UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
 
FORM 20-F
 
(Mark One)
 
[  ]
REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR (g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

OR

[X]
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2008

OR

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

For the transition period from _________________ to _________________

OR

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

Date of event requiring this shell company report _________________

Commission file number 000-50859

 
     
 
 
 
 
TOP SHIPS INC.
 
 
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
 
     
 
(Translation of Registrant's name into English)
 
     
 
Republic of the Marshall Islands
 
 
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
 
     
 
1 Vas. Sofias and Meg. Alexandrou Str, 15124 Maroussi, Greece
 
 
(Address of principal executive offices)
 
     
   Alexandros Tsirikos, (Tel) +30 210 8128180, atsirikos@topships.org, (Fax) +30 210 6141273, 1 Vas.  
   Sofias and Meg. Alexandrou Str, 15124 Maroussi, Greece  
 
(Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
 
 

 
 

Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act.



Title of each class
 
Name of each exchange
on which registered
     
Common Stock par value $0.01 per share
 
NASDAQ Global Select Market

Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act.

 
NONE
 
(Title of class)
 
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act.
 
NONE
(Title of class)
 
 


Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer's classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the annual report.

As of December 31, 2008, 29,901,048 shares of Common Stock, par value $0.01 per share.

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

Yes
   
No
X
         

If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
 
Yes
   
No
X
         
 
Note – Checking the box above will not relieve any registrant required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 from their obligations under those Sections.

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
 
Yes
X  
No
 
         
 

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 (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files).
 
Yes
   
No
 
         


Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer or a non-accelerated filer.  See the definitions of "large accelerated filer" and "accelerated filer" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
 
Large accelerated filer   |    |           Accelerated filer | X |          Non-accelerated filer |   |

Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:

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

If "Other" has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow:

 
Item 17
   
Item 18
         

If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).
 
Yes
   
No
X
         

 
 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
 
PART I
 
ITEM 1 - IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
  1
ITEM 2 - OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
  1
ITEM 3 - KEY INFORMATION
  1
ITEM 4 - INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY
  27
ITEM 4A – UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
  48
ITEM 5 - OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS
49
ITEM 6 - DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES
88
ITEM 7 - MAJOR SHAREHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS
93
ITEM 8 - FINANCIAL INFORMATION
94
ITEM 9 - THE OFFER AND LISTING
94
ITEM 10 - ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
95
ITEM 11 - QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK
109
ITEM 12 - DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES
111
PART II
 
ITEM 13 - DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES
112
ITEM 14 - MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS
112
ITEM 15 - CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES
112
ITEM 16A- AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT
115
ITEM 16B- CODE OF ETHICS
115
ITEM 16C- PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND RELATED SERVICES
115
ITEM 16D- EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEE
116
ITEM 16E- PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY ISSUER AND AFFILIATES.
116
ITEM 16F- CHANGE IN REGISTRANT'S CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT.
116
ITEM 16G- CORPORATE GOVERNANCE.
116
PART III
 
ITEM 17 - FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
117
ITEM 18 - FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
117
INDEX TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
F-1
ITEM 19 – EXHIBITS
 


 
 

 


CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

Matters discussed in this report may constitute forward-looking statements. The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 provides safe harbor protections for forward-looking statements in order to encourage companies to provide prospective information about their business. Forward-looking statements include statements concerning plans, objectives, goals, strategies, future events or performance, and underlying assumptions and other statements, which are other than statements of historical facts.
 
TOP SHIPS INC. desires to take advantage of the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and is including this cautionary statement in connection with this safe harbor legislation. This report and any other written or oral statements made by us or on our behalf may include forward-looking statements, which reflect our current views with respect to future events and financial performance. When used in this report, the words "anticipate," "believe," "expect," "intend," "estimate," "forecast," "project," "plan," "potential," "may," "should," and similar expressions identify forward-looking statements.
 
The forward-looking statements in this report are based upon various assumptions, many of which are based, in turn, upon further assumptions, including without limitation, management's examination of historical operating trends, data contained in our records and other data available from third parties. Although we believe that these assumptions were reasonable when made, because these assumptions are inherently subject to significant uncertainties and contingencies which are difficult or impossible to predict and are beyond our control, we cannot assure you that we will achieve or accomplish these expectations, beliefs or projections.
 
In addition to these assumptions and matters discussed elsewhere herein and in the documents incorporated by reference herein, important factors that, in our view, could cause actual results to differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements include the strength of world economies and currencies, general market conditions, including fluctuations in charterhire rates and vessel values, changes in demand in the shipping market, including the effect of changes in OPEC's petroleum production levels and worldwide oil consumption and storage, changes in regulatory requirements affecting vessel operating including requirements for double hull tankers, changes in TOP SHIPS INC.'s operating expenses, including bunker prices, dry-docking and insurance costs, changes in governmental rules and regulations or actions taken by regulatory authorities, changes in the price of our capital investments, potential liability from pending or future litigation, general domestic and international political conditions, potential disruption of shipping routes due to accidents, political events or acts by terrorists, and other important factors described from time to time in the reports filed by us with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC.
 
 
 

 

PART I
 
ITEM 1.   IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
 
Not Applicable.
 
ITEM 2.   OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
 
Not Applicable.
 
ITEM 3.   KEY INFORMATION
 
Unless the context otherwise requires, as used in this report, the terms ''Company,'' ''we,'' ''us,'' and ''our'' refer to TOP SHIPS INC. and all of its subsidiaries, and ''TOP SHIPS INC.'' refers only to TOP SHIPS INC. and not to its subsidiaries. We use the term deadweight ton or dwt, in describing the size of vessels. Dwt, expressed in metric tons each of which is equivalent to 1,000 kilograms, refers to the maximum weight of cargo and supplies that a vessel can carry.
 

 
1

 

A.           Selected Financial Data
 
The following table sets forth the selected historical consolidated financial data and other operating data of TOP SHIPS INC. and its predecessors for the years ended December 31, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. The following information should be read in conjunction with Item 5 "Operating and Financial Review and Prospects" and the consolidated financial statements and related notes included herein. The following selected historical consolidated financial data of TOP SHIPS INC. and its predecessors in the table are derived from our consolidated financial statements and notes thereto which have been prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, and have been audited for the years ended December 31, 2004 and 2005 by Ernst & Young (Hellas) Certified Auditors Accountants S.A, or Ernst and Young, and for the years ended December 31, 2006, 2007 and 2008 by Deloitte, Hadjipavlou, Sofianos & Cambanis S.A., or Deloitte, both independent registered public accounting firms.
 
   
Year Ended December 31,
 
                         
Dollars in thousands, except per share data and average daily results
 
2004
   
2005
   
2006
   
2007
   
2008
 
INCOME STATEMENT DATA
                             
Revenues
    $93,829       $244,215       $310,043       $252,259       $257,380  
Voyage expenses
    16,898       36,889       55,351       59,414       38,656  
Charter hire expense
    -       7,206       96,302       94,118       53,684  
Amortization of deferred gain on sale and leaseback of vessels
    -       (837 )     (8,110 )     (15,610 )     (18,707 )
Other vessel operating expenses
    16,859       47,315       66,082       67,914       67,114  
Dry-docking costs
    7,365       10,478       39,333       25,094       10,036  
General and administrative expenses (1)
    8,579       23,818       23,016       24,824       31,473  
Foreign currency (gains) losses, net
    75       (68 )     255       176       (85 )
Gain on sale of vessels
    (1,889 )     (10,831 )     (12,667 )     (1,961 )     (19,178 )
Depreciation
    13,108       47,055       35,266       27,408       32,664  
                                         
Total operating expenses
    60,995       161,025       294,828       281,377       195,657  
Operating income (loss)
    32,834       83,190       15,215       (29,118 )     61,723  
Interest and finance costs
    (4,839 )     (19,430 )     (27,030 )     (19,518 )     (25,764 )
Gain / (loss) on financial instruments
    (362 )     (747 )     (2,145 )     (3,704 )     (12,024 )
Interest income
    481       1,774       3,022       3,248       1,831  
Other income (expense), net
    80       134       (67 )     16       (127 )
                                         
                                         
Net income (loss)
    $28,194       $64,921       $(11,005 )     $(49,076 )     $25,639  
                                         
Earnings (loss) per share, basic and diluted
    $6.54       $6.97       $(1.16 )     $(4.09 )     $1.01  
Weighted average common shares outstanding, basic
    4,307,483       9,308,923       10,183,424       11,986,857       25,445,031  
Weighted average common shares outstanding, diluted
    4,307,483       9,310,670       10,183,424       11,986,857       25,445,031  
                                         
Dividends declared per share
    $1.80       $2.64       $23.13       -       -  

 
2

 


Dollars in thousands, except per share data and average daily results
 
2004
   
2005
   
2006
   
2007
   
2008
 
BALANCE SHEET DATA, at end of period
                             
Current assets                                 
  $ 141,051     $ 67,574     $ 72,799     $ 102,161     $ 57,088  
Total assets                                                           
    533,138       970,386       490,885       776,917       698,375  
Current liabilities, including current portion of long-term debt
    42,811       76,143       45,416       153,290       386,934  
Total long-term debt, including current portion
    194,806       564,103       218,052       438,884       342,479  
Common Stock
    278       280       108       205       283  
Stockholders' equity      315,061       359,147       161,198       211,408       292,051  
                                         
FLEET DATA
                                       
Total number of vessels at end of period
    15.0       27.0       24.0       23.0       12.0  
Average number of vessels (2)                                            
    9.6       21.7       26.7       22.4       18.8  
Total voyage days for fleet (3)         
    3,215       7,436       8,634       7,032       6,099  
Total time charter days for fleet              
    1,780       5,567       6,223       4,720       5,064  
Total spot market days for fleet           
    1,435       1,869       2,411       2,312       1,035  
Total calendar days for fleet (4)       
    3,517       7,905       9,747       8,176       6,875  
Fleet utilization (5)                                   
    91.4 %     94.1 %     88.6 %     86.0 %     88.7 %
                                         
AVERAGE DAILY RESULTS
                                       
Time charter equivalent (6)                               
  $ 23,929     $ 27,881     $ 29,499     $ 27,424     $ 35,862  
Other vessel operating expenses (7)
    4,794       5,985       6,780       8,307       9.762  
General and administrative expenses (8)
    2,439       3,013       2,361       3,036       4,578  
                                         
 
(1)  
General and administrative expenses include, sub-manager fees and other general and administrative expenses. During 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, we paid to the members of our senior management and to our directors' aggregate compensation of approximately $4.4 million, $8.1 million, $4.2 million, $4.8 million and $5.6 million respectively.
 
(2)  
Average number of vessels is the number of vessels that constituted our fleet for the relevant period, as measured by the sum of the number of days each vessel was a part of our fleet during the period divided by the number of calendar days in that period.
 
(3)  
Total voyage days for fleet are the total days the vessels were in our possession for the relevant period net of off hire days associated with major repairs, dry-dockings or special or intermediate surveys.
 
(4)  
Calendar days are the total days the vessels were in our possession for the relevant period including off hire days associated with major repairs, dry-dockings or special or intermediate surveys.
 
(5)  
Fleet utilization is the percentage of time that our vessels were available for revenue generating voyage days, and is determined by dividing voyage days by fleet calendar days for the relevant period.
 

 
3

 


(6)  
Time charter equivalent rate, or TCE rate, is a measure of the average daily revenue performance of a vessel on a per voyage basis. Our method of calculating TCE rate is consistent with industry standards and is determined by dividing time charter equivalent revenues or TCE revenues by voyage days for the relevant time period. TCE revenues are revenues minus voyage expenses. Voyage expenses primarily consist of port, canal and fuel costs that are unique to a particular voyage, which would otherwise be paid by the charterer under a time charter contract, as well as commissions. TCE revenues and TCE rate non-GAAP measures, provide additional meaningful information in conjunction with shipping revenues, the most directly comparable GAAP measure, because it assists Company's management in making decisions regarding the deployment and use of its vessels and in evaluating their financial performance.
 
(7)  
Daily other vessel operating expenses, which includes crew costs, provisions, deck and engine stores, lubricating oil, insurance, maintenance and repairs is calculated by dividing other vessel operating expenses by fleet calendar days for the relevant time period.
 
(8)  
Daily general and administrative expenses are calculated by dividing general and administrative expenses by fleet calendar days for the relevant time period.
 

 
4

 

The following table reflects reconciliation of TCE revenues to revenues as reflected in the consolidated statements of operations and calculation of the TCE rate (all amounts are expressed in thousands of U.S. dollars, except for Average Daily Time Charter Equivalent amounts and Total Voyage Days):
 

 
   
2004
   
2005
   
2006
   
2007
   
2008
 
On a consolidated basis
                             
Revenues
    $93,829       $244,215       $310,043       $252,259       $257,380  
Less:
                                       
Voyage expenses
    (16,898 )     (36,889 )     (55,351 )     (59,414 )     (38,656 )
                                         
Time charter equivalent revenues
    $76,931       $207,326       $254,692       $192,845       $218,724  
                                         
Total voyage days
    3,215       7,436       8,634       7,032       6,099  
Average Daily Time Charter Equivalent
    $23,929       $27,881       $29,499       $27,424       $35,862  
                                         

 
   
2004
   
2005
   
2006
   
2007
   
2008
 
Tanker Fleet
                             
Revenues
    $93,829       $244,215       $310,043       $248,944       $163,995  
Less:
                                       
Voyage expenses
    (16,898 )     (36,889 )     (55,351 )     (59,253 )     (34,215 )
                                         
Time charter equivalent revenues
    $76,931       $207,326       $254,692       $189,691       $129,780  
                                         
Total voyage days
    3,215       7,436       8,634       6,991       4,357  
Average Daily Time Charter Equivalent
    $23,929       $27,881       $29,499       $27,134       $29,786  
                                         

 
   
2007
   
2008
 
Drybulk Fleet
           
Revenues
    $1,902       $71,590  
Less:
               
Voyage expenses
    (161 )     (4,441 )
                 
Time charter equivalent revenues
    $1,741       $67,149  
                 
Total voyage days
    41       1,742  
Average Daily Time Charter Equivalent
    $42,463       $38,547  
                 
B.           Capitalization and Indebtedness
 
Not Applicable.
 
C.           Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
 
Not Applicable.
 

 
5

 

D.           Risk Factors
 
The following risks relate principally to the industries in which we operate and our business in general. Any of the risk factors could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition or operating results and the trading price of our common stock.

Risks Related to Our Industries
 
The international tanker and drybulk industries are both cyclical and volatile and this may lead to reductions and volatility in our charter rates when we re-charter our vessels, vessel values and our results of operations
 
The international tanker and drybulk industries in which we operate are cyclical with attendant volatility in charter hire rates, vessel values and industry profitability. For both tankers and drybulk vessels, the degree of charter rate volatility among different types of vessels has varied widely. If we enter into a charter when charter rates are low, our revenues and earnings will be adversely affected. In addition, a decline in charter hire rates likely will cause the value of our vessels to decline. Our current fleet deployment consists mainly of long term time charters and long term bareboat charters which limits significantly our exposure to charter rate volatility and its effect on our result of operations. We are nonetheless exposed to changes in spot rates for one of our drybulk vessels that do not have long term charter coverage. Additionally, changes in spot rates in the tanker sector and the drybulk sector can affect the value of respective vessels at any given time despite the existence of long term employment contracts. Our ability to re-charter our vessels on the expiration or termination of their current time and bareboat charters and the charter rates payable under any renewal or replacement charters will depend upon, among other things, economic conditions in the tanker and drybulk market.
 
The factors affecting the supply and demand for our vessels are outside our control and are unpredictable. The nature, timing, direction and degree of changes in tanker and drybulk industry conditions are also unpredictable. Factors that influence demand for tanker and drybulk vessel capacity include:
 
 
demand for refined petroleum products and crude oil for tankers and drybulk commodities for drybulk vessels;
 
 
changes in crude oil production and refining capacity as well as drybulk commodity production and resulting shifts in trade flows for crude oil, petroleum product and drybulk commodities;
 
 
the location of regional and global crude oil refining facilities and drybulk commodities markets that affect the distance refined petroleum products and crude oil or drybulk commodities are to be moved by sea;
 
 
global and regional economic and political conditions;
 
 
the location of regional and global crude oil refining facilities and drybulk commodities markets that affect the distance refined petroleum products and crude oil or drybulk commodities are to be moved by sea;
 
 
environmental and other regulatory developments;
 
 
6

 
 
 
currency exchange rates; and
 
 
weather.
 
