.
Risk of Loss and Liability Insurance
The operation of any drybulk vessel includes risks such as mechanical failure, collision, property loss, cargo loss or damage and business interruption due to political circumstances in foreign countries, hostilities and labor strikes. In addition, there is always an inherent possibility of a marine casualty, including oil spills (e.g. fuel oil) and other environmental mishaps, and the liabilities arising from owning and operating vessels in international trade. OPA, which imposes liability upon owners, operators and demise charterers of vessels trading in the United States exclusive economic zone for certain oil pollution accidents in the United States, has made liability insurance more expensive for ship owners and operators trading in the U.S. market.
While we maintain hull and machinery insurance, loss of hire insurance, war risks insurance, protection and indemnity cover and freight, demurrage and defense cover for our owned fleet in amounts that we believe to be prudent to cover normal risks in our operations, we may not be able to achieve or maintain this level of coverage throughout a vessel's useful life. Furthermore, while we believe that our current insurance coverage is adequate, not all risks can be insured, and there can be no guarantee that any specific claim will be paid, or that we will always be able to obtain adequate insurance coverage at reasonable rates.
Hull & Machinery and War Risks Insurance
We maintain marine hull, machinery and war risks insurances, which cover the risk of damage or actual or constructive total loss for all of our vessels. Our vessels are each covered up to at least their fair market value with a deductible of $100,000 per vessel per incident.
Protection and Indemnity Insurance Coverage
Protection and Indemnity Insurance is a form of mutual indemnity insurance provided by protection and indemnity associations (“P&I Associations”), which insure our third-party liabilities in connection with our shipping activities. This includes third-party liability and other related expenses resulting from the injury, illness or death of crew, passengers and other third parties, the loss or damage to cargo, claims arising from collisions with other vessels, damage to other third-party property, pollution, and other related costs, including wreck removal. Subject to the "capping" discussed below except for pollution is unlimited.
Our current Protection and Indemnity Insurance coverage for pollution is $1.0 billion per vessel per incident. The 13 P&I Associations that comprise the International Group of P & I Association insure approximately 90% of the world’s commercial tonnage and have entered into a pooling agreement to reinsure each association’s liabilities. As a member of two P&I Associations which are members of the International Group, we are subject to calls payable to the associations based on the Company's claim records as well as the claim records of all other members of the individual associations and members of the pool of P&I Associations comprising the International Group.
We compete with a large number of international drybulk owners. The international shipping industry is highly competitive and fragmented with no single owner accounting for more than 5.0% of the on-the-water drybulk fleet. As of December 31, 2020, there are approximately 12,300 drybulk vessels over 10,000 dwt totaling approximately 911 million dwt. We compete with other primarily private owners of drybulk vessels in the Handysize, Supramax/Ultramax, and Panamax asset classes.
Competition in the shipping industry varies according to the nature of the contractual relationship as well as the specific commodity being shipped. Our business will fluctuate as a result of changes in the supply and demand for drybulk commodities and also the main patterns of trade in these commodities. Competition in virtually all bulk trades is intense and based primarily on supply of ships and demand for our ocean transportation services. 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 owner and operator. Increasingly, major customers are demonstrating a preference for modern vessels based on concerns about the environmental and operational risks associated with older vessels. Consequently, we believe owners of large modern fleets have gained a competitive advantage over owners of older fleets.
Demand for vessel capacity has historically exhibited seasonal variations and, as a result, fluctuations in charter rates. This seasonality may result in quarter-to-quarter volatility in our operating results for our vessels trading in the spot market. The drybulk market is typically stronger in the fall (due to both increased North American grain shipments and higher coal purchases for heating fuel ahead of the cold winter months) and spring (due to increased South American grain shipments). In addition, unpredictable weather patterns may disrupt vessel scheduling and supplies of certain commodities. To the extent that we must enter into a new charter or renew an existing charter for a vessel in our fleet during a time when seasonal variations have reduced prevailing charter rates, our operating results may be adversely affected.
Value of Assets and Cash Requirements
The replacement costs of comparable new vessels may be above or below the book value of our fleet. The market value of our fleet may be below book value when market conditions are weak and exceed book value when markets are strong. In common with other ship owners, we may consider asset redeployment which at times may include the sale of vessels at less than their book value.
Under Marshall Islands law, there are currently no restrictions on the export or import of capital, including foreign exchange controls or restrictions that affect the remittance of dividends, interest or other payments to non-resident holders of our common stock.
The following is a discussion of the material Marshall Islands and United States federal income tax considerations relevant to owning common stock by a United States Holder or a Non-United States Holder, (each as defined below). This discussion does not purport to deal with the tax consequences of owning the common stock to all categories of investors, some of which (such as financial institutions, regulated investment companies, real estate investment trusts, tax-exempt organizations, insurance companies, persons holding our common stock as part of a hedging, integrated, conversion or constructive sale transaction or a straddle, traders in securities that have elected the mark-to-market method of accounting for their securities, persons liable for alternative minimum tax, persons who are investors in pass-through entities, dealers in securities or currencies, persons required to recognize income for U.S. federal income tax purposes no later than when such income is reported on an “applicable financial statement,” persons subject to the "base erosion and anti-avoidance" tax, persons who own, directly or constructively, 10% or more of our common stock and investors whose functional currency is not the United States dollar) may be subject to special rules. This discussion deals only with holders who own common stock as a capital asset. Shareholders are encouraged to consult their own tax advisors concerning the overall tax consequences arising in their own particular situation under United States federal, state, local or foreign law of the ownership of our common stock.
Marshall Islands Tax Considerations
In the opinion of Seward & Kissel LLP, the following are the material Marshall Islands tax consequences of our activities to us and shareholders of our common stock. We are incorporated in the Marshall Islands. Under current Marshall Islands law, we are not subject to tax on income or capital gains, and no Marshall Islands withholding tax will be imposed upon payments of dividends by us to our shareholders.
United States Federal Income Tax Considerations
In the opinion of Seward & Kissel LLP, our United States tax counsel, the following are the material United States federal income tax consequences to us of our activities and to United States Holders and to Non-United States Holders of our common stock. The following discussion of United States federal income tax matters is based on the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code, judicial decisions, administrative pronouncements, and existing and proposed regulations issued by the United States Department of the Treasury, all of which are subject to change, possibly with retroactive effect. In addition, the discussion below is based, in part, on the description of our business as described in Item 1. Business in this Annual Report and assumes that we conduct our business as described in that section.
We have made, or will make, special United States federal income tax elections in respect of each of our ship owning or operating subsidiaries that is potentially subject to tax as a result of deriving income attributable to the transportation of cargoes to or from the United States. The effect of the special U.S. tax elections is to ignore or disregard the subsidiaries for which elections have been made as separate taxable entities and to treat them as part of their parent, the ''Company.'' Therefore, for purposes of the following discussion, the Company, and not the subsidiaries subject to this special election, will be treated as the owner and operator of the vessels and as receiving the income therefrom.
United States Federal Income Taxation of Our Company
Taxation of Operating Income: In General
The Company currently earns, and anticipates that it will continue to earn, substantially all its income from the hiring or leasing of vessels for use on a time or voyage charter basis or from the performance of services directly related to those uses, all of which we refer to as ''shipping income.''
Unless exempt from United States federal income taxation under the rules of Section 883 of the Code (“Section 883”), as discussed below, a foreign corporation such as ourselves will be subject to United States federal income taxation on its ''shipping income'' that is treated as derived from sources within the United States, to which we refer as ''United States source shipping income.'' For tax purposes, ''United States source shipping income'' includes 50% of shipping income that is attributable to transportation that begins or ends, but that does not both begin and end, in the United States.
Shipping income attributable to transportation exclusively between non-United States ports will be considered to be 100% derived from sources outside the United States. Shipping income derived from sources outside the United States will not be subject to any United States federal income tax.
Shipping income attributable to transportation exclusively between United States ports is considered to be 100% derived from United States sources. However, the Company is not permitted by United States law to engage in the transportation of cargoes that produces 100% United States source income.
Unless exempt from tax under Section 883, the Company's gross United States source shipping income would be subject to a 4% tax imposed without allowance for deductions as described below.
Exemption of Operating Income from United States Federal Income Taxation
Under Section 883 and the regulations thereunder, a foreign corporation will be exempt from United States federal income taxation on its United States source shipping income if:
•it is organized in a qualified foreign country, which is one that grants an ''equivalent exemption'' from tax to corporations organized in the United States in respect of each category of shipping income for which exemption is being claimed under Section 883 and to which we refer as the ''Country of Organization Test''; and
•one of the following tests is met:
◦more than 50% of the value of its shares is beneficially owned, directly or indirectly, by qualified shareholders, which as defined includes individuals who are ''residents'' of a qualified foreign country, to which we refer as the ''50% Ownership Test'';
◦subject to an exception for closely-held corporations, its shares are ''primarily and regularly traded on an established securities market'' in a qualified foreign country or in the United States, to which we refer as the "Publicly-Traded Test"; or
◦it is a ''controlled foreign corporation'' and satisfies an ownership test, to which, collectively, we refer to as the ''CFC Test.''
The Republic of the Marshall Islands, the jurisdiction where the Company is incorporated, has been officially recognized by the United States Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) as a qualified foreign country that grants the requisite ''equivalent exemption'' from tax in respect of each category of shipping income the Company earns and currently expects to earn in the future. Therefore, the Company will be exempt from United States federal income taxation with respect to its United States source shipping income if it satisfies any one of the 50%
Ownership Test, the Publicly-Traded Test, or the CFC Test.
For our 2020 taxable year, we believe that we satisfy the Publicly-Traded Test, as discussed in more detail below. The Company does not currently anticipate a circumstance under which it would be able to satisfy the 50% Ownership Test or the CFC Test.
The regulations under Section 883 provide, in pertinent part, that shares 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 shares that are traded during any taxable year on all established securities markets in that country exceeds the number of shares in each such class that are traded during that year on established securities markets in any other single country. The Company's common stock, which is its sole class of issued and outstanding shares, are ''primarily traded'' on the Nasdaq Global Select Market.
Under the regulations, the Company's common stock will be considered to be ''regularly traded'' on an established securities market if one or more classes of its shares representing more than 50% of its outstanding shares, by both total combined voting power of all classes of shares entitled to vote and total value, are listed on such market, to which we refer as the ''listing threshold.'' Since our common stock, which is our sole class of issued and outstanding shares, is listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, we believe that we satisfy the listing threshold.
It is further required that with respect to each class of shares relied upon to meet the listing threshold, (i) such class of shares is traded on the market, other than in minimal quantities, on at least 60 days during the taxable year or one-sixth of the days in a short taxable year; and (ii) the aggregate number of shares of such class of shares traded on such market during the taxable year is at least 10% of the average number of shares of such class of shares outstanding during such year or as appropriately adjusted in the case of a short taxable year. We believe the Company will satisfy the trading frequency and trading volume tests. Even if this were not the case, the regulations provide that the trading frequency and trading volume tests will be deemed satisfied if, as is the case with the Company's common stock, such class of shares is traded on an established market in the United States and such shares are regularly quoted by dealers making a market in such shares.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the regulations provide, in pertinent part, that a class of shares will not be considered to be ''regularly traded'' on an established securities market for any taxable year in which 50% or more of the vote and value of the outstanding shares of such class are owned, actually or constructively under specified share attribution rules, on more than half the days during the taxable year by persons who each own 5% or more of the vote and value of such class of outstanding shares, to which we refer as the ''5 Percent Override Rule.''
For purposes of being able to determine the persons who actually or constructively own 5% or more of the vote and value of the Company's common stock (“5% Shareholders”), the regulations permit the Company to rely on those persons that are identified on Schedule 13G and Schedule 13D filings with the SEC, as owning 5% or more of the Company's common stock. The regulations further provide that an investment company which is registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended, will not be treated as a 5% Shareholder for such purposes.
In the event the 5 Percent Override Rule is triggered, the regulations provide that the 5 Percent Override Rule will nevertheless not apply if the Company can establish that within the group of 5% Shareholders, there are sufficient qualified shareholders for purposes of Section 883 to preclude non-qualified shareholders in such group from owning 50% or more of the Company's common stock for more than half the number of days during the taxable year, which we refer to as the ''5 Percent Override Exception.''
Based on the ownership and trading of our stock in 2020, we believe that we satisfied the publicly traded test and qualified for the Section 883 exemption in 2020. Even if we do qualify for the Section 883 exemption in 2020, there can be no assurance that changes and shifts in the ownership of our stock by 5% shareholders will not preclude us from qualifying for the Section 883 exemption in future taxable years.
Taxation in Absence of Section 883 Exemption
If the benefits of Section 883 are unavailable, the Company's United States source shipping income would be subject to a 4% tax imposed by Section 887 of the Code on a gross basis, without the benefit of deductions, to the extent that such income is not considered to be ''effectively connected'' with the conduct of a United States trade or business, as described below. Since under the sourcing rules described above, no more than 50% of the Company's shipping income would be treated as being United States source shipping income, the maximum effective rate of United States federal income tax on our shipping income would never exceed 2% under the 4% gross basis tax regime. Based on the current operation of our vessels, if we were subject to 4% gross basis tax, our United States federal income tax liability would be approximately $1.6 million for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019. However, we can give no assurance that the operation of our vessels, which are under the control of third party charterers, will not change such that our United States federal income tax liability would be substantially higher.
To the extent the Company's 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 United States federal income tax, currently imposed at a rate of 21%. In addition, the Company may be subject to the 30% ''branch profits'' tax 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 Company's United States trade or business.
The Company's United States source shipping income would be considered ''effectively connected'' with the conduct of a United States trade or business only if:
•the Company has, or is considered to have, a fixed place of business in the United States involved in the earning of United States source shipping income; and
•substantially all of the Company's United States source shipping income is attributable to regularly scheduled transportation, such as the operation of a vessel that follows a published schedule with repeated sailings at regular intervals between the same points for voyages that begin or end in the United States.
