Eagle Bulk Shipping 10-K 2010
Documents found in this filing:
UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
[X] ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF
SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2009
[ ] TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF
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)
Registrant's telephone number, including area code: (212) 785–2500
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Common Stock, par value $.01 per share
(Title of Class)
The Common Stock is registered on the NASDAQ Stock Market LLC
(Name of exchange on which registered)
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 o No ý
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 o No ý
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 ý No o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted 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 and post such files). Yes o No o
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant's knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. ý
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of "large accelerated filer", "accelerated filer" and "smaller reporting company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
Large accelerated filer o Accelerated filer ý Non-Accelerated filer o Smaller reporting company o
(Do not check if a smaller reporting company)
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes o No ý
The aggregate market value of the Common Stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant on June 30, 2009, the last business day of the registrant's most recently completed second quarter, was 291,869,440 based on the closing price of $4.71 per share on the NASDAQ Stock Exchange 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 5% shareholders of the registrant; without conceding that any of the excluded parties are "affiliates" of the registrant for purposes of the federal securities laws.)
As of March 5, 2010, 62,126,665 shares of the registrant's Common Stock were outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant's definitive proxy statement to be filed by the registrant within 120 days of December 31, 2009 in connection with its 2010 Annual Meeting of Shareholders are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Form 10-K.
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc. (the "Company", "we", "us", or "our"), incorporated under the laws of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (the "Marshall Islands") and headquartered in New York City, is engaged primarily in the ocean transportation of a broad range of major and minor bulk cargoes, including iron ore, coal, grain, cement and fertilizer, along worldwide shipping routes. We operate in the Handymax sector of the dry bulk industry, with particular emphasis on the Supramax class of vessels. We own one of the largest fleets of Supramax dry bulk vessels in the world. Supramax dry bulk vessels range in size from 50,000 to 60,000 deadweight tons, or dwt. These vessels have the cargo loading and unloading flexibility of on-board cranes while offering cargo carrying capacities approaching that of Panamax dry bulk vessels, which range in size from 60,000 to 100,000 dwt and must rely on port facilities to load and offload their cargoes. We believe that the cargo handling flexibility and cargo carrying capacity of the Supramax class vessels make them attractive to charterers.
As of December 31, 2009, we owned and operated a modern fleet of 27 oceangoing vessels with a combined carrying capacity of 1,412,535 dwt and an average age of approximately six years. We also have a Supramax vessel newbuilding program in China and Japan which commenced delivery of the constructed vessels in 2008 and is expected to continue until 2011. Under this newbuilding program, by the end of 2009, we had taken delivery of 7 vessels and we held contracts for the construction of 20 vessels with a carrying capacity of approximately 1,141,300 dwt. During 2009, four vessels were constructed and delivered into our fleet. Upon delivery of the last contracted newbuilding vessel in 2011, our total fleet will consist of 47 vessels with a combined carrying capacity of 2.55 million dwt. The newbuilding program also provides us with options for the construction of eight additional Supramax vessels with a combined carrying capacity of 464,000 dwt.
We carry out the commercial and strategic management of our fleet through our wholly-owned subsidiary, Eagle Shipping International (USA) LLC, a Marshall Islands limited liability company which maintains its principle executive offices in New York City. Each of our vessels is owned by us through a separate wholly owned Marshall Islands limited liability company.
We maintain our principal executive offices at 477 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10022. Our telephone number at that address is (212) 785-2500. Our website address is www.eagleships.com. Information contained on our website does not constitute part of this annual report.
A glossary of shipping terms (the "Glossary") that should be used as a reference when reading this Annual Report on Form 10-K begins on pages 29-30. Capitalized terms that are used in this Annual Report are either defined when they are first used or in the Glossary.
This Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements regarding the outlook for dry cargo markets, and the Company's prospects. There are a number of factors, risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ from the expectations reflected in these forward-looking statements, including changes in production of or demand for major and minor bulk commodities, either globally or in particular regions; greater than anticipated levels of vessel newbuilding orders or less than anticipated rates of scrapping of older vessels; changes in trading patterns for particular commodities significantly impacting overall tonnage requirements; changes in the rates of growth of the world and various regional economies; risks incident to vessel operation, including discharge of pollutants; unanticipated changes in laws and regulations; increases in costs of operation; the availability to the Company of suitable vessels for acquisition or chartering-in on terms it deems favorable; the ability to attract and retain customers. This Form 10-K also includes statistical data regarding world dry bulk fleet and orderbook and fleet age. We generated some of these data internally, and some were obtained from independent industry publications and reports that we believe to be reliable sources. We have not independently verified these data nor sought the consent of any organizations to refer to their reports in this Annual Report. The Company assumes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this Form 10-K and written and oral forward-looking statements attributable to the Company or its representatives after the date of this Form 10-K are qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statement contained in this paragraph and in other reports hereafter filed by the Company with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Our New York City based management team, with in excess of 20 years of experience in the shipping industry primarily focused on the sub-Panamax dry bulk sectors, such as Supramax, Handymax and Handysize vessels, undertakes all commercial and strategic management of our fleet and supervises the technical management of our vessels. The technical management of our fleet is primarily provided by unaffiliated third party managers, V.Ships, Wilhelmsen Ship Management (formerly Barber Ship Management), and Anglo Eastern International Ltd., which we believe are three of the world's largest providers of independent ship management and related services, and which we refer to as our technical managers. In the third quarter of 2009, we set up our own in-house technical management for a portion of our fleet in order to establish a vessel management bench-mark with our external technical managers. The management of our fleet includes the following functions:
· Strategic management. We locate, obtain financing and insurance for, purchase and sell, vessels.
Our Competitive Strengths and our Business Strategy
We believe that we have a number of strengths that provide us with a competitive advantage in the dry bulk shipping industry, including:
Our operating fleet consists of 27 vessels, which includes 7 newly constructed vessels. We are also constructing an additional 20 vessels under our newbuilding program. The following table presents certain information concerning our fleet as of December 31, 2009:
All vessels in our fleet are fitted with cargo cranes and cargo grabs that permit them to load and unload cargo in ports that do not have cargo handling infrastructure in place. All of our vessels are flagged in the Marshall Islands. We own each of our vessels through a separate wholly owned Republic of Marshall Islands subsidiary.
Our operating fleet consists of 27 vessels and these vessels are all employed on time charters. The following table represents certain information about the Company's operating fleet:
We hold contracts for the construction of a fleet of Supramax vessels in Japan and China which have begun delivering into our operating fleet. The newbuilding program in Japan consists of a total of five vessels, of which three vessels have been constructed and delivered. The CROWNED EAGLE, CRESTED EAGLE and STELLAR EAGLE, delivered in November 2008, January 2009 and March 2009, respectively. The remaining two vessels, GOLDEN EAGLE and IMPERIAL EAGLE were delivered in January and February 2010, respectively.
During the third quarter of 2007, we acquired the rights to 26 Supramax newbuilding vessels from Kyrini Shipping Inc., an unrelated privately held Greek shipping company. Five of these Supramax vessels are of the 53,000 dwt category, while the remaining 21 are of the 58,000 dwt category. Of these 26 vessels, 21 vessels are secured by long-term charters for periods up to 2018. We also received options for 9 additional 58,000 dwt Supramax newbuilding vessels from the shipyard in China. In December 2007, we exercised four of the nine options, and the options for the remaining five vessels lapsed. In December 2008, we amended our newbuilding program with the shipyard and converted the firm contracts on eight unchartered vessels into options. Furthermore, the delivery of one of the unchartered vessels was delayed from September 2009 to November 2010.
As of December 31, 2009, we have taken delivery of four vessels from the shipyard in China. The WREN delivered in June 2008, the WOODSTAR in October 2008, the BITTERN in October 2009, and CANARY in December 2009. In January and February 2010, we took delivery of four vessels from the Chinese shipyard, CRANE, EGRET BULKER, THRASHER, and AVOCET.
The following table represents certain information about the Company's newbuilding fleet, at December 31, 2009:
Nature of Business
Our strategy is to charter our vessels primarily pursuant to one- to three-year time charters to allow us to take advantage of the stable cash flow and high utilization rates that are associated with medium- to long-term time charters. A significant proportion of the time charters on our operating fleet range in length from one to three years. During 2009, we have also entered into charters whose revenues are linked to the Baltic Supramax index and have durations of one-year or less. Similarly, we expect that 21 of the 27 newbuilding vessels recently delivered or under construction are scheduled to enter into time charters averaging approximately six years duration as of December 31, 2009. We regularly monitor the dry bulk shipping market and based on market conditions we may consider taking advantage of short-term charter rates.
A time charter involves the hiring of a vessel from its owner for a period of time pursuant to a contract under which the vessel owner places its ship (including its crew and equipment) at the service of the charterer. Under a typical time charter, the charterer periodically pays us a fixed daily charter hire rate and bears all voyage expenses, including the cost of fuel and port and canal charges. Once we have time chartered a vessel, trading of the vessel and the commercial risks shift to the customer. Subject to certain restrictions imposed by us in the contract, the charterer determines the type and quantity of cargo to be carried and the ports of loading and discharging. We have contracted the technical operations of the vessel to third party vessel managers and we oversee the technical operation and navigation of the vessel at all times, including monitoring vessel operating expenses, such as the cost of crewing, insuring, repairing and maintaining the vessel, costs of spare parts and supplies, tonnage taxes and other miscellaneous expenses.
In connection with the charter of each of our vessels, we pay commissions ranging from 1.25% to 6.25% of the total daily charter hire rate of each charter to unaffiliated ship brokers and to in-house ship brokers associated with the charterers, depending on the number of brokers involved with arranging the relevant charter.
Our vessels operate worldwide within the trading limits imposed by our insurance terms and do not operate in areas where United States and or United Nations sanctions have been imposed.