The factors that influence the supply of oceangoing vessel capacity include:
 
 
the number of newbuilding deliveries;
 
 
the scrapping rate of older vessels;
 
 
the price of steel;
 
 
vessel casualties;
 
 
potential conversion of vessels to alternative use;
 
 
changes in environmental and other regulations that may limit the useful lives of vessels;
 
 
port or canal congestion;
 
 
the number of vessels that are out of service at a given time; and
 
 
changes in global crude oil and drybulk commodity production.
 
The international tanker and drybulk shipping industries have experienced drastic downturns after experiencing historically high charter rates and vessel values in the recent past, and a continued downturn in these markets may have an adverse effect on our earnings, impair the carrying value of our vessels and affect compliance with our loan covenants.
 
The Baltic Drybulk Index, or BDI, a U.S. dollar daily average of charter rates issued by the London based Baltic Exchange (an organization providing maritime market information for the trading and settlement of physical and derivative contracts) that takes into account input from brokers around the world regarding fixtures for various routes, dry cargoes and various drybulk vessel sizes, declined from a high of 11,793 in May 2008 to a low of 663 in December 2008, which represents a decline of 94%. The BDI fell over 70% during the month of October alone. 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 drybulk market also affects the value of our drybulk vessels, which follows the trends of drybulk charter rates, and earnings on our charters, and similarly, affects our cash flows, liquidity and compliance with the covenants contained in our loan agreements. The BDI has since risen to 4,026 as of June 17, 2009. However, there can be no assurance that the drybulk charter market will continue to experience recovery over the next several months and the market could decline from its current level.

 
7

 
 
The Baltic Dirty Tanker Index, a U.S. dollar daily average of charter rates issued by the London based Baltic Exchange that takes into account input from brokers around the world regarding crude oil fixtures for various routes various tanker vessel sizes,  declined from a high of 2,347 in July 2008 to a low of 453 in mid-April 2009, which represents a decline of 80%. The Baltic Clean Tanker Index has fallen over 1,160 points, or 77%, since the early summer of 2008. The decline in charter rates is due to various factors, including the significant fall in demand for crude oil and petroleum products, the consequent rising inventories of crude oil and petroleum products in the United States and in other industrialized nations and the corresponding reduction in oil refining, the dramatic fall in the price of oil in 2008, and the restrictions on crude oil production that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other non-OPEC oil producing countries have imposed in an effort to stabilize the price of oil.

If the current low charter rates in the tanker and drybulk market continue through a significant period, our earnings may be adversely affected and we may have to record impairment adjustments to the carrying values of our fleet, and we may not be able to maintain compliance with the financial covenants in our loan agreements even though we have received waivers for certain breaches as discussed in "Item 5 – Operating and Financial Review And Prospects - Tabular Disclosure of Contractual Obligations – Long term debt". In such a situation, unless our lenders were willing to provide modifications to waivers of covenant compliance or modifications to our covenants, in order to remain viable, we would sell vessels in our fleet and/or seek to raise additional capital in the equity markets. Our lenders' interests may be different from ours, and we may not be able to obtain our lenders' permission or waivers when needed. This may limit our ability to continue to conduct our operations, finance our future operations, make acquisitions or pursue business opportunities. A decline in charter rates could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 
Compliance with environmental laws or regulations may adversely affect our operations.
 
The shipping industry in general and our business and the operation of tankers and drybulk vessels in particular, are affected by a variety of governmental regulations in the form of numerous international conventions, national, state and local laws and international, national and local regulations in force in the jurisdictions in which such tankers and drybulk vessels operate, as well as in the country or countries in which such tankers and drybulk vessels are registered. These regulations include:
 
 
the United States Oil Pollution Act of 1990, or OPA, which imposes strict liability for the discharge of oil into the 200-mile United States exclusive economic zone, the obligation to obtain certificates of financial responsibility for vessels trading in United States waters and the requirement that newly constructed tankers that trade in United States waters be constructed with double-hulls;
 
 
the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage of 1969, as amended in 2000, or the CLC, entered into by many countries (other than the United States) relating to strict liability for pollution damage caused by the discharge of oil;
 
 
the International Maritime Organization, or IMO (the United Nations agency for maritime safety and the prevention of pollution by ships), International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the related Protocol of 1978 relating thereto, or the MARPOL Convention, which has been updated through various amendments, with respect to strict technical and operational requirements for tankers;
 
 
the IMO International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS Convention, with respect to crew and passenger safety;
 
 
8

 

 
the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966, or LL Convention, with respect to the safeguarding of life and property through limitations on load capability for vessels on international voyages; and

 
the United States Marine Transportation Security Act of 2002, or MTSA.
 
More stringent maritime safety rules have been imposed in Europe as a result of the oil spill off the coast of France in November 2002 relating to the loss of the M/T Prestige, a 26-year old single-hull tanker owned by a company not affiliated with us. Additional laws and regulations may also be adopted that could limit our ability to do business or increase the cost of our doing business and that could have a material adverse effect on our operations. In addition, we are required by various governmental and quasi-governmental agencies to obtain certain permits, licenses, certificates and financial assurances with respect to our vessel operations. In the event of war or national emergency, our tankers and drybulk vessels may be subject to requisition by the government of the flag flown by the tanker or drybulk vessel without any guarantee of compensation for lost profits. We believe our vessels are maintained in good condition in compliance with present regulatory requirements, are operated in compliance with applicable safety/environmental laws and regulations and are insured against usual risks for such amounts as our management deems appropriate. Our vessels' operating certificates and licenses are renewed periodically during each vessel's required annual survey. However, government regulation of tankers and drybulk vessels, particularly in the areas of safety and environmental impact, may change in the future and require us to incur significant capital expenditures on our ships to keep them in compliance.
 
Under local, national and foreign laws, as well as international treaties and conventions, we could incur material liabilities, including cleanup obligations, natural resource damages and third-party claims for personal injury or property damages, in the event that there is a release of petroleum or other hazardous substances from our vessels or otherwise in connection with our current or historic operations. We could also incur substantial penalties, fines and other civil or criminal sanctions, including in certain instances seizure or detention of our vessels, as a result of violations of or liabilities under environmental laws, regulations and other requirements.
 
For example, OPA affects all vessel owners shipping oil to, from or within the United States. OPA allows for potentially unlimited liability for owners, operators and bareboat charterers of vessels without regard to fault for oil pollution in United States waters. Similarly, the CLC, which has been adopted by most countries outside of the United States, imposes liability for oil pollution in international waters. OPA expressly permits individual states to impose their own liability regimes with regard to hazardous materials and oil pollution incidents occurring within their boundaries. Coastal states in the United States have enacted pollution prevention liability and response laws, many providing for unlimited liability.
 
Future accidents may be expected in the shipping industry, and such accidents or other events may be expected to result in the adoption of even stricter laws and regulations, which could limit our operations or our ability to do business and which could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial results.
 
 
9

 

Because the market value of our vessels may fluctuate significantly, we may incur losses when we sell vessels or we may be required to write down their carrying value, which will adversely affect our earnings.
 
Current market conditions have caused a decrease in the fair market value of our vessels. The fair market value of our vessels may increase and decrease depending on the following factors:
 
 
general economic and market conditions affecting the international tanker and drybulk shipping industries;
 
 
prevailing level of charter rates;
 
 
competition from other shipping companies;
 
 
types, sizes and ages of vessels;
 
 
other modes of transportation;
 
 
cost of newbuildings;
 
 
price of steel;
 
 
governmental or other regulations; and
 
 
technological advances.
 
If we sell vessels at a time when vessel prices have fallen and before an impairment is identified, the sale may be at less than the vessel's carrying amount in our financial statements, or if vessel prices have fallen below the carrying amount in our financial statements, in which case we evaluate the asset for a potential impairment and may be required to write down the carrying amount of the vessels on our financial statements and incur a loss and a reduction in earnings, if the estimate of undiscounted cash flows, excluding interest charges, expected to be generated by the use of the asset is less than its carrying amount.
 
An increase in the supply of vessel capacity without an increase in demand for vessel capacity would likely cause charter rates and vessel values to decline, which could have a material adverse effect on our revenues and profitability.
 
The supply of vessels generally increases with deliveries of new vessels and decreases with the scrapping of older vessels, conversion of vessels to other uses, such as floating production and storage facilities, and loss of tonnage as a result of casualties. Currently there is significant new building activity with respect to virtually all sizes and classes of vessels. If the amount of tonnage delivered exceeds the number of vessels being scrapped, vessel capacity will increase. If the supply of vessel capacity increases faster than the demand for vessel capacity, the charter rates paid for our vessels as well as the value of our vessels could materially decline. Such a decline in charter rates and vessel values would likely have a material adverse effect on our revenues and profitability.
 
 
10

 

Our operating results from our tankers are subject to seasonal fluctuations, which may adversely affect our operating results.
 
Eight of the vessels in our combined fleet are tankers. We operate our tankers in markets that have historically exhibited seasonal variations in demand and, therefore, charter rates. This seasonality may result in quarter-to-quarter volatility in our operating results. The tanker sector is typically stronger in the fall and winter months in anticipation of increased consumption of oil and petroleum products in the northern hemisphere during the winter months. As a result, our revenues from our tankers may be weaker during the fiscal quarters ended June 30 and September 30, and, conversely, revenues may be stronger in fiscal quarters ended December 31 and March 31. This seasonality could materially affect our results from operations.
 
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 shares of our common stock to decline.
 
Over the last year, global financial markets have experienced extraordinary disruption and volatility following adverse changes in the global credit markets. The credit markets in the United States have experienced significant contraction, deleveraging and reduced liquidity, and governments around the world have taken significant measures in response to such events, including the enactment of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 in the United States, and may implement other significant responses in the future.
 
Securities and futures markets and the credit markets are subject to comprehensive statutes, regulations and other requirements. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, other regulators, self-regulatory organizations and exchanges have enacted temporary emergency regulations and may take other extraordinary actions in the event of market emergencies and may effect permanent changes in law or interpretations of existing laws. Recently, a number of financial institutions have experienced serious financial difficulties and, in some cases, have entered into bankruptcy proceedings or are in regulatory enforcement actions. These difficulties have resulted, in part, from declining markets for assets held by such institutions, particularly the reduction in the value of their mortgage and asset-backed securities portfolios. These difficulties have been compounded by a general decline in the willingness by banks and other financial institutions to extend credit. In addition, these difficulties may adversely affect the financial institutions that provide our credit facilities and may impair their ability to continue to perform under their financing obligations to us, which could have an impact on our ability to fund current and future obligations, including our ability to take delivery of our newbuildings.
 
We face risks attendant to changes in economic environments, changes in interest rates and instability in 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 may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition or cash flows and could cause the price of shares of our common stock to decline significantly or impair our ability to make distributions to our shareholders.
 

 
11

 

Compliance with safety and other vessel requirements imposed by classification societies may be very costly and may adversely affect our business.
 
The hull and machinery of every commercial vessel must be classed by a classification society authorized by its country of registry. The classification society certifies that a vessel is safe and seaworthy in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations of the country of registry of the vessel and the Safety of Life at Sea Convention. Our vessels are currently enrolled with the American Bureau of Shipping, Lloyd's Register of Shipping, Det Norske Veritas and Bureau Veritas each of which is a member of the International Association of Classification Societies.
 
A vessel must undergo annual surveys, intermediate surveys and special surveys. In lieu of a special survey, a vessel's machinery may be placed on a continuous survey cycle, under which the machinery would be surveyed periodically over a five-year period. Our vessels are on special survey cycles for hull inspection and continuous survey cycles for machinery inspection. Every vessel is also required to be dry docked every two to three years for inspection of the underwater parts of such vessel.
 
If a vessel does not maintain its class and/or fails any annual survey, intermediate survey or special survey, the vessel will be unable to trade between ports and will be unemployable, which will negatively impact our revenues and results from operations.
 
Our earnings may be adversely affected if we do not successfully employ our vessels.
 
Given current market conditions, we seek to deploy our vessels on time and bareboat charters in a manner that will help us achieve a steady flow of earnings. As of the date of this report, three of our tanker vessels and four of our drybulk vessels were contractually committed to time charters, and five of our tanker vessels and one of our drybulk vessels were contractually committed to bareboat charters. Although these period charters provide relatively steady streams of revenue as well as a portion of the revenues generated by the charterer's deployment of the vessels in the spot market or otherwise, our vessels committed to period charters may not be available for spot voyages during an upturn in the tanker or drybulk industry cycle, as the case may be, when spot voyages might be more profitable. The spot market is highly competitive, and spot market charter rates may fluctuate dramatically based on the supply and demand for the major commodities carried internationally by water as well as other factors.   As of the date of this report, we did not have any vessels that were trading in the spot market. If we cannot continue to employ our vessels on profitable time charters or trade them in the spot market profitably, our results of operations and operating cash flow may suffer if rates achieved are not sufficient to cover respective vessel operating and financial expenses.
 
World events could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
 
Terrorist attacks such as the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the bombings in Spain on March 11, 2004 and in London on July 7, 2005 and the continuing response of the United States to these attacks, as well as the threat of future terrorist attacks in the United States or elsewhere, continue to cause uncertainty in the world financial markets and may affect our business, operating results and financial condition. The continuing conflict in Iraq 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 any additional financing or, if we are able to obtain additional financing, to do so on terms favorable to us. 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. Any of these occurrences could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
 

 
12

 

Acts of piracy on oceangoing vessels have recently increased in frequency, which could adversely affect our business.
 
Acts of piracy have historically affected oceangoing vessels trading in regions of the world such as the South China Sea and the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. Throughout 2008 and 2009, the frequency of piracy incidents against commercial shipping vessels increased significantly, particularly in the Gulf of Aden. For example, in November 2008 the M/T Sirius Star, a tanker not affiliated with us, was captured by pirates in the Indian Ocean while carrying crude oil estimated to be worth $100.0 million. Since the beginning of 2009, numerous tanker and drybulk vessels have fallen victim to piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia.  For example, in February 2009, the M/V Saldanha, a drybulk vessel not affiliated with us, was seized by pirates while transporting coal through the Gulf of Aden.
 
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 insurance coverage could increase significantly and such insurance coverage may be more difficult to obtain. Crew costs, including those due to employing onboard security guards, could increase in such circumstances. In addition, while we believe the charterer remains liable for charter payments when a vessel is seized by pirates, the charterer may dispute this and withhold charter hire until the vessel is released. A charterer may also claim that a vessel seized by pirates was not "on-hire" for a certain number of days and it is therefore entitled to cancel the charter party, a claim that we would dispute. We may not be adequately insured to cover losses from these incidents, which could have a material adverse effect on us. In addition, 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, results of operations and cash flows.
 
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 plans, or 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.
 
 
13

 

A further economic slowdown in the Asia Pacific region could exacerbate the effect of recent slowdowns in the economies of the United States and the European Union and may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations
 
We anticipate a significant number of the port calls made mainly by our drybulk vessels will continue to involve the loading or discharging of drybulk commodities in ports in the Asia Pacific region. As a result, negative changes in economic conditions in any Asia Pacific country, particularly in China, may exacerbate the effect of recent slowdowns in the economies of the United States and the European Union and may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial position and results of operations, as well as our future prospects. In recent years, China has been one of the world's fastest growing economies in terms of gross domestic product, which has had a significant impact on shipping demand. Through the end of the fourth quarter of 2008, growth in China's gross domestic product was approximately 4.2% lower than it was during the same period in 2007, and it is likely that China and other countries in the Asia Pacific region will continue to experience slowed or even negative economic growth in the near future. Moreover, the current economic slowdown in the economies of the United States, the European Union and other Asian countries may further adversely affect economic growth in China and elsewhere. China has recently announced a $586.0 billion stimulus package aimed in part at increasing investment and consumer spending and maintaining export growth in response to the recent slowdown in its economic growth. Our business, financial condition and, results of operations as well as our future prospects, will likely be materially and adversely affected by a further economic downturn in any of these countries.
 