United States Taxation of Gain on Sale of Vessels
Assuming that any decision on a vessel sale is made from and attributable to the United States office of the Company, as we believe likely to be the case as the Company is currently structured, then any gain derived from the sale of any such vessel will be treated as derived from United States sources and subject to United States federal income tax as ''effectively connected'' income (determined under rules different from those discussed above) under the above described net income tax regime. If the Company were to qualify for exemption from tax under Section 883 in respect of the shipping income derived from the international operation of its vessels, then gain from the sale of any such vessel should likewise be exempt from tax under Section 883.
United States Federal Income Taxation of United States Holders
As used herein, the term “United States Holder” means a beneficial owner of our common stock that is an individual United States citizen or resident, a United States corporation or other United States entity taxable as a corporation, an estate the income of which is subject to United States federal income taxation regardless of its source, or a trust if (i) a court within the United States is able to exercise primary jurisdiction 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 (ii) it has in place an election to be treated as a United States person for U.S. federal income tax purposes.
If a partnership holds our common stock, the tax treatment of a partner will generally depend upon the status of the partner and upon the activities of the partnership. If you are a partner in a partnership holding our common stock, you are encouraged to consult your tax advisor.
Subject to the discussion of passive foreign investment companies below, any distributions made by the Company with respect to its common stock to a United States Holder will generally constitute dividends to the extent of the Company's current or accumulated earnings and profits, as determined under United States federal income tax principles. Distributions in excess of such earnings and profits will be treated first as a nontaxable return of capital to the extent of the United States Holder's tax basis in his common stock on a dollar-for-dollar basis and thereafter as capital gain. Because the Company is not a United States corporation, United States Holders that are corporations will not be entitled to claim a dividend received deduction with respect to any distributions they receive from us. Dividends paid with respect to the Company's common stock will generally be treated as ''passive category income'' for purposes of computing allowable foreign tax credits for United States foreign tax credit purposes.
Dividends paid on the Company's common stock to a United States Holder who is an individual, trust or estate (a ''United States Non-Corporate Holder'') will generally be treated as ''qualified dividend income'' that is taxable to such United States Non-Corporate Holder at preferential tax rates provided that (1) the common stock is readily tradable on an established securities market in the United States (such as the Nasdaq Global Select Market on which the Company's common stock is traded); (2) the Company is not a passive foreign investment company for the taxable year during which the dividend is paid or the immediately preceding taxable year (which we do not believe we have been, are or will be); (3) the United States Non-Corporate Holder has owned the common stock for more than 60 days in the 121-day period beginning 60 days before the date on which the common stock becomes ex-dividend; and (4) the United States Non-Corporate Holder is not under an obligation to make related payments with respect to positions in substantially similar or related property.
There is no assurance that any dividends paid on the Company's common stock will be eligible for these preferential rates in the hands of a United States Non-Corporate Holder, although we believe that they will be so eligible. Any dividends out of earnings, and profits the Company pays, which are not eligible for these preferential rates will be taxed as ordinary income to a United States Non-Corporate Holder.
Special rules may apply to any ''extraordinary dividend''-generally, a dividend in an amount which is equal to or in excess of 10% of a shareholder's adjusted basis in a common share-paid by the Company. If the Company pays an ''extraordinary dividend'' on its common stock that is treated as ''qualified dividend income,'' then any loss derived by a United States Non-Corporate Holder from the sale or exchange of such common stock will be treated as a long-term capital loss to the extent of such dividend.
Sale, Exchange or Other Disposition of Common Stock
Assuming the Company does not constitute a passive foreign investment company for any taxable year, a United States Holder generally will recognize taxable gain or loss upon a sale, exchange or other disposition of the Company's common stock 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 stock. 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. Long-term capital gains of United States Non-Corporate Holders are currently eligible for reduced rates of taxation. A United States Holder's ability to deduct capital losses is subject to certain limitations.
Passive Foreign Investment Company Status and Significant Tax Consequences
Special United States federal income tax rules apply to a United States Holder that holds shares in a foreign corporation classified as a “passive foreign investment company” for United States federal income tax purposes. In general, the Company will be treated as a passive foreign investment company with respect to a United States Holder if, for any taxable year in which such holder holds the Company's common stock, 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 our assets during such taxable year produce, or are held for the production of, passive income
Income earned, or deemed earned, by the Company in connection with the performance of services would not constitute passive income. By contrast, rental income would generally constitute ''passive income'' unless the Company was treated under specific rules as deriving its rental income in the active conduct of a trade or business.
Based on the Company's current operations and future projections, we do not believe that the Company has been or is, nor do we expect the Company to become, a passive foreign investment company with respect to any taxable year. Although there is no legal authority directly on point, our belief is based principally on the position that, for purposes of determining whether the Company is a passive foreign investment company, the gross income it derives from its time chartering and voyage chartering activities should constitute services income, rather than rental income. Accordingly, such income should not constitute passive income, and the assets that the Company owns and operates in connection with the production of such income, in particular, the vessels, should not constitute passive assets for purposes of determining whether the Company is a passive foreign investment company.
We believe there is substantial legal authority supporting our position consisting of case law and IRS pronouncements concerning the characterization of income derived from time charters and voyage charters as services income for other tax purposes. However, there is also authority which characterizes time charter income as rental income rather than services income for other tax purposes. In addition, we have obtained an opinion from our counsel, Seward & Kissel LLP, that, based upon the Company's operations as described herein, its income from time charters and voyage charters should not be treated as passive income for purposes of determining whether it is a passive foreign investment company. However, in the absence of any legal authority specifically relating to the statutory provisions governing passive foreign investment companies, the United States Internal Revenue Service, or the IRS or a court could disagree with our position. In addition, although the Company intends to conduct its affairs in a manner to avoid being classified as a passive foreign investment company with respect to any taxable year, we cannot assure you that the nature of its operations will not change in the future.
As discussed more fully below, if the Company were to be treated as a passive foreign investment company for any taxable year, a United States Holder would be subject to different taxation rules depending on whether the United States Holder makes an election to treat the Company 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 the Company's common stock, as discussed below. In addition, if we were to be treated as a passive foreign investment company, a United States holder would be required to file an annual report with the IRS for that year with respect to such holder’s common stock.
Taxation of United States Holders Making a Timely QEF Election
If a United States Holder makes a timely QEF election, which United States Holder we refer to as an ''Electing Holder,'' the Electing Holder must report for United States federal income tax purposes its pro rata share of the Company's ordinary earnings and net capital gain, if any, for each taxable year of the Company for which it is a passive foreign investment company that ends with or within the taxable year of the Electing Holder, regardless of whether or not distributions were received from the Company by the Electing Holder. No portion of any such inclusions of ordinary earnings will be treated as ''qualified dividend income.'' Net capital gain inclusions of United States Non-Corporate Holders would be eligible for preferential capital gains tax rates. The Electing Holder's adjusted tax basis in the common stock will be increased to reflect taxed but undistributed earnings and profits. Distributions of earnings and profits that had been previously taxed will result in a corresponding reduction in the adjusted tax basis in the common stock and will not be taxed again once distributed. An Electing Holder would not, however, be entitled to a deduction for its pro rata share of any losses that the Company incurs with respect to any year. An Electing Holder would generally recognize capital gain or loss on the sale, exchange or other disposition of the Company's common stock. A United States Holder would make a timely QEF election for shares of the
Company by filing one copy of IRS Form 8621 with his United States federal income tax return for the first year in which he held such shares when the Company was a passive foreign investment company. If the Company were to be treated as a passive foreign investment company for any taxable year, the Company would provide each United States Holder with all necessary information in order to make the QEF election described above.
Taxation of United States Holders Making a ''Mark-to-Market'' Election
Alternatively, if the Company were to be treated as a passive foreign investment company for any taxable year and, as we anticipate, its shares are treated as "marketable stock", a United States Holder would be allowed to make a ''mark-to-market'' election with respect to the Company's common stock, provided the United States Holder completes and files IRS Form 8621 in accordance with the relevant instructions and related Treasury regulations. If that election is made, the United States Holder generally would include as ordinary income in each taxable year the excess, if any, of the fair market value of the common stock at the end of the taxable year over such holder's adjusted tax basis in the common stock. The United States Holder would also be permitted an ordinary loss in respect of the excess, if any, of the United States Holder's adjusted tax basis in the common stock over its fair market value at the end of the taxable year, but only to the extent of the net amount previously included in income as a result of the mark-to-market election. A United States Holder's tax basis in his common stock would be adjusted to reflect any such income or loss amount. Gain realized on the sale, exchange or other disposition of the Company's common stock would be treated as ordinary income, and any loss realized on the sale, exchange or other disposition of the Company’s common stock would be treated as ordinary loss to the extent that such loss does not exceed the net mark-to-market gains previously included by the United States Holder. No income inclusions under this election will be treated as "qualified dividend income."
Taxation of United States Holders Not Making a Timely QEF or Mark-to-Market Election
Finally, if the Company were to be treated as a passive foreign investment company for any taxable year, a United States Holder who does not make either a QEF election or a “mark-to-market” election for that year, whom we refer to as a “Non-Electing Holder” would be subject to special rules with respect to (1) any excess distribution (i.e., the portion of any distributions received by the Non-Electing Holder on the common stock 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 stock), and (2) any gain realized on the sale, exchange or other disposition of the Company's common stock. Under these special rules:
•the excess distribution or gain would be allocated ratably over the Non-Electing Holder's aggregate holding period for the common stock;
•the amount allocated to the current taxable year, and any taxable year prior to the first taxable year in which the Company was a passive foreign investment company, would be taxed as ordinary income and would not be “qualified dividend income”; and
•the amount allocated to each of the other 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 deferral benefit would be imposed with respect to the resulting tax attributable to each such other taxable year.
These special rules would not apply to a qualified pension, profit sharing or other retirement trust or other tax-exempt organization that did not borrow money or otherwise utilize leverage in connection with its acquisition of the Company's common stock. If the Company is a passive foreign investment company and a Non-Electing Holder who is an individual dies while owning the Company's common stock, such holder's successor generally would not receive a step-up in tax basis with respect to such shares.
United States Federal Income Taxation of “Non-United States Holders”
A beneficial owner of common stock (other than a partnership) that is not a United States Holder is referred to herein as a “Non-United States Holder”.
If a partnership holds our common stock, the tax treatment of a partner will generally depend upon the status of the partner and upon the activities of the partnership. If you are a partner in a partnership holding our common stock, you are encouraged to consult your tax advisor.
Dividends on Common Stock
Non-United States Holders generally will not be subject to United States federal income tax or withholding tax on dividends received from the Company with respect to its common stock, 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 Stock
Non-United States Holders generally will not be subject to United States federal income tax or withholding tax on any gain realized upon the sale, exchange or other disposition of the Company's common stock, 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 an 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 stock, including dividends and the gain from the sale, exchange or other disposition of the 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, which are 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 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 non-corporate United States Holder. Such payments or distributions may also be subject to backup withholding tax if you are a non-corporate United States 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 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 appropriate IRS Form W-8.
If you are a Non-United States Holder and you sell your common stock 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 sell your common stock 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, United States 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 stock 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 its records that you are a non-United States person and certain other conditions are met, or you otherwise establish an exemption.
Backup withholding tax is not an additional tax. Rather, you generally may obtain a refund of any amounts withheld under backup withholding rules that exceed your 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 United States entities and Non-United States Holders) 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 willful neglect. Additionally, in the event an individual United States Holder (and to the extent specified in applicable Treasury regulations, a United States entity and Non-United States Holders) 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 to consult their own tax advisors regarding their reporting obligations under this legislation.
Glossary of Shipping Terms
The following are definitions of shipping terms used in this Form 10-K.
Annual Survey— The inspection of a vessel by a classification society, on behalf of a flag state, that takes place every year.
Ballast Water Treatment System or BWTS— A system used to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic organisms from one region to another by minimizing the uptake and/or discharge of sediments and organisms in the water that ships use as ballast to maintain stability. These systems are required on all ships, according to a timetable of implementation, in accordance with the BWM Convention discussed in the Pollution Control and Liability Requirements section above.
Baltic Dry Index or BDI —The BDI is an index published by the Baltic Exchange. The index tracks the world’s principal bulk cargo trades and reflects trades within the Pacific and the Atlantic, as well as trades between the oceans, maintaining a balance between front haul and back haul routes. It is a composite of the five routes of the Baltic Capesize Index, five routes of the Baltic Panamax Index, and 10 routes of the Baltic Supramax Index.
Baltic Exchange—Based in London, the Baltic Exchange is a market for the trading and settlement of physical and derivative contracts. The exchange also publishes daily freight market prices and maritime shipping cost indices, including Baltic Dry Index and segment indices for Capesize, Panamax, Supramax, and Handysize bulk carriers.
Baltic Supramax Index or BSI —The BSI is an index published by the Baltic Exchange which tracks the gross time charter spot value for a Supramax vessel. Initiated in 2005, the BSI was originally based on a 52,000 dwt ship of standard design and 6 trade routes across the world. As a result of a trend toward larger ship sizes and changes to trade patterns, this version of the index was discontinued as of January 31, 2019. The updated BSI is now based on a 58,000 dwt, non-scrubber fitted Supramax and 10 trade routes across the world.
Bareboat Charter—Also known as “demise charter.” Contract or hire of a ship under which the ship owner is usually paid a fixed amount of charter hire rate for a certain period of time during which the charterer is responsible for the operating costs and voyage costs of the vessel as well as arranging for crewing. Such owner is known as the bareboat charterer or the demise charterer.
Bulk Vessels/Carriers—Vessels which are specially designed and built to carry large volumes of cargo in bulk cargo form.
Bunkers—Fuel oil used to power a vessel's engines. The name is derived from the bins used to store coal onboard when ships were powered by coal. There are three main fuel types currently used on commercial cargo ships. First, High Sulfur Fuel Oil (“HSFO”) is a residual fuel with maximum sulfur content of 3.5%. This was the primary fuel used by commercial shipping prior to implementation of the IMO2020 sulfur regulation and continues to be used by scrubber-fitted ships. Second, Very Low Sulfur Fuel Oil (“VLSFO”) is a fuel with maximum sulfur content of 0.5% and is the primary fuel used by non-scrubber fitted ships starting January 1, 2020. Third, Marine Gas Oil (“MGO”) is a distillate product similar to diesel fuel and has a maximum sulfur content of 0.1%. This fuel type is primarily used in ECA zones.