Our customers include international companies such as BHP, Bunge S.A., Clipper Bulk, Cosco Bulk Carriers Co.,Ltd., Eitzen Bulk AS, Hanjin, Hyundai Merchant Marine Co., Ltd., Lauritzen Bulkers AS, Korea Line, Ltd., Oldendorff Carriers GmbH & Co.KG, Pacific Basin, San Juan Navigation Corp., Western Bulk Carriers ASA. Our assessment of a charterer's financial condition and reliability is an important factor in negotiating employment for our vessels. We expect to charter our vessels to major trading houses (including commodities traders), publicly traded companies, reputable vessel owners and operators, major producers and government-owned entities rather than to more speculative or undercapitalized entities. We evaluate the counterparty risk of potential charterers based on our management's experience in the shipping industry combined with the additional input of two independent credit risk consultants. In 2009, four customers individually accounted for more than 10% of our time charter revenue.
There are two central aspects to the operation of our fleet:
We carry out the commercial and strategic management of our fleet through our wholly owned subsidiary, Eagle Shipping International (USA) LLC, a Marshall Islands limited liability company that was formed in January 2005 and maintains its principle executive offices in New York City. Our office staff, either directly or through this subsidiary, provides the following services:
We currently have 32 shore based personnel in our principal executive office and 21 personnel on-site at the shipyards supervising our newbuilding program.
We perform all of the commercial and strategic management of our fleet that includes obtaining employment for our vessels and maintaining our relationships with our charterers. We believe that because our management team has an average of 20 years experience in operating Handymax and Handysize dry bulk vessels, we have access to a broad range of charterers and can employ the fleet efficiently in any market and achieve high utilization rates.
In accordance with our strategy, we have entered into time charters for all 27 of our vessels currently in the operating fleet and 19 of the 20 vessels under construction. In general, our time charters afford us greater assurance that we will be able to cover a fixed portion of our costs, mitigate revenue volatility, provide stable cash flow and achieve higher utilization rates than if our vessels were employed on the shorter term voyage charters or on the spot market.
We regularly monitor the dry bulk shipping market and, based on market conditions, when a time charter ends, we may consider taking advantage of short-term charter rates. In such cases we will arrange voyage charters for those vessels that we will operate in the spot market. Under a voyage charter, the owner of a vessel provides the vessel for the transport of goods between specific ports in return for the payment of an agreed-upon freight per ton of cargo or, alternatively, a specified total amount. All operating costs are borne by the owner of the vessel. A single voyage charter is often referred to as a "spot market" charter, which generally lasts from two to ten weeks. Operating vessels in the spot market may afford greater speculative opportunity to capitalize on fluctuations in the spot market; when vessel demand is high we earn higher rates, but when demand is low our rates are lower and potentially insufficient to cover costs. Spot market rates are volatile and are affected by world economics, international events, weather conditions, strikes, governmental policies, supply and demand, and other factors beyond our control. If the markets are especially weak for protracted periods, there is a risk that vessels in the spot market may spend time idle waiting for business, or may have to be "laid up".
The technical management of our fleet is provided by our unaffiliated third party technical managers, V.Ships, Wilhelmsen Ship Management and Anglo Eastern International Ltd., that we believe are three of the world's largest providers of independent ship management and related services. We have also set up our own in-house technical management capability in order to establish a vessel management bench-mark with our external technical managers. We review the performance of our managers on an annual basis and may add or change technical managers.
Technical management includes managing day-to-day vessel operations, performing general vessel maintenance, ensuring regulatory and classification society compliance, supervising the maintenance and general efficiency of vessels, arranging our hire of qualified officers and crew, arranging and supervising drydocking and repairs, purchasing supplies, spare parts and new equipment for vessels, appointing supervisors and technical consultants and providing technical support. Our technical managers also manage and process all crew insurance claims. Our technical managers maintain records of all costs and expenditures incurred in connection with their services that are available for our review on a daily basis. Our technical managers are members of marine contracting associations which arrange bulk purchasing thereby enabling us to benefit from economies of scale.
We currently crew our vessels primarily with officers and seamen from Ukraine and Romania who are supplied by our managers. As of December 31, 2009, we employed a total of 568 officers and seamen on the 27 vessels in our operating fleet. Each technical manager handles each seaman's training, travel, and payroll and ensures that all our seamen have the qualifications and licenses required to comply with international regulations and shipping conventions. Additionally, our seafaring employees perform most commissioning work and assist in supervising work at shipyards and drydock facilities. We typically man our vessels with more crew members than are required by the country of the vessel's flag 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. No international collective bargaining agreements to which we are a party are set to expire within two years.
We pay our unaffiliated technical managers a monthly fee per vessel plus actual costs incurred by our vessels. These monthly fees averaged $9, 233 per vessel in 2009, $9,041 per vessel in 2008, and $8,906 per vessel in 2007.
Permits and Authorizations
We are required by various governmental and quasi-governmental agencies to obtain certain permits, licenses and certificates with respect to our vessels. The kinds of permits, licenses and certificates required depend upon several factors, including the commodity transported, the waters in which the vessel operates, the nationality of the vessel's crew and the age of a vessel. We 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 could limit our ability to do business or increase the cost of us doing business.
Environmental and Other Regulations
Government regulation significantly affects the ownership 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 operate or are registered relating to safety and health and environmental protection including the storage, handling, emission, transportation and discharge of hazardous and non-hazardous materials, and the remediation of contamination and liability for damage to natural resources. Compliance with such laws, regulations and other requirements entails significant expense, including vessel modifications and implementation of certain operating procedures.
A variety of government and private entities subject our vessels to both scheduled and unscheduled inspections. These entities include the local port authorities (United States Coast Guard, harbor master or equivalent), classification societies; flag state administrations (country of registry) and charterers, particularly terminal operators. Certain of these entities require us to obtain permits, licenses and certificates for the operation of our vessels. Failure to maintain necessary permits or approvals could require us to incur substantial costs or temporarily suspend the operation of one or more of our vessels.
We believe that the heightened level of environmental and quality concerns among insurance underwriters, regulators and charterers is leading to greater inspection and safety requirements on all vessels and may accelerate the scrapping of older vessels throughout the dry bulk shipping industry. Increasing environmental concerns have created a demand for vessels that conform to the stricter environmental standards. We are required to maintain operating standards for all of our vessels that emphasize operational safety, quality maintenance, continuous training of our officers and crews and compliance with United States and international regulations. We believe that the operation of our vessels is in substantial compliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations and that our vessels have all material permits, licenses, certificates or other authorizations necessary for the conduct of our operations. However, because such laws and regulations are frequently changed and may impose increasingly stricter requirements, we cannot predict the ultimate cost of complying with these requirements, or the impact of these requirements on the resale value or useful lives of our vessels. In addition, a future serious marine incident that causes significant adverse environmental impact could result in additional legislation or regulation that could negatively affect our profitability.
International Maritime Organization
The International Maritime Organization ("IMO"), the United Nations agency for maritime safety and the prevention of pollution by ships, or the IMO, has adopted the International Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution, 1973, as modified by the related Protocol of 1978 relating thereto, which has been updated through various amendments, or the MARPOL Convention. The MARPOL Convention establishes environmental standards relating to oil leakage or spilling, garbage management, sewage, air emissions, handling and disposal of noxious liquids and the handling of harmful substances in packaged forms. The IMO adopted regulations that set forth pollution prevention requirements applicable to dry bulk carriers. These regulations have been adopted by over 150 nations, including many of the jurisdictions in which our vessels operate.
In September 1997, the IMO adopted Annex VI to the MARPOL Convention, Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, to address air pollution from ships. Effective May 2005, Annex VI sets limits on sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from all commercial vessel exhausts and prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances (such as halons and chlorofluorocarbons), emissions of volatile compounds from cargo tanks, and the shipboard incineration of specific substances. Annex VI also includes a global cap on the sulfur content of fuel oil and allows for special areas to be established with more stringent controls on sulfur emissions. We believe that all our vessels are currently compliant in all material respects with these regulations. In October 2008, the IMO adopted amendments to Annex VI regarding nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide emissions standards which are expected to enter into force on July 1, 2010. The amended Annex VI would reduce air pollution from vessels by, among other things, (i) implementing a progressive reduction of sulfur oxide emissions from ships, with the global sulfur cap reduced initially to 3.50% (from the current cap of 4.50%), effective from January 1, 2012, then progressively to 0.50%, effective from January 1, 2020, subject to a feasibility review to be completed no later than 2018; and (ii) establishing new tiers of stringent nitrogen oxide emissions standards for new marine engines, depending on their date of installation. Once these amendments become effective, we may incur costs to comply with these revised standards. Also in October 2008, the United States became a party to the MARPOL Convention by depositing an instrument of ratification with the IMO for the amended Annex VI, thereby rendering U.S. air emissions standards equivalent to IMO requirements.
Safety Management System Requirements
The operation of our vessels is also affected by the requirements set forth in the IMO's International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS and the International Convention on Load Lines, or 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. We believe that all our vessels are in material compliance with SOLAS and LL Convention standards.
Under Chapter IX of SOLAS, the International Safety Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention, or ISM Code, our operations are also subject to environmental standards and requirements contained in the ISM Code promulgated by the IMO. The ISM Code requires the party with operational control of a vessel to develop an extensive safety management system that includes, among other things, the adoption of a safety and environmental protection policy setting forth instructions and procedures for operating its vessels safely and describing procedures for responding to emergencies. We rely upon the safety management system that we and our technical manager 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 operating fleet are ISM code-certified.
The ISM Code requires that vessel operators obtain a safety management certificate for each vessel they operate. This certificate evidences compliance by a vessel's management with the ISM Code requirements for a safety management system. No vessel can obtain a safety management certificate unless its manager has been awarded a document of compliance, issued by each flag state, under the ISM Code. Our appointed ship managers have obtained documents of compliance for their offices and safety management certificates for all of our vessels for which the certificates are required by the IMO. The document of compliance, or the DOC, and ship management certificate, or the SMC, are renewed every five years but the DOC is subject to audit verification annually and the SMC at least every 2.5 years.