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. Inspection procedures can 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. Furthermore, changes to inspection procedures could also impose additional costs and obligations on our customers and may, in certain cases, render the shipment of certain types of cargo uneconomical or impractical. Any such changes or developments may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
 
Our vessels call on ports located in countries that are subject to restrictions imposed by the United States government.
 
From time to time, our time charterers or bareboat charterers who make use of our vessels in our fleet may call on ports located in countries subject to sanctions and embargoes imposed by the United States government and countries identified by the United States government as state sponsors of terrorism. Although these sanctions and embargoes do not prevent our vessels from making calls to ports in these countries, potential investors could view such port calls negatively, which could adversely affect our reputation and the market for shares of our common stock. Investor perception of the value of shares of our common stock may be adversely affected by the consequences of war, the effects of terrorism, civil unrest and governmental actions in these and surrounding countries.
 


 
14

 

Risks Related to Our Company
 
We are in breach of certain financial covenants contained in our loan agreements, have received notices from certain of our lenders regarding these covenant breaches, and if we are not successful in obtaining waivers and amendments with respect to covenants breached, our lenders may declare an event of default and accelerate our outstanding indebtedness under the relevant agreement, which would impair our ability to continue to conduct our business.
 
 Our loan agreements require that we maintain certain financial and other covenants. The current low drybulk and tanker charter rates and respective drybulk and tanker vessel values have affected our ability to comply with covenants relating to vessel values such as asset cover ratio, adjusted net worth and net asset value covenants. A violation of these covenants constitutes an event of default under our credit facilities, which would, unless waived by our lenders, provide our lenders with the right to require us to post additional collateral, enhance our equity and liquidity, increase our interest payments, pay down our indebtedness to a level where we are in compliance with our loan covenants, sell vessels in our fleet, reclassify our indebtedness as current liabilities and accelerate our indebtedness and foreclose their liens on our vessels, which would impair our ability to continue to conduct our business. Our total indebtedness of $342.5 million is presented within current liabilities in our audited consolidated balance sheet for the year ended December 31, 2008 included in this annual report as a result of cross-default provisions within our loan agreements. A cross-default provision means that if we are in default with regards to a specific loan then we are automatically in default of all our loans that contain such provisions. For this reason, we are not able to breakdown our debt obligations into current and long term, unless we are able to receive waivers for all covenants breaches. The amount of long term debt that has been reclassified from long term debt and presented together with current liabilities amounts to $290.0 million.
 
Several of our lenders notified us that we are in breach of certain financial and other covenants relating to vessel values such as asset cover ratio, adjusted net worth and net asset value covenants (as defined by each bank) contained in our loan agreements. As of the date of this annual report, we have received certain waivers on these covenant breaches from HSH Nordbank and Alpha Bank until March 31, 2010. In addition, we are in the process of drafting amendments to our agreements with DVB and Emporiki Bank regarding covenant breaches and we are in negotiations with RBS with regards to covenant breaches. For more details on breaches and waivers see "Item 5 – Operating and Financial Review And Prospects - Tabular Disclosure of Contractual Obligations – Long term debt".
 
During 2009, we expect to be in breach of covenants relating to the minimum liquidity and EBITDA as defined by each bank.
 
Breach of our loan covenants, without applicable waiver, may entitle our lenders to accelerate our debt. If our indebtedness is accelerated, it would be very difficult in the current financing environment for us to refinance our debt or obtain additional financing and we could lose our vessels if our lenders foreclose their liens. Further, as discussed below, our independent registered public accounting firm has issued its opinion with an explanatory paragraph emphasizing that we have prepared our financial statements under the going concern assumption despite our covenants breaches and working capital deficit.
 

 
15

 

Our inability to comply with certain financial and other covenants under our loan agreements raises substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.
 
As discussed above, we are in breach of certain financial and other covenants contained in our loan agreements as a result of the decline in the drybulk and tanker charter markets and related decline in vessel values. We may be unable to meet the financial and other covenants contained in our loan agreements for the foreseeable future and our lenders may choose to accelerate our indebtedness. Therefore, our ability to continue as a going concern is dependent on management's ability to successfully generate revenue to meet our obligations as they become due and have the continued support of our lenders. Our independent registered public accounting firm has issued its opinion with an explanatory paragraph emphasizing that we have prepared our financial statements under the going concern assumption despite our covenants breaches and working capital deficit. Our financial statements do not include any adjustments to reflect the possible future effects on the recoverability and classification of assets or the amounts and classification of liabilities that may result from the outcome of our inability to continue as a going concern. However, there is a material uncertainty related to events or conditions which raises significant doubt on our ability to continue as a going concern and, therefore, we may be unable to realize our assets and discharge our liabilities in the normal course of business.
 
 If we need to receive waivers and/or amendments to our loan agreements in the future, our lenders may impose additional operating and financial restrictions on us and/or modify the terms of our existing loan agreements.
 
In addition to certain financial covenants relating to our financial position, operating performance and liquidity, in connection with future waivers or amendments that we may need, lenders may impose additional restrictions on us. See "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects – Liquidity and Capital Resources – Breach of Loan Covenants." Therefore, we may need to seek permission from our lenders in order to engage in some corporate actions. Our lenders' interests may be different from ours and we may not be able to obtain our lender's permission when needed, which could prevent us from pursuing a course of action that we deem necessary. In addition to the above restrictions, our lenders may require the payment of additional fees, require prepayment of a portion of our indebtedness to them, or impose other conditions on the issuance of waivers, which could adversely affect our financial results and hinder our ability to raise capital.
 
Servicing current and future debt will limit funds available for other purposes and impair our ability to react to changes in our business.
 
To finance our fleet expansion program, we incurred secured indebtedness. We must dedicate a portion of our cash flow from operations to pay the principal and interest on our indebtedness. These payments limit funds otherwise available for working capital, capital expenditures and other purposes. As of December 31, 2008, we had total indebtedness of $346.9 million (excluding unamortized deferred financing fees of $4.4 million), and a ratio of indebtedness to total capital of approximately 54%. We will need to take on additional indebtedness as we expand our fleet, which could increase our debt to equity ratio. Our substantial level of indebtedness increases the possibility that we may be unable to generate cash sufficient to pay, when due, the principal of, interest on or other amounts due in respect of, our indebtedness. Our substantial debt could also have other significant consequences. For example, it could:
 
 
increase our vulnerability to general economic downturns and adverse competitive and industry conditions;
 
 
require us to dedicate a substantial portion, if not all, of our cash flow from operations to payments on our indebtedness, thereby reducing the availability of our cash flow to fund working capital, capital expenditures and other general corporate purposes;
 

 
16

 

 
limit our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and the industry in which we operate;
 
 
place us at a competitive disadvantage compared to competitors that have less debt or better access to capital;
 
 
limit our ability to raise additional financing on satisfactory terms or at all; and
 
 
adversely impact our ability to comply with the financial and other restrictive covenants in the indenture governing the notes and the credit agreements governing the debts of our subsidiaries, which could result in an event of default under such agreements.
 
Furthermore, our interest expense could increase if interest rates increase because some of the debt under the credit facilities of our subsidiaries is variable rate debt. If we do not have sufficient earnings, we may be required to refinance all or part of our existing debt, sell assets, borrow more money or sell more securities, none of which we can guarantee we will be able to do.
 
Our loan agreements contain restrictive covenants that may limit our liquidity and corporate activities.
 
Our loan agreements impose operating and financial restrictions on us. These restrictions may limit our ability to:
 
 
incur additional indebtedness;
 
 
create liens on our assets;
 
 
sell capital stock of our subsidiaries;
 
 
engage in mergers or acquisitions;
 
 
pay dividends;
 
 
make capital expenditures or other investments;
 
 
change the management of our vessels or terminate or materially amend the management agreement relating to each vessel; and
 
 
sell our vessels.
 
Therefore, we may need to seek permission from our lenders in order to engage in some corporate actions. Our lenders' interests may be different from ours, and we cannot guarantee that we will be able to obtain our lenders' permission when needed. This may prevent us from taking actions that are in our best interest.
 
If we fail to manage our planned growth properly, we may not be able to successfully expand our market share.
 
We intend to continue to grow our fleet. Our growth will depend on:
 
 
locating and acquiring suitable vessels;
 
 
identifying and consummating acquisitions or joint ventures;

 
17

 
 
 
integrating any acquired business successfully with our existing operations;
 
 
enhancing our customer base;
 
 
managing expansion; and
 
 
obtaining required financing.
 
Growing any business by acquisition presents numerous risks such as undisclosed liabilities and obligations, difficulty in obtaining additional qualified personnel, managing relationships with customers and suppliers and integrating newly acquired operations into existing infrastructures. We cannot give any assurance that we will be successful in executing our growth plans or that we will not incur significant additional expenses and losses in connection therewith.
 
If the recent volatility in LIBOR continues, it could affect our profitability, earnings and cash flow.
 
The London Interbank Offered Rate, or 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 debt, which in turn, could have an adverse effect on our profitability, earnings and cash flow.
 
Furthermore, interest in most loan agreements in our industry has been based on published LIBOR rates. Recently, however, lenders have insisted on provisions that entitle the lenders, in their discretion, to replace published LIBOR as the base for the interest calculation with their cost-of-funds rate. If we are required to agree to such a provision in future loan agreements, our lending costs could increase significantly, which would have an adverse effect on our profitability, earnings and cash flow.
 
Our ability to obtain additional debt financing may be dependent on the performance of our then existing charters and the creditworthiness of our charterers.
 
The actual or perceived credit quality of our charterers, and any defaults by them, may materially affect our ability to obtain the additional capital resources that we will require to purchase additional vessels or may significantly increase our costs of obtaining such capital. Our inability to obtain additional financing at all or at a higher than anticipated cost may materially affect our results of operation and our ability to implement our business strategy.
 
We may not be able to renew our time charters when they expire.
 
We might not be able to renew our existing time charters or, if renewed, they might not be at favorable rates. If, upon expiration of the existing time charters, we are unable to obtain time charters or voyage charters at desirable rates, our profitability may be adversely affected.
 

 
18

 

In the highly competitive international tanker and drybulk shipping markets, we may not be able to compete for charters with new entrants or established companies with greater resources.
 
We employ our vessels in a highly competitive market that is capital intensive and highly fragmented. The operation of tanker and drybulk vessels and the transportation of cargoes shipped in these vessels, as well as the shipping industry in general, is extremely competitive. Competition arises primarily from other vessel owners, including major oil companies as well as independent tanker and drybulk shipping companies, some of whom have substantially greater resources than we do. Competition for the transportation of oil and refined petroleum products and drybulk cargoes can be 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 and operate larger fleets through consolidations or acquisitions that may be able to offer better prices and fleets than us.
 
We depend upon a few significant customers for a large part of our revenues. The loss of one or more of these customers could adversely affect our financial performance.
 
We have historically derived a significant part of our revenue from a small number of charterers. In 2007 and 2008, approximately 33% and 26%, respectively, of our revenue was derived from two charterers. These two charterers, Glencore and PDVSA, respectively provided 23% and 10% of our revenues in 2007 and 17% and 9% of our revenues in 2008. The occurrence of any problems with these charterers may adversely affect our revenues.
 
We may be unable to attract and retain key management personnel and other employees in the international tanker and drybulk shipping industries, which may negatively impact the effectiveness of our management and our results of operations.
 
Our success depends to a significant extent upon the abilities and efforts of our management team. We have entered into employment contracts with our President, Chief Executive Officer, and Director, Evangelos Pistiolis, our Chief Financial Officer and Director, Alexandros Tsirikos, our Executive Vice President and Director, Vangelis Ikonomou and our Vice President Demetris Souroullas. Our success will depend upon our ability to hire and retain key members of our management team. The loss of any of these individuals could adversely affect our business prospects and financial condition. Difficulty in hiring and retaining personnel could adversely affect our results of operations. We do not intend to maintain ''key man'' life insurance on any of our officers.
 
As we expand our business, we will need to improve our operations and financial systems and staff; if we cannot improve these systems or recruit suitable employees, our performance may be adversely affected.
 
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. If we are unable to operate our financial and operations systems effectively or to recruit suitable employees as we expand our fleet, our performance may be adversely affected.
 
Risks involved with operating oceangoing vessels could affect our business and reputation, which would adversely affect our revenues and stock price.
 
The operation of an oceangoing vessel carries inherent risks. These risks include the possibility of:
 
 
marine disaster;

 
19

 

 
 
piracy;
 
 
environmental accidents;
 
 
cargo and property losses or damage; and
 
 
mechanical failure, human error, war, terrorism, political action in various countries, labor strikes or adverse weather conditions.
 
Any of these circumstances or events could result in death or injury to persons, loss of revenues or property, environmental damage, higher insurance rates, damage to our customer relationships, delay or rerouting, and could increase our costs or lower our revenues. The involvement of our vessels in an oil spill or other environmental disaster may harm our reputation as a safe and reliable vessel operator. If one of our vessels were involved in an accident with the potential risk of environmental contamination, the resulting media coverage could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, cash flows and financial condition.
 
Delays in deliveries of our vessels could harm our operating results.
 
The delivery of our last newbuilding product tanker could be delayed, which would affect our results of operations and financial condition .
 
We expend substantial sums during construction of newbuildings without assurance that they will be completed.
 
We are typically required to expend substantial sums as progress payments during construction of a newbuilding, but we do not derive any revenue from the vessel until after its delivery.
 
If we are unable to obtain financing required to complete payments on our newbuilding orders, we could effectively forfeit all or a portion of the progress payments previously made. As of December 31, 2008, we had six newbuildings on order with deliveries scheduled during 2009. As of December 31, 2008, progress payments made towards these newbuildings totaled $152.0 million.
 
To fund the remaining portion of existing or future capital expenditures, we will be required to use cash from operations or incur borrowings or raise capital through the sale of additional equity securities. Our ability to obtain bank financing or to access the capital markets for future offerings may be limited by our financial condition at the time of any such financing or offering as well as by adverse market conditions resulting from, among other things, general economic conditions and contingencies and uncertainties that are beyond our control. Our failure to obtain the funds for necessary future capital expenditures could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Even if we are successful in obtaining necessary funds, incurring additional debt may significantly increase our interest expense and financial leverage, which could limit our financial flexibility and ability to pursue other business opportunities.
 

 
20

 

Due to market conditions, we may not take delivery of our newbuildings or may sell them at a loss .
 
Since the highs reached during the summer of 2008, vessel values in both the drybulk and tanker industries have declined significantly.  Some, if not all, of our newbuildings have also declined in value from the price we have agreed to pay for such newbuildings.  If such vessel values remain depressed or decline further, we may choose to terminate our contract with the shipyard, which may result in termination payments in addition to any forfeiture of payments already made, or we may sell the newbuildings on the market at a loss, which might also include addtional payments.  Either of these scenarios would affect our cash flow and financial condition.
 
Rising fuel prices may adversely affect our profits.
 
Fuel is a significant, if not the largest, operating expense for many of our shipping operations when our vessels are not under period charter. The price and supply of fuel is unpredictable and fluctuates based on events outside our control, including geopolitical developments, supply and demand for oil and gas, actions by OPEC and other oil and gas producers, war and unrest in oil producing countries and regions, regional production patterns and environmental concerns. As a result, an increase in the price of fuel may adversely affect our profitability. Further, fuel may become much more expensive in future, which may reduce the profitability and competitiveness of our business versus other forms of transportation, such as truck or rail.
 
Our vessels may suffer damage and we may face unexpected drydocking costs, which could affect our cash flow and financial condition.
 