Capesize—A drybulk carrier in excess of 100,000 dwt.
Charter— The hire of a vessel for a specified period of time or to carry a cargo for a fixed fee from a loading port to a discharging port. The contract for a charter is called a charter party.
Charterer— The individual or company hiring a vessel.
Charter Hire Rate— A sum of money paid to the vessel owner by a charterer under a time charter party for the use of a vessel.
Classification Society—An independent organization which certifies that a vessel has been built and maintained in accordance with the rules of such organization and complies with the applicable rules and regulations of the country of such vessel and the international conventions of which that country is a member.
Contract of Affreightment or “COA”—An agreement providing for the transportation between specified points for a specific quantity of cargo over a specific time period but without designating specific vessels or voyage schedules, thereby allowing flexibility in scheduling since no vessel designation is required. COAs can either have a fixed rate or a market-related rate.
Deadweight Ton or “dwt”—A unit of a vessel's capacity for cargo, fuel oil, stores and crew, measured in metric tons of 1,000 kilograms. A vessel's dwt or total deadweight is the maximum total weight the vessel can carry when loaded to a particular load line.
Demise Charter—See bareboat charter.
Demurrage—Additional revenue paid to the ship owner on its Voyage Charters for delays experienced in loading and/or unloading cargo that are not deemed to be the responsibility of the ship owner, calculated in accordance with specific Charter terms.
Despatch —The amount payable by the ship owner if the vessel completes loading or discharging before the allowed loading/unloading time has expired, calculated in accordance with specific charter terms.
Draft—Vertical Distance between the waterline and the bottom of the vessel's keel.
Drybulk—Non-liquid cargoes of commodities shipped in an unpackaged state.
Drydocking—The removal of a vessel from the water for inspection and/or repair of submerged parts.
Emission Control Area or “ECA”—Designated sea areas in which stricter airborne emissions controls are in place. As of early 2020, there are four ECA zones in place that cover the Baltic Sea, North Sea, and most of the coastline of U.S., Canada, and U.S. Caribbean territory. Ships operating within these zones have a maximum sulfur emissions limit of 0.1%.
Gross Ton—Unit of 100 cubic feet or 2.831 cubic meters used in arriving at the calculation of gross tonnage.
Handysize—A drybulk carrier having a carrying capacity of up to approximately 40,000 dwt.
Hull—The shell or body of a vessel.
International Maritime Organization or “IMO”—A UN agency that issues international trade standards for shipping.
Intermediate Survey—The inspection of a vessel by a classification society surveyor which takes place between two and three years before and after each Special Survey for such vessel pursuant to the rules of international conventions and classification societies.
ISM Code—The International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention, as adopted by the IMO.
Metric Ton—A ton, unit of measurement equal to 1,000 kilograms.
Light Weight Ton ("lwt")—The actual weight of the ship with no fuel, passengers, cargo, water or stores on board.
Newbuilding—A newly constructed vessel.
OPA—The United States Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (as amended).
Orderbook—A reference to currently placed orders for the construction of vessels (e.g., the Panamax orderbook).
Panamax—A drybulk carrier of approximately 65,000 to 100,000 dwt of maximum length, depth and draft capable of passing fully loaded through the Panama Canal. Ships of this size may occasionally be equipped with onboard cargo handling equipment, but typically do not and must rely on shore-based equipment to load and unload.
Protection and Indemnity Insurance—Insurance obtained through a mutual association formed by ship owners to provide liability insurance protection from large financial loss to one member through contributions towards that loss by all members.
Scrapping—The disposal of old or damaged vessel tonnage by way of sale as scrap metal.
Scrubber or Exhaust Gas Cleaning System — This equipment is used to remove SOx from ship's exhaust gas.
Short-Term Time Charter—A time charter which lasts less than approximately 12 months.
SOLAS—The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974, as amended, adopted under the auspices of the IMO.
Special Survey—The inspection of a vessel by a classification society surveyor which takes place a minimum of every four years and a maximum of every five years.
Spot Market—The market for immediate chartering of a vessel usually for single voyages.
Strict Liability—Liability that is imposed without regard to fault.
Supramax—A drybulk carrier ranging in size from approximately 50,000 to 60,000 dwt.
Technical Management—The management of the operation of a vessel, including physically maintaining the vessel and all of its machinery, maintaining necessary certifications, and supplying necessary stores, spares, and lubricating oils. Responsibilities also generally include selecting, engaging and training crew, and arranging necessary insurance coverage.
Time Charter—Contract for hire of a ship. A charter under which the ship owner is paid charter hire rate on a per day basis for a certain period of time, the ship owner being responsible for providing the crew and paying operating costs while the charterer is responsible for paying the voyage costs. Any delays at port or during the voyages are the responsibility of the charterer, save for certain specific exceptions such as loss of time arising from vessel breakdown and routine maintenance.
Ultramax—A drybulk carrier ranging in size from approximately 60,000 to 65,000 dwt.
Voyage Charter —Contract for hire of a vessel under which a ship owner is paid freight on the basis of moving cargo from a loading port to a discharge port. The ship owner is responsible for paying both operating costs and voyage costs. The charterer is typically responsible for any delay at the loading or discharging ports.
Voyage Expenses—Includes fuel, port charges, canal tolls, brokerage commissions and cargo handling operations. These expenses are subtracted from shipping revenues to calculate Time Charter Equivalent revenues for Voyage Charters.
Vessels Operating Expenses—Includes crewing, repairs and maintenance, insurance, stores, lubes, communication expenses.
The Company makes available free of charge through its internet website, www.eagleships.com, its annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to these reports including related exhibits and supplemental schedules, filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act, as soon as reasonably practicable after the Company electronically files such material with, or furnishes it to, the SEC. Our SEC filings are also available to the public at the SEC's web site at http://www.sec.gov. The information on our website is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report.
We maintain our principal executive offices at 300 First Stamford Place 5th Floor, Stamford, Connecticut. Our telephone number at that address is (203) 276-8100. Our website address is www.eagleships.com. Information contained on our website does not constitute part of this Annual Report.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
We operate in a highly cyclical and competitive industry. Some of the risks relate principally to the industry in which we operate and our business in general. Other risks relate principally to the securities market, national and global economic conditions and the ownership of our common stock. The occurrence of certain geopolitical, macroeconomic, or industry-specific factors, including the risks outlined below, could adversely affect our business, operating results, cash flows and financial condition.
Industry Specific Risk Factors
The global economic environment may have a material adverse effect on our business.
Drybulk demand is highly correlated to the global macroeconomic landscape. According to the International Monetary Fund ("IMF"), global economic growth for 2020 was -3.5%, as compared to 2019 which was 2.8%. World output was impacted significantly by COVID-19. Although the current global economic environment for 2021 has improved, a recurrence of COVID-19 or slowdown in vaccine distribution and other events that impact the global economic environment could affect us negatively in the following ways:
•Employing our fleet at charter hire rates below our breakeven levels which could negatively impact our ability to operate and generate a profit. Operating at below breakeven levels for a prolonged period of time may leave us with insufficient cash resources to meet certain obligations, including the payment of interest and principal on our debt, causing us to potentially breach financial covenants under our existing credit facilities and bond terms.
•Our charterers may fail to meet their obligations under existing time charter or voyage charter agreements.
•The market value of our fleet could decrease, causing us to potentially recognize losses if vessels are sold or if their values impaired. Additionally, a decline in the value of our fleet could cause us to breach certain covenants under our existing credit facilities and bond terms.
Changes in the economic and political environment in China, including as a result of COVID-19, which was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, and policies adopted by the Chinese government to regulate its economy may have a material adverse effect on our business.
China is a major source of demand for drybulk; a deterioration in the economic fundamentals for this nation, including as a result of COVID-19, which was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, may materially impact drybulk demand, especially for cargoes such as iron ore and coal. Although state-owned enterprises still account for a substantial portion of the Chinese industrial output, in general, the Chinese government is reducing the level of direct control that it exercises over the economy through state plans and other measures. There is an increasing level of freedom and autonomy in areas such as allocation of resources, production, pricing and management and a gradual shift in emphasis to a market economy and enterprise reform.
Many of the reforms, particularly some limited price reforms that result in the prices for certain commodities being principally determined by market forces, are unprecedented and may be subject to revision, change or abolition. If the Chinese government does not continue to pursue a policy of economic reform, the amount of its imports and exports could adversely be affected, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.
A decrease in the level of China’s export of goods or an increase in trade protectionism globally or by certain countries could have a material adverse impact on our charterers’ business and, in turn, could cause a material adverse impact on our results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
China exports considerably more goods than it imports. Our vessels may be deployed on routes involving trade in and out of emerging markets, and our charterers’ shipping and business revenue may be derived from the shipment of goods from the Asia Pacific region to various overseas export markets including the United States and Europe. Any reduction in or hindrance to the output of China-based exporters could have a material adverse effect on the growth rate of China’s exports and on our charterers’ business. For instance, the government of China has
recently implemented economic policies aimed at increasing domestic consumption of Chinese-made goods. This may have the effect of reducing the supply of goods available for export and may, in turn, result in a decrease of demand. The level of imports to and exports from China could be adversely affected by changes to these economic reforms by the Chinese government, as well as by changes in political, economic and social conditions or other relevant policies of the Chinese government.
Our operations expose us to the risk that increased trade protectionism, including by the United States, will adversely affect our business. If the global economy is undermined by downside risks, governments may turn to trade barriers to protect their domestic industries against foreign imports, thereby depressing the demand for shipping. The current trade dispute between the United States and China increases the risk of interruptions to exports from and to China. Since March 2018, the U.S. Government has imposed additional tariffs ranging from 7.5% to 25% on Chinese origin goods covering over 10,000 product lines. China has retaliated with increased tariffs on many U.S. goods. These tariffs caused trade between the two countries to significantly decrease in 2018 and 2019. On January 15, 2020, the United States and China signed a “Phase One” agreement, through which China agreed to increase purchases and imports of U.S. goods by $200 billion over 2017 levels during the two-year period from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021. This has had the effect of increasing exports from the United States to China, although not as significantly as required under the Phase One agreement. In connection with this agreement, the United States agreed to reduce certain tariffs and indefinitely suspend the imposition of certain additional tariffs. While the Phase One agreement may continue to reduce the risk of adverse effects on Chinese and U.S. trade policy, the future success of the agreement is uncertain as the Biden Administration has signaled the need to maintain political pressure on China, particularly with respect to national security and human rights concerns, and has also indicated that it would review the Phase One agreement. Should the agreement fail, the United States and China could resume protectionist trade policies. Specifically, increasing trade protectionism in the markets that our charterers serve may cause an increase in: (i) the cost of goods exported from China, (ii) the length of time required to deliver goods from China and (iii) the risks associated with exporting goods from China, as well as a decrease in the quantity of goods to be shipped. Moreover, despite the Phase One agreement the United States implemented a number of policies that may also eventually reduce trade between the United States and China, including stricter export control requirements and supply chain restrictions; targeted sanctions related to the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and human rights abuses in the Xinjian Uyghur Autonomous Region (“XUAR”); sanctions that prohibit U.S. persons from trading in publicly traded securities, or derivatives of or designed to provide investment exposure to such securities, of certain Chinese companies; and import restrictions related to human rights abuses in the XUAR. While it is unclear how the Biden Administration will handle each of these policies, the expectation is that most of these measures will remain in place.
Any increased trade barriers or restrictions on trade, especially trade with China, would still have an adverse impact on our charterers’ business, operating results and financial condition and could thereby affect their ability to make timely charter hire payments to us and to renew and increase the number of their time charters with us. This could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition and our ability to pay dividends to our shareholders.
The COVID-19 or other pandemics, could have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations, or financial condition
We believe that COVID-19 and the measures to contain it taken by governments of various countries have
negatively affected our business and could continue to do so. COVID-19 impacted the global economies and the trade routes in which we operate, the way we conduct our business and the business of our charterers. Governments have imposed lockdowns, quarantine regulations and other emergency health measures to protect their citizens from exposure to COVID-19. We have taken similar precautions, by repurposing our global office spaces to meet the social distancing guidelines, enabling our employees to work remotely and freeze on our corporate travel until the pandemic situation is resolved.
Such measures have caused severe trade disruptions and reduced charter rates during second quarter of 2020. The global spread of COVID-19 has created significant worldwide operational volatility, uncertainty and
disruption. There has been a general decline in the industrial and financial activity across the world including U.S, E.U, Brazil, Singapore, India and Japan. Decline in macro economic conditions result in lower demand for drybulk cargoes, impacting charter rates for our vessels. The ongoing pandemic resulted in the decline in charter hire rates which impacted our revenues and cash flow from operations for the year ended December 31, 2020.
The Company experienced delays in cargo operations due to port restrictions and additional protocols and cancellation of a few cargo contracts. However, the Company was able to secure alternative business for its vessels upon cancellation at the prevailing charter rates. The travel restrictions imposed at various ports have severely impeded our crew rotation plans during the year. We experienced disruptions to our normal vessel operations and incurred additional offhire time due to deviations our vessels had to take to allow for crew changes. As a result of the spread of COVID-19, the Company has incurred some additional expenses relating to procurement of personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing, and crew travel, which is included in our vessel operating expenses in our Consolidated Statement of Operations for the year ended December 31, 2020. Additionally, the Company experienced delays in drydocking and BWTS installations, operations and crew changes due to quarantine regulations and COVID-19 testing and resulting offhire days.
All of the foregoing has impacted our business in 2020 and although the current dry bulk rates are in recovery phase, the negative effects of the pandemic may have prolonged impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations and forward-looking expectations. Furthermore, modified processes, procedures and controls could be required to respond to changes in our business environment, as our employees are required to work from home. The significant increase in remote working of our employees may exacerbate certain risks to our business, including an increased demand for information technology resources, increased risk of malicious technology-related events, such as cyberattacks and phishing attacks, and increased risk of improper dissemination of personal, proprietary or confidential information.
Charter rates for dry bulk vessels are volatile and may remain at low levels or further decrease in the future, which may adversely affect our earnings, revenue and profitability and our ability to comply with our loan covenants.