Pollution Control and Liability Requirements
IMO has negotiated international conventions that impose liability for oil pollution in international waters and the territorial waters of the signatory to such conventions. For example, IMO adopted an International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, or the BWM Convention, in February 2004. The BWM Convention's implementing regulations call for a phased introduction of mandatory ballast water exchange requirements (beginning in 2009), to be replaced in time with mandatory concentration limits. The BWM Convention will not become effective until 12 months after it has been 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. To date there has not been sufficient adoption of this standard for it to take force.
Although the United States is not a party to these conventions, many countries have ratified and follow the liability plan adopted by the IMO and set out in the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage of 1969, as amended in 2000, or the CLC. Under this convention and depending on whether the country in which the damage results is a party to the 1992 Protocol to the CLC, a vessel's registered owner is strictly liable for pollution damage caused in the territorial waters of a contracting state by discharge of persistent oil, subject to certain defenses. The limits on liability outlined in the 1992 Protocol use the International Monetary Fund currency unit of Special Drawing Rights, or SDR. Under an amendment to the 1992 Protocol that became effective on November 1, 2003, for vessels between 5,000 and 140,000 gross tons (a unit of measurement for the total enclosed spaces within a vessel), liability is limited to approximately $6.69 million (4.51 million SDR) plus $937 (631 SDR) for each additional gross ton over 5,000. For vessels of over 140,000 gross tons, liability is limited to $133.24 million (89.77 million SDR). As the convention calculates liability in terms of a basket of currencies, these figures are based on currency exchange rates of 0.673737 SDR per U.S. dollar on February 23, 2009. The right to limit liability is forfeited under the CLC where the spill is caused by the ship owner's actual fault and under the 1992 Protocol where the spill is caused by the ship owner's intentional or reckless conduct. Vessels trading with states that are parties to these conventions must provide evidence of insurance covering the liability of the owner. In jurisdictions where the CLC has not been adopted, various legislative schemes or common law govern, and liability is imposed either on the basis of fault or in a manner similar to that of the convention. We believe that our protection and indemnity insurance will cover the liability under the plan adopted by the IMO.
In March 2006, the IMO amended Annex I to MARPOL, including a new regulation relating to oil fuel tank protection, which became effective August 1, 2007. The new regulation will apply to various ships delivered on or after August 1, 2010. It includes requirements for the protected location of the fuel tanks, performance standards for accidental oil fuel outflow, a tank capacity limit and certain other maintenance, inspection and engineering standards.
The IMO adopted the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, or 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, which became effective on November 21, 2008, 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.
IMO regulations also require owners and operators of 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, or 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 after September 1, 2003. The exteriors of vessels constructed prior to January 1, 2003 that have not been in drydock must, as of September 17, 2008, either not contain the prohibited compounds or have coatings applied to the vessel exterior that act as a barrier to the leaching of the prohibited compounds. Vessels of over 400 gross tons engaged in international voyages must obtain an International Anti-fouling System Certificate and undergo a survey before the vessel is put into service or 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.
The flag state, as defined by the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, has overall responsibility for the implementation and enforcement of international maritime regulations for all ships granted the right to fly its flag. The "Shipping Industry Guidelines on Flag State Performance" evaluates flag states based on factors such as sufficiency of infrastructure, ratification of international maritime treaties, implementation and enforcement of international maritime regulations, supervision of surveys, casualty investigations and participation at IMO 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 flags of convenience or 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, may lead to decreases in available insurance coverage for affected vessels and may result in the denial of access to, or detention in, some ports. The U.S. Coast Guard and European Union authorities have indicated that vessels not in compliance with the ISM Code by the applicable deadlines will be prohibited from trading in U.S. and European Union ports, respectively. As of the date of this report, each of our vessels is ISM Code certified. However, there can be no assurance that such certificate will be maintained.
The IMO continues to review and introduce new regulations. It is impossible to predict what additional regulations, if any, may be passed by the IMO and what effect, if any, such regulations might have on our operations.
The U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act
The U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990, or 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 in the United States, its territories and possessions or whose vessels operate in United States waters, which includes the United States' territorial sea and its two hundred nautical mile exclusive economic zone. The United States has also enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA, which applies to the discharge of hazardous substances other than oil, whether on land or at sea. Both OPA and CERCLA impact our operations.
Under OPA, vessel owners, operators and bareboat charterers 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:
Under amendments to OPA that became effective on July 11, 2006, the liability of responsible parties is limited to the greater of $950 per gross ton or $0.8 million per non-tank (e.g. dry bulk) vessel that is over 300 gross tons (subject to periodic adjustment for inflation). CERCLA, which applies to owners and operators of vessels, contains a similar liability regime and provides for cleanup, removal and natural resource damages. Liability under CERCLA is limited to the greater of $300 per gross ton or $5 million for vessels carrying a hazardous substance as cargo and the greater of $300 per gross ton or $0.5 million for any other vessel. These limits of liability do not apply if an incident was directly caused by violation of applicable U.S. federal safety, construction or operating regulations or by a responsible party's gross negligence or willful misconduct, or if the responsible party fails or refuses to report the incident or to cooperate and assist in connection with oil removal activities.
We currently maintain pollution liability coverage insurance in the amount of $1 billion per incident for each of our vessels. If the damages from a catastrophic spill were to exceed our insurance coverage it could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operation.
OPA also requires owners and operators of vessels to establish and maintain with the U.S. Coast Guard evidence of financial responsibility sufficient to meet their potential liabilities under OPA and CERCLA. On October 17, 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard regulatory requirements under OPA and CERCLA were amended to require evidence of financial responsibility in amounts that reflect the higher limits of liability imposed by the 2006 amendments to OPA, as described above. The increased amounts became effective on January 15, 2009. In addition, on September 24, 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard proposed adjustments to the limits of liability for non-tank vessels that would further increase the limits to the greater of $1,000 per gross ton or $848,000 and establish a procedure for adjusting the limits for inflation every three years. The Coast Guard is currently soliciting comments on the proposal. Under the regulations, vessel owners and operators may evidence their financial responsibility by showing proof of insurance, surety bond, self-insurance or guaranty. Under OPA, an owner or operator of a fleet of vessels is required only to demonstrate evidence of financial responsibility in an amount sufficient to cover the vessels in the fleet having the greatest maximum liability under OPA.
The U.S. Coast Guard's regulations concerning certificates of financial responsibility provide, in accordance with OPA, that claimants may bring suit directly against an insurer or guarantor that furnishes certificates of financial responsibility. In the event that such insurer or guarantor is sued directly, it is prohibited from asserting any contractual defense that it may have had against the responsible party and is limited to asserting those defenses available to the responsible party and the defense that the incident was caused by the willful misconduct of the responsible party. Certain organizations, which had typically provided certificates of financial responsibility under pre-OPA laws, including the major protection and indemnity organizations, have declined to furnish evidence of insurance for vessel owners and operators if they are subject to direct actions or are required to waive insurance policy defenses.
The U.S. Coast Guard's financial responsibility regulations may also be satisfied by evidence of surety bond, guaranty or by self-insurance. Under the self-insurance provisions, the ship owner or operator must have a net worth and working capital, measured in assets located in the United States against liabilities located anywhere in the world, that exceeds the applicable amount of financial responsibility. We have complied with the U.S. Coast Guard regulations by providing a certificate of responsibility from third party entities that are acceptable to the U.S. Coast Guard evidencing sufficient self-insurance.
OPA specifically permits individual states to impose their own liability regimes with regard to oil pollution incidents occurring within their boundaries, 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 vessels 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 U.S. Clean Water Act, or CWA, prohibits the discharge of oil or hazardous substances in U.S. navigable waters unless authorized by a duly-issued permit or exemption, and imposes strict liability in the form of penalties for any unauthorized discharges. The CWA also imposes substantial liability for the costs of removal, remediation and damages and complements the remedies available under OPA and CERCLA. In addition, most U.S. states that border a navigable waterway have enacted environmental pollution laws that impose strict liability on a person for removal costs and damages resulting from a discharge of oil or a release of a hazardous substance. These laws may be more stringent than U.S. federal law.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, historically exempted the discharge of ballast water and other substances incidental to the normal operation of vessels in U.S. waters from CWA permitting requirements. However, on March 31, 2005, a U.S. District Court ruled that the EPA exceeded its authority in creating an exemption for ballast water. On September 18, 2006, the court issued an order invalidating the exemption in the EPA's regulations for all discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel as of September 30, 2008, and directed the EPA to develop a system for regulating all discharges from vessels by that date. The District Court's decision was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on July 23, 2008. The Ninth Circuit's ruling meant that owners and operators of vessels traveling in U.S. waters would soon be required to comply with the CWA permitting program to be developed by the EPA or face penalties.
In response to the invalidation and removal of the EPA's vessel exemption by the Ninth Circuit, the EPA has enacted rules governing the regulation of ballast water discharges and other discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels within U.S. waters. Under the new rules, which took effect February 6, 2009, commercial vessels 79 feet in length or longer (other than commercial fishing vessels), or Regulated Vessels, are required to obtain a CWA permit regulating and authorizing such normal discharges. This permit, which the EPA has designated as the Vessel General Permit for Discharges Incidental to the Normal Operation of Vessels, or VGP, incorporates the current U.S. Coast Guard requirements for ballast water management as well as supplemental ballast water requirements, and includes limits applicable to 26 specific discharge streams, such as deck runoff, bilge water and gray water.
For each discharge type, among other things, the VGP establishes effluent limits pertaining to the constituents found in the effluent, including best management practices, or BMPs, designed to decrease the amount of constituents entering the waste stream. Unlike land-based discharges, which are deemed acceptable by meeting certain EPA-imposed numerical effluent limits, each of the 26 VGP discharge limits is deemed to be met when a Regulated Vessel carries out the BMPs pertinent to that specific discharge stream. The VGP imposes additional requirements on certain Regulated Vessel types that emit discharges unique to those vessels. Administrative provisions, such as inspection, monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements are also included for all Regulated Vessels.
