Mix-and-Match a Fleet: A Plus or a Minus?

Chris is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

Some tanker companies, such as Navios Maritime Acquisition Corporation, have a fleet that includes both crude oil tankers and tankers that transport refined petroleum products or chemicals.  Teekay Tankers (NYSE: TNK) used to only have a fleet of crude oil tankers, but in early 2012 the company acquired a few product tankers, so the fleet is now mixed.  However, this is not quite what I am had in mind, because all the vessels in both instances are transporting liquids.

Frontline (NYSE: FRO) is probably a better example, but for not much longer.  Frontline's fleet consists of crude oil tankers and one Oil-Bulk-Ore (OBO) carrier.  This is the last of eight OBO vessels, one that will soon leave the Frontline fleet.  Although designed to carry both dry and liquid cargo, during the last few years the OBO vessels