The dry bulk shipping industry is cyclical with high volatility in charter rates and profitability. The degree of charter rate volatility among different types of dry bulk vessels has varied widely. In the past, time charter and spot market charter rates for dry bulk carriers have declined below operating costs of vessels (including as recently as 2016). The Baltic Supramax Index or the "BSI", a daily average of charter rates for key dry bulk routes published by the Baltic Exchange Ltd, which tracks the gross time charter spot value for a Supramax vessel. Initiated in 2005, the BSI was originally based on a 52,000 dwt ship of standard design and 6 trade routes across the world. As a result of a trend toward larger ship sizes and changes to trade patterns, this version of the index was discontinued as of January 31, 2019. The updated BSI is now based on a 58,000 dwt, non-scrubber fitted Supramax and 10 trade routes across the world. The charter rates as shown by BSI have been volatile with the daily rates ranging between a lowest daily rate of $6,900 in 2015 to $11,487 in 2018. During 2020, BSI ranged between $4,733 and $11,365 with the lowest rates in the second quarter of 2020 due to COVID-19 and a gradual recovery since then.
Our ability to be profitable will depend upon a number of factors. Fluctuations in charter rates result from changes in the supply of and demand for vessel capacity and changes in the supply of and demand for the major commodities carried by water internationally. Because the factors affecting the supply of and demand for vessels are outside of our control and are unpredictable, the nature, timing, direction and degree of changes in industry conditions are also unpredictable. Since we charter our vessels principally in the spot market, we are exposed to the cyclicality and volatility of the spot market. Spot market charter rates may fluctuate significantly based upon available charters and the supply of and demand for seaborne shipping capacity, and we may be unable to keep our vessels fully employed in these short-term markets. Alternatively, charter rates available in the spot market may be insufficient to enable our vessels to operate profitably. A significant decrease in charter rates would also affect asset values and adversely affect our profitability and cash flows.
Factors that influence the demand for dry bulk vessel capacity include:
•supply of and demand for energy resources, commodities, consumer and industrial products;
•changes in the exploration or production of energy resources, commodities, consumer and industrial products;
•the location of regional and global exploration, production and manufacturing facilities;
•the location of consuming regions for energy resources, commodities, consumer and industrial products;
•the globalization of production and manufacturing;
•global and regional economic and political conditions, including armed conflicts and terrorist activities, embargoes and strikes;
•natural disasters and weather;
•embargoes and strikes;
•disruptions and developments in international trade, including trade disputes or the imposition of tariffs on various commodities or finished goods;
•changes in seaborne and other transportation patterns, including the distance cargo is transported by sea;
•environmental and other legal regulatory developments;
•currency exchange rates.
Factors that influence the supply of dry bulk vessel capacity include:
•the number of newbuilding orders and deliveries including slippage in deliveries;
•number of shipyards and ability of shipyards to deliver vessels;
•port and canal congestion;
•the scrapping rate of vessels;
•speed of vessel operation;
•the number of vessels that are out of service, namely those that are laid-up, dry docked, awaiting repairs or otherwise not available for hire;
•availability of financing for new vessels;
•changes in national or international regulations that may effectively cause reductions in the carrying capacity of vessels or early obsolescence of tonnage; and
•changes in environmental and other regulations that may limit the useful lives of vessels.
In addition to the prevailing and anticipated freight rates, factors that affect the rate of newbuilding, scrapping and laying-up include newbuilding prices, secondhand vessel values in relation to scrap prices, costs of bunkers and other operating costs, costs associated with classification society surveys, normal maintenance costs, insurance coverage costs, the efficiency and age profile of the existing dry bulk fleet in the market, and government and industry regulation of maritime transportation practices, particularly environmental protection laws and regulations. These factors influencing the supply of and demand for shipping capacity are outside of our control, and we may not be able to correctly assess the nature, timing and degree of changes in industry conditions.
We anticipate that the future demand for our dry bulk vessels will be dependent upon economic growth in the world’s economies, including China and India, seasonal and regional changes in demand, changes in the capacity of the global dry bulk fleet, including vessel scrapping and ordering rates of newbuildings, and the sources and supply of dry bulk cargo to be transported by sea. A decrease in the level of China’s imports of raw materials or a decrease in trade globally could have a material adverse impact on our charterers’ business and, in turn, could cause a material adverse impact on our results of operations, financial condition and cash flows. Global dry bulk supply is expected to remain low over the next two years, as a result of low orders placed over the past three years and future uncertainties relating to future regulations around decarbonization. Although global economic conditions have improved, there can be no assurance as to the sustainability of future economic growth. Adverse economic, political, social or other developments could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and operating results.
If we are required to charter our vessels at a time when demand and charter rates are very low, we may not be able to secure employment for our vessels at all, or we may have to accept reduced and potentially unprofitable rates. If we are unable to secure profitable employment for our vessels, we may decide to lay-up some or all unemployed vessels until such time that charter rates become attractive again. During the lay-up period, we will continue to incur some expenditures, such as insurance and maintenance costs, for each such vessel. Additionally, before exiting lay-up, we will have to pay reactivation costs for any such vessel to regain its operational condition. As a result, our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows and our compliance with covenants in our credit facilities may be affected.
Our operating results will be subject to seasonal fluctuations, which could affect our operating results.
Demand for vessel capacity has historically exhibited seasonal variations and, as a result, fluctuations in charter rates. This seasonality may result in quarter-to-quarter volatility in our operating results for our vessels trading in the spot market. The drybulk market is typically stronger in the fall (due to both increased North American grain shipments and higher coal purchases for heating fuel ahead of the cold winter months) and spring (due to increased South American grain shipments). In addition, unpredictable weather patterns may disrupt vessel scheduling and supplies of certain commodities. To the extent that we must enter into a new charter or renew an existing charter for a vessel in our fleet during a time when seasonal variations have reduced prevailing charter rates, our operating results may be adversely affected.
An over-supply of drybulk carrier capacity across the industry may depress the charter rates, which may limit our ability to operate our drybulk carriers profitably.
The global drybulk fleet has increased significantly over the past 10 years as a result of the large number of newbuilding orders placed throughout this period. Scrapping of older ships has helped curtail some of this new supply growth, but it has not been enough to materially offset the large net growth in the fleet. Supply growth momentum has slowed down significantly in recent years as less and less newbuilding orders have been placed. During 2020, the fleet growth decreased slightly to 3.7% in 2020 from 4.0% in 2019, resulting from increased deliveries in 2020, offset by an increase in scrapped vessels. In 2020, 486 vessels were delivered as compared to 443 in 2019, a 10% increase. Scrapping in 2020 totaled 143 vessels, as opposed to 83 in 2019, a 72% increase.
Although supply growth has been decreasing, any increase in the vessel supply or increase in newbuilding ordering levels may decrease our future charter rates earned on our vessels affecting our profitability and our ability to meet our financial obligations as they become due.
The market values of our vessels are volatile and may decline which could limit the amount of funds that we can borrow or cause us to breach certain financial covenants under our credit facilities or bond terms.
The fair market values of our vessels have been very volatile. Although values for secondhand Supramax/Ultramax drybulk carriers have recovered significantly since 2016, they remain below historical averages and significantly under peak levels reached. The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a decline in our vessel values during 2020. The fair market value of our vessels may continue to fluctuate depending on a number of factors, including:
•prevailing level of charter rates;
•the duration and impact of COVID-19;
•general economic and market conditions affecting the shipping industry;
•types, sizes, and ages of vessels;
•supply of and demand for vessels;
•other modes of transportation;
•cost of new buildings;
•governmental or other regulations;
•the need to upgrade secondhand and previously owned vessels as a result of charterer requirements, technological advances in vessel design or equipment or otherwise; and
Conversely, if vessel values are elevated at a time when we wish to acquire additional vessels, the cost of acquisition may increase and this could adversely affect our business, results of operations, cash flow and financial condition.
Declines in charter rates and vessel values could cause us to incur impairment charges.
We evaluate the carrying amounts of our vessels to determine if events have occurred that would require an impairment of their carrying amounts. The recoverable amount of vessels is reviewed based on events and changes in circumstances that would indicate that the carrying amount of the assets might not be recovered. The review for potential impairment indicators and projection of future cash flows related to the vessels is complex and requires us to make various estimates including future freight rates and earnings from the vessels. All of these items have been historically volatile.
If indicators of impairment are present, we perform an analysis of the undiscounted projected net operating cash flows for each vessel and compare it to the vessel’s carrying value. We record impairment charges if the projected net operating cash flows do not exceed the carrying value. The amount of impairment recorded is equal to the difference between the fair market value and the carrying value of each vessel.
The carrying values of our vessels may not represent their fair market value in the future because the new market prices of second-hand vessels tend to fluctuate with changes in charter rates and the cost of new buildings. Any impairment charges incurred as a result of declines in charter rates could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and our ability to meet the financial covenants in our loan agreements.
The instability of the euro or the inability of countries to refinance their debts could have a material adverse effect on our revenue, profitability and financial position.
As a result of the credit crisis in Europe, the European Commission created the European Financial Stability Facility (the “EFSF”) and the European Financial Stability Mechanism (the “EFSM”) to provide funding to Eurozone countries in financial difficulties that seek such support. In September 2012, the European Council established a permanent stability mechanism, the European Stability Mechanism, or the ESM, to assume the role of the EFSF and the EFSM in providing external financial assistance to Eurozone countries. Despite these measures,
concerns persist regarding the debt burden of some Eurozone countries, such as Greece, and their ability to meet future financial obligations and the overall stability of the euro. An extended period of adverse development in the outlook for European countries could reduce the overall demand for drybulk goods. These potential developments, or negative market perceptions, could affect our financial position, results of operations and cash flow.
Fuel cost, or bunker prices, may adversely affect profits.
While we generally do not bear the cost of fuel, or bunkers, for vessels operating on time charters, fuel is a significant factor in negotiating charter rates. As a result, an increase in the price of fuel beyond our expectations may adversely affect our profitability at the time of charter negotiation. Fuel is also a significant, if not the largest, expense in our shipping operations when vessels are under voyage charter. The price and supply of fuel is unpredictable and fluctuates based on events outside our control, including geopolitical developments, supply and demand for oil and gas, actions by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other oil and gas producers, war and unrest in oil producing countries and regions, regional production patterns and environmental concerns. 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, such as truck or rail.
New regulations restricting the use of high sulfur fuels became effective January 1, 2020. We installed scrubbers on 37 of our vessels in order to allow our vessels to continue consuming high sulfur fuels thereby complying with regulations. The average cost including installation, is approximately $2.4 million per scrubber. As of December 31, 2020, the Company has 41 vessels of the fleet which are scrubber fitted.
Beginning January 1, 2020, we transitioned to consuming IMO compliant fuel on our vessels that were not equipped with scrubbers and when our scrubbers could not be used. Generally, VLSFO is more expensive than HSFO. During 2020, the fuel prices declined due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, decrease in demand for fuel as result of worldwide lockdowns and decline in other industry demand such as air travel. As a result, the cost differential between the low sulfur fuel and the high sulfur fuel was significantly lower than anticipated, The cost differential between the two grades of fuel declined from $186/MT in the first quarter of 2020 to $72/MT in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Although the fuel prices recovered in the first quarter of 2021, if the cost differential between the low sulfur fuel and high sulfur fuel stays at a lower than anticipated level, we may not realize the economic benefits or recover the cost of the scrubbers we have installed. The occurrence of any of the foregoing events may have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and ability to pay dividends. In addition, a number of countries have imposed restrictions on the discharge of wash water from open loop scrubbers within their port limits. While there are no restrictions on using open loop scrubbers outside of port limits, any changes in these regulations or more stringent standards globally could impact the use of open loop scrubbers going forward.
Compliance with safety and other vessel requirements imposed by classification societies may be very costly and may adversely affect our business.
The hull and machinery of every commercial vessel must be classed by a classification society authorized by its country of registry. The classification society certifies that a vessel is safe and seaworthy in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations of the country of registry of the vessel and the Safety of Life at Sea Convention.
A vessel must undergo annual surveys, intermediate surveys 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 two and a half to five years for inspection, depending on its age, of its underwater parts.
Compliance with the above requirements may result in significant expense. If any vessel does not maintain its class or fails any annual, intermediate or special survey, the vessel will be unable to trade between ports and will be unemployable and uninsurable, which could negatively impact our results of operations and financial condition.
We are subject to complex laws and regulations, including environmental regulations that can adversely affect the cost, manner or feasibility of doing business.
Our operations are subject to numerous laws and regulations in the form of international conventions and treaties, national, state and local laws and national and international regulations in force in the jurisdictions in which our vessels operate or are registered, which can significantly affect the ownership and operation of our vessels. These regulations include, but are not limited to, OPA, CERCLA, the CAA, the CWA, the MTSA, requirements of the USCG and the EPA, and regulations of the IMO, including MARPOL, as from time to time amended including designation of ECAs thereunder, SOLAS, as from time to time amended, the ISM Code, the International Convention on Load Lines of 1966, as from time to time amended, the IMO International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage of 1969, as from time to time amended and replaced by the 1992 protocol, and generally referred to as CLC, the IMO International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage of 2001, or the Bunker Convention, and EU regulations. Compliance with such laws, regulations and standards, where applicable, may require installation of costly equipment or operational changes and may affect the resale value or useful lives of our vessels. We may also incur additional costs in order to comply with other existing and future regulatory obligations, including, but not limited to, costs relating to air emissions, the management of ballast and bilge waters, elimination of tin-based paint, maintenance and inspection, development and implementation of emergency procedures and insurance coverage or other financial assurance of our ability to address pollution incidents. These costs could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition. A failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations may result in administrative and civil penalties, criminal sanctions or the suspension or termination of our operations. Environmental laws often impose strict liability for remediation of spills and releases of oil and hazardous substances, which could subject us to liability without regard to whether we were negligent or at fault. Under OPA, for example, owners, operators and bareboat charterers are jointly and severally strictly liable for the discharge of oil within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone around the United States. An oil spill could result in significant liability, including fines, penalties and criminal liability and remediation costs for natural resource damages under other federal, state and local laws, as well as third-party damages. We are required to satisfy insurance and financial responsibility requirements for potential oil (including marine fuel) spills and other pollution incidents. Although we have arranged insurance to cover certain environmental risks, there can be no assurance that such insurance will be sufficient to cover all such risks or that any claims will not have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition and our ability to pay dividends, if any, in the future.