In addition, pursuant to §401 of the CWA which requires each state to certify federal discharge permits such as the VGP, 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 will increase the costs of operating in the relevant waters.
The U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970, as amended by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977 and 1990, or the CAA, requires the EPA to promulgate standards applicable to emissions of volatile organic compounds and other air contaminants. Our vessels are subject to vapor control and recovery requirements for certain cargoes when loading, unloading, ballasting, cleaning and conducting other operations in regulated port areas. Our vessels that operate in such port areas with restricted cargoes are equipped with vapor recovery systems that satisfy these requirements. The CAA also requires states to draft State Implementation Plans, or SIPs, designed to attain national health-based air quality standards in primarily major metropolitan and/or industrial areas. Several SIPs regulate emissions resulting from vessel loading and unloading operations by requiring the installation of vapor control equipment. As indicated above, our vessels operating in covered port areas are already equipped with vapor recovery systems that satisfy these existing requirements.
As referenced above, the amended Annex VI to the IMO's MARPOL Convention, which addresses air pollution from ships, was ratified by the United States on October 9, 2008 and entered into force domestically on January 8, 2009. The EPA and the state of California, however, have each proposed more stringent regulations of air emissions from ocean-going vessels. On July 24, 2008, the California Air Resources Board of the State of California, or CARB, approved clean-fuel regulations applicable to all vessels sailing within 24 miles of the California coastline whose itineraries call for them to enter any California ports, terminal facilities, or internal or estuarine waters. The new CARB regulations require such vessels to use low sulfur marine fuels rather than bunker fuel. By July 1, 2009, such vessels are required to switch either to marine gas oil with a sulfur content of no more than 1.5% or marine diesel oil with a sulfur content of no more than 0.5%. By 2012, only marine gas oil and marine diesel oil fuels with 0.1% sulfur will be allowed. CARB unilaterally approved the new regulations in spite of legal defeats at both the district and appellate court levels, but more legal challenges are expected to follow. If CARB prevails and the new regulations go into effect as scheduled on July 1, 2009, in the event our vessels were to travel within such waters, these new regulations would require significant expenditures on low-sulfur fuel and would increase our operating costs. Finally, although the more stringent CARB regime was technically superseded when the United States ratified and implemented the amended Annex VI, the possible declaration of various U.S. coastal waters as Emissions Control Areas may in turn bring U.S. emissions standards into line with the new CARB regulations, which would cause us to incur further costs.
The U.S. National Invasive Species Act, or NISA, was enacted in 1996 in response to growing reports of harmful organisms being released into U.S. ports through ballast water taken on by ships in foreign ports. NISA established a ballast water management program for ships entering U.S. waters. Under NISA, mid-ocean ballast water exchange is voluntary, except for ships heading to the Great Lakes or Hudson Bay, or vessels engaged in the foreign export of Alaskan North Slope crude oil. However, NISA's reporting and record-keeping requirements are mandatory for vessels bound for any port in the United States. Although ballast water exchange is the primary means of compliance with the act's guidelines, compliance can also be achieved through the retention of ballast water on board the ship, or the use of environmentally sound alternative ballast water management methods approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. If the mid-ocean ballast exchange is made mandatory throughout the United States, or if water treatment requirements or options are instituted, the cost of compliance could increase for ocean carriers. Although we do not believe that the costs of compliance with a mandatory mid-ocean ballast exchange would be material, it is difficult to predict the overall impact of such a requirement on the dry bulk shipping industry. The U.S. House of Representatives has recently passed a bill that amends NISA by prohibiting the discharge of ballast water unless it has been treated with specified methods or acceptable alternatives. Similar bills have been introduced in the U.S. Senate, but we cannot predict which bill, if any, will be enacted into law. In the absence of federal standards, states have enacted legislation or regulations to address invasive species through ballast water and hull cleaning management and permitting requirements. For instance, the state of California has recently enacted legislation extending its ballast water management program to regulate the management of "hull fouling" organisms attached to vessels and adopted regulations limiting the number of organisms in ballast water discharges. In addition, in November 2008 the Sixth Circuit affirmed a District Court's dismissal of challenges to the state of Michigan's ballast water management legislation mandating the use of various techniques for ballast water treatment. Other states may proceed with the enactment of similar requirements that could increase the costs of operating in state waters.
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 or comparable state, local or foreign requirements. In addition, from time to time we arrange for the disposal of hazardous waste or hazardous substances at offsite disposal facilities. If such materials are improperly disposed of by third parties, we may still be held liable for cleanup costs under applicable laws.
European Union Regulations
In 2005, the European Union adopted a directive on ship-source pollution, imposing criminal sanctions for intentional, reckless or negligent pollution discharges by ships. The directive could result in criminal liability for pollution from vessels in waters of European countries that adopt implementing legislation. Criminal liability for pollution may result in substantial penalties or fines and increased civil liability claims.
Greenhouse Gas Regulation
In February 2005, the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or the Kyoto Protocol, entered into force. Pursuant to the Kyoto Protocol, adopting countries are required to implement national programs to reduce emissions of certain gases, generally referred to as greenhouse gases, which are suspected of contributing to global warming. Currently, the emissions of greenhouse gases from international shipping are not subject to the Kyoto Protocol. However, the European Union has indicated that it intends to propose an expansion of the existing European Union emissions trading scheme to include emissions of greenhouse gases from vessels. In the United States, the Attorneys General from 16 states and a coalition of environmental groups in April 2008 filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, or petition, with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, or the DC Circuit, to request an order requiring the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from ocean-going vessels under the Clean Air Act. Although the DC Circuit denied the petition in June 2008, any future passage of climate control legislation or other regulatory initiatives by the IMO, European Union or individual countries where we operate that restrict emissions of greenhouse gases could entail financial impacts on our operations that we cannot predict with certainty at this time.
Vessel Security Regulations
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there have been a variety of initiatives intended to enhance vessel security. On November 25, 2002, the U.S. Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, or the MTSA came into effect. To implement certain portions of the MTSA, in July 2003, the U.S. Coast Guard issued regulations requiring the implementation of certain security requirements aboard vessels operating in waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Similarly, in December 2002, amendments to SOLAS created a new chapter of the convention dealing specifically with maritime security. The new chapter became effective in July 2004 and imposes various detailed security obligations on vessels and port authorities, most of which are contained in the newly created International Ship and Port Facilities Security Code, or the ISPS Code. The ISPS Code is designed to protect ports and international shipping against terrorism. After July 1, 2004, to trade internationally, a vessel must attain an International Ship Security Certificate from a recognized security organization approved by the vessel's flag state. Among the various requirements are:
The U.S. Coast Guard regulations, intended to align with international maritime security standards, exempt from MTSA vessel security measures non-U.S. vessels that have on board, as of July 1, 2004, a valid International Ship Security Certificate attesting to the vessel's compliance with SOLAS security requirements and the ISPS Code. Our managers intend to implement the various security measures addressed by MTSA, SOLAS and the ISPS Code, and we intend that our fleet will comply with applicable security requirements. We have implemented the various security measures addressed by the MTSA, SOLAS and the ISPS Code.
Inspection by Classification Societies
Every oceangoing vessel must be "classed" 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:
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. Vessels under five years of age can waive drydocking in order to increase available days and decrease capital expenditures, provided that the vessel is inspected underwater.
Most vessels are also drydocked every 30 to 36 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, or IACS. All our vessels that we have purchased and may agree to purchase in the future 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 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 dry bulk 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 marine disaster, 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 virtually unlimited 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 United States market.
While we maintain hull and machinery insurance, war risks insurance, loss of hire, protection and indemnity cover and freight, demurrage and defense cover for our operating 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 present 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.
Since the current dry bulk charter rates have fallen below their significant highs that existed at or around the time the Company obtained charterers' default insurance with respect to certain of its charters, the Company may determine to reduce or let lapse its charterers' default insurances currently in place. The company will review policy renewals as and when market conditions warrant.
Hull & Machinery and War Risks Insurance
We maintain marine hull and machinery, war risks insurances, and loss of hire insurance, which cover the risk of 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 $75,000 per vessel per incident.
Protection and Indemnity Insurance
Protection and indemnity insurance is provided by mutual protection and indemnity associations, or 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 arising from oil or other substances and salvage, towing and other related costs, including wreck removal. [Protection and indemnity insurance is a form of mutual indemnity insurance, extended by protection and indemnity mutual associations, or "clubs."] Subject to the "capping" discussed below, our coverage, except for pollution, is unlimited.
Our current protection and indemnity insurance coverage for pollution is $1 billion per vessel per incident. The 13 P&I Associations that comprise the International Group insure approximately 90% of the world's commercial tonnage and have entered into a pooling agreement to reinsure each association's liabilities. As a member of P&I Associations, which are members of the International Group, an advance call is paid to reflect the associations' contribution to the International Group pool, taking into account the historical record of that association within the pool, the premium income of that association as a percentage of the total premium income of all associations in the pool, the aggregate cost of all pool claims and the cost to the International Group of putting the reinsurance program into place. We may also be subject to additional or unbudgeted calls payable to an association should it be deemed that such measures are necessary to maintain adequate levels of capitalization or "free reserves".
We compete with a large number of international dry bulk fleets. The international shipping industry is highly competitive and fragmented with many market participants. There are approximately 7,312 dry bulk carriers aggregating approximately 459 million dwt, and the ownership of the world dry bulk fleet remains very fragmented with no single owner accounting for more than 6% of any one sector. We primarily compete with other owners of dry bulk vessels in the Handymax class that are mainly privately owned fleets.
Competition in the ocean shipping industry varies primarily according to the nature of the contractual relationship as well as with respect to the kind of commodity being shipped. Our business will fluctuate in line with the main patterns of trade of dry bulk cargoes and varies according to changes in the supply and demand for these items. Competition in virtually all bulk trades is intense and based primarily on supply and demand. We compete for charters on the basis of price, vessel location, size, age and condition of the vessel, as well as 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, owners of large modern fleets have gained a competitive advantage over owners of older fleets.