If our vessels suffer damage, they may need to be repaired at a drydocking facility, resulting in vessel downtime. The costs of drydock repairs are unpredictable and can be substantial. We may have to pay drydocking costs that our insurance does not cover. The inactivity of these vessels while they are being repaired and repositioned, as well as the actual cost of these repairs, would decrease our earnings. In addition, space at drydocking facilities is sometimes limited and not all drydocking facilities are conveniently located. We may be unable to find space at a suitable drydocking facility or we may be forced to move to a drydocking facility that is not conveniently located to our vessels' positions. The loss of earnings while our vessels are forced to wait for space or to relocate to drydocking facilities that are farther away from the routes on which our vessels trade would decrease our earnings.
 
A drop in spot charter rates may provide an incentive for some charterers to default on their charters.
 
When we enter into a time or bareboat charter, charter rates under that charter are fixed for the term of the charter. If the spot charter rates in the tanker or drybulk shipping industry, as applicable, become significantly lower than the time charter equivalent rates that some of our charterers are obligated to pay us under our existing charters, the charterers may have incentive to default under that charter or attempt to renegotiate the charter. If our charterers fail to pay their obligations, we would have to attempt to re-charter our vessels at lower charter rates, which would affect our ability to comply with our loan covenants and operate our vessels profitably. If we are not able to comply with our loan covenants and our lenders choose to accelerate our indebtedness and foreclose their liens, we could be required to sell vessels in our fleet and our ability to continue to conduct our business would be impaired.
 
 
21

 

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. Our current operating fleet has an average age of approximately nine 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 also increase with the age of a vessel, making older vessels less desirable to charterers. Governmental regulations, including environmental regulations, safety or other equipment standards related to the age of vessels may require expenditures for alterations, or the addition of new equipment, to our vessels and may restrict the type of activities in which our vessels may engage. As our vessels age, market conditions might not justify those expenditures or enable us to operate our vessels profitably during the remainder of their useful lives.
 
Purchasing and operating previously owned, or secondhand, vessels may result in increased operating costs and vessels off-hire, which could adversely affect our earnings.
 
While we rigorously inspect previously owned, or secondhand vessels prior to purchase, this does not normally provide us with the same knowledge about their condition and cost of any required (or anticipated) repairs that we would have had if these vessels had been built for and operated exclusively by us. Also, we do not receive the benefit of warranties from the builders if the vessels we buy are older than one year. In general, the costs to maintain a vessel in good operating condition increase with the age of the vessel. As of the date of this report, six of the tanker vessels in our fleet were more than 10 years of age. 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, safety or other equipment standards related to the age of vessels may require expenditures for alterations or the addition of new equipment to our vessels and may restrict the type of activities in which the vessels may engage. As our vessels age, market conditions might not justify those expenditures or enable us to operate our vessels profitably during the remainder of their useful lives. If we sell vessels, the price for which we sell them might be lower than their carrying amount at that time which would result in a loss.
 
We may not have adequate insurance to compensate us if we lose our vessels.
 
We procure insurance for our fleet against those types of risks commonly insured against by vessel owners and operators. These insurances include hull and machinery insurance, protection and indemnity insurance, which includes environmental damage and pollution insurance coverage, war risk insurance and insurance against loss of hire, which covers business interruptions that result in the loss of use of a vessel. While we currently have loss of hire insurance that covers, subject to annual coverage limits, all of the vessels in our fleet, we may not purchase loss of hire insurance to cover newly acquired vessels. We can give no assurance that we are adequately insured against all risks. We may not be able to obtain adequate insurance coverage at reasonable rates for our fleet in the future. The insurers may not pay particular claims. Our insurance policies contain deductibles for which we will be responsible as well as, limitations and exclusions which may nevertheless increase our costs or lower our revenue.
 

 
22

 

Maritime claimants could arrest 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 that vessel for unsatisfied debts, claims or damages. In many jurisdictions, a maritime lienholder may enforce its lien 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 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 try to assert ''sister ship'' liability against one vessel in our fleet for claims relating to another of our ships.
 
Governments could requisition our vessels during a period of war or emergency, resulting in loss of earnings.
 
A government could requisition for title or seize our vessels. Requisition for title occurs when a government takes control of a vessel and becomes her owner. Also, a government could requisition our vessels for hire. Requisition for hire occurs when a government takes control of a vessel and effectively becomes her charterer at dictated charter rates. Generally, requisitions occur during a period of war or emergency. Government requisition of one or more of our vessels could negatively impact our revenues should we not receive adequate compensation.
 
Certain existing stockholders, who hold approximately 36.97% of our common stock, may have the power to exert control over us, which may limit your ability to influence our actions.
 
As of June 24, 2009, Sovereign Holdings Inc., or Sovereign Holdings, a company that is wholly owned by our President, Chief Executive Officer and Director, Evangelos J. Pistiolis, and Kingdom Holdings Inc., or Kingdom Holdings, a company owned primarily by adult relatives of Mr. Pistiolis, own, directly or indirectly, approximately 13.17% of the outstanding shares of our common stock. In addition, Sphinx Investment Corp., Maryport Navigation Corp. and Mr. George Economou own 13.99% of the outstanding shares of our common stock. QVT Financial LP, QVT Financial GP LLC and QVT Associates GP LLC own 9.81% of the outstanding shares of our common stock. Sphinx Investment Corp., Maryport Navigation Corp., QVT Financial LP, QVT Financial GP LLC and QVT Associates GP LLC are entities owned and controlled by unaffiliated third parties. Together, these existing shareholders own 36.97% of our common stock. While these shareholders have no agreement, arrangement or understanding relating to the voting of their shares of common stock, due to the number of shares of our common stock they own, they have the power to exert considerable influence over our actions.
 
Our President, Chief Executive Officer, and Director, Mr. Evangelos Pistiolis, has affiliations with a private shipping company which could create conflicts of interest.
 
The family of our President, Chief Executive Officer, and Director, Mr. Evangelos Pistiolis, owns a private shipping company.  This relationship could create conflicts of interest between us, on the one hand, and this private shipping company, on the other hand. These conflicts may arise in connection with the chartering, purchase, sale and operations of the vessels in our fleet versus tankers and drybulk vessels managed by this private shipping company. For example, Mr. Pistiolis may give preferential treatment to vessels that are beneficially owned by this private shipping company because Mr. Pistiolis and members of his family may receive greater economic benefits.
 
We may have to pay tax on United States source income, which would reduce our earnings.
 
Under the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986, 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 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 deduction, unless that corporation qualifies for exemption from tax under Section 883 of the Code. We expect that we and each of our subsidiaries will qualify for this statutory tax exemption and we have taken 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 and thereby become subject to United States federal income tax on our United States source income. Therefore, we can give no assurances on our tax-exempt status or that of any of our subsidiaries. If we or our subsidiaries are not entitled to this exemption under Section 883 for any taxable year, we or our subsidiaries would be subject for those years 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.
 

 
23

 

United States tax authorities could treat us as a ''passive foreign investment company,'' which could have adverse United States federal income tax consequences to United States holders.
 
A foreign corporation will be treated as a ''passive foreign investment company,'' or PFIC, for United States federal income tax purposes if either (1) at least 75% of its gross income for any taxable year consists of certain types of ''passive income'' or (2) at least 50% of the average value of the corporation's assets produce or are held for the production of those types of ''passive income.'' For purposes of these tests, ''passive income'' includes dividends, interest, and gains from the sale or exchange of investment property and rents and royalties other than rents and royalties which are received from unrelated parties in connection with the active conduct of a trade or business. For purposes of these tests, income derived from the performance of services does not constitute ''passive income.'' United States shareholders of a PFIC are subject to a disadvantageous United States federal income tax regime with respect to the income derived by the PFIC, the distributions they receive from the PFIC and the gain, if any, they derive from the sale or other disposition of their shares in the PFIC.
 
As of March 2009, 67% of the average value of our fleet was employed under bareboat charters that produce passive income. If our fleet and charter composition remains the same, we would likely be treated as a PFIC for our 2009 taxable year. Nevertheless, it is management's intention to take necessary steps in order to avoid PFIC status as this would have negative tax consequences for our investors. Remedial actions could involve the sale of passive income producing vessels or the purchase of non passive income producing assets.
 
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 proposed method of operation. We believe there is substantial legal authority supporting our position consisting of case law and United States Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, pronouncements concerning the characterization of income derived from time charters and voyage charters as services income for other tax purposes. However, we note that there is also authority which characterizes time charter income as rental income rather than services income for other tax purposes. Accordingly, there is a risk that the IRS or a court of law could determine that we are a PFIC. Moreover, there is a risk that we could constitute a PFIC for any future taxable year if there were to be changes in the nature and extent of our operations or if our vessels continue to be bareboat chartered.
 
If the IRS were to find that we are or have been a PFIC for any taxable year, our United States shareholders will face adverse United States tax consequences. Under the PFIC rules, unless those shareholders make an election available under the Code (which election could itself have adverse consequences for such shareholders, as discussed below under ''Tax Considerations— United States Federal Income Taxation of United States Holders''), such shareholders would be liable to pay United States federal income tax at the then prevailing income tax rates on ordinary income plus interest upon excess distributions and upon any gain from the disposition of our common stock, as if the excess distribution or gain had been recognized ratably over the shareholder's holding period of our common stock. See ''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 shareholders if we are treated as a PFIC.

Because we generate all of our revenues in U.S. dollars but incur a portion of our expenses in other currencies, exchange rate fluctuations could hurt our results of operations.
 
We generate all of our revenues in U.S. dollars but incur approximately 16% of our expenses in currencies other than U.S. dollars, mainly Euros. This difference could lead to fluctuations in net income due to changes in the value of the U.S. dollar relative to the other currencies, in particular, the Euro. During 2008, the Euro appreciated versus the US dollar more than it ever has for the past five years, reaching almost 1.6 US dollars to 1 Euro during the summer of 2008. Should the Euro further appreciate relative to the U.S. dollar in future periods, our expenses will increase in U.S dollar terms, thereby decreasing our net income. We have not hedged these risks. Our operating results could suffer as a result.


 
24

 

Risks Relating to Our Common Shares
 
There is no guarantee of a continuing public market for you to resell our common shares.
 
Our common shares commenced trading on the Nasdaq National Market, now the Nasdaq Global Select Market, in July 2004. An active and liquid public market for our common shares may not continue. The price of our common shares may be volatile and may fluctuate due to factors such as:
 
 
actual or anticipated fluctuations in our quarterly and annual results and those of other public companies in our industry;
 
 
mergers and strategic alliances in the drybulk shipping industry;
 
 
market conditions in the drybulk shipping industry and the general state of the securities markets;
 
 
changes in government regulation;
 
 
shortfalls in our operating results from levels forecast by securities analysts; and
 
 
announcements concerning us or our competitors.
 
You may not be able to sell your common shares in the future at the price that you paid for them or at all. In addition, if the price of our common shares falls below $1.00, we may be involuntarily delisted from the Nasdaq Global Select Market.
 
Future sales of our common shares could cause the market price of our common shares to decline
 
Sales of a substantial number of our common shares in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, may depress the market price for our common shares. These sales could also impair our ability to raise additional capital through the sale of our equity securities in the future.
 
We are incorporated in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which does not have a well-developed body of corporate law.
 
Our corporate affairs are governed by our Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws and by the Marshall Islands Business Corporations Act, or 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 Republic of the Marshall Islands interpreting the BCA. The rights and fiduciary responsibilities of directors under the law of the Republic of the Marshall Islands are not as clearly established as the rights and fiduciary responsibilities of directors under statutes or judicial precedent in existence in certain United States jurisdictions. Security holder rights may differ as well. While the BCA does specifically incorporate the non-statutory law, or judicial case law, of the State of Delaware and other states with substantially similar legislative provisions, our security holders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests in the face of actions by the management, directors or controlling shareholders than would security holders of a corporation incorporated in a United States jurisdiction.
 

 
25

 

A small number of our stockholders effectively control the outcome of matters on which our stockholders are entitled to vote.
 
Entities affiliated with Mr. Evangelos Pistiolis, our Chief Executive Officer, currently own, directly or indirectly, approximately 9.57% of our outstanding common stock as of June 24, 2009. In addition, entities affiliated with Mr. George Economou currently own, directly or indirectly, approximately 13.99% of our outstanding common stock as of June 24, 2009. While, as far as we are aware, those stockholders have no agreement, arrangement or understanding relating to the voting of their shares of our common stock, they will effectively control the outcome of matters on which our stockholders are entitled to vote, including the election of directors and other significant corporate actions. The interests of these stockholders may be different from your interests.
 
Anti-takeover provisions in our organizational documents could have the effect of discouraging, delaying or preventing a merger, amalgamation or acquisition, which could reduce the market price of our common shares.
 
Several provisions of our Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation and our Amended and Restated Bylaws could make it difficult for our shareholders to change the composition of our board of directors in any one year, preventing them from changing the composition of management. In addition, the same provisions may discourage, delay or prevent a merger or acquisition that shareholders may consider favorable.
 
These provisions include:
 
 
authorizing our board of directors to issue "blank check" preferred stock without shareholder approval;
 
 
providing for a classified board of directors with staggered, three-year terms;
 
 
prohibiting cumulative voting in the election of directors;
 
 
authorizing the removal of directors only for cause and only upon the affirmative vote of the holders of at least 80% of the outstanding shares of our capital stock entitled to vote for the directors;
 
 
prohibiting shareholder action by written consent unless the written consent is signed by all shareholders entitled to vote on the action;
 
 
limiting the persons who may call special meetings of shareholders; and
 
 
establishing advance notice requirements for nominations for election to our board of directors or for proposing matters that can be acted on by shareholders at shareholder meetings.
 
In addition, we have entered into a Stockholder Rights Agreement that will make it more difficult for a third party to acquire us without the support of our board of directors and principal shareholders. These anti-takeover provisions could substantially impede the ability of public shareholders to benefit from a change in control and, as a result, may reduce the market price of our common stock and your ability to realize any potential change of control premium.
 
The market price of our common shares has fluctuated widely and may fluctuate widely in the future
 
The market price of our common shares has fluctuated widely since our common shares and warrants began trading in the Nasdaq National Market, now the Nasdaq Global Select Market, in July 2004.
 

 
26

 

ITEM 4.   INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY
 
A.           History and Development of the Company
 
Our predecessor, Ocean Holdings Inc., was formed as a corporation in January 2000 under the laws of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and renamed TOP TANKERS INC. in May 2004. In December 2007, TOP TANKERS INC. was renamed TOP SHIPS INC. Our common stock is currently listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol "TOPS". The current address of our principal executive office is 1 Vas. Sofias and Meg. Alexandrou Str, 15124 Maroussi, Greece. The telephone number of our registered office is +30 210 812 8000.
 
On July 23, 2004, we completed our initial public offering. The net proceeds of our initial public offering, approximately $124.6 million, were primarily used to finance the acquisition of 10 vessels, comprising of eight Ice-class double-hull Handymax tankers and two double-hull Suezmax tankers. The total cost of the acquisition was approximately $251.3 million.
 
On November 5, 2004, we completed a follow-on offering of our common stock. The net proceeds of our follow-on offering, approximately $139.5 million, were used primarily to finance the acquisition of five double-hull Suezmax tankers. The total cost of the acquisition was approximately $249.3 million.
 
During 2005, we acquired five double-hull Handymax and four double-hull Suezmax tankers at a total cost of $453.4 million and sold one double-hull Handymax and our last single-hull Handysize tanker. We sold and leased-back five double-hull Handymax tankers for a period of seven years.
 
From April 2006, until July 2006, we issued through a "controlled equity offering" 1,302,454 shares of common stock, par value $0.01. The net proceeds totaled $26.9 million.
 
During 2006, we sold and leased-back on a fixed charter basis four double-hull Handymax, four double-hull Suezmax and five double-hull Suezmax tankers for periods of five years, five years and seven years, respectively. Additionally, we sold three double-hull Handymax tankers, and we entered into an agreement with SPP Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. of the Republic of Korea, or SPP, for the construction of six product/chemical tankers.
 