World events could affect our operations and financial results.
Past terrorist attacks, as well as the threat of future terrorist attacks around the world, continue to cause uncertainty in the world’s financial markets and may affect our business, operating results and financial condition. Continuing conflicts, instability and other recent developments in the Middle East and elsewhere, including recent events involving vessels in the Strait of Hormuz and off the coast of Gibraltar, and the presence of U.S. or other armed forces in Afghanistan and Syria, may lead to additional acts of terrorism and armed conflict around the world, which may contribute to further economic instability in the global financial markets. Any of these occurrences could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We could also be negatively impacted by market disruption caused by health crises. In December 2019, COVID-19 was reported in China and has since spread across the world. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. In response, many countries, ports, and organizations, including those where the Company conducts a large part of its operations, have implemented measures to combat the pandemic, such as quarantines and travel restrictions. Such measures had caused trade disruptions. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the decline in charter hire rates, which impacted the Company’s revenues and cash flow from operations in the first half of 2020. Please refer to Item 7 Management's Discussion and Analysis - Business outlook for additional information.
This outbreak adversely affected the Company by (i) reducing demand for its services because of reduced global or national economic activity and (ii) negatively impacted our ability to perform crew changes on our vessels. Although this disruption from COVID-19 may only be temporary, given the dynamic nature of these circumstances, the duration of business disruption and the related financial impact cannot be reasonably estimated at this time but could materially affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Acts of piracy on ocean-going vessels have had and may continue to have an adverse effect on our business.
Acts of piracy have historically affected ocean-going vessels trading in regions of the world such as the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, West Africa and in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. Although the frequency of sea piracy worldwide has decreased from 2014 to 2020, sea piracy incidents continue to occur increasingly in the Gulf of Guinea and the West Coast of Africa, with drybulk vessels and tankers particularly vulnerable to such attacks. During 2020, the Company experienced two incidents of piracy on our vessels which were subsequently resolved peacefully and without significant losses to the Company, and with no loss of life, or personal injury, to our crew members. If piracy attacks continue to occur in regions that are characterized as “war risk” zones, or Joint War Committee “war and strikes” listed areas, insurance premiums payable for such coverage could increase significantly and such insurance coverage may be more difficult to obtain. In addition, crew costs and costs in relation to the employment of onboard security guards, could increase in such circumstances. Furthermore, if our vessels were seized and detained by pirates, while we believe the charterer remains liable for charter payments, the charterer may dispute this and withhold charter hire until the vessel is released. A charterer may also claim that a vessel seized by pirates was not “on-hire” for a certain number of days and is therefore entitled to cancel the charter party, a claim that we would dispute. We may not be adequately insured to cover losses from these incidents, which could have a material adverse effect on us. In addition, any detention or hijacking as a result of an act of piracy against our vessels, or an increase in cost, or unavailability, of insurance for our vessels, could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If our vessels call on ports located in countries or territories that are subject to comprehensive sanctions imposed by the UN, the United States, the EU or other relevant authorities, or if we are found to be in violation of sanctions, there could be an adverse effect on our reputation, business position, financial condition or results of operations, or the market for our common shares
As a company maintaining its corporate office in the United States with offices in Denmark and Singapore, we are subject to U.S. and EU economic sanctions and trade embargo laws and regulations as well as equivalent economic sanctions laws of other relevant jurisdictions in connection with our activities. The laws and regulations of these different jurisdictions vary in their application and do not all apply to the same covered persons or proscribe the same activities. In addition, the sanctions and embargo laws and regulations of each jurisdiction may be amended to increase or reduce the restrictions they impose over time, and the lists of persons and entities designated under these laws and regulations are amended frequently. The U.S. and EU have enacted new sanctions programs in recent years. Additional countries or territories, as well as additional persons or entities within those countries or territories, have been, and in the future, the target of sanctions. Further, the U.S. has increased its focus on sanctions enforcement with respect to the shipping sector.
In recent years, multilateral international sanctions targeting Iran have restricted and/or prohibited us and our charterers from engaging in Iran-related activities, including calling on ports in Iran. The United States continues to maintain comprehensive sanctions on Iran that generally prohibit persons and companies in the United States, as well as U.S. persons and persons owned or controlled by U.S. persons, wherever located, from engaging in nearly all Iran-related activity. In addition, following the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ("JCPOA"), the U.S. has reimposed all of its previously-lifted sanctions that target non-U.S. companies for engaging in certain activities with Iran, including those related to Iran’s energy, shipping, shipbuilding, and insurance sectors, and has issued additional sanctions targeting other sectors of the Iranian economy. On the other hand, the EU has stayed in the JCPOA and maintained the lifting of nearly all of its sanctions targeting Iran, except for targeted asset freezes and travel bans against certain Iranian individuals and entities and restrictions on activities related to the military, nuclear proliferation and human rights abuses. The EU and Germany also have blocking rules in place
intended to protect the interests of EU persons against the extraterritorial application of U.S. sanctions against Iran and Cuba.
In November 2015, the Company filed a voluntary self-disclosure report regarding certain apparent violations of U.S. sanctions regulations in the provision of shipping services for third party charterers with respect to the transportation of cargo to or from Myanmar (formerly Burma), which occurred under a different senior operational management team. In January 2020, the Company entered into a settlement agreement with OFAC in which the Company agreed to make a one-time payment to the U.S. Department of the Treasury in the amount of $1.125 million and undertake certain compliance commitments in exchange for OFAC agreeing to release and forever discharge the Company and its subsidiaries, without any finding of fault, from any and all civil liability in connection with these apparent violations. The settlement does not constitute an admission of fault or wrongdoing by the Company or any of its subsidiaries.
Sanctions and trade embargo laws and regulations are generally subject to strict liability. Although we intend to maintain compliance with all applicable economic sanctions and trade embargo laws and regulations, there can be no assurance that, notwithstanding our compliance safeguards, we will not be found in the future to have been in violation, particularly as the sanctions and embargo laws and regulations are amended, the scope of certain laws and regulations may be unclear, and the laws and regulations are subject to discretionary interpretations by regulators that may change over time. Further, charterers or other counterparties may violate provisions in contracts with us, or legal restrictions relating to sanctions. Any such violation might adversely affect our business, results of operations or financial condition, including that any such violation could result in substantial fines or other civil and/or criminal penalties that could be increased due to our prior settlement agreement with OFAC, and could severely impact our ability to access U.S. capital markets and conduct our business. Additionally, our reputation and the market for our securities may be adversely affected and /or some investors may decide to divest their interest, or not to invest, in the Company if we engage in certain other activities in countries subject to sanctions, such as entering into permissible charters or engaging in permissible operations with individuals or entities in or associated with those countries. The determination by these investors and/or lenders not to invest in, or to divest from, our common shares may adversely affect the price at which our common shares trade. Furthermore, detecting, investigating, and resolving actual or alleged violations is expensive and can consume significant time and attention of our senior management.
Investor perception of the value of our common shares may be adversely affected by the consequences of war, the effects of terrorism, civil unrest and governmental actions in these and surrounding countries.
We are subject to international safety regulations and the failure to comply with these regulations may subject us to increased liability, may adversely affect our insurance coverage and may result in a denial of access to, or detention in, certain ports.
The operation of our vessels is affected by the requirements set forth in the ISM Code. The ISM Code requires ship owners, ship managers and bareboat charterers to develop and maintain an extensive “Safety Management System” that includes the adoption of a safety and environmental protection policy setting forth instructions and procedures for safe operation and describing procedures for dealing with emergencies. The failure of a ship owner or bareboat charterer to comply with the ISM Code may subject it to increased liability, may invalidate existing insurance or decrease available insurance coverage for the affected vessels and may result in a denial of access to, or detention in, certain ports. Each of the vessels that has been delivered to us is ISM Code-certified and we expect that each other vessel that we have agreed to purchase will be ISM Code-certified when delivered to us. However, if we are subject to increased liability for non-compliance or if our insurance coverage is adversely impacted as a result of non-compliance, it may negatively affect our ability to pay dividends, if any, in the future. If any of our vessels are denied access to, or are detained in, certain ports, our revenues may be adversely impacted.
In addition, vessel classification societies also impose significant safety and other requirements on our vessels. In complying with current and future environmental requirements, vessel-owners and operators may also
incur significant additional costs in meeting new maintenance and inspection requirements, in developing contingency arrangements for potential spills and in obtaining insurance coverage. Government regulation of vessels, particularly in the areas of safety and environmental requirements, can be expected to become stricter in the future and require us to incur significant capital expenditures on our vessels to keep them in compliance.
The operation of our vessels is also affected by other government regulation in the form of international conventions, national, state and local laws and regulations in force in the jurisdictions in which the vessels operate, as well as in the country or countries of their registration. Because such conventions, laws, and regulations are often revised, we cannot predict the ultimate cost of complying with such conventions, laws and regulations or the impact thereof on the resale prices or useful lives of our vessels. Additional conventions, laws and regulations may be adopted which could limit our ability to do business or increase the cost of our doing business and which may materially adversely affect our operations. We are required by various governmental and quasi-governmental agencies to obtain certain permits, licenses, certificates, and financial assurances with respect to our operations.
Increased inspection procedures and tighter import and export controls could increase costs and disrupt our business.
International shipping is subject to various security and customs inspection and related procedures in countries of origin and destination and trans-shipment points. Inspection procedures may result in the seizure of contents of our vessels, delays in the loading, offloading, trans-shipment 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. Changes to inspection procedures could also impose additional costs and obligations on our customers and may, in certain cases, render the shipment of certain types of cargo uneconomical or impractical. Any such changes or developments may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Arrests of our vessels by maritime claimants could cause a significant loss of earnings for the related off-hire period.
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.
Risks associated with operating ocean-going vessels could affect our business and reputation, which could adversely affect our revenues and stock price.
The operation of ocean-going vessels carries inherent risks. These risks include the possibility of:
•cargo and property losses or damage;
•business interruptions caused by mechanical failure, human error, war, terrorism, political action in various countries, labor strikes or adverse weather conditions; and
These hazards may result in death or injury to persons, loss of revenues or property, environmental damage, higher insurance rates, damage to our customer relationships, 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 not have insurance that is sufficient to cover these costs or losses and may have to pay drydocking costs not covered by our insurance. The loss of earnings while these vessels are being repaired and repositioned, as well as the actual cost of these repairs, would decrease our earnings and reduce the amount of cash that we have available for dividends. In addition, space at drydocking facilities is sometimes limited and not all drydocking facilities are conveniently located. We may be unable to find space at a suitable drydocking facility or our vessels may be forced to travel to a drydocking facility that is not conveniently located to our vessels’ positions. Any of these circumstances or events could increase our costs or lower our revenues. The involvement of our vessels in an environmental disaster may harm our reputation as a safe and reliable vessel owner and operator.
Our business has inherent operational risks, which may not be adequately covered by insurance.
The operation of our company has certain unique risks. With a drybulk carrier, the cargo itself and its interaction with the vessel can be an operational risk. By their nature, drybulk cargoes are often heavy, dense, easily shifted, and react badly to water exposure. In addition, drybulk carriers are often subjected to battering treatment during unloading operations with grabs, jackhammers (to pry encrusted cargoes out of the hold) and small bulldozers. This treatment may cause damage to the vessel. Vessels damaged due to treatment during unloading procedures may be more susceptible to breach to the sea. Hull breaches in drybulk carriers may lead to the flooding of the vessels’ holds. If a drybulk carrier suffers flooding in its forward holds, the bulk cargo may become so dense and waterlogged that its pressure may buckle the vessel’s bulkheads leading to the loss of a vessel. If we are unable to adequately maintain our vessels, we may be unable to prevent these events. Any of these circumstances or events could negatively impact our business, financial condition, results of operations and ability to pay dividends, if any, in the future. In addition, the loss of any of our vessels could harm our reputation as a safe and reliable vessel owner and operator.
Our vessels and their cargoes are at risk of being damaged or lost because of events such as marine disasters, bad weather, mechanical failures, human error, environmental accidents, war, terrorism, piracy and other circumstances or events. In addition, transporting cargoes across a wide variety of international jurisdictions creates a risk of business interruptions due to political circumstances in foreign countries, hostilities, labor strikes and boycotts, the potential for changes in tax rates or policies, and the potential for government expropriation of our vessels. Any of these events may result in loss of revenues, increased costs and decreased cash flows to our customers, which could impair their ability to make payments to us under our charters.
In the event of a casualty to a vessel or other catastrophic event, we will rely on our insurance to pay the insured value of the vessel or the damages incurred. We procure insurance for the vessels in our fleet employed against those risks that we believe the shipping industry commonly insures against. These insurances include marine hull and machinery insurance, Protection and Indemnity Insurance, which include pollution risks and crew insurances, and war risk insurance. Currently, the amount of coverage for liability for pollution, spillage and leakage available to us on commercially reasonable terms through P&I Associations and providers of excess coverage is $1.0 billion per vessel per occurrence.
We have procured hull and machinery insurance, Protection and Indemnity Insurance (including pollution insurance), and war risk insurance for our fleet. We have also purchased insurance against loss of hire, which covers business interruptions that result from the loss of use of a vessel. We may not be adequately insured against all risks. We may not be able to obtain adequate insurance coverage for our fleet in the future, and we may not be able to obtain certain insurance coverage, including insurance against charter party defaults, that we have obtained in the past on terms that are acceptable to us or at all. The insurers may not pay particular claims. Our insurance policies may contain deductibles for which we will be responsible and limitations and exclusions which may increase our costs or lower our revenue. Moreover, insurers may default on claims they are required to pay.
We cannot assure you that we will be adequately insured against all risks or that we will be able to obtain adequate insurance coverage at reasonable rates for our vessels in the future. For example, in the past more stringent environmental regulations have led to increased costs for, and in the future may result in the lack of availability of, insurance against risks of environmental damage or pollution. Additionally, our insurers may refuse to pay particular
claims. Any significant loss or liability for which we are not insured could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition.