As in the spot market, the time charter market is price sensitive and also depends on our ability to demonstrate the high quality of our vessels and operations to chartering customers. However, because of the longer term commitment, customers entering time charters are more concerned about their exposure and image from chartering vessels that do not comply with environmental regulations or that will be forced out of service for extensive maintenance and repairs. Consequently, in the time charter market, factors such as the age and quality of a vessel and the reputation of the owner and operator tend to be more significant than in the spot market in competing for business.
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 shipowners, we may consider asset redeployment which at times may include the sale of vessels at less than their book value.
The Company's results of operations and cash flow may be significantly affected by future charter markets.
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 who own 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 the 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 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 ''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 StatesFederal Income Taxation of Our Company
Taxation of Operating Income: In General
The Company currently earns, and we anticipate that the Company 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, or 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:
The Republic of the Marshall Islands, the jurisdiction where the Company is incorporated, has been officially recognized by 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.
We believe that we currently 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, or ''5% Shareholders,'' the regulations permit the Company to rely on those persons that are identified on Schedule 13G and Schedule 13D filings with the Commission, 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.''
The Company does not believe that it is currently subject to the 5 Percent Override Rule. Therefore, the Company believes that it currently qualifies for the Publicly-Traded Test. However, there is no assurance that the Company will continue to satisfy the Publicly-Traded Test. For example, the Company's shareholders could change in the future, and thus the Company could become subject to the 5 Percent Override Rule.
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 $900,000 and $1,400,000 for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008, respectively. 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 rates of up to 35%. 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 does not intend to have, or permit circumstances that would result in having, any vessel sailing to or from the United States on a regularly scheduled basis. Based on the foregoing and on the expected mode of the Company's shipping operations and other activities, we believe that none of the Company's United States source shipping income will be ''effectively connected'' with the conduct of a United States trade or business.
United StatesTaxation of Gain on Sale of Vessels>
If the Company qualifies 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. If, however, the Company's shipping income from such vessels does not for whatever reason qualify for exemption under Section 883 and 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.
United StatesFederal Income Taxation of United States Holders>
As used herein, the term ''United States Holder'' means a beneficial owner of 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 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.
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 dividends 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 (through 2010) 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. Legislation has been previously introduced in the U.S. Congress which, if enacted in its present form, would preclude our dividends from qualifying for such preferential rates prospectively from the date of enactment. 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 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:
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 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.
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 common 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:
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:
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:
Non-United States Holders may be required to establish their exemption from information reporting and backup withholding by certifying their status on IRS Form W-8BEN, W-8ECI or W-8IMY, as applicable.
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.
GLOSSARY OF SHIPPING TERMS
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.
Baltic Dry Index (BDI)> —The BDI is an index published by the Baltic Exchange which tracks worldwide international shipping prices of various dry bulk cargoes. The index provides an assessment of the price for moving major raw materials by sea and is composed of 20 key shipping routes.
Baltic Exchange>—Based in London, the Baltic Exchange is a market for the trading and settlement of shipping and freight contracts. The exchange publishes daily freight market prices and maritime shipping cost indices, including: Baltic Dry Index (BDI), Baltic Supramax Index (BSI), Baltic Panamax Index (BPI), Baltic Capesize Index (BCI), Baltic Tanker Dirty Index (BDTI), and Baltic Tanker Clean Index (BCTI).
Baltic Supramax Index (BSI)> —The BSI is an index published by the Baltic Exchange which tracks worldwide international shipping prices of various dry bulk cargoes carried specifically by the Supramax class of vessels.
Bareboat Charter>—Also known as "demise charter." Contract or hire of a ship under which the shipowner 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.
Bulk Vessels/Carriers>—Vessels which are specially designed and built to carry large volumes of cargo in bulk cargo form.
Bunkers—Heavy fuel oil used to power a vessel's engines.
Capesize—A dry bulk 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 charterparty.
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 charterparty 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.
Deadweight Ton—"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 total weight the vessel can carry when loaded to a particular load line.
Demise Charter—See bareboat charter.
Dry Bulk—Non-liquid cargoes of commodities shipped in an unpackaged state.
Gross Ton>—Unit of 100 cubic feet or 2.831 cubic meters used in arriving at the calculation of gross tonnage.
Handymax—A dry bulk carrier of approximately 35,000 to 60,000 dwt.
Hull—The shell or body of a vessel.
International Maritime Organization—"IMO">—A United Nations 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 unit of measurement equal to 1,000 kilograms.
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 dry bulk carrier of approximately 60,000 to 100,000 dwt of maximum length, depth and draft capable of passing fully loaded through the Panama Canal.
Protection & Indemnity Insurance>—Insurance obtained through a mutual association formed by shipowners to provide liability insurance protection from large financial loss to one member through contributions towards that loss by all members.
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.
Strict Liability—Liability that is imposed without regard to fault.
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 shipowner 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.
Ton—A metric ton.
Voyage Charter>—Contract for hire of a vessel under which a shipowner is paid freight on the basis of moving cargo from a loading port to a discharge port. The shipowner is responsible for paying both operating costs and voyage costs. The charterer is typically responsible for any delay at the loading or discharging ports.
The Company makes available free of charge through its internet website, www.eagleships.com its Annual Report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to these reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, as soon as reasonably practicable after the Company electronically files such material with, or furnishes it to, the Securities and Exchange Commission. You may read and copy any document we file with the SEC at the SEC's public reference facilities maintained by the Securities and Exchange Commission at 100 F Street, N.E., Room 1580, Washington, D.C. 20549. Please call the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330 for further information on the public reference facilities. 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 report.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
We operate in an intensely competitive industry. Some of the following 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 any of the events described in this section could cause our results to differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements made in this report, and could significantly and negatively affect our business, financial condition or operating results.
Industry Specific Risk Factors
Charter hire rates for dry bulk vessels are volatile and have declined significantly since their historic highs and may decrease in the future, which may adversely affect our earnings.>
The dry bulk shipping industry is cyclical with attendant volatility in charterhire rates and profitability. The degree of charter hire rate volatility among different types of dry bulk vessels has varied widely, and charterhire rates for dry bulk vessels have declined significantly from historically high levels. Fluctuations in charter rates result from changes in the supply and demand for vessel capacity and changes in the supply and demand for the major commodities carried by water internationally. Because the factors affecting the supply 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.
Factors that influence demand for dry bulk vessel capacity include:
We anticipate that the future demand for our dry bulk vessels will be dependent upon economic growth in the world's economies, seasonal and regional changes in demand, changes in the capacity of the global dry bulk fleet and the sources and supply of dry bulk cargo to be transported by sea. Given the large number of new dry bulk vessels currently on order with shipyards, the capacity of the global dry bulk carrier fleet seems likely to increase and economic growth may continue to be slow. Adverse economic, political, social or other developments could have a material adverse effect on our business and operating results.
Our ability to recharter our dry bulk vessels upon the expiration or termination of their current time charters and charter new vessels as they are delivered to us, and the charter rates payable under any renewal or replacement charters will depend upon, among other things, the current state of the dry bulk shipping market. If the dry bulk shipping market is in a period of depression when our vessels' charters expire, we may be forced to re-charter them at reduced rates or even possibly at a rate whereby we incur a loss, which may reduce our earnings or make our earnings volatile.
In addition, because the market value of our vessels may fluctuate significantly, we may incur losses when we sell vessels, which may adversely affect our earnings. If we sell vessels at a time when vessel prices have fallen and before we have recorded an impairment adjustment to our financial statements, the sale may be at less than the vessel's carrying amount on our financial statements, resulting in a loss and a reduction in earnings.
The current global economic downturn may continue to negatively impact our business.
In the current global economy, operating businesses have faced and continue to face tightening credit, weakening demand for goods and services, weak international liquidity conditions, and declining markets. Lower demand for dry bulk cargoes as well as diminished trade credit available for the delivery of such cargoes have led to decreased demand for dry bulk carriers, creating downward pressure on charter rates and on vessel values. The current economic downturn has had and may continue to have during 2010 a number of adverse consequences for dry bulk and other shipping sectors, including, among other things:
The occurrence of one or more of these events could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition.
A continued downturn in the dry bulk carrier charter market may have an adverse effect on our revenues, earning and profitability and our ability to comply with our loan covenants.
The Baltic Dry bulk Index, or BDI, has declined significantly since its early 2008, although charter rates recovered somewhat during 2009. The general decline in the dry bulk charter marker has resulted in lower charter rates for vessels exposed to the spot market and time charters linked to the BDI which also adversely affected negotiated general time charter rates. The decline in charter rates is due to various factors, including the lack of trade financing for purchases of commodities carried by sea, which has resulted in a significant decline in cargo shipments, and the excess supply of iron ore in China, which has resulted in falling iron ore prices and increased stockpiles in Chinese ports. The decline in charter rates in the dry bulk market also affects the value of our dry bulk vessels, which follows the trends of dry bulk charter rates, and earnings on our charters, and similarly, affects our cash flows, liquidity and compliance with the covenants contained in our loan agreements.
Although our vessels are employed predominately on medium and long-term time charters, 15 of these are scheduled to expire in the next 12 months, at which time we will have to negotiate new employment for these vessels. If the very low charter rates in the dry bulk market continue to exist when we are required to renew these charters or in the future when our other charters must be renewed, this will have an adverse effect on our revenues, profitability, cash flows and our ability to comply with the financial covenants in our loan agreements.