In May 2007, we re-acquired four Suezmax tankers that we sold in 2006 in an earlier sale and leaseback transaction and terminated the respective bareboat charters. The re-acquisition price was $208.0 million and was partially financed by the early redemption of the seller's credit of $20.6 million associated with the 2006 sales and leaseback transactions, along with secured debt financing and cash from operations.
 
From June 2007 until July 2007, we issued through a "controlled equity offering" 1,435,874 shares of common stock, par value $0.01. The net proceeds totaled $29.4 million.
 
During July and August 2007, we agreed to acquire one Supramax, one Handymax and four Panamax drybulk vessels at a total cost of $370.1 million. The Handymax and two of the four Panamax drybulk vessels were delivered to us during the fourth quarter of 2007. The Supramax and the remaining two Panamax drybulk vessels were delivered to us during the first two quarters of 2008.
 
In December 2007, we completed a follow-on offering of our common stock. The net proceeds of this follow-on offering, approximately $68.9 million, were used primarily to repay outstanding secured debt and to partially finance the acquisition of the six drybulk vessels mentioned above, one of which we have since sold.
 
 
27

 

During 2007 we sold one Suezmax tanker, we agreed to sell one Suezmax tanker that we later delivered in January 2008 to its new owners, and we terminated the bareboat charters on three Handymax tankers that we sold in 2006 in sale and leaseback transactions, due to the sale of the vessels by their owners to third parties.
 
During 2008, we took delivery of one Supramax drybulk vessel and two Panamax drybulk vessels, which we had agreed to acquire in 2007 as mentioned above. Additionally, during 2008, we sold seven owned Suezmax tankers and one Panamax drybulk vessel and we arranged the sale of six chartered-in vessels, under bareboat charters, and terminated the respective charters.
 
On March 20, 2008, we effected a three-for-one reverse stock split of our common stock. There was no change in the number of authorized common shares. As a result of the reverse stock split, the number of outstanding shares as of March 20, 2008 decreased to 20,705,380, while the par value of our common shares remained unchanged at $0.01 per share.
 
In April 2008, we privately placed with various investors 7.3 million unregistered shares of common stock, par value $0.01, for aggregate proceeds of approximately $51.0 million. The 7.3 million shares were sold for $7.00 per share, which represents a discount of 15.5 percent based on the closing share price of $8.28 on April 23, 2008. In July 2008, we filed a registration statement on Form F-3, with respect to these 7.3 million shares.
 
As of December 31, 2008, our fleet consisted of twelve vessels – seven Handymax tankers, one Supramax drybulk vessel, one Handymax drybulk vessel, and three Panamax drybulk vessels, with total carrying capacity of 0.7 million dwt (including five tankers sold and leased back), as compared to 23 vessels, with total carrying capacity of 2.4 million dwt (including 11 tankers sold and leased back), as of December 31, 2007.
 
In February 2009, the Company took delivery of Miss Marilena and Lichtenstein from SPP. Miss Marilena and Lichtenstein are two out of six 50,000 dwt product / chemical tankers scheduled to be delivered in 2009. Miss Marilena and Lichtenstein entered into bareboat time-charter employment for a period of 10 years at a daily rate of $14,400 and $14,550, respectively.
 
On March 19, 2009, the Company took delivery of Ionian Wave and Tyrrhenian Wave from SPP. Ionian Wave and Tyrrhenian Wave are the third and fourth out of the six 50,000 dwt product / chemical tankers discussed above. Ionian Wave and Tyrrhenian Wave entered into bareboat time-charter employment for a period of seven years at a daily rate of $14,300, with three successive one-year options at a higher daily rate.
 
In April 2009, we agreed with the owners of the M/T Relentless to terminate the bareboat charter initially entered into as part of the sale and leaseback deal in 2005. Under this agreement, we will redeliver the vessel to its owners and pay a termination fee of $2.5 million during the third quarter of 2009. The bareboat charter would have expired in 2012.
 
On May 22, 2009, the Company took delivery of Britto from SPP. Britto is the fifth out of the six 50,000 dwt newbuilding product / chemical tankers scheduled to be delivered in 2009. Britto entered into bareboat time-charter employment for a period of ten years at a daily rate of $14,550.
 

 
28

 

On June 24, 2009, we terminated the bareboat charters and redelivered the vessels M/T Faithful, the M/T Doubtless, the M/T Spotless and the M/T Vanguard to their owners after paying $11.75 million in termination fees and expenses. In addition to the termination fees and expenses, we have forfeited our right to receive the seller's credit of $10.0 million from the initial sale of the vessels, which would have been received upon the expiration of the bareboat charter, and we have undertaken to pay for the dry-dock of the M/T Spotless which is currently in progress. The bareboat charter would have expired in 2011. We will remain the managers of these vessels until the expiration of their current time charters, in early 2010, and will be reimbursed by the owners for all expenses incurred. These were the last leased vessels in our fleet.
 
B.           Business Overview
 
Business Strategy
 
We are a provider of international seaborne transportation services, carrying petroleum products, crude oil for the oil industry and drybulk commodities for the steel, electric utility, construction and agriculture-food industries. We employ our tanker and drybulk vessels under time charters, bareboat charters, or in the spot charter market. Three of our tankers and four of our drybulk vessels are currently employed on time charters and five of our tankers and one of our drybulk vessels are employed on bareboat charters. We actively manage the deployment of our fleet between time charters and bareboat charters, which last from several months to several years. 56% of our fleet by dwt are sister ships, which enhances the revenue generating potential of our fleet by providing us with operational and scheduling flexibility. Sister ships also increase our operating efficiencies because technical knowledge can be applied to all vessels in a series and create cost efficiencies and economies of scale when ordering spare parts, supplying and crewing these vessels.
 
As of the date of this report, our tanker fleet under management consists of 12 owned (seven tankers and five drybulk vessels) and one chartered-in tanker vessel from a sale and leaseback transaction that we completed in 2005. The purpose of the sale and leaseback transaction was to take advantage of the high asset price environment prevailing in the market at the time and to maintain commercial and operations control of the vessels for a period of five to seven years.
 
However, the vessels sold and leased back proved to have higher operating expenses due to the increased need for regular repairs and maintenance. In addition, freight market conditions deteriorated during the years ended December 31, 2007 and December 31, 2008. At the inception of the lease period we had assumed a utilization rate of approximately 90% for those vessels. However, most of these vessels underwent their drydockings in 2006 and early 2007. All of these drydockings required significantly more time and expense than originally anticipated because of the unexpected, increased amount of works required and overbooking of the Chinese shipyards at which the vessels were drydocked, which caused significant delays. These circumstances decreased the utilization rate to approximately 71%. As a result of the above, the transaction proved uneconomical and had a negative impact on our operating results.
 
The chartered-in vessels constituted the majority of the fleet in 2006, but soon thereafter we initiated a process to unwind a number of bareboat agreements. We have successfully unwound all bareboat charter agreements, either by re-acquiring tankers previously sold and leased back, initiating the sale process by the lessors to third parties or by terminating the leases in exchange for a termination fee.  Our last leased vessel will be redelivered to its owners in the third quarter of 2009.
 
During 2006 we ordered six newbuilding product tankers in the SPP shipyard in the Republic of Korea in order to modernize our tanker fleet. Five of these tankers have already been delivered to us during the first two quarters of 2009 and the sixth one is expected to be delivered during the summer of 2009.
 
In addition, during 2007 we diversified our fleet portfolio by acquiring drybulk vessels, beginning with the acquisition of six drybulk vessels, one of which we subsequently sold.
 

 
29

 

We intend to continue to review the market for tanker and drybulk vessels to continue our program of acquiring suitable vessels on accretive terms.
 
We believe we have established a reputation in the international ocean transport industry for operating and maintaining our fleet with high standards of performance, reliability and safety. We have assembled a management team comprised of executives who have extensive experience operating large and diversified fleets of tankers and drybulk vessels, and who have strong ties to a number of national, regional and international oil companies, charterers and traders.
 
Our Fleet
 
The following table presents the Company's fleet list and employment as of the date of this report:
 
 
Dwt
Year
Built
Charter Type
Expiry
Daily Base Rate
Profit Sharing
Above Base Rate (2009)
Eight Tanker Vessels
           
Relentless (A)
47,084
1992
Time Charter
Q2/2009
 $14,000
50% thereafter
Dauntless (B)
46,168
1999
Time Charter
Q1/2010
 $16,250
100% first $1,000 + 50% thereafter
Ioannis P (B)
46,346
2003
Time Charter
Q4/2010
 $18,000
100% first $1,000 + 50% thereafter
Miss Marilena (B)
50,000
2009
Bareboat Charter
Q1-2/2019
$14,400
None
Lichtenstein (B)
50,000
2009
Bareboat Charter
Q1-2/2019
 $14,550
None
Ionian Wave (B)
50,000
2009
Bareboat Charter
Q1-2/2016
 $14,300
None
Thyrrhenian Wave (B)
50,000
2009
Bareboat Charter
Q1-2/2016
 $14,300
None
Britto (B)
50,000
2009
Bareboat Charter
Q1-2/2019
 $14,550
None
             
One Newbuilding Product Tanker
           
Hull S-1033
50,000
2009
Bareboat Charter
Q1-2/2019
 $14,550
None
             
Total Tanker dwt
439,598
         
             
Five Drybulk Vessels
           
Cyclades (B)
75,681
2000
Time Charter
Q2/2011
$54,250
None
Amalfi (B)
45,526
2000
Time Charter
Q2/2009
$10,000
None
Voc Gallant (B)
51,200
2002
Bareboat Charter
Q2/2012
$24,000
None
Pepito (B)
75,928
2001
Time Charter
Q2/2013
$41,000
None
Astrale (B)
75,933
2000
Time Charter
Q2/2011
$18,000
None
             
Total Drybulk dwt
324,268
         
             
TOTAL DWT
763,866
         

A. Vessel sold and leased back in September 2005 for a period of 7 years.
B. Owned vessels.

 
30

 
 
Management of the Fleet
 
Since July 1, 2004, TOP Tanker Management Inc., or TOP Tanker Management, our wholly-owned subsidiary, has been responsible for all of the chartering, operational and technical management of our fleet, including crewing, maintenance, repair, capital expenditures, drydocking, vessel taxes, maintaining insurance and other vessel operating expenses under management agreements with our vessel owning subsidiaries. TOP Tanker Management has built a management team with significant experience in operating large and diversified fleets of tankers and drybulk vessels and has expertise in all aspects of commercial, technical, management and financial areas of our business. Prior to July 1, 2004, the operations of our fleet were managed by Primal Tankers Inc., which was wholly-owned by the father of our Chief Executive Officer.
 
As of December 31, 2008, TOP Tanker Management has subcontracted the day-to-day technical management and crewing of two Handymax tankers to V. Ships Management Limited, a ship management company Additionally, TOP Tanker Management has also subcontracted the crewing of three Handymax tankers to V. Ships Management Limited and has also subcontracted the crewing of two Handymax tankers and four drybulk vessels to Interorient Maritime Enterprises Inc. TOP Tanker Management pays a monthly fee of $11,800 per vessel for technical management and crewing of the two vessels and $3,550 per vessel for the crewing of three vessels under its agreements with V. Ships Management, and a monthly fee of $1,700 per vessel for the six vessels under its agreements with Interorient Maritime Enterprises Inc.
 
Crewing and Employees
 
As of December 31, 2007 and 2008, TOP SHIPS INC. had four employees, while our wholly-owned subsidiary, TOP Tanker Management, employed 92 employees in 2007 and 66 employees in 2008, all of whom are shore-based. TOP Tanker Management ensures that all seamen have the qualifications and licenses required to comply with international regulations and shipping conventions, and that our vessels employ experienced and competent personnel.
 
During 2008, V. Ships Management, Hanseatic Shipping Company and Interorient Maritime Enterprises Inc, were responsible for the crewing of the fleet. Such responsibilities include training, transportation, compensation and insurance of the crew.
 
All of the employees of TOP Tanker Management are subject to a general collective bargaining agreement covering employees of shipping agents in Greece. These agreements set industry-wide minimum standards. We have not had any labor problems with our employees under this collective bargaining agreement and consider our workplace and labor union relations to be good.
 
The Industry - Tankers
 
The international tanker industry represents, we believe, the most efficient and safest method of transporting large volumes of crude oil and refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, fuel oil, gas oil and jet fuel, as well as edible oils and chemicals. Over the past five years, seaborne transportation of petroleum products has grown substantially, although it declined during 2008.
 

 
31

 

Freight rates in the tanker shipping industry are determined by the supply of product tankers and the demand for crude oil and refined petroleum products transportation. Factors that affect the supply of product tankers and the demand for transportation of crude oil and refined petroleum products include:
 
Demand
 
 
general economic conditions, including increases and decreases in industrial production and transportation, in which China has played a significant role since it joined the World Trade Organization.
 
 
oil prices;
 
 
environmental issues or concerns;
 
 
climate;
 
 
competition from alternative energy sources; and
 
 
regulatory environment.
 
Supply
 
 
the number of combined carriers, or vessels capable of carrying oil or drybulk cargoes, carrying oil cargoes;
 
 
the number of newbuildings on order and being delivered;
 
 
the number of tankers in lay-up, which refers to vessels that are in storage, dry-docked, awaiting repairs or otherwise not available or out of commission; and
 
 
the number of tankers scrapped for obsolescence or subject to casualties;
 
 
prevailing and expected future charterhire rates;
 
 
costs of bunkers, fuel oil, and other operating costs;
 
 
the efficiency and age of the world tanker fleet;
 
 
current shipyard capacity; and
 
 
government and industry regulation of maritime transportation practices, particularly environmental protection laws and regulations.

 
32

 
 
Developments in the International Tanker Market
 
The Baltic Dirty Tanker Index, a U.S. dollar daily average of charter rates issued by the London based Baltic Exchange (an organization providing maritime market information for the trading and settlement of physical and derivative contracts) which takes into account input from brokers around the world regarding crude oil fixtures for various routes various tanker vessel sizes, declined from a high of 2,347 in July 2008 to a low of 453 in mid-April 2009, which represents a decline of 80%. The Baltic Clean Tanker Index has fallen over 1,160 points, or 77%, since the early summer of 2008. The decline in charter rates is due to various factors, including the significant fall in demand for crude oil and petroleum products, the consequent rising inventories of crude oil and petroleum products in the United States and in other industrialized nations and the corresponding reduction in oil refining, the dramatic fall in the price of oil in 2008, and the restrictions on crude oil production that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC and other non-OPEC oil producing countries have imposed in an effort to stabilize the price of oil.
 
The price of crude oil rose sharply in the first half of 2008. From a starting point of $99 per barrel at the turn of the year, spot prices for West Texas Intermediate, or WTI, a specific type of oil, rose to peak prices above $145 per barrel in July. The rise in prices caused OPEC to continue increasing crude oil production in the first seven months of 2008, driving tanker earnings to the highest levels witnessed since late 2004 in most markets. After July, oil prices declined sharply as a result of the deterioration in the world economy, the collapse of financial markets, declining oil demand and bearish market sentiment. The fall in prices and in demand and rising oil inventories led OPEC to reduce crude oil production and exports resulting in lower, albeit still historically high, tanker earnings in the second half of the year. In the first quarter of 2009 oil prices stabilized in a trading range of $35-$55 per barrel as OPEC continued to reduce production levels.
 

 
33

 

The Industry – Drybulk Vessels
 
Drybulk cargo is cargo that is shipped in quantities and can be easily stowed in a single hold with little risk of cargo damage. According to industry sources, approximately 3,065 million tons of drybulk cargo was transported by sea, consisting of iron ore, coal and grains representing 27.5%, 25.87% and 10.24% of the total drybulk trade, respectively.
 
The demand for drybulk vessel capacity is determined by the underlying demand for commodities transported in drybulk vessels, which in turn is influenced by trends in the global economy. Between 2001 and 2007, trade in all drybulk commodities increased from 2,108 million tons to 2,961 million tons, an increase of 40.46%. One of the main reasons for that increase in drybulk trade was the growth in imports by China of iron ore, coal and steel products during the last eight years. Chinese imports of iron ore alone increased from 92.2 million tons in 2001 to approximately 382 million tons in 2007. In 2008, overall trade in all drybulk commodities increased from 2,961 million tons in 2007 to 3,065 million tons, an increase of 3.5%. However, demand for drybullk shipping decreased dramatically in the second quarter of 2008 evidenced by the decrease in Chinese iron ore imports which decreased from a high of 119.5 million tons in the second quarter of 2008 to a low of 96.2 million tons during the fourth quarter of 2008 representing a decrease of 19.5%.
 