Governments could requisition our vessels during a period of war or emergency, resulting in a loss of earnings.
A government could requisition one or more of our vessels for title or for hire. Requisition for title occurs when a government takes control of a vessel and becomes her owner, while requisition for hire occurs when a government takes control of a vessel and effectively becomes her charterer at unilateral charter rates. Generally, requisitions occur during periods of war or emergency, although governments may elect to requisition vessels in other circumstances. Although we would be entitled to compensation in the event of a requisition of one or more of our vessels, the amount and timing of payment would be uncertain. Government requisition of one or more of our vessels may negatively impact our revenues.
Failure to comply with the FCPA or other applicable anti-corruption laws 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 known to have a reputation for corruption. We are committed to doing business in accordance with applicable anti-corruption laws and have adopted a code of business conduct and ethics which is consistent and in full compliance with the FCPA. We are subject, however, to the risk that we, our affiliated entities or our or their respective officers, directors, employees and/or agents may take actions determined to be in violation of applicable anti-corruption laws, including the FCPA. Any such violation might adversely affect our business, results of operations or financial condition. Further, any such violation could severely impact our ability to access U.S. capital markets and conduct our business and could result in some investors and/or lenders deciding, or being required, to divest their interest, or not to invest, in us or lend to us. The determination by these investors and/or lenders not to invest in, or to divest from, our common shares may adversely affect the price at which our common shares trade. Any such violation could also result in substantial fines, sanctions, civil and/or criminal penalties, curtailment of operations in certain jurisdictions, and might adversely affect our business, results of operations 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.
Cyber-attacks or other security breaches involving our computer systems or the systems of one or more of our vendors could materially and adversely affect our business.
Our systems are vulnerable to cyber security risks, and we are subject to potential disruption caused by such activities. Companies such as ours are subject to cyber-attacks on their systems. Such attacks may have various goals, from seeking confidential information to causing operational disruption. Although to date such activities have not resulted in material disruptions to our operations or, to our knowledge, a material breach of any security or confidential information, no assurance can be provided that such disruptions or breach will not occur in the future. Additionally, any significant violations of data privacy could result in the loss of business, litigation, regulatory investigations, penalties, ongoing expenses related to client credit monitoring and support, and other expenses, any of which could damage our reputation and adversely affect the growth of our business. While we have deployed resources that are responsible for maintaining appropriate levels of cyber-security, and while we utilize third party technology products and services to help identify, protect, and remediate our information technology systems and infrastructure against security breaches and cyber-incidents, our responsive and precautionary measures may not be adequate or effective to prevent, identify, or mitigate attacks by hackers, foreign governments, or other actors or breaches caused by employee error, malfeasance, or other disruptions.
Financial Risk Factors
The state of the global financial markets may adversely impact our ability to obtain additional financing, including the refinancing of our existing credit facilities and bond terms, on acceptable terms, restricting us from being able to operate or expand our business.
Global financial markets are volatile with access to debt and equity capital being potentially expensive or restrictive. We cannot be certain that additional financing will be available if, and when, needed. We also cannot be certain that we will be able to refinance our existing credit facilities and bond terms, on acceptable terms or at all, prior to maturity. If additional financing is not available when needed, or is available only on unfavorable terms, we may not be able to meet our obligations as they come due, nor be able to grow our existing business through potential acquisitions or similar opportunities as they arise. For more information on our debt facilities, see Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operation - Liquidity and Capital Resources and Note 6 Debt to the consolidated financial statements.
If general economic conditions throughout the world deteriorate, including as a result of COVID-19, it will impede our results of operations, financial condition and cash flows, and could impair our ability to access capital markets at a reasonable cost.
If the economic conditions in the world deteriorate, it could have a material adverse effect on our ability to implement our business strategy. We face risks attendant to changes in economic environments, changes in interest rates, and instability in the banking and securities markets around the world, among other factors. Major market disruptions such as those that occurred as a result of COVID-19 in 2020, and the adverse changes in market conditions and regulatory climate in the United States and worldwide may adversely affect our business or impair our ability to borrow amounts under our credit facilities or any future financial arrangements and may cause the trading price of our common shares on the Nasdaq Global Select Market to decline.
A significant number of the port calls made by our vessels involve the loading or discharging of raw materials and semi-finished products in ports in the Asia Pacific region. As a result, a negative change in economic conditions in any Asia Pacific country, and particularly in China and India, could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and ability to pay dividends. In particular, in recent years, China has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies in terms of gross domestic product. China’s gross domestic product grew by 2.3% in 2020, as compared to 6.0% in 2019. We cannot assure you that the Chinese economy will not experience a significant contraction in the future. The ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China may have an adverse effect on the Chinese economy, including on industrial production and exports. If the Chinese government does not continue to pursue a policy of economic growth and urbanization, the level of imports to and exports from China could be adversely affected by changes to these initiatives by the Chinese government, as well as by changes in political, economic and social conditions or other relevant policies of the Chinese government, such as changes in laws, regulations or export and import restrictions. Notwithstanding economic reform, the Chinese government may adopt policies that favor domestic drybulk shipping companies and may hinder our ability to compete with them effectively. Moreover, a significant or protracted slowdown in the economies of the United States, the EU or various Asian countries may adversely affect economic growth in China and elsewhere. Our business, results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and ability to pay dividends will likely be materially and adversely affected by an economic downturn in any of these countries.
We have increased our indebtedness, and if we default under our loan agreements, our lenders may act to accelerate our outstanding indebtedness under our credit facilities, which would impact our ability to continue to conduct our business.
At December 31, 2020, the Company’s debt totaled $452.2 million of which $39.2 million is shown in the current portion of long-term debt and $412.9 million in non current liabilities net of $23.4 million of debt discount and debt issuance costs.
As described under Note 6 Debt to the consolidated financial statements, the obligations under these agreements are secured by collateral, contain a number of operating restrictions, covenants and events of default, and a breach of any of the covenants could result in an event of default under one or more of these agreements, including as a result of cross default provisions, and subject to the terms of the inter creditor agreement and the loan agreements, the agents could proceed against the collateral granted to them to secure that indebtedness.
The failure of our charterers to meet their obligations under our charter agreements, on which we depend for substantially all of our revenues, could cause us to suffer losses or otherwise adversely affect our business and ability to comply with covenants in our credit facilities.
The ability and willingness of each of our counterparties to perform its obligations 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 drybulk shipping industry and the overall financial condition of the counterparties. Charterers are sensitive to the commodity markets and may be impacted by market forces affecting commodities, such as iron ore, coal, grain, and other minor bulks. In addition, in depressed market conditions, there have been reports of charterers, including some of our charter counterparties, defaulting on their obligations under charters, and our customers may fail to pay charter hire. Should a counterparty fail to honor its obligations under its charter with us, it may be difficult to secure substitute employment for such vessel at a similar charter rate. If our charterers fail to meet their obligations to us or attempt to renegotiate our charter agreements, we could sustain significant losses which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, if any, in the future, and compliance with covenants in our credit facilities.
Utilizing derivative instruments, such as forward freight, bunker and interest rate swap agreements, could result in losses.
From time to time, we may take positions in derivative instruments, including FFAs, interest rate swaps and bunker swaps. FFAs and other derivative instruments may be used to hedge a vessel owner's exposure to the charter market by providing for the sale of a contracted charter rate along a specified route and period of time. Upon settlement, if the contracted charter rate is less than the average of the rates, as reported by an identified index, for the specified route and period, the seller of the FFA is required to pay the buyer an amount equal to the difference between the contracted rate and the settlement rate, multiplied by the number of days in the specified period. Conversely, if the contracted rate is greater than the settlement rate, the buyer is required to pay the seller the settlement sum. We recorded a net realized and unrealized gain of $4.8 million on FFAs and bunker swaps which was recorded in Other expense in the Consolidated Statement of Operations for the year ended December 31, 2020.
In addition, we entered into, and in the future may enter into additional, interest rate swaps to effectively convert a portion of our debt from a floating to a fixed-rate basis. Under these swap contracts, exclusive of applicable margins, we pay fixed rate interest and receive floating-rate interest amounts based on three-month LIBOR settings. Our hedging strategies, however, may not be effective and we may incur substantial losses if interest rates move materially differently from our expectations. In addition, our financial condition could be materially adversely affected to the extent we do not hedge our exposure to interest rate fluctuations under our financing arrangements.
Any hedging activities we engage in may not effectively manage exposure or have the desired impact on our financial conditions, results of operations or cash flows.
Our revolver facilities under the New Ultraco Debt Facility and the Super Senior Facility expose us to interest rate risk.
Although the interest on our outstanding term loan under the New Ultraco Debt Facility is fixed by an interest rate swaps, our earnings are exposed to interest rate risk associated with the revolver facilities under New Ultraco Debt Facility and the Super Senior Facility. Revolver loan under the New Ultraco Debt Facility, which is undrawn as of December 31, 2020, bears interest at LIBOR plus 2.50% per annum, and borrowings under the Super Senior Facility bear interest at the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) plus 2.00% per annum. LIBOR tends to fluctuate based on multiple facts, including general short-term interest rates, rates set by the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks, the supply of and demand for credit in the London interbank market and general economic conditions. Accordingly, our interest expense for any particular period will fluctuate based on LIBOR. As of December 31, 2020, we had $15.0 million outstanding under the Super Senior Facility. As of December 31, 2020, we repaid the $55.0 million revolver loan under the New Ultraco Debt Facility in full. For the year ended December 31, 2020 our interest rate on the revolver loan under the New Ultraco Debt Facility ranged between 2.73% and
3.39%. The interest rate on our revolver loan under the Super Senior Facility ranged between 2.24% and 2.89%. If interest rates increase, so will our interest costs, which may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
The interest rates under our credit facilities and our interest rate swaps may be impacted by the phase-out of LIBOR
LIBOR is the basic rate of interest used in lending between banks on the London interbank market and is widely used as a reference for setting the interest rates on loans globally. We generally use LIBOR as a reference rate to calculate interest rates under our credit facility. In 2017, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates LIBOR, announced that it intends to phase out LIBOR by the end of 2021. It is unclear if LIBOR will cease to exist at that time or if new methods of calculating LIBOR will be established such that it continues to exist after 2021. The U.S. Federal Reserve, in conjunction with the Alternative Reference Rates Committee, a steering committee comprised of large U.S. financial institutions, is considering replacing U.S. dollar LIBOR with a new index, the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”), calculated using short-term repurchase agreements backed by Treasury securities. SOFR is observed and backward looking, unlike LIBOR under the current methodology, which is an estimated forward-looking rate and relies, to some degree, on the expert judgment of submitting panel members. Given that SOFR is a secured rate backed by government securities, it will be a rate that does not take into account bank credit risk (as is the case with LIBOR). SOFR also may be more volatile than LIBOR. Whether or not SOFR, or another alternative reference rate, attains market traction as a LIBOR replacement tool remains in question. If LIBOR ceases to exist, interest rates under our credit facilities and our interest rate swaps may be impacted. For example, if LIBOR ceases to exist, Ultraco and the facility agent may amend the New Ultraco Debt Facility to replace LIBOR with an alternate benchmark rate (including any mathematical or other adjustments to the benchmark (if any) incorporated therein, a “LIBOR Successor Rate”). We may also need to amend our interest rate swaps and any other credit facilities to replace LIBOR with an agreed upon replacement index. This could cause certain of the interest rates under credit facilities and interest rate swaps to change. The new rates may not be as favorable to us as those in effect prior to any LIBOR phase-out. We may also find it desirable to engage in more frequent interest rate hedging transactions.
Company Specific Risk Factors
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 or meet our financial covenants on our indebtedness.
As of December 31, 2020 we owned a fleet of 45 vessels which are employed for less than one year exposing us to fluctuations in spot market charter rates. Historically, the drybulk market has been volatile as a result of the many conditions and factors that can affect the price, supply and demand for drybulk capacity. A global economic crisis may reduce demand for transportation of drybulk cargoes, which may materially affect our revenues, profitability and cash flows. The spot charter market may fluctuate significantly based upon supply of and demand for vessels and cargoes. The successful operation of our vessels in the competitive spot charter market depends upon, among other things, obtaining profitable spot charters and minimizing, to the extent possible, time spent waiting for charters and time spent traveling unladen to pick up cargo. The spot market is very volatile, and, in the past, there have been periods when spot rates have declined below the operating cost of vessels. If future spot charter rates decline, then we may be unable to operate our vessels trading in the spot market profitably, meet our obligations, including payments on indebtedness, or to pay dividends, if any, 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.
The laws of the Marshall Islands generally prohibit the payment of dividends other than from surplus (retained earnings and the excess of consideration received for the sale of shares above the par value of the shares) or while a company is insolvent or would be rendered insolvent by the payment of such a dividend. We may not have sufficient surplus in the future to pay dividends and our subsidiaries may not have sufficient funds or surplus to make distributions to us. We can give no assurance that dividends will be paid at all.
In addition, the declaration and payment of dividends, if any, will always be subject to the discretion of the board of directors, restrictions contained in our existing debt agreements and the requirements of Marshall Islands law. The timing and amount of any dividends declared will depend on, among other things, the Company's earnings, financial condition and cash requirements and availability, the ability to obtain debt and equity financing on acceptable terms as contemplated by the Company's growth strategy, the terms of its outstanding indebtedness and the ability of the Company's subsidiaries to distribute funds to it. The Company does not currently expect to pay dividends in the near term. Please see Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Dividends.
We may have difficulty managing our planned growth properly and integrating newly acquired vessels.
The management of the 45 vessels in our owned fleet, as of December 31, 2020, and additional drybulk vessels that we may acquire in the future impose significant responsibilities on our management and staff. The addition of vessels to our fleet may require us to increase the number of our personnel. Further, we are providing technical management services to all of our vessels in our fleet. We will also have to manage our customer base so that we can provide continued employment for our vessels upon the expiration of our existing charters.
We intend to continue to grow our business. Our future growth will primarily depend on:
•locating and acquiring suitable vessels;
•obtaining required financing on acceptable terms;
•identifying and consummating acquisitions or joint ventures;
•enhancing our customer base; and
•managing our expansion.