Changes in the economic and political environment in China and policies adopted by the government to regulate its economy may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The Chinese economy differs from the economies of most countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, in such respects as structure, government involvement, level of development, growth rate, capital reinvestment, allocation of resources, rate of inflation and balance of payments position. Prior to 1978, the Chinese economy was a planned economy. Since 1978, increasing emphasis has been placed on the utilization of market forces in the development of the Chinese economy. Annual and five year State Plans are adopted by the Chinese government in connection with the development of the economy. Although state-owned enterprises still account for a substantial portion of the Chinese industrial output, in general, the Chinese government is reducing the level of direct control that it exercises over the economy through State Plans and other measures. There is an increasing level of freedom and autonomy in areas such as allocation of resources, production, pricing and management and a gradual shift in emphasis to a "market economy" and enterprise reform. Limited price reforms were undertaken with the result that prices for certain commodities are principally determined by market forces. Many of the reforms are unprecedented or experimental and may be subject to revision, change or abolition based upon the outcome of such experiments. If the Chinese government does not continue to pursue a policy of economic reform the level of imports to and exports from China could be adversely affected by changes to these economic reforms by the Chinese government, as well as by changes in political, economic and social conditions or other relevant policies of the Chinese government, such as changes in laws, regulations or export and import restrictions, all of which could, adversely affect our business, operating results and financial condition.
The market values of our vessels have declined and may further decrease, which could limit the amount of funds that we can borrow or trigger certain financial covenants under our current or future credit facilities and/or we may incur a loss if we sell vessels following a decline in their market value.
The fair market values of our vessels have generally experienced high volatility and have recently declined significantly. The market prices for secondhand Handymax and Supramax dry bulk carriers have recently decreased sharply from their historically high levels. The fair market value of our vessels may continue to fluctuate (i.e., increase and decrease) depending on a number of factors including:
If the fair market value of our vessels declines, we may not be in compliance with certain provisions of our credit facility and we may not be able to refinance our debt or obtain additional financing. If we are not able to comply with the covenants in our credit facility, and are unable to remedy the relevant breach, our lenders could accelerate our debt and foreclose on our fleet. In addition, if we sell one or more of our vessels at a time when vessel prices have fallen and before we have recorded an impairment adjustment to our consolidated financial statements, the sale may be less than the vessel's carrying value on our consolidated financial statements, resulting in a loss and a reduction in earnings. Furthermore, if vessel values fall significantly we may have to record an impairment adjustment in our financial statements which could adversely affect our financial results.
Further declines in charter rates and other market deterioration could cause us to incur impairment charges.
We evaluate the carrying amounts of our vessels to determine if events have occurred that would require an impairment of their carrying amounts. The recoverable amount of vessels is reviewed based on events and changes in circumstances that would indicate that the carrying amount of the assets might not be recovered. The review for potential impairment indicators and projection of future cash flows related to the vessels is complex and requires us to make various estimates including future freight rates, earnings from the vessels and discount rates. All of these items have been historically volatile.
We evaluate the recoverable amount as the higher of fair value less costs to sell and value in use. If the recoverable amount is less than the carrying amount of the vessel, the vessel is deemed impaired. 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 newbuildings. Any impairment charges incurred as a result of declines in charter rates could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition.
An over-supply of dry bulk carrier capacity may lead to reductions in charter hire rates and profitability.
The market supply of dry bulk carriers has been increasing, and the number of dry bulk carriers on order are near historic highs. These newbuildings were delivered in significant numbers starting at the beginning of 2006 and continuing through 2009. As of December 2009, newbuilding orders had been placed for an aggregate of more than 59% of the existing global dry bulk fleet on a deadweight basis, with deliveries expected during the next 24 months. An over-supply of dry bulk carrier capacity may result in a reduction of charter hire rates. If such a reduction occurs, upon the expiration or termination of our vessels' current charters we may only be able to re-charter our vessels at reduced or unprofitable rates or we may not be able to charter these vessels at all.
World events could affect our results of operations and financial condition.
Terrorist attacks in such as the attacks on the United States in 2001, in London in 2005 and in Mumbai in 2008 and the continuing response of the United States and others to these attacks, as well as the threat of future terrorist attacks in the United States or elsewhere, continues to cause uncertainty in the world's financial markets and may affect our business, operating results and financial condition. The continuing presence of United States and other armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan 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. These uncertainties could also adversely affect our ability to obtain additional financing on terms acceptable to us or at all. In the past, political conflicts have also resulted in attacks on vessels, mining of waterways and other efforts to disrupt international shipping, particularly in the Arabian Gulf region. Acts of terrorism and piracy have also affected vessels trading in regions such as the South China Sea and the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. Any of these occurrences could have a material adverse impact on our operating results, revenues and costs.
Terrorist attacks on vessels, such as the October 2002 attack on the M.V. Limburg, a very large crude carrier not related to us, may in the future also negatively affect our operations and financial condition and directly impact our vessels or our customers. Future terrorist attacks could result in increased volatility and turmoil of the financial markets in the United States and globally. Any of these occurrences could have a material adverse impact on our revenues and costs.
Acts of piracy on ocean-going vessels have recently increased in frequency, which could adversely affect our business.
Acts of piracy have historically affected ocean-going vessels trading in regions of the world such as the South China Sea and in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. During 2008 and 2009, the frequency of piracy incidents has increased significantly, particularly in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. If these piracy attacks result in regions in which our vessels are deployed being characterized by insurers as "war risk" zones, as the Gulf of Aden temporarily was in May 2008, or Joint War Committee (JWC) "war and strikes" listed areas, premiums payable for such coverage could increase significantly and such insurance coverage may be more difficult to obtain. In addition, crew costs, including employing onboard security guards, could increase in such circumstances. We may not be adequately insured to cover losses from these incidents, which could have a material adverse effect on us. In addition, detention hijacking as a result of an act of piracy against our vessels, or an increase in cost, or unavailability of insurance for our vessels, could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Continued disruptions in world financial markets and the resulting governmental action in the United States and in other parts of the world could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations, financial condition and cash flows, and could cause the market price of our common stock to further decline.
The credit markets in the United States continued to contract in 2009 and experienced deleveraging and reduced liquidity, and the United States federal government and state governments have implemented a broad variety of governmental action and/or new regulation of the financial markets and may implement additional regulations in the future. Securities and futures markets and the credit markets are subject to comprehensive statutes, regulations and other requirements. The Commission, other regulators, self-regulatory organizations and exchanges are authorized to take extraordinary actions in the event of market emergencies, and may effect changes in law or interpretations of existing laws.
A number of financial institutions experienced serious financial difficulties in 2009. The uncertainty surrounding the future of the credit markets in the United States and the rest of the world has resulted in reduced access to credit worldwide.
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 and the current 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. We cannot predict how long the current market conditions will last. However, these recent and developing economic and governmental factors, together with the concurrent decline in charter rates and vessel values, may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition or cash flows, have caused the trading price of our common shares on the Nasdaq Global Market to decline and could cause the price of our common shares to continue to decline.
Our operating results will be subject to seasonal fluctuations, which could affect our operating results and the amount of available cash with which we can pay dividends.>
We operate our vessels in markets that have historically exhibited seasonal variations in demand and, as a result, in charter hire rates. To the extent we operate vessels in the spot market, this seasonality may result in quarter-to-quarter volatility in our operating results, which could affect the amount of dividends that we pay to our stockholders from quarter to quarter. The dry bulk sector is typically stronger in the fall and winter months in anticipation of increased consumption of coal and other raw materials in the northern hemisphere. In addition, unpredictable weather patterns in these months tend to disrupt vessel scheduling and supplies of certain commodities. As a result, our revenues from our dry bulk carriers may be weaker during the fiscal quarters ended June 30 and September 30, and, conversely, our revenues from our dry bulk carriers may be stronger in fiscal quarters ended December 31 and March 31. While this seasonality will not affect our operating results as long as our fleet is employed on time charters, if our vessels are employed in the spot market in the future, it could materially affect our operating results.
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 United Nation's International Maritime Organization's International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and Pollution Prevention, or the ISM Code. The ISM Code requires shipowners, ship managers and bareboat charterers to develop and maintain an extensive "Safety Management System" that includes the adoption of a safety and environmental protection policy setting forth instructions and procedures for safe operation and describing procedures for dealing with emergencies. The failure of a shipowner or bareboat charterer to comply with the ISM Code may subject it to increased liability, may invalidate existing insurance or decrease available insurance coverage for the affected vessels and may result in a denial of access to, or detention in, certain ports. 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.
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 are 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 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.
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. Through our management agreements with our technical managers, we procure insurance for the vessels in our fleet employed under time charters 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 protection and indemnity associations and providers of excess coverage is $1 billion per vessel per occurrence.
We have procured hull and machinery insurance, protection and indemnity insurance, which includes environmental damage and pollution insurance coverage and war risk insurance for our fleet. We do not maintain, for our vessels, 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 coverages, 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.
Maritime claimants could arrest one or more of our vessels, which could interrupt our cash flow.
Crew members, suppliers of goods and services to a vessel, shippers of cargo and other parties may be entitled to a maritime lien against a vessel for unsatisfied debts, claims or damages. In many jurisdictions, a claimant may seek to obtain security for its claim by arresting a vessel through foreclosure proceedings. The arrest or attachment of one or more of our vessels could interrupt our cash flow and require us to pay large sums of money to have the arrest or attachment lifted. In addition, in some jurisdictions, such as South Africa, under the "sister ship" theory of liability, a claimant may arrest both the vessel which is subject to the claimant's maritime lien and any "associated" vessel, which is any vessel owned or controlled by the same owner. Claimants could attempt to assert "sister ship" liability against one vessel in our fleet for claims relating to another of our vessels.
Governments could requisition our vessels during a period of war or emergency, 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 dictated 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 and reduce the amount of cash we have available for distribution as dividends to our stockholders.
Company Specific Risk Factors
Commencing with the fourth quarter of 2008, our board of directors determined to suspend the payment of a dividend to our shareholders to increase cash flow, optimize financial flexibility and enhance internal growth. In the future, the declaration and payment of dividends, if any, will always be subject to the discretion of our board of directors, restrictions contained in our amended credit facility and the requirements of Marshall Islands law. The timing and amount of any dividends declared will depend on, among other things, our earnings, financial condition and cash requirements and availability, our ability to obtain debt and equity financing on acceptable terms as contemplated by our growth strategy, the terms of our outstanding indebtedness and the ability of our subsidiaries to distribute funds to us. The international dry bulk shipping industry is highly volatile, and we cannot predict with certainty the amount of cash, if any, that will be available for distribution as dividends in any period. Also, there may be a high degree of variability from period to period in the amount of cash that is available for the payment of dividends.