The supply of drybulk vessels is dependent on the delivery of new vessels and the removal of vessels from the global fleet, either through scrapping or loss. The orderbook of new drybulk vessels scheduled to be delivered in 2009 represents approximately 28.3% of the world drybulk fleet. The level of scrapping activity is generally a function of scrapping prices in relation to current and prospective charter market conditions, as well as operating, repair and survey costs. Drybulk vessels at or over 25 years old are considered to be scrapping candidate vessels.
 
Developments in the International Drybulk Shipping Industry
 
The Baltic Drybulk Index, or BDI, a US dollar daily average of charter rates issued by the London based Baltic Exchange which takes into account input from brokers around the world regarding fixtures for various routes, dry cargoes and various drybulk vessel sizes, declined from a high of 11,793 in May 2008 to a low of 663 in December 2008, which represents a decline of 94%. The BDI fell over 70% during the month of October 2008 alone. 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 drybulk market also affects the value of drybulk vessels which follow the trends of drybulk charter rates. During 2009, the BDI has risen to 4,026 as of June 17, 2009.
 

 
34

 

Environmental Regulation
 
Government regulation significantly affects the ownership and operation of our vessels. We are subject to international conventions, 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 nonhazardous materials, 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 governmental and private entities subject our vessels to both scheduled and unscheduled inspections. These entities include the local port authorities (U.S. Coast Guard, harbor master or equivalent), classification societies, flag state administration (country of registry) and charterers, particularly terminal operators and oil companies. Certain of these entities require us to obtain permits, licenses and certificates for the operation of our vessels. Failure to maintain necessary permits, certificates 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 have lead to greater inspection and safety requirements on all vessels and may accelerate the scrapping of older vessels throughout the 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 results in significant oil pollution or otherwise 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, or IMO (the United Nations agency for maritime safety and the prevention of pollution by ships), has adopted the International Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto, which has been updated through various amendments, or the MARPOL Convention. The MARPOL Convention implements environmental standards including oil leakage or spilling, garbage management, as well as the handling and disposal of noxious liquids, harmful substances in packaged forms, sewage and air emissions. Under IMO regulations, in order to trade in ports of IMO member nations, a newbuild tanker of 5,000 dwt or above must be of double-hull construction or a mid-deck design with double-sided construction or be of another approved design ensuring the same level of protection against oil pollution if the tanker:
 
 
is the subject of a contract for a major conversion or original construction on or after July 6, 1993;
 
 
commences a major conversion or has its keel laid on or after January 6, 1994; or
 
 
completes a major conversion or is a newbuilding delivered on or after July 6, 1996.

 
35

 

Since the enactment of these regulations, the IMO has accelerated the timetable for the phase-out of single-hull oil tankers. We do not currently own any single-hull tankers.

In December 2003, the Marine Environmental Protection Committee of the IMO, or MEPC, adopted an amendment to the MARPOL Convention, which became effective in April 2005. The amendment revised an existing regulation 13G accelerating the phase-out of single-hull oil tankers and adopted a new regulation 13H on the prevention of oil pollution from oil tankers when carrying heavy grade oil. Under the revised regulation, single-hull oil tankers were required to be phased out no later than April 5, 2005 or the anniversary of the date of delivery of the ship on the date or in the year specified in the following table:
 
Category of Oil Tankers
 
Date or Year for Phase Out
Category 1 – oil tankers of 20,000 dwt and above carrying crude oil, fuel oil, heavy diesel oil or lubricating oil as cargo, and of 30,000 dwt and above carrying other oils, which do not comply with the requirements for protectively located segregated ballast tanks
 
April 5, 2005 for ships delivered on April 5, 1982 or earlier
2005 for ships delivered after April 5, 1982
Category 2 – oil tankers of 20,000 dwt and above carrying crude oil, fuel oil, heavy diesel oil or lubricating oil as cargo, and of 30,000 dwt and above carrying other oils, which do comply with the protectively located segregated ballast tank requirements
 
and
 
Category 3 – oil tankers of 5,000 dwt and above but less than the tonnage specified for Category 1 and 2 tankers.
 
April 5, 2005 for ships delivered on April 5, 1977 or earlier
2005 for ships delivered after April 5, 1977 but before January 1, 1978
2006 for ships delivered in 1978 and 1979
2007 for ships delivered in 1980 and 1981
2008 for ships delivered in 1982
2009 for ships delivered in 1983
2010 for ships delivered in 1984 or later
 
Under the revised regulations, a flag state may permit continued operation of certain Category 2 or 3 tankers beyond their phase out date in accordance with the above table. Under regulation 13G, the flag state may allow for some newer single-hull oil tankers registered in its country that conform to certain technical specifications to continue operating until the earlier of the anniversary of the date of delivery of the vessel in 2015 or the 25th anniversary of their delivery. Under regulations 13G and 13H, as described below, certain Category 2 and 3 tankers fitted only with double bottoms or double sides may be allowed by the flag state to continue operations until their 25th anniversary of delivery. Any port state, however, may deny entry of those single-hull oil tankers that are allowed to operate under any of the flag state exemptions. These regulations have been adopted by over 150 nations, including many of the jurisdictions in which our tankers operate.
 

 
36

 

Revised Annex I to the MARPOL Convention entered into force in January 2007. Revised Annex I incorporates various amendments adopted since the MARPOL Convention entered into force in 1983, including the amendments to regulation 13G (regulation 20 in the revised Annex) and Regulation 13H (regulation 21 in the revised Annex). Revised Annex I also imposes construction requirements for oil tankers delivered on or after January 1, 2010. A further amendment to revised Annex I includes an amendment to the definition of heavy grade oil that will broaden the scope of regulation 21. On August 1, 2007, regulation 12A (an amendment to Annex I) came into effect requiring oil fuel tanks to be located inside the double-hull in all ships with an aggregate oil fuel capacity of 600m 3 and above, and which are delivered on or after August 1, 2010, including ships for which the building contract is entered into on or after August 1, 2007 or, in the absence of a contract, ships for which a keel is laid on or after February 1, 2008.
 
In September 1997, the IMO adopted Annex VI to the MARPOL Convention to address air pollution from ships. Annex VI was ratified in May 2004 and became effective in 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. Additional or new conventions, laws and regulations may be adopted that could require the installation of expensive emission control systems and could adversely affect our business, cash flows, results of operations and financial condition. In October 2008, the IMO adopted amendments to Annex VI regarding particulate matter, nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide emissions standards that will enter into force 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. The United States ratified the Annex VI amendments in October 2008, thereby rendering U.S. air emissions standards equivalent to IMO requirements.

The IMO has also adopted the SOLAS Convention and the LL Convention, which impose a variety of standards to regulate design and operational features of ships. SOLAS Convention and LL Convention standards are revised periodically. We believe that all our vessels are in substantial compliance with SOLAS Convention and LL Convention standards.

Under Chapter IX of the SOLAS Convention, the requirements contained in the International Safety Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention, or ISM Code, promulgated by the IMO, also affect our operations. 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.
 
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 certificate unless its operator has been awarded a document of compliance, issued by each flag state, under the ISM Code. We have obtained documents of compliance for our offices and safety management certificates for all of our vessels for which the certificates are required by the IMO. As required by the ISM Code, we renew these documents of compliance and safety management certificates annually.
 

 
37

 

Noncompliance with the ISM Code and other IMO regulations may subject the shipowner or bareboat charterer to increased liability, may lead to decreases in available insurance coverage for affected vessels and may result in a tanker's denial of access to, or detention in, some ports. Both 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, as the case may be.
 
The IMO has negotiated international conventions that impose liability for oil pollution in international waters and a signatory's territorial waters. Additional or new conventions, laws and regulations may be adopted which could limit our ability to do business and which could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

The 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 tonnage. 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 $6.92 million (4.51 million SDR) plus $970 (631 SDR) for each additional gross ton over 5,000. For vessels of over 140,000 gross tons, liability is limited to $138.01 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 0.65046 SDR per U.S. dollar on June 17, 2009. The right to limit liability is forfeited under the CLC where the spill is caused by the shipowner's actual fault and under the 1992 Protocol where the spill is caused by the shipowner's intentional or reckless 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.
 
IMO regulations also require owners and operators of vessels to adopt Ship Oil Pollution Emergency Plans or SOPEPs. Periodic training and drills for response personnel and for vessels and their crews are required.
 
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.


 
38

 

U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act
 
In 1990, the United States Congress enacted the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990, or OPA to establish an extensive regulatory and liability regime for environmental protection and cleanup of oil spills. OPA affects all owners and operators whose vessels trade with the United States or its territories or possessions, or whose vessels operate in the waters of the United States, which include the United States territorial sea and the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone around the United States. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA, imposes liability for clean-up and natural resource damage from the release 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" who 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 oil spills from their vessels. These other damages are defined broadly to include:
 
 
natural resource damage and related assessment costs;
 
 
real and personal property damage;
 
 
net loss of taxes, royalties, rents, profits or earnings capacity;
 
 
net cost of public services necessitated by a spill response, such as protection from fire, safety or health hazards; and
 
 
loss of subsistence use of natural resources.
 
Under amendments to OPA that became effective on July 11, 2006, the liability of responsible parties is limited with respect to tanker vessels to the greater of $1,900 per gross ton or $16.0 million per vessel that is over 3,000 gross tons, and with respect to non tanker vessels, to the greater of $950 per gross ton or $0.8 million per vessel (subject to periodic adjustment for inflation). On September 24, 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard proposed adjustments to the limits of liability that would increase the limits for tank vessels to the greater of $2,000 per gross ton or $17.0 million per vessel that is over 3,000 gross tons and for non tank vessels 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 comment period for the proposed rule closed on November 24, 2008, and the adjustments will become effective after publication as final regulations. 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 discharge of pollutants within their waters. In some cases, states that have enacted this type of legislation have not yet issued implementing regulations defining tanker owners' responsibilities under these laws.
 
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 $5.0 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, however, where the incident is caused by violation of applicable U.S. federal safety, construction or operating regulations, or by the responsible party's gross negligence or willful misconduct. These limits also do not apply if the responsible party fails or refuses to report the incident or to cooperate and assist in connection with the substance removal activities. OPA and CERCLA each preserve the right to recover damages under existing law, including maritime tort law.
 

 
39

 

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 the limit of their potential strict liability under the act. 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 July 2006 amendments to OPA, as described above. The increased amounts became effective on January 15, 2009. U.S. Coast Guard regulations currently require evidence of financial responsibility in the amount of $2,200 per gross ton for  tankers, coupling the current OPA limitation on liability of $1,900 per gross ton with the CERCLA liability limit of $300 per gross ton. Under the regulations, evidence of financial responsibility may be demonstrated by insurance, surety bond, self-insurance or guaranty. Under OPA regulations, an owner or operator of more than one tanker is required to demonstrate evidence of financial responsibility for the entire fleet in an amount equal only to the financial responsibility requirement of the tanker having the greatest maximum strict liability under OPA and CERCLA. We have provided such evidence and received certificates of financial responsibility from the U.S. Coast Guard for each of our vessels required to have one.
 
We insure each of our vessels with pollution liability insurance in the maximum commercially available amount of $1.0 billion. A catastrophic spill could exceed the insurance coverage available, in which event there could be a material adverse effect on our business.
 
The U.S. Clean Water Act
 
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.
 
The United States Environmental Protection Agency, or 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 specific discharge streams.
 
Although the VGP became effective on February 6, 2009, the VGP application procedure, known as the Notice of Intent, or NOI, has yet to be finalized. Accordingly, Regulated Vessels will effectively be covered under the VGP from February 6, 2009 until June 19, 2009, at which time the "eNOI" electronic filing interface will become operational. Thereafter, owners and operators of Regulated Vessels must file their NOIs prior to September 19, 2009, or the Deadline. Any Regulated Vessel that does not file a NOI by the Deadline will not be allowed to discharge into U.S. navigable waters until it has obtained a VGP.  Our fleet is composed entirely of Regulated Vessels, and we intend to submit NOIs for each vessel in our fleet as soon after June 19, 2009 as practicable.
 

 
40

 

Owners and operators of vessels visiting U.S. waters will be required to comply with this VGP program or face penalties. Compliance with the VGP may require the installation of equipment on our  vessels to treat ballast water before it is discharged or the implementation of other port facility disposal arrangements or procedures at potentially substantial cost, and/or otherwise restrict our vessels from entering U.S. waters.  In addition, the CWA requires each state to certify federal discharge permits such as the VGP. Certain states have enacted more stringent discharge standards as conditions to their certification of the VGP.  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. 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 River, 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 shipping industry. In April 2008 the U.S. House of Representatives 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. Michigan's ballast water management legislation mandating the use of various techniques for ballast water treatment was upheld by the federal courts. Other states may proceed with the enactment of similar requirements that could increase the costs of operating in state waters.
 
Other Regulations
 
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 tanker 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 tanker 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 tanker vessels operating in covered port areas are already equipped with vapor recovery systems that satisfy these requirements. Although a risk exists that new regulations could require significant capital expenditures and otherwise increase our costs, based on the regulations that have been proposed to date, we believe that no material capital expenditures beyond those currently contemplated and no material increase in costs are likely to be required.
 

 
41

 

On October 9, 2008, the United States ratified the amended Annex VI to the IMO's MARPOL Convention, addressing air pollution from ships, which went into effect 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. The California Air Resources Board or CARB, has recently adopted 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 adopted the new regulations in spite of the invalidation of similar regulations by the courts, and more legal challenges to the standards 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, on March 27, 2009, the United States requested IMO to designate the area extending 200 miles from the territorial sea baseline adjacent to the Atlantic/Gulf and Pacific coasts and the eight main Hawaiian Islands as Emission Control Areas under the Annex VI amendments. If approved by the IMO, more stringent emissions standards similar to the new CARB regulations would apply in the Emission Control Areas, which would cause us to incur further costs.
 
Several of our vessels currently carry cargoes to U.S. waters and we believe that all of our vessels are suitable to meet OPA and other U.S. environmental requirements.
 
European Union Tanker Restrictions
 
In 2005, the European Union (EU) 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 EU 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, which we refer to as 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 the warming of the Earth's atmosphere. Currently, the emissions of greenhouse gases from international shipping are not subject to the Kyoto Protocol. A new treaty is expected to be adopted at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, and there is pressure to include shipping. The European Union has also indicated that it intends to propose an expansion of the existing E.U. emissions trading scheme to include emissions of greenhouse gases from vessels. In the U.S., on April 17, 2009, the EPA Administrator signed a proposed finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health and safety and that emissions from new motor vehicle engines contribute to concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Although the proposed finding does not extend to vessels and vessel engines, the EPA is separately considering a petition from the California Attorney General and a coalition of environmental groups to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from ocean-going vessels under the Clean Air Act. Climate change initiatives are also being considered by the U.S. Congress in this session.
 

 
42

 

Any passage of climate control legislation or other regulatory initiatives by the IMO, E.U., the U.S. or other individual countries where we operate that restrict emissions of greenhouse gases could require us to make significant financial expenditures 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 MTSA, came into effect. To implement certain portions of the MTSA, the United States Coast Guard in July 2003 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 the SOLAS Convention created a new chapter of the convention dealing specifically with maritime security. The new chapter went into effect on July 1, 2004 and imposes various detailed security obligations on vessels and port authorities, most of which are contained in the recently created International Ship and Port Facility 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 obtain an International Ship Security Certificate from a recognized security organization approved by the vessel's flag state. Among the various requirements are:
 
 
on-board installation of automatic identification systems to provide a means for the automatic transmission of safety-related information from among similarly equipped ships and shore stations, including information on a ship's identity, position, course, speed and navigational status;

 
on-board installation of ship security alert systems, which do not sound on the vessel but only alerts the authorities on shore;

 
the development of vessel security plans;

 
ship identification number to be permanently marked on a vessel's hull;

 
a continuous synopsis record kept onboard showing a vessel's history including, name of the ship and of the state whose flag the ship is entitled to fly, the date on which the ship was registered with that state, the ship's identification number, the port at which the ship is registered and the name of the registered owner(s) and their registered address; and

 
compliance with flag state security certification requirements.