Growing any business by acquisition presents numerous risks, such as undisclosed liabilities and obligations, the possibility that indemnification agreements will be unenforceable or insufficient to cover potential losses and difficulties associated with imposing common standards, controls, procedures and policies, obtaining additional qualified personnel, managing relationships with customers and integrating newly acquired assets and operations into existing infrastructure. We cannot give any assurance that we will be successful in executing our growth plans or that we will not incur significant expenses and losses in connection with our future growth.
Purchasing and operating secondhand vessels may result in increased operating costs and reduced fleet utilization.
While we have the right to inspect previously owned vessels prior to purchase, such an inspection does not provide us with the same knowledge about their condition that we would have if these vessels had been built for and operated exclusively by us. A secondhand vessel may have conditions or defects that we were not aware of when we bought the vessel and which may require us to incur costly repairs to the vessel. These repairs may require us to put a vessel into dry dock, which would reduce our fleet utilization. Furthermore, we usually do not receive the benefit of warranties on secondhand vessels.
We are subject to certain risks with respect to our counterparties on contracts, and failure of such counterparties to meet their obligations could cause us to suffer losses or otherwise adversely affect our business.
We have entered into and may enter into in the future, among other things, charter agreements with our customers. Such agreements subject us to counter party risks. The ability of each of our counterparties to perform its obligations under a contract with us will depend on a number of factors that are beyond our control and may include, among other things, general economic conditions, the condition of the maritime industry, the overall financial condition of the counterparty, charter rates received for specific types of vessels, the supply and demand for commodities such as iron ore, coal, grain, and other minor bulks and various expenses. Should a counter party 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.
The loss of one or more of our significant customers may affect our financial performance.
Some of our charterers are privately owned companies for which limited credit and financial information was available to us in making our assessment of counter party risk when we entered into our charter. In addition, the ability of each of our charterers to perform its obligations under a charter will depend on a number of factors that are beyond our control. These factors may include general economic conditions, the condition of the drybulk shipping industry, the charter rates received for specific types of vessels and various operating expenses. If one or more of these charterers terminates its charter or chooses not to re-charter our vessel or is unable to perform under its charter with us and we are not able to find a replacement charter, we could suffer a loss of revenues that could adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash available for distribution as dividends to our shareholders. In addition, we may be required to change the flagging or registration of the related vessel and may incur additional costs, including maintenance and crew costs if a charterer were to default on its obligations. Our shareholders do not have any recourse against our charterers. For the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, the Company had no charterers which individually accounted for more than 10% of the Company's gross charter revenue.
In the highly competitive international shipping industry, we may not be able to compete for charters with new entrants or established companies with greater resources, and as a result, we may be unable to employ our vessels profitably.
Our vessels are employed in a highly competitive market that is capital intensive and highly fragmented. Competition arises primarily from other vessel owners, some of whom have substantially greater resources than we do. Competition for the transportation of drybulk cargo by sea is intense and depends on price, location, size, age, condition and the acceptability of the vessel and its operators to the charterers. Due in part to the highly fragmented market, competitors with greater resources could enter the drybulk shipping industry and operate larger fleets through consolidations or acquisitions and may be able to offer lower charter rates and higher quality vessels than we are able to offer. If we are unable to successfully compete with other drybulk shipping companies, our results of operations would be adversely impacted.
We may be unable to attract and retain key management personnel and other employees in the shipping industry, which may negatively impact the effectiveness of our management and results of operations.
Our success depends to a significant extent upon the abilities and efforts of our management team. Our success will depend upon our ability to retain key members of our management team and to hire new members as may be desirable. The loss of any of these individuals could adversely affect our business prospects and financial condition. Difficulty in hiring and retaining replacement personnel could have a similar effect. We do not maintain "key man" life insurance on any of our officers.
The aging of our fleet may result in increased operating costs in the future, which could adversely affect our earnings.
In general, the cost of maintaining a vessel in good operating condition increases with the age of the vessel. Although the weighted average age of the 45 drybulk vessels in our owned fleet as of December 31, 2020 was approximately 8.8 years, as our fleet ages, we will incur increased costs. Older vessels are typically less fuel efficient and more expensive to maintain than more recently constructed vessels due to improvements in engine technology. Cargo insurance rates increase with the age of a vessel, making older vessels less desirable to charterers. Governmental regulations and safety or other equipment standards related to the age of vessels may also require expenditures for alterations or the addition of new equipment, to our vessels and may restrict the type of activities in which our vessels may engage. 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.
Technological innovation could reduce our charter hire income and the value of our vessels.
The charter hire rates and the value and operational life of a vessel are determined by a number of factors including the vessel's efficiency, operational flexibility and physical life. Efficiency includes speed, fuel economy and the ability to load and discharge cargo quickly. Flexibility includes the ability to enter harbors, utilize related docking facilities and pass through canals and straits. The length of a vessel's physical life is related to its original design and construction, its maintenance and the impact of the stress of operations. If new drybulk carriers are built that are more efficient or more flexible or have longer physical lives than our vessels, competition from these more technologically advanced vessels could adversely affect the amount of charter hire payments we receive for our vessels once their initial charters expire and the resale value of our vessels could significantly decrease. As a result, our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition could be adversely affected.
We may be subject to litigation that, if not resolved in our favor and not sufficiently insured against, could have a material adverse effect on us.
We may be, from time to time, involved in various litigation matters. These matters may include, among other things, contract disputes, personal injury claims, environmental claims or proceedings, asbestos and other toxic tort claims, employment matters, governmental claims for taxes or duties, and other litigation that arises in the ordinary course of our business. Although we intend to defend these matters vigorously, we cannot predict with certainty the outcome or effect of any claim or other litigation matter, and the ultimate outcome of any litigation or the potential costs to resolve them may have a material adverse effect on us. Insurance may not be applicable or sufficient in all cases and/or insurers may not remain solvent which may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition.
We may have to pay tax on United States source income, which will 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 and our subsidiaries, that is attributable to transportation that begins or ends, but that does not both begin and end, in the United States is characterized as United States source shipping income and such income is subject to a 4% United States federal income tax without allowance for any deductions, unless that corporation qualifies for exemption from tax under Section 883 of the Code and the Treasury regulations promulgated thereunder.
We believe that we qualify for this statutory tax exemption for our 2020 taxable year and we intend to take this position for U.S. federal income tax return reporting purposes. However, there are factual circumstances beyond our control that could cause us to lose the benefit of this tax exemption and thereby become subject to U.S. federal income tax on our U.S. source income. Therefore, we can give no assurances on our tax-exempt status. If we are not entitled to exemption under Section 883 of the Code for any taxable year, we could be subject for those years to an effective 2% U.S. federal income tax on the gross shipping income we derive during the year that are attributable to the transport of cargoes to or from the United States. The imposition of this tax would have a negative effect on our business and would result in decreased earnings and cash available to pay amounts due on the note or for distribution to our shareholders. For more information, see Item 1. Business - United States Federal Income Taxation of Our Company.
United States tax authorities could treat us as a "passive foreign investment company," which could have adverse United States federal income tax consequences to United States holders.
A foreign corporation will be 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, "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. For purposes of these tests, income derived from the performance of services does not constitute "passive income."
United States shareholders of a PFIC are subject to a disadvantageous United States federal income tax regime with respect to the income derived by the PFIC, the distributions they receive from the PFIC and the gain, if any, they derive from the sale or other disposition of their shares in the PFIC.
Based on our current method of operation, we do not believe that we have been, are or will be a PFIC with respect to any taxable year. In this regard, we intend to treat the gross income we derive or are deemed to derive from our time and voyage chartering activities as services income, rather than rental income. Accordingly, we believe that our income from our time and voyage chartering activities does not constitute "passive income," and the assets that we own and operate in connection with the production of that income do not constitute passive assets.
There is, however, no direct legal authority under the PFIC rules addressing our method of operation and there is 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 were to find that we are or have been a PFIC for any taxable year, our United States shareholders may face adverse United States tax consequences and information reporting obligations. Under the PFIC rules, unless those shareholders made an election available under the Code (which election could itself have adverse consequences for such shareholders), such shareholders would be liable to pay United States federal income tax upon excess distributions and upon any gain from the disposition of our common stock at the then prevailing income tax rates applicable to ordinary income plus interest as if the excess distribution or gain had been recognized ratably over the shareholder’s holding period of our common stock.
We may be subject to additional taxes, including as a result of challenges by tax authorities or changes in applicable law, which could adversely impact our business and financial results.
We are subject to tax in certain jurisdictions in which we are organized, own assets or have operations. In computing our tax obligations in these jurisdictions, we are required to take various tax accounting and reporting positions on matters that are not entirely free from doubt and for which we have not received rulings from the governing authorities. We cannot assure you that, upon review of these positions, the applicable authorities will agree with our positions. A successful challenge by a tax authority, or a change in applicable law, could result in additional tax imposed on us, which could adversely impact our business and financial results.
We are a holding company, and we depend on the ability of our subsidiaries to distribute funds to us in order to satisfy our financial obligations and to make dividend payments.
We are a holding company and our subsidiaries conduct all of our operations and own all of our operating assets. We have no significant assets other than the equity interests in our subsidiaries. As a result, our ability to satisfy our financial obligations and to make dividend payments in the future depends on our subsidiaries and their ability to distribute funds to us. If we are unable to obtain funds from our subsidiaries, our board of directors may exercise its discretion not to declare or pay dividends. We do not intend to obtain funds from other sources to pay dividends. We do not currently expect to pay dividends in the near term.
As we expand our business, we may need to improve our operating and financial systems and will need to recruit suitable employees and crew for our vessels.
Our current operating and financial systems may not be adequate if we continue to expand the size of our fleet in the future and our attempts to improve those systems may be ineffective. In addition, if we further expand our fleet, we will need to recruit suitable additional seafarers and shore side administrative and management personnel. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to hire suitable employees as we expand our fleet. If we or our crewing agent encounters business or financial difficulties, we may not be able to adequately staff our vessels. If we are unable to grow our financial and operating systems or to recruit suitable employees as we expand our fleet, our
financial performance may be adversely affected and, among other things, the amount of cash available for distribution as dividends to our shareholders may be reduced.
We conduct business in China, where the legal system has inherent uncertainties that could limit the legal protections available to us.
Some of our vessels may be chartered to Chinese customers or from time to time on our charterers’ instructions, our vessels may call on Chinese ports. Such charters and any additional charters that we enter into may be subject to new regulations in China that may require us to incur new or additional compliance or other administrative costs and may require that we pay to the Chinese government new taxes or other fees. Changes in laws and regulations, including with regards to tax matters, and their implementation by local authorities could affect our vessels chartered to Chinese customers as well as our vessels calling to Chinese ports and could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Risks Relating to Our Common Stock
We are incorporated in the Marshall Islands, which does not have a well-developed body of corporate law.
Our corporate affairs are governed by our Third Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation (the “Charter”) and Second Amended and Restated By-laws (the “Bylaws”) and by the Marshall Islands Business Corporations Act (the “BCA”). The provisions of the BCA resemble provisions of the corporation laws of a number of states in the United States. However, there have been few judicial cases in the Marshall Islands interpreting the BCA. The rights and fiduciary responsibilities of directors under the laws of the Marshall Islands are not as clearly established as the rights and fiduciary responsibilities of directors under statutes or judicial precedent in existence in the United States. The rights of shareholders of companies incorporated in the Marshall Islands may differ from the rights of shareholders of companies incorporated in the United States. While the BCA provides that it is to be interpreted according to the laws of the State of Delaware and other states with substantially similar legislative provisions, there have been few, if any, court cases interpreting the BCA in the Marshall Islands and we cannot predict whether Marshall Islands courts would reach the same conclusions as United States courts. Thus, you may have more difficulty in protecting your interests in the face of actions by the management, directors or controlling shareholders than would shareholders of a corporation incorporated in a United States jurisdiction which has developed a relatively more substantial body of case law.
The market price of our common shares has fluctuated and may continue to fluctuate in the future.
The market price of our common shares has fluctuated since we became a public company and may continue to do so as a result of many factors, including our actual results of operations and perceived prospects, the prospects of our competition and of the shipping industry in general and in particular the drybulk sector, differences between our actual financial and operating results and those expected by investors and analysts, changes in analysts’ recommendations or projections, changes in general valuations for companies in the shipping industry, particularly the drybulk sector, changes in general economic or market conditions and broad market fluctuations.
The public market for our common shares may not be active and liquid enough for you to resell our common shares in the future.
The stock market has experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations. If the volatility in the market continues or worsens, it could continue to have an adverse effect on the market price of our common shares and could impact a potential sale price if holders of our common stock decide to resell their shares.
The seaborne transportation industry has been highly unpredictable and volatile. The market for common shares in this industry may also be volatile. The market price of our common shares may be influenced by many factors, many of which are beyond our control, including:
•actual or anticipated fluctuations in our quarterly and annual results and those of other public companies in our industry;
•announcements by us or our competitors of significant contracts, acquisitions or capital commitments;
•mergers and strategic alliances in the shipping industry;
•future sales of our common shares or other securities;
•market conditions in the shipping industry;
•economic and regulatory trends;
•shortfalls in our operating results from levels forecast by securities analysts;
•announcements concerning us or our competitors;
•the general state of the securities market; and
•investors’ perception of us and the drybulk shipping industry.
As a result of these and other factors, investors in our common stock may not be able to resell their shares at or above the price they paid for such shares. These broad market and industry factors may materially reduce the market price of our common shares, regardless of our operating performance.
Certain shareholders own large portions of our outstanding common stock, which may limit other shareholders' ability to influence our actions.
Certain shareholders currently hold significant percentages of our common stock. To the extent a significant percentage of the ownership of our common stock is concentrated in a small number of holders, such holders will be able to influence the outcome of any shareholder vote, including the election of directors, the adoption or amendment of provisions in our articles of incorporation or by-laws and possible mergers, corporate control contests and other significant corporate transactions. This concentration of ownership may have the effect of delaying, deferring or preventing a change in control, merger, consolidation, takeover or other business combination involving us. This concentration of ownership could also discourage a potential acquirer from making a tender offer or otherwise attempting to obtain control of us, which could in turn have an adverse effect on the market price of our common stock.