We may incur expenses or liabilities or be subject to other circumstances in the future that reduce or eliminate the amount of cash that we have available for distribution as dividends, including as a result of the risks described in this Annual Report. Our growth strategy contemplates that we will finance our acquisitions of additional vessels through debt financings or the net proceeds of future equity issuances on terms acceptable to us. If financing is not available to us on acceptable terms, our board of directors may determine to finance or refinance acquisitions with cash from operations, which would reduce the amount of any cash available for the payment of dividends.
Under the terms of our credit facility, we will not be permitted to pay dividends if there is a default or a breach of a loan covenant. In addition, we are permitted to pay dividends only in amounts up to our cumulative cash flows which is EBITDA (as defined in our credit agreement) less the aggregate amount of interest incurred and net amounts payable under interest rate hedging agreements during the relevant period and an agreed upon reserve for drydockings. Please see the section of this Annual Report entitled "Credit Facility" for more information relating to restrictions on our ability to pay dividends under the terms of our credit facility.
The Republic of Marshall Islands laws generally prohibits 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.
We may have difficulty managing our planned growth properly.>
The acquisition and management of the 27 vessels in our operating fleet and the ongoing construction of our newbuilding vessels have imposed, and additional dry bulk vessels that we may acquire in the future will 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 have recently commenced providing technical management services to certain of our vessels in house, and expect to provide these services to additional 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 time charters.
We intend to continue to grow our business. Our future growth will primarily depend on:
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.
We cannot assure you that we will be able to borrow amounts under our credit facility and restrictive covenants in our credit facility may impose financial and other restrictions on us
We entered into a senior secured revolving credit facility in July 2005. We used borrowings under the revolving credit facility to refinance a portion of our outstanding indebtedness at the time of our initial public offering in June 2005 and to fund vessel acquisitions. Since then we have amended and enhanced our credit facility periodically to accommodate our newbuilding program of 27 vessels, of which we have taken delivery of 7 vessels, and eight vessel contracts which we have converted into options to build and purchase vessels in the future. In July, 2008, we entered into an amendment to our $1.6 billion revolving credit facility that, among other things, provided for an additional incremental commitment of up to $200 million under the same terms and conditions as the previously existing facility, subject to satisfaction of certain additional conditions, and amended the applicable margin rate under the facility. In December 2008, we entered into a further amendment to our credit facility to, among other changes, reduce the required minimum security value of our fleet from 130% to 100%, reduce the requirement minimum net worth requirement from $300 million to $75 million for 2009, subject to annual review thereafter, and amend the applicable interest margin to 1.75% over LIBOR. In August 2009, we entered into a further amendment to our credit facility which among other things reduced the facility to $1.2 billion with a maturity in July 2014, amended the applicable interest margin to 2.5% over LIBOR, and until the Company is in compliance with the original covenants for two consecutive accounting periods, amended the collateral covenants from market values to book values, reduced the EBITDA to interest coverage ratio, and allocated half the net proceeds from any equity issuance to repay debt and reduce the facility, including $48.6 million from our last equity raised which reduce our facility to $1.151 billion.
Our ability to borrow future amounts under our credit facility will be subject to the satisfaction of certain customary conditions precedent and compliance with terms and conditions included in the loan documents. In connection with vessel acquisitions, amounts borrowed may not exceed 75% of the value of the vessels securing our obligations under the credit facility. Our ability to borrow such amounts, in each case, will be subject to our lender's approval of the vessel acquisition. Our lender's approval will be based on the lender's satisfaction of our ability to raise additional capital through equity issuances in amounts acceptable to our lender and the proposed employment of the vessel to be acquired. To the extent that we are not able to satisfy these requirements, including as a result of a decline in the value of our vessels, we may not be able to draw down the credit facility in connection with a vessel acquisition without obtaining a waiver or consent from the lender.
The credit facility also imposes operating and financial restrictions on us. These restrictions may limit our ability to, among other things:
In addition, we may not pay dividends if there is a default or a breach of a loan covenant under the credit facility or if the payment of the dividends would result in a default or breach of a loan covenant. Our indebtedness may also be accelerated if we experience a change of control. Therefore, we may need to seek permission from our lender in order to engage in some corporate actions. Our lender's interests may be different from ours and we cannot guarantee you that we will be able to obtain our lender's permission when needed. This may limit our ability to pay dividends to you, finance our future operations, make acquisitions or pursue business opportunities.
We cannot assure you that we will be able to refinance indebtedness incurred under our credit facility.>
Our business strategy contemplates that we repay all or a portion of our acquisition related debt from time to time with the net proceeds of equity issuances. We cannot assure you that we will be able to refinance our indebtedness through equity offerings or otherwise on terms that are acceptable to us or at all. If we are not able to refinance our indebtedness, we will have to dedicate a portion of our cash flow from operations to pay the principal and interest of this indebtedness. We cannot assure you that we will be able to generate cash flow in amounts that are sufficient for these purposes. If we are not able to satisfy these obligations, we may have to undertake alternative financing plans or sell our assets. The actual or perceived credit quality of our charterers, any defaults by them, and the market value of our fleet, among other things, may materially affect our ability to obtain alternative financing. In addition, debt service payments under our credit facility or alternative financing may limit funds otherwise available for working capital, capital expenditures, payment of dividends and other purposes. If we are unable to meet our debt obligations, or if we otherwise default under our credit facility or an alternative financing arrangement, our lender could declare the debt, together with accrued interest and fees, to be immediately due and payable and foreclose on our fleet, which could result in the acceleration of other indebtedness that we may have at such time and the commencement of similar foreclosure proceedings by other lenders. In addition, if the recent financial difficulties experienced by financial institutions worldwide leads to such institutions being unable to meet their lending commitments, that inability could have a material adverse effect on our ability to meet our own capital commitment obligations under our newbuilding contracts and our ability to grow our fleet. If we are not able to borrow under our credit facility and are unable to find alternative sources of financing on terms that are acceptable to us or at all, our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows may be materially adversely affected.
Twenty of the 27 Handymax segment dry bulk vessels in our operating fleet at December 31, 2009, are secondhand vessels. We have entered into contracts for the construction of 27 newbuilding vessels, of which we have taken delivery of 7, and have options to acquire 8 additional vessels. We also may enter into additional newbuilding contracts and purchase additional secondhand vessels in the future. 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 enter into, among other things, charter parties with our customers. Such agreements subject us to counterparty risks. The ability of each of our counterparties to perform its obligations under a contract with us will depend on a number of factors that are beyond our control and may include, among other things, general economic conditions, the condition of the maritime and offshore industries, the overall financial condition of the counterparty, charter rates received for specific types of vessels, and various expenses. Consistent with dry bulk shipping industry practice, we have not independently analyzed the creditworthiness of the charterers. In addition, in depressed market conditions, our charterers may no longer need a vessel that is currently under charter or may be able to obtain a comparable vessel at lower rates. As a result, charterers may seek to renegotiate the terms of their existing charter parties or avoid their obligations under those contracts. Should a counterparty fail to honor its obligations under agreements with us, we could sustain significant losses which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We depend upon a few significant customers for a large part of our revenues and the loss of one or more of these customers could adversely affect our financial performance.>
We derive a significant part of our revenues from a small number of charterers. In 2009, four customers individually accounted for more than 10% of our time charter revenue. The charterers' payments to us under their charters are our sole source of revenue. Some of our charterers are privately owned companies for which limited credit and financial information was available to us in making our assessment of counterparty 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 dry bulk 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 stockholders. 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 stockholders do not have any recourse against our charterers.
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.>
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 dry bulk 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 dry bulk 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.
Our success depends to a significant extent upon the abilities and efforts of our management team. We have entered into an employment contract with our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Sophocles Zoullas. Our success will depend upon our ability to retain key members of our management team and to hire new members as may be necessary. 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.
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:
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.
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 27 Handymax dry bulk vessels in our operating fleet as of December 31, 2009 is approximately six years, as our fleet ages, we will incur increased costs. Older vessels are typically less fuel efficient and more costly 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 charterhire income and the value of our vessels.
The charterhire 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 dry bulk 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 charterhire 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.
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 and each of our subsidiaries qualify for this statutory tax exemption and we will take this position for United States 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 after the offering and thereby cause us to become subject to United States federal income tax on our United States source shipping income. For example, there is a risk that we could no longer qualify for exemption under Section 883 of the Code for a particular taxable year if other shareholders with a five percent or greater interest in our stock were, in combination with to own 50% or more of our outstanding shares of our stock on more than half the days during the taxable year. Due to the factual nature of the issues involved, we can give no assurances on our tax-exempt status or that of any of our subsidiaries.
In addition, changes in the Code, the Treasury regulations or the interpretation thereof by the Internal Revenue Service or the courts could adversely affect our ability to take advantage of the exemption under Section 883.
If we are not entitled to this exemption under Section 883 for any taxable year, we would be subject for such taxable year to a 4% United States federal income tax on our United States source shipping income. The imposition of this taxation could have a negative effect on our business and would result in decreased earnings available for distribution to our stockholders.
Based on the current operation of our vessels, if we were subject to this tax, our United States federal income tax liability would be approximately $900,000 and 1,400,000 for the year ended December 31, 2009 and 2008, respectively. Because the operations of our vessels are under the control of third party charterers, we can give no assurance that our United States federal income tax liability would be substantially higher. However, since no more that 50% of our shipping income would be treated as derived from U.S. sources, our maximum tax liability under the 4% tax regime would never exceed 2% of our shipping income.
United Statestax 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 stockholders 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 chartering activities as services income, rather than rental income. Accordingly, we believe that our income from our time chartering activities does not constitute "passive income," and the assets that we own and operate in connection with the production of that income do not constitute passive assets.