The 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 ISSC attesting to the vessel's compliance with SOLAS Convention security requirements and the ISPS Code. We have implemented the various security measures addressed by MTSA, the SOLAS Convention, and the ISPS Code, and our fleet is in compliance with applicable security requirements.


 
43

 

Inspection by Classification Societies
 
Every seagoing 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 or requests 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, regular and extraordinary surveys of hull, machinery, including the electrical plant, and any special equipment classed are required to be performed as follows:
 
Annual Surveys: For seagoing ships, annual surveys are conducted for the hull and the machinery, including the electrical plant, and where applicable for special equipment classed, at intervals of 12 months from the date of commencement of the class period indicated in the certificate.
 
Intermediate Surveys: Extended annual surveys are referred to as intermediate surveys and typically are conducted two and one-half years after commissioning and each class renewal. Intermediate surveys may be carried out on the occasion of the second or third annual survey.
 
Class Renewal Surveys: Class renewal surveys, also known as special surveys, are carried out for the ship's hull, machinery, including the electrical plant, and for any special equipment classed, at the intervals indicated by the character of classification for the hull. At the special survey, the vessel is thoroughly examined, including audio-gauging to determine the thickness of the steel structures. Should the thickness be found to be less than class requirements, the classification society would prescribe steel renewals. The classification society may grant a one-year grace period for completion of the special survey. Substantial amounts of money may have to be spent for steel renewals to pass a special survey if the vessel experiences excessive wear and tear. In lieu of the special survey every four or five years, depending on whether a grace period was granted, a shipowner has the option of arranging with the classification society for the vessel's hull or machinery to be on a continuous survey cycle, in which every part of the vessel would be surveyed within a five-year cycle.
 
At an owner's application, the surveys required for class renewal may be split according to an agreed schedule to extend over the entire period of class. This process is referred to as continuous class renewal.
 
All areas subject to survey as defined by the classification society are required to be surveyed at least once per class period, unless shorter intervals between surveys are prescribed elsewhere. The period between two subsequent surveys of each area must not exceed five years.
 
Most vessels are also dry-docked 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.
 

 
44

 

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. All our vessels are certified as being ''in class'' by the American Bureau of Shipping, Lloyd's Register of Shipping or Det Norske Veritas. All new and secondhand vessels that we purchase must be certified prior to their delivery under our standard 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.
 
Risk of Loss and Liability Insurance General
 
The operation of any cargo 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 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 any vessel 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 carry loss of hire insurance to cover 100% of our fleet, we may not be able to maintain this level of coverage. 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.
 
Hull and Machinery Insurance
 
We have obtained marine hull and machinery and war risk insurance, which includes the risk of actual or constructive total loss, general average, particular average, salvage, salvage charges, sue and labor, damage received in collision or contact with fixed or floating objects for all of the vessels in our fleet. The vessels in our fleet are each covered up to at least fair market value, with deductibles of $100,000 per vessel per incident, for the seven Handymax tankers and five drybulk vessels. We also have arranged increased value coverage for some vessels. Under this increased value coverage, in the event of total loss of a vessel, we will recover for amounts not recoverable under the hull and machinery policy by reason of any under-insurance.
 
Loss of Hire Insurance
 
We have obtained Loss of Hire Insurance to cover the loss of hire of each vessel for 90 days in excess of 30 days in case of an incident that is coverable by Hull and Machinery policy.
 
Protection and Indemnity Insurance
 
Protection and indemnity insurance is provided by mutual protection and indemnity associations, or P&I Associations, which covers our third party liabilities in connection with our shipping activities. This includes third party liability and other related expenses of injury or death of crew, passengers and other third parties, loss or damage to cargo, claims arising from collisions with other vessels, damage to other third party property, pollution arising from oil or other substances, 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.
 

 
45

 

Our current protection and indemnity insurance coverage for pollution is $1.0 billion per vessel per incident. The 13 P&I Associations that comprise the International Group insure approximately 90% of the world's commercial tonnage and have entered into a pooling agreement to reinsure each association's liabilities. Each P&I Association has capped its exposure to this pooling agreement at $4.25 billion. As a member of a P&I Association, which is a member of the International Group, we are subject to calls payable to the associations based on its claim records as well as the claim records of all other members of the individual associations, and members of the pool of P&I Associations comprising the International Group.
 
Competition
 
We operate in markets that are highly competitive and based primarily on supply and demand. We compete for charters on the basis of price, vessel location, size, age and condition of the vessel, as well as on our reputation as an operator. We arrange our time charters and voyage charters in the spot market through the use of brokers, who negotiate the terms of the charters based on market conditions. We compete primarily with owners of tankers in the Handymax class sizes and also with owners of drybulk vessels in the Handymax and Panamax class sizes. Ownership of tankers is highly fragmented and is divided among major oil companies and independent vessel owners. The drybulk market is less fragmented with more small operators.
 
Seasonality
 
We operate our vessels in markets that have historically exhibited seasonal variations in demand and, therefore, charter rates. This seasonality may affect operating results. Currently, one of our drybulk vessels is not under any long term charter employment and as a result its revenues may be affected by the seasonality of the drybulk market which is typically stronger in the fall and winter months in anticipation of increased consumption of coal and other raw materials.
 
Legal Proceedings Against Us
 
In December 2006, the Company and certain of its executive officers and directors were named as defendants in various class action securities complaints brought in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, which were subsequently consolidated under the caption In re Top Tankers, Inc. Securities Litigation, Case No. 06-cv-13761 (CM), which we refer to as the Putative Class Action. On December 18, 2007, the Court denied the motion to dismiss brought by the Company and other defendants in connection with the Putative Class Action. On or about January 18, 2008, the parties reached a settlement agreement in principle whereby the plaintiff, on behalf of members of the Class who do not opt out, would dismiss all claims against the Company with prejudice in exchange for a settlement payment of $1.2 million.
 
On April 28, 2008, the Court entered an order preliminarily approving the proposed settlement and directing that notice be given to all potential members of the Class of the proposed settlement. The Court ordered a hearing on July 31, 2008 to determine whether the settlement should be approved. The settlement hearing took place as scheduled, and Judge McMahon approved the settlement and award of attorneys' fees to class counsel. The clerk of the court terminated the case on July 31, 2008. The settlement was funded by the Company's directors and officers' insurance carriers.

 
46

 

C. Organizational Structure
 
TOP SHIPS INC. is the sole owner of all outstanding shares of the wholly-owned subsidiaries as of December 31, 2008. TOP SHIPS INC. is the sole owner of all outstanding shares of the following subsidiaries:
 
 
Shipowning Companies with vessels sold
1
Olympos Shipping Company Limited
2
Vermio Shipping Company Limited ( "Faithful")
3
Kalidromo Shipping Company Limited ("Kalidromo")
4
Olympos Shipping Company Limited ("Olympos")
5
Rupel Shipping Company Inc. ("Rupel")
6
Helidona Shipping Company Limited ("Helidona")
7
Mytikas Shipping Company Ltd. ("Mytikas")
8
Litochoro Shipping Company Ltd. ("Litochoro")
9
Vardousia Shipping Company Ltd. ("Vardousia")
10
Psiloritis Shipping Company Ltd. ("Psiloritis")
11
Menalo Shipping Company Ltd. ("Menalo")
12
Pintos Shipping Company Ltd. ("Pintos")
13
Pylio Shipping Company Ltd. ("Pylio")
14
Taygetus Shipping Company Ltd. ("Taygetus")
15
Imitos Shipping Company Limited ("Imitos")
16
Parnis Shipping Company Limited ("Parnis")
17
Parnasos Shipping Company Limited ("Parnasos")
18
Vitsi Shipping Company Limited ("Vitsi")
19
Kisavos Shipping Company Limited ("Kisavos")
20
Agion Oros Shipping Company Limited ("Agion Oros")
21
Giona Shipping Company Limited ("Giona")
22
Agrafa Shipping Company Limited ("Agrafa")
23
Ardas Shipping Company Limited ("Ardas")
24
Nedas Shipping Company Limited ("Nedas")
25
Kifisos Shipping Company Limited ("Kifisos")
26
Sperhios Shipping Company Limited ("Sperhios")
27
Noir Shipping S.A. ("Noir")
   
 
Shipowning Companies with sold and leased back vessels at December 31, 2008
28
Gramos Shipping Company Inc. ("Gramos")
29
Falakro Shipping Company Ltd. ("Falakro")
30
Pageon Shipping Company Ltd. ("Pageon")
31
Idi Shipping Company Ltd. ("Idi")
32
Parnon Shipping Company Ltd. ("Parnon")
   


 
47

 


 
Shipowning Companies with vessels in operations at December 31, 2008
33
Lefka Shipping Company Limited ("Lefka")
34
Ilisos Shipping Company Limited ("Ilisos")
35
Amalfi Shipping Company Limited ("Amalfi")
36
Jeke Shipping Company Limited ("Jeke")
37
Japan I Shipping Company Limited ("Japan I")
38
Japan II Shipping Company Limited ("Japan II")
39
Japan III Shipping Company Limited ("Japan III")
   
 
Shipowning Companies with vessels under construction at December 31, 2008
40
Warhol Shipping Company Limited ("Warhol")
41
Lichtenstein Shipping Company Limited ("Lichtenstein")
42
Banksy Shipping Company Limited ("Banksy")
43
Indiana R Shipping Company Limited ("Indiana R")
44
Britto Shipping Company Limited ("Britto")
45
Hongbo Shipping Company Limited ("Hongbo")
   
 
Other Companies
46
Top Tankers (U.K.) Limited
47
Top Bulker Management Inc
48
TOP Tanker Management Inc ((the "Manager")
49
Ierissos Shipping Inc

 
D.           Properties, Plants and Equipment
 
For a list of our fleet see "Business Overview – Our Fleet" above.
 
In January 2006, we entered into an agreement with an unrelated party to lease office space in Athens, Greece. The office is located at 1, Vasilisis Sofias & Megalou Alexandrou Street, 151 24 Maroussi, Athens, Greece. The agreement is for a duration of 12 years beginning May 2006 with a lessee's option for an extension of 10 years. The current monthly rental is $161,231 (based on the Dollar/Euro exchange rate as of December 31, 2008) adjusted annually for inflation increase plus 1.0%.
 
In addition, our subsidiary TOP TANKERS (U.K.) LIMITED, a representative office in London, leases office space in London, from an unrelated third party.
 
ITEM 4A.          Unresolved Staff Comments
 
None.
 
 
48

 

ITEM 5.   OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS
 
The following management's discussion and analysis is intended to discuss our financial condition, changes in financial condition and results of operations, and should be read in conjunction with our historical consolidated financial statements and their notes included in this report.
 
This discussion contains forward-looking statements that reflect our current views with respect to future events and financial performance. Our actual results may differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of certain factors, such as those set forth in the section entitled "Risk Factors" and elsewhere in this report.
 
Overview
 
We are an international provider of seaborne transportation services, carrying petroleum products, crude oil and drybulk commodities for the steel, electric utility, construction and agriculture-food industries.
 
As of December 31, 2008, our fleet consisted of 12 vessels (five drybulk vessels and seven tankers), with total carrying capacity of approximately 0.7 million dwt (including seven owned and five vessels sold and leased back for a period of five to seven years) as compared to 23 vessels (three drybulk vessels and 20 tankers), with total carrying capacity of approximately 2.4 million dwt (including 11 vessels sold and leased back for a period of five to seven years) on December 31, 2007.
 
Since 2007, we have been seeking to reduce our ongoing financial expenditure by unwinding or reacquiring the vessels sold and leased back during 2005 and 2006.
 
During 2007, we reacquired four previously sold and leased back Suezmax tankers. During 2008, we unwound six leased vessels by assisting their owners in disposing them. To date during 2009, we have managed to unwind or agreed to unwind the remaining five leased vessels by incurring one off termination fees. Specifically, as of the date of this report, we have redelivered four out of five leased vessels to their new owners. The fifth one will be redelivered in the third quarter of 2009. After the redelivery of the last leased vessel, our company will remain with a very young tanker fleet of seven product tankers – five built in 2009, one built in 2003 and one built in 1999, and a relatively young drybulk fleet, five drybulk vessels – two Panamaxes built in 2000, one Handymax built in 2000, one Panamax built in 2001 and one Supramax built in 2002
 
Also, in 2007, we diversified our fleet portfolio by adding drybulk vessels to our fleet. This diversification significantly added to our net income during 2008 and is expected to contribute positively to our results during 2009.
 
The termination of the leases which took away older, loss making vessels from our fleet together with a well timed entrance in the drybulk sector and the employment of these vessels on charters at above market rates which contributed significantly to 2008 results, helped transform the company from a loss making one in 2007 to a profitable one in 2008.  See "Results of operations for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2006, 2007 and 2008" for more information.
 
Segments
 
Since the acquisition of drybulk vessels in the fourth quarter of 2007, we have been analyzing and reporting our results of operations in two segments: tanker fleet and drybulk fleet.
 
Tanker fleet : For the year ended December 31, 2008, revenues for this segment were $164.0 million and operating income $13.0 million.
 
Drybulk fleet : For the year ended December 31, 2008, revenues for this segment were $71.6 million and operating income $26.8 million.
 
 
49

 

A. Operating results
 
Factors affecting our results of operations – all segments
 
We believe that the important measures for analyzing trends in the results of our operations for both tankers and drybulk vessels consist of the following:
 
• Calendar days. We define calendar days as the total number of days in a period during which each vessel in our fleet was in our possession, including off-hire days associated with major repairs, dry dockings or special or intermediate surveys. Calendar days are an indicator of the size of our fleet over a period and affect both the amount of revenues and the amount of expenses that we record during that period.
 
• Voyage days. We define voyage days as the total number of days in a period during which each vessel in our fleet (including vessels we operate under our lease agreements) was in our possession net of off-hire days associated with major repairs, dry dockings or special or intermediate surveys. The shipping industry uses voyage days (also referred to as available days) to measure the number of days in a period during which vessels actually generate revenues.
 
• Fleet utilization. We calculate fleet utilization by dividing the number of our voyage days during a period by the number of our calendar days during that period. The shipping industry uses fleet utilization to measure a company's efficiency in finding suitable employment for its vessels and minimizing the amount of days that its vessels are off-hire for reasons such as scheduled repairs, vessel upgrades, dry dockings or special or intermediate surveys.
 
• Spot Charter Rates. Spot charter rates are volatile and fluctuate on a seasonal and year-to-year basis. Fluctuations are by imbalances in the availability of cargoes for shipment and the number of vessels available at any given time to transport these cargoes.
 
• TCE revenues. We define TCE revenues as revenues minus voyage expenses. Voyage expenses primarily consist of port, canal and fuel costs that are unique to a particular voyage, which would otherwise be paid by a charterer under a time charter, as well as commissions. We believe that presenting revenues net of voyage expenses neutralizes the variability created by unique costs associated with particular voyages or the deployment of vessels on the spot market and facilitates comparisons between periods on a consistent basis. We calculate daily TCE rates by dividing TCE revenues by voyage days for the relevant time period. TCE revenues include demurrage revenue, which represents fees charged to charterers associated with our spot market voyages when the charterer exceeds the agreed upon time required to load or discharge a cargo. We calculate daily direct vessel operating expenses and daily general and administrative expenses for the relevant period by dividing the total expenses by the aggregate number of calendar days that we owned each vessel for the period.
 

 
50

 

In accordance with GAAP measures, we report revenues in our income statements and include voyage expenses among our expenses. However, in the shipping industry the economic decisions are based on vessels' deployment upon anticipated TCE rates, and industry analysts typically measure shipping freight rates in terms of TCE rates. This is because under time-charter and bareboat contracts the customer usually pays the voyage expenses, while under voyage charters the ship-owner usually pays the voyage expenses, which typically are added to the hire rate at an approximate cost. Consistent with industry practice, management uses TCE as it provides a means of comparison between different types of vessel employment and, therefore, assists decision making process.
 
Voyage Revenues
 
Tanker segment

Our voyage revenues are driven primarily by the number of vessels in our fleet, the number of voyage days during which our vessels generate revenues and the amount of daily charterhire that our vessels earn under charters, which, in turn, are affected by a number of factors, including our decisions relating to vessel acquisitions and disposals, the amount of time that we spend positioning our vessels, the amount of time that our vessels spend in dry dock undergoing repairs, maintenance and upgrade work, the duration of the charter, the age, condition and specifications of our vessels, levels of supply and demand in the global transportation market for oil products or bulk cargo and other factors affecting spot market charter rates such as vessel supply and demand imbalances.
 
Vessels operating on period charters, time charters or bareboat charters, provide more predictable cash flows, but can yield lower profit margins than vessels operating in the short-term, or spot, charter market during periods characterized by favorable market conditions. Vessels operating in the spot charter market generate revenues that are less predictable, but may enable us to capture increased profit margins during periods of improvements in charter rates, although we are exposed to the risk of declining charter rates, which may have a materially adverse impact on our financial performance. If we employ vessels on period charters, future spot market rates may be higher or lower than the rates at which we have employed our vessels on period time charters.
 
Under a time charter, the charterer typically pays us a fixed daily charter hire rate and bears all voyage expenses, including the cost of bunkers (fuel oil) and port and canal charges. We remain responsible for paying the chartered vessel's operating expenses, including the cost of crewing, insuring, repairing and maintaining the vessel, the costs of spares and consumable stores, tonnage taxes and other miscellaneous expenses, and we also pay commissions to one or more unaffiliated ship brokers and to in-house brokers associated with the charterer for the arrangement of the relevant charter.
 
Under a bareboat charter, the vessel is chartered for a stipulated period of time which gives the charterer possession and control of the vessel, including the right to appoint the master and the crew. Under bareboat charters all voyage and operating costs are paid by the charterer. During 2009, we have taken delivery of five newbuilding product tankers all of which are on bareboat charters for a period between 7 and 10 years.  During 2007 and 2008, we also employed vessels in the spot market and we may do so again in the future depending on prevailing market conditions at the time our period charters expire.
 
Drybulker segment
 
The above discussion for the Tanker Segment also applies to the drybulker segment with the only difference being the different economics that apply in the global markets for oil versus the global market for dry products shipped in bulk.
 
As of the date of this report, four of our drybulk vessels were operating under time charters and one under a bareboat charter.
 
 
51

 

Revenues for the drybulker segment include amortization of fair value of below market acquired time charter liability. Specifically, when vessels are acquired with period charters attached and the rates on such charters are below market on the acquisition date, we allocate the total cost between the vessel and the fair value of below market time charter based on the relative fair values of the vessel and the liability acquired. The fair value of the attached period charter is computed as the present value of the difference between the contractual amount to be received over the term of the period charter and management's estimates of the market period charter rate at the time of acquisition. The fair value of below market period charter is amortized over the remaining period of the period charter as an increase to revenues.
 
In November and December 2007 and February 2008, we acquired the drybulk vessels M/V Bertram, M/V Amalfi and M/V Voc Gallant, respectively, with attached time charter contracts. As a result, the purchase price of the vessels was allocated between vessel cost and the fair value of the time charter contracts, totaling in aggregate $43.3 million, which is reflected in Fair Value of Below Market Time Charter on the accompanying consolidated balance sheets. Following the sale of the M/V Bertram, in April 16, 2008, the then unamortized fair value of below market time charter of $16.1 million was written-off to the loss from the sale of vessel. For the year ended December 31, 2007 and 2008, the amortization of the fair value of the time charter contracts totaled $1.4 million and $21.8 million, respectively and is included in Revenues in the accompanying consolidated statement of operations.

Voyage Expenses
Tanker segment
 
Voyage expenses primarily consist of port charges, including canal dues, bunkers (fuel costs) and commissions. All these expenses, except commissions, are paid by the charterer under a time charter or bareboat charter contract. The amount of voyage expenses are mainly driven by the routes that the vessels travel, the amount of ports called on, the canals crossed and the price of bunker fuels paid. This category was less significant in 2008 when compared to 2007 due the fact that less vessels were operating in the spot market in 2008. In 2009, voyage expenses are expected to be even less significant since all our tanker vessels are either on time charters or bareboat charters expiring after 2009.

Drybulker segment
Our drybulk vessels are operating under time charter or bareboat charter contracts and hence voyage expenses primarily consist of commissions on the time charters.

Charter Hire Expenses
Tanker segment
 
Charter hire expenses consist of lease payments for vessels sold and leased-back during 2005 and 2006 for periods between five to seven years.

Drybulker segment
 
Not applicable.


 
52

 

Other Vessel Operating Expenses
Tanker and Drybulker segment
 
Vessel operating expenses include crew wages and related costs, the cost of insurance, expenses relating to repairs and maintenance, the costs of spares and consumable stores, tonnage taxes and other miscellaneous expenses for vessels that we own and vessels that we lease under our operating leases. Our vessel operating expenses, which generally represent fixed costs, have historically increased as a result of the increase in the size of our fleet. We analyze vessel operating expenses on a $ / per day basis. Additionally, vessel operating expenses can fluctuate due to factors beyond our control, such as unplanned repairs and maintenance which can be quite significant, or factors which may affect the shipping industry in general, such as developments relating to insurance premiums, or developments relating to the availability of crew, may also cause these expenses to increase.

Dry-docking Costs
Tanker segment
 
Dry docking costs relate to the regularly scheduled intermediate survey or special survey dry-docking necessary to preserve the quality of our vessels (see relevant accounting policy) as well as to comply with international shipping standards and environmental laws and regulations. Dry docking costs can vary according to the age of the vessel, the location where the drydock takes place, shipyard availability, local availability of manpower and material, the billing currency of the yard, the days the vessel is off hire in order to complete its survey and the diversion necessary in order to get from the last port of employment to the yard and back to a position for the next employment. In the case of tankers, dry docking costs may also be affected by new rules and regulations (see "Item 4 – Information on the Company – B. Business Overview – Environmental Regulations).
 
Drybulker segment
 
The above discussion for the Tanker Segment also applies to the drybulker segment. The effect of new rules and regulations on cost is lower in the drybulker segment due to the lower pollution risk this segment has compared to tankers.

Sub Managers Fees
Tanker segment
 
Historically, we have been outsourcing part or all of our technical functions and crewing to third parties. Since 2007, Top Tanker Management, our wholly owned subsidiary has been undertaking a larger role in technical management thereby reducing the dependence on third parties. Given the relatively small size of the company our Board of Directors is currently in the process of determining the most cost efficient model of management, i.e. in-house management versus outsourcing. With regards to crewing, we will continue to use third parties due to access to larger pools of crew.
 
Drybulker segment
 
Top Tankers Management performs the technical management of the drybulk vessels, except crew management, from the date of delivery to us. Given the relatively small size of the company our Board of Directors is currently in the process of determining the most cost efficient model of management, i.e. in-house management versus outsourcing. With regards to crewing, we will continue to use third parties due to access to larger pools of crew.
 

 
53

 

Other General and Administrative Expenses
Tanker and Drybulker segments
 
Other general and administrative expenses include the salaries and other related costs of senior management, directors and other on shore employees, our office rent, legal and auditing costs, regulatory compliance costs, other miscellaneous office expenses, long-term compensation costs, non cash stock compensation, and corporate overhead. Other general and administrative expenses are Euro denominated except for some legal fees and are therefore affected by the conversion rate of the U.S. dollar versus the Euro.
 
General and administrative expenses are allocated to different segments based on calendar days of vessels operated.
 
Interest and Finance Costs
Tanker and Drybulker segments
 
We have historically incurred interest expense and financing costs in connection with vessel-specific debt. Interest expense is directly related with the repayment schedule of our loans, the prevailing LIBOR and the relevant margin.
 
Recently, however, lenders have insisted on provisions that entitle the lenders, in their discretion, to replace published LIBOR as the base for the interest calculation with their cost-of-funds rate which in all cases is higher than LIBOR. Additionally, as part of our discussions with banks with regards to certain loan covenant breaches, we have agreed to increase the margins to certain of our loans (see " – B. Liquidity and Capital Resources).
 
Inflation
Tanker and Drybulker segments
 
Inflation has not had a material effect on our expenses given current economic conditions. In the event that significant global inflationary pressures appear, these pressures would increase our operating, voyage, administrative and financing costs.
 
In evaluating our financial condition, we focus on the above measures to assess our historical operating performance and we use future estimates of the same measures to assess our future financial performance. In assessing the future performance of our fleet, the greatest uncertainty relates to the spot market which affects those of our vessels not employed on time charter or bareboat charter or whose charters will expire. Decisions about future purchases and sales of vessel, and the unwinding of the sales leaseback transactions are based on the financial and operational evaluation of such actions and depend on the overall state of the drybulk and tanker markets, the availability of relevant purchase candidates, the availability of financing and our general assessment of the prospects for the segments that we operate in.
 
Lack of Historical Operating Data for Vessels Before Their Acquisition

Although vessels are generally acquired free of charter, we have acquired (and may in the future acquire) some vessels with time charters. Where a vessel has been under a voyage charter, the vessel is usually delivered to the buyer free of charter. It is rare in the shipping industry for the last charterer of the vessel in the hands of the seller to continue as the first charterer of the vessel in the hands of the buyer. In most cases, when a vessel is under time charter and the buyer wishes to assume that charter, the vessel cannot be acquired without the charterer's consent and the buyer entering into a separate direct agreement (a "novation agreement") with the charterer to assume the charter. The purchase of a vessel itself does not transfer the charter because it is a separate service agreement between the vessel owner and the charterer.
 

 
54

 

Where we identify any intangible assets or liabilities associated with the acquisition of a vessel, we allocate the purchase price to identified tangible and intangible assets or liabilities based on their relative fair values. Fair value is determined by reference to market data and the discounted amount of expected future cash flows. Where we have assumed an existing charter obligation or entered into a time charter with the existing charterer in connection with the purchase of a vessel at charter rates that are less than market charter rates, we record a liability, based on the difference between the assumed charter rate and the market charter rate for an equivalent vessel. Conversely, where we assume an existing charter obligation or enter into a time charter with the existing charterer in connection with the purchase of a vessel at charter rates that are above market charter rates, we record an asset, based on the difference between the market charter rate for an equivalent vessel and the contracted charter rate. This determination is made at the time the vessel is delivered to us, and such assets and liabilities are amortized as a reduction or increase to revenue over the remaining period of the charter.
 
In November and December 2007 and February 2008, the Company acquired the drybulk vessels M/V Bertram, M/V Amalfi and M/V Voc Gallant, respectively, with attached time charter contracts. As a result, the purchase price of the vessels was allocated between vessel cost and the fair value of the time charter contracts, totaling in aggregate $43.3 million, which is reflected in Fair Value of Below Market Time Charter on the accompanying consolidated balance sheets.
 
During 2009, the Company did not acquire any vessels which were under existing bareboat or time charter contracts.
 
When we purchase a vessel and assume or renegotiate a related time charter, we must take the following steps before the vessel will be ready to commence operations:
 
 
obtain the charterer's consent to us as the new owner;
 
 
obtain the charterer's consent to a new technical manager;
 
 
in some cases, obtain the charterer's consent to a new flag for the vessel;
 
 
arrange for a new crew for the vessel, and where the vessel is on charter, in some cases, the crew must be approved by the charterer;
 
 
replace all hired equipment on board, such as gas cylinders and communication equipment;
 
 
negotiate and enter into new insurance contracts for the vessel through our own insurance brokers; and
 
 
register the vessel under a flag state and perform the related inspections in order to obtain new trading certificates from the flag state.
 
The following discussion is intended to help you understand how acquisitions of vessels affect our business and results of operations. Our business is comprised of the following main elements:
 
 
employment and operation of our tanker and drybulk vessels; and
 
 
management of the financial, general and administrative elements involved in the conduct of our business and ownership of our tanker and drybulk vessels.
 

 
55

 

The employment and operation of our vessels require the following main components:
 
 
vessel maintenance and repair;
 
 
crew selection and training;
 
 
vessel spares and stores supply;
 
 
contingency response planning;
 
 
onboard safety procedures auditing;
 
 
accounting;
 
 
vessel insurance arrangement;
 
 
vessel chartering;
 
 
vessel security training and security response plans (ISPS);
 
 
obtain ISM certification and audit for each vessel within the six months of taking over a vessel;
 
 
vessel hire management;
 
 
vessel surveying; and
 
 
vessel performance monitoring.
 
The management of financial, general and administrative elements involved in the conduct of our business and ownership of our vessels requires the following main components:
 
 
management of our financial resources, including banking relationships, i.e., administration of bank loans and bank accounts;
 
 
management of our accounting system and records and financial reporting;
 
 
administration of the legal and regulatory requirements affecting our business and assets; and
 
 
management of the relationships with our service providers and customers.
 
The principal factors that affect our profitability, cash flows and shareholders' return on investment include:
 
 
Charter rates and periods of charter hire for our tanker and drybulk vessels;
 
 
Utilization of our tanker and drybulk vessels (earnings efficiency);
 
 
levels of our tanker and drybulk vessels' operating expenses and dry docking costs;
 
 
depreciation and amortization expenses;
 
 
financing costs; and
 
 
fluctuations in foreign exchange rates.

 
56

 
 
Results of operations for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2006, 2007 and 2008
 
The following table depicts changes in the results of operations for 2008 compared to 2007 and 2007 compared to 2006.
 
   
Year Ended December 31,
   
change
 
   
2006
   
2007
   
2008
   
YE07 v YE06
   
YE08 v YE07
 
   
($ in thousands)
            $ %           $ %
Voyage Revenues
    310,043       252,259       257,380       (57,784 )     -18.6 %     5,121       2.0 %
Voyage expenses
    55,351       59,414       38,656       4,063       7.3 %     (20,758 )     -34.9 %
Charter hire expenses
    96,302       94,118       53,684       (2,184 )     -2.3 %     (40,434 )     -43.0 %
Amortization of deferred gain on sale and lease
    (8,110 )     (15,610 )     (18,707 )     (7,500 )     92.5 %     (3,097 )     19.8 %
Other Vessel operating expenses
    66,082       67,914       67,114       1,832       2.8 %     (800 )     -1.2 %
Dry-docking costs
    39,333       25,094       10,036       (14,239 )     -36.2 %     (15,058 )     -60.0 %
Depreciation
    35,266       27,408       32,664       (7,858 )     -22.3 %     5,256       19.2 %
Sub-Manager fees
    2,755       1,828       1,159       (927 )     -33.6 %     (669 )     -36.6 %
Other general and administrative expenses
    20,261       22,996       30,314       2,735       13.5 %     7,318       31.8 %
Foreign currency (gains) / losses, net
    255       176       (85 )     (79 )     -31.0 %     (261 )     -148.3 %
Gain on sale of vessels
    (12,667 )     (1,961 )     (19,178 )     10,706       -84.5 %     (17,217 )     878.0 %
Expenses
    294,828       281,377       195,657       (13,451 )     -4.6 %     (85,720 )     -30.5 %
Operating income (loss)
    15,215       (29,118 )     61,723       (44,333 )     -291.4 %     90,841       -312.0 %
Interest and finance costs
    (27,030 )     (19,518 )     (25,764 )     7,512       -27.8 %     (6,246 )     32.0 %
Gain / (loss) on financial instruments
    (2,145 )     (3,704 )     (12,024 )     (1,559 )     72.7 %     (8,320 )     224.6 %
Interest income
    3,022       3,248       1,831       226       7.5 %     (1,417 )     -43.6 %
Other, net
    (67 )     16       (127 )