The effect of the sale of any borrowed shares, which sales, if any, may be made to facilitate transactions by which investors in our Convertible Bond Debt may hedge their investments, may be to lower the market price of our common stock.
We have been advised that certain selling shareholders may sell borrowed shares (including under this prospectus) and use the resulting short position to establish or maintain their hedge with respect to their investments in our Convertible Bond Debt. The existence of the share lending arrangements and the short sales of our common stock effected in connection therewith could cause the market price of our common stock to be lower over the term of the share lending arrangements than it would have been had we not entered into such arrangements, due to the effect of the increase in the number of our outstanding shares of common stock being traded in the market or otherwise.
Future sales, or availability for sale, of common stock by shareholders could depress the market price of our common stock.
Sales of a substantial number of shares of our common stock in the public market, including sales by any selling shareholder, or the perception that large sales could occur could depress the market price of our common stock. Such future sales, or perception thereof, could also impact our ability to raise capital through future offerings of equity or equity-linked securities. During December 2020, we issued 1.3 million shares in relation of acquisition of two Ultramax vessels. From time to time, we may issue additional shares in connection with the acquisition of vessels. As of March 5, 2021, we had 12,442,798 shares of common stock issued and outstanding.
To the extent we issue common stock upon conversion of our Convertible Bond Debt, the conversion of some or all of the Convertible Bond Debt will dilute the ownership interests of existing stockholders. If we elect to
deliver shares to holders of our Convertible Bond Debt with respect to the principal amount owed at maturity, the ownership interests of existing stockholders would be diluted. Any sales in the public market of common stock so issued could adversely affect prevailing market prices of our common stock. In addition, the existence of our Convertible Bond Debt may encourage short selling by market participants because the conversion of our Convertible Bond Debt could depress the price of our common stock.
Our shareholders are limited in their ability to elect or remove directors.
The Charter prohibits cumulative voting in the election of directors. The Bylaws require parties other than the board of directors to give advance written notice of nominations for the election of directors. The Charter also provides that directors may only be removed for cause upon the affirmative vote of a majority of the outstanding shares of capital stock entitled to vote for the election of directors. Newly created directorships resulting from an increase in the number of directors and vacancies occurring in the board of directors for any reason may only be filled by a majority of the directors then in office, even if less than a quorum exists.
Our shareholders may take action only at Annual or Special Meetings.
The Charter and the Bylaws provide that any action required or permitted to be taken by shareholders must be effected at a duly called annual or special meeting of shareholders. Except as otherwise mandated by law, shareholders may not act by written consent.
Under the Bylaws, annual shareholder meetings will be held at a time and place selected by the board of directors. The meetings may be held in or outside of the Marshall Islands. These provisions may impede shareholders’ ability to take actions with respect to the Company that they deem appropriate or advisable.
The Charter and the Bylaws provide that, except as otherwise required by law, special meetings of shareholders may be called at any time only by (i) the lead director (if any), (ii) the chairman of the board of directors, (iii) the board of directors pursuant to a resolution duly adopted by a majority of the board stating the purpose or purposes thereof, or (iv) any one or more shareholders who beneficially owns, in the aggregate, 15% or more of the aggregate voting power of all then-outstanding shares of Voting Stock. The notice of any such special meeting is to include the purpose or purposes thereof, and the business transacted at the special meeting is limited to the purpose or purposes stated in the notice (or any supplement thereto). These provisions may impede the ability of shareholders to bring matters before a special meeting of shareholders.
The board of directors may set a record date between 15 and 60 days before the date of any meeting to determine the shareholders that will be eligible to receive notice and vote at the meeting.
Our shareholders are subject to advance notice requirements for shareholder proposals and director nominations
The Bylaws provide that shareholders seeking to nominate candidates for election as directors or to bring business before an annual meeting of shareholders must provide timely notice of their proposal in writing to the corporate secretary. To be timely, a shareholder's notice will have to be received at the Company’s principal executive offices not less than 60 days nor more than 90 days prior to the anniversary date of the immediately preceding annual meeting of shareholders; provided, however, that in the event that the annual meeting is called for a date that is not within 30 days before or after such anniversary date, such as is the case for the 2019 annual meeting, notice by the shareholder must be received not later than the close of business on the tenth day following the day on which such notice of the date of the annual meeting was mailed or public disclosure of the date of the annual meeting was made, whichever occurs first, in order for such notice by a shareholder to be timely. The Bylaws also specify requirements as to the form and content of a shareholder's notice. These advance notice requirements, particularly the 60 to 90 day requirement, may impede shareholders' ability to bring matters before an annual meeting of shareholders or make nominations for directors at an annual meeting of shareholders.
Certain super majority provisions in our organizational documents may discourage, delay or prevent changes to such documents.
The Charter provides that a two-thirds vote is required to amend or repeal certain provisions of the Charter and Bylaws, including those provisions relating to: the number and election of directors; filling of board vacancies; resignations and removals of directors; director liability and indemnification of directors; the power of shareholders to call special meetings; advance notice of director nominations and shareholders proposals; and amendments to the Charter and Bylaws. These super majority provisions may discourage, delay or prevent changes to the Charter or Bylaws.
Our Third Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation provide that the U.S. federal courts located in the Southern District of New York or, if such courts lack jurisdiction, the state courts of the State of New York, shall be the sole and exclusive forum for certain disputes between us and our shareholders, which could limit our shareholders’ ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or employees.
Our Third Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation, or our Articles of Incorporation, provide that, unless the Company consents in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, the U.S. federal courts located in the Southern District of New York or, if such court lacks jurisdiction, the state courts of the State of New York, shall be the sole and exclusive forum for (a) any derivative action or proceeding brought on behalf of the Company, (b)any action asserting a claim of a breach of a fiduciary duty owed by any director, officer or other employee of the Company to the Company or the Company’s shareholders, (c) any action asserting a claim arising pursuant to any provision of the BCA or (d) any action asserting a claim governed by the internal affairs doctrine. This forum selection provision could apply to actions brought under provisions of the federal securities laws, including the Securities Act and Exchange Act. The forum selection provision may limit a shareholder’s ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that it finds favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers, or other employees, which may discourage lawsuits with respect to such claims.
The Company may not achieve the intended benefits of having a forum selection provision if it is found to be unenforceable.
Our Articles of Incorporation include a forum selection provision as described above. However, the enforceability of similar forum selection provisions in other companies’ governing documents has been challenged in legal proceedings, and it is possible that in connection with any action a court could find the forum selection provision contained in our Articles of Incorporation to be inapplicable or unenforceable in such action. If a court were to find the forum selection provision to be inapplicable to, or unenforceable in respect of, one or more of the specified types of actions or proceedings, the Company may incur additional costs associated with resolving such action in other jurisdictions, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
We do not own any real property. We lease office space at 300 First Stamford Place, Stamford CT 06902. In addition, we lease offices in Singapore and Copenhagen, Denmark. Our interests in our drybulk vessels are our only material properties. See Item 1. Business — Our Fleet.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
See Note 8 Commitments and Contingencies to the Company’s consolidated financial statements set forth in Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data of this Form 10-K, for information regarding legal proceedings in which we are involved.
ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT'S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
The trading market for shares of our common stock is the Nasdaq Global Select Market, on which our shares are quoted under the symbol "EGLE.”
On March 10, 2021, the closing sale price of our common stock, as reported on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, was $39.38 per share.
The number of shareholders of record of our common stock was approximately 114 on March 10, 2021.
Payment of Dividends to Shareholders
The timing and amount of any dividends declared will depend on, among other things, the Company's earnings, financial condition and cash requirements and availability, the ability to obtain debt and equity financing on acceptable terms as contemplated by the Company's growth strategy, the terms of its outstanding indebtedness and the ability of the Company's subsidiaries to distribute funds to it. The Company does not currently expect to pay dividends in the near term. Please see Item 7 Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Dividends and Note 6 Debt to the consolidated financial statements.
Equity Compensation Plan Information
On October 15, 2014, the Company adopted the management incentive program, which provided for the distribution of Company equity in the form of shares of Company common stock, and options, to the participating senior management and other employees of the reorganized Company (the “2014 Plan”). As of December 31, 2020, there were no outstanding unvested restricted shares issued and outstanding under this plan. The 2014 Plan was replaced by the 2016 Plan, as defined below.
On November 7, 2016, the Company granted 33,409 shares of restricted common stock and options to purchase 40,000 shares of the Company’s common stock in connection with the appointment of a new member to the senior management team. The restricted stock and options were not granted under, but are subject to, the terms of the Company’s 2014 Plan. The shares vested completely during 2019 and the options were vested completely during 2020 but not exercised as of December 31, 2020.
On December 15, 2016, the Company adopted the 2016 Equity Incentive Plan (the “2016 Plan”) which replaced the 2014 Plan. Outstanding awards under the 2014 Plan will continue to be governed by the terms of the 2014 Plan until exercised, expired or otherwise terminated or cancelled. Under the terms of the 2016 Plan, a maximum of 764,087 shares may be issued. Any director, officer, employee or consultant of the Company or any of its subsidiaries (including any prospective officer or employee) is eligible to be designated to participate in the 2016 Plan. On June 7, 2019, the Company's shareholders approved an amendment and restatement of the 2016 Plan, which increased the number of shares reserved under the 2016 Plan by an additional 357,142 shares to a maximum of 1,121,229 shares of common stock.
The following table sets forth certain information as of December 31, 2020 regarding the 2016 Plan. The 2016 Plan was approved by our shareholders on December 15, 2016.
Securities to be issued upon exercise of outstanding options, warrants and rights (1)
|Weighted-average exercise price of outstanding options, warrants and rights|
Remaining securities for future issuance under equity compensation plans (1)
|Equity compensation plans approved by security holders||285,591 ||$||33.95 ||352,226 |
(1) The sum, combined with 483,412 restricted shares issued (net of forfeitures and cancellations) consists of 1,121,229 shares eligible to be granted under the 2016 Plan.
ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
The selected financial data presented below have been derived in part from, and should be read in conjunction with, the consolidated financial statements and Item 7 Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.
(Dollar, Shares, and Weighted Average Shares Outstanding amounts in thousands except per Share amounts and Fleet Data)
|Income Statement Data||2020||2019||2018||2017||2016|
|Revenues, net||$||275,134 ||$||292,378 ||$||310,094 ||$||236,785 ||$||124,493 |
|Voyage expenses||89,549 ||87,701 ||79,566 ||62,351 ||42,094 |
|Vessel operating expenses||86,528 ||82,342 ||81,336 ||78,607 ||74,017 |
|Charter hire expenses||21,280 ||42,169 ||38,046 ||31,284 ||12,845 |
|Depreciation and amortization||50,157 ||40,546 ||37,717 ||33,691 ||38,884 |
|General and administrative expenses||31,532 ||35,042 ||36,157 ||33,126 ||22,906 |
|Other operating expense||— ||1,125 ||— ||— ||— |
|Restructuring charges||— ||— ||— ||— ||5,869 |
|— ||— ||— ||— ||129,028 |
Impairment of operating lease right-of-use assets(2)
|352 ||— ||— ||— ||— |
|Loss/(gain) on sale of vessels||490 ||(5,979)||(335)||(2,135)||102 |
|Total Operating Expenses, net||279,888 ||282,947 ||272,487 ||236,925 ||325,745 |
|Interest expense||35,393 ||30,577 ||25,744 ||29,377 ||21,799 |
|Realized and unrealized (gain)/loss on derivative instruments, net||(4,827)||150 ||(126)||(38)||687 |
Loss on debt extinguishment(3)
|— ||2,268 ||— ||14,969 ||— |
|Net (loss)/income||$||(35,063)||$||(21,697)||$||12,575 ||$||(43,797)||$||(223,523)|
|Share and Per Share Data || || || |
Basic net (loss)/income per share (4)
Diluted net (loss)/income per share (4)
Weighted average shares outstanding - Basic (b)
|10,310 ||10,195 ||10,095 ||9,883 ||2,938 |
Weighted average shares outstanding – Diluted (b)
|10,310 ||10,195 ||10,257 ||9,883 ||2,938 |
|Consolidated Cash Flow Data|| || || |
|Net cash provided by/(used in) operating activities||$||12,595 ||$||21,686 ||$||45,470 ||$||(10,037)||$||(45,434)|
|Net cash used in investing activities||(5,492)||(168,619)||(31,014)||(155,250)||(9,347)|
|Net cash provided by financing activities||22,615 ||127,900 ||7,381 ||145,022 ||106,335 |
(1) As of December 31, 2016, the Company intended to divest some of the older as well as less efficient vessels from its fleet to achieve operating cost savings as well as potentially acquiring newer and more efficient vessels. The anticipated sale of such vessels in the next two years reduced our estimated holding period of the vessels resulting in an impairment charge. As a result, we reduced the carrying value of each vessel to its fair market value as of December 31, 2016 and recorded an impairment charge of $122.9 million. In addition to the above, in 2015, we identified six vessels as probable sales, and recognized an impairment charge in 2015 of $50.9 million. As the value
of such vessels further declined in the first quarter of 2016, we recorded an additional impairment charge of $6.2 million in that quarter.
(2) During the second quarter of 2020, the Company determined that there were impairment indicators present for one of our chartered-in vessel contracts and, as a result, we recorded an operating lease impairment of $0.4 million. The operating lease impairment was included as a component of operating (loss)/income in our Consolidated Statements of Operations for the year ended December 31, 2020.
(3) On January 25, 2019, the Company repaid the outstanding debt together with accrued interest as of that date under the New First Lien Facility and the Original Ultraco Debt Facility and discharged the debt in full from the proceeds of the New Ultraco Debt Facility. As a result, the Company recognized $2.3 million representing the outstanding balance of debt issuance costs, as a loss on debt extinguishment in the first quarter of 2019. Please see Note 6 Debt to the consolidated financial statements.
On December 8, 2017, the Company repaid the amounts outstanding under the First Lien Facility and the Second Lien Facility by issuance of $200.0 million of the Norwegian Bond Debt and $65.0 million of the New First Lien Facility. As a result, the Company recognized a $15.0 million loss on debt e