There is, however, no direct legal authority under the PFIC rules addressing our method of operation. Accordingly, no assurance can be given that the United States Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, or a court of law will accept our position, and there is a risk that the IRS or a court of law could determine that we are a PFIC. Moreover, no assurance can be given that we would not constitute a PFIC for any future taxable year if there were to be changes in the nature and extent of our operations.
If the IRS were to find that we are or have been a PFIC for any taxable year, our United States stockholders would face adverse United States tax consequences. Under the PFIC rules, unless those stockholders made an election available under the Code (which election could itself have adverse consequences for such stockholders, as discussed below under "United States Federal Income Taxation of United States Holders"), such stockholders 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 stockholder's holding period of our common stock. Please see the section of this Form 10-K entitled "Tax Considerations—United States Federal Income Taxation of United States Holders" for a more comprehensive discussion of the United States federal income tax consequences to United States stockholders if we are treated as a PFIC.
Our vessels may suffer damage and we may face unexpected drydocking costs, which could adversely affect our cash flow and financial condition.>
If our vessels suffer damage, they may need to be repaired at a drydocking facility. The costs of drydock repairs are unpredictable and can be substantial. The loss of earnings while our 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. 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.
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.
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 as we implement our plan to expand the size of our fleet and our attempts to improve those systems may be ineffective. In addition, as we 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 stockholders may be reduced.
If the recent volatility in LIBOR continues, it could affect our profitability, earnings and cash flow.
LIBOR has recently been volatile, with the spread between LIBOR and the prime lending rate widening significantly at times. These conditions are the result of the recent disruptions in the international credit markets. Because the interest rates borne by our outstanding indebtedness fluctuate with changes in LIBOR, if this volatility were to continue, it would affect the amount of interest payable on our an hedged debt, which in turn, could have an adverse effect on our profitability, earnings and cash flow.
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 amended and restated articles of incorporation and bylaws and by the Marshall Islands Business Corporations Act, or 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 stockholders of companies incorporated in the Marshall Islands may differ from the rights of stockholders 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 can not 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 stockholders than would stockholders of a corporation incorporated in a United States jurisdiction which has developed a relatively more substantial body of case law.
Sales of a substantial number of shares of our common stock in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, may depress the market price for our common stock. These sales could also impair our ability to raise additional capital through the sale of our equity securities in the future. We intend to issue additional shares of our common stock in the future. Our amended and restated articles of incorporation authorize us to issue 100 million shares of common stock of which 62,126,665 shares were issued and outstanding as of December 31, 2009.
Anti-takeover provisions in our organizational documents, as well as our shareholder rights plan, could have the effect of discouraging, delaying or preventing a merger or acquisition, or could make it difficult for our stockholders to replace or remove our current board of directors, which could adversely affect the market price of our common stock.>
Several provisions of our amended and restated articles of incorporation and bylaws could make it difficult for our stockholders to change the composition of our board of directors in any one year, preventing them from changing the composition of management. In addition, the same provisions, as well as our shareholder rights plan, may discourage, delay or prevent a merger or acquisition that stockholders may consider favorable. These provisions will include:
In addition to the provision described above, on November 9, 2007, our board of directors adopted a shareholder rights plan and declared a dividend distribution of one Right for each outstanding share of our common stock to shareholders of record on the close of business on November 23, 2007. Each Right is nominally exercisable, upon the occurrence of certain events, for one one-thousandth of a share of Series A Junior Participating Preferred Stock, par value $.01 per share, at a purchase price of $125.00 per unit, subject to adjustment. The Rights may further discourage a third party from making an unsolicited proposal to acquire us, as exercise of the Rights would cause substantial dilution to such third party attempting to acquire us.
These anti-takeover provisions could substantially impede the ability of public stockholders to benefit from a change in control and, as a result, may adversely affect the market price of our common stock and your ability to realize any potential change of control premium.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
We do not own any real property. We lease office space at 477 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10022.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
We have not been involved in any legal proceedings which may have, or have had a significant effect on our business, financial position, results of operations or liquidity, nor are we aware of any proceedings that are pending or threatened which may have a significant effect on our business, financial position, results of operations or liquidity. From time to time, we may be subject to legal proceedings and claims in the ordinary course of business, principally personal injury and property casualty claims. We expect that these claims would be covered by insurance, subject to customary deductibles. Those claims, even if lacking merit, could result in the expenditure of significant financial and managerial resources.
ITEM 4. RESERVED
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 Stock Market, on which our shares are quoted under the symbol "EGLE." As of February 25, 2010, the number of stockholders of record of the Company's common stock was approximately 45,873. The following table sets forth the high and low closing prices for shares of our common stock in 2009 and 2008, as reported by the Nasdaq Stock Market:
Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities
Equity Compensation Plan
Information regarding our equity compensation plan as of December 31, 2009 is disclosed in Note 9, "Stock Incentive Plans" to our consolidated financial statements.
The following graph illustrates a comparison of the cumulative total shareholder return (change in stock price plus reinvested dividends) of Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc.'s common stock with the Standard and Poor's 500 Index and a peer group "Dry Index" consisting of DryShips, Inc., Diana Shipping Inc., Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd., Navios Maritime Holdings, Inc. and Genco Shipping and Trading Limited. The comparison graph assumes a $100 investment in each of the Company's common stock, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and the Dry Index peer group on June 28, 2005, the date of the Company's initial public offering.
Payment of Dividends to Stockholders
In 2007, the Company declared four quarterly dividends in the aggregate amount of $1.98 per share of its common stock in February, April, July and November. Aggregate payments were $82,134,982 for dividends declared in 2007.
In 2008, the Company declared four quarterly dividends in the aggregate amount of $2.00 per share of its common stock in March, May, August and November. Aggregate payments were $93,592,906 for dividends declared in 2008.
In December 2008, commencing with the fourth quarter of 2008, the Company's board of directors has determined to suspend the payment of a dividend to stockholders in order to increase cash flow, optimize financial flexibility and enhance internal growth. In the future, the declaration and payment of dividends, if any, will always be subject to the discretion of the board of directors, restrictions contained in the credit facility and the requirements of Marshall Islands law. The timing and amount of any dividends declared will depend on, among other things, our 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. (See Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements and Management's Discussion & Analysis.)
ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
We were incorporated on March 23, 2005 and our predecessor, Eagle Holdings LLC, was formed on January 26, 2005. The following table sets forth selected financial data for each of the five years in the period ended December 31, 2009. Certain information in the table has been derived from the Company's audited financial statements and notes thereto. This data should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements, related notes and other financial information included herein. In accordance with standard shipping industry practice, we did not obtain from the sellers historical operating data for the vessels that we acquired, as that data was not material to our decision to purchase the vessels. Accordingly, we have not included any historical financial data relating to the results of operations of our vessels from the period before our acquisition of them. Please see the section of this annual report entitled "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Lack of Historical Operating Data for Vessels Before their Acquisition."
ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT'S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATION
The following is a discussion of the Company's financial condition and results of operation for the years ended December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007. This section should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this report and the notes to those financial statements.
This discussion contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended 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 recently declined significantly from historic highs, and 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 cost of our vessels, significant vessel improvement costs and our vessels' estimated useful lives, and financing costs related to our indebtedness. Our actual results may differ materially from those anticipated in these forward looking statements as a result of certain factors which could include the following: (i) changes in demand in the dry bulk market, including, without limitation, changes in production of, or demand for, commodities and bulk cargoes, generally or in particular regions; (ii) greater than anticipated levels of dry bulk vessel new building orders or lower than anticipated rates of dry bulk vessel scrapping; (iii) changes in rules and regulations applicable to the dry bulk industry, including, without limitation, legislation adopted by international bodies or organizations such as the International Maritime Organization and the European Union or by individual countries; (iv) actions taken by regulatory authorities; (v) changes in trading patterns significantly impacting overall dry bulk tonnage requirements; (vi) changes in the typical seasonal variations in dry bulk charter rates; (vii) changes in the cost of other modes of bulk commodity transportation; (viii) changes in general domestic and international political conditions; (ix) 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); (x) and other factors listed from time to time in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. This discussion also includes statistical data regarding world dry bulk fleet and orderbook and fleet age. We generated some of these data internally, and some were obtained from independent industry publications and reports that we believe to be reliable sources. We have not independently verified these data nor sought the consent of any organizations to refer to their reports in this annual report. We disclaim any intent or obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as may be required under applicable securities laws.
We are Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc., a Republic of Marshall Islands corporation headquartered in New York City. We own one of the largest fleets of Supramax dry bulk vessels in the world. Supramax dry bulk vessels range in size from 50,000 to 60,000 dwt. We transport a broad range of major and minor bulk cargoes, including iron ore, coal, grain, cement and fertilizer, along worldwide shipping routes. As of December 31, 2009, we owned and operated a modern fleet of 27 Handymax segment dry bulk vessels, 24 of which are of the Supramax class. We also have an on-going Supramax newbuilding program for the construction of 20 newbuilding vessels in Japan and China. The first three of these vessels were delivered to us in 2008 while four vessels were constructed and delivered in 2009. Upon delivery of all newbuilding vessels by end 2011, our total fleet will consist of 47 vessels with a combined carrying capacity of approximately 2.55 million dwt. We also hold options for the construction of an additional eight Supramax vessels at the same shipyard in China.
We are focused on maintaining a high quality fleet that is concentrated primarily in one vessel type – Handymax dry bulk carriers and its sub-category of Supramax vessels which are Handymax vessels ranging in size from 50,000 to 60,000 dwt. These vessels have the cargo loading and unloading flexibility of on-board cranes while offering cargo carrying capacities approaching that of Panamax dry bulk vessels, which range in size from 60,000 to 100,000 dwt and must rely on port facilities to load and offload their cargoes. We believe that the cargo handling flexibility and cargo carrying capacity of the Supramax class vessels make them attractive to potential charterers. The 27 vessels in our operating fleet have a combined carrying capacity of 1,412,535 dwt and an average age of approximately six years, as compared to an average age for the world Handymax dry bulk fleet of over 15 years.
Our financial performance is based on the following key elements of our business strategy:
The following are several significant events that occurred during 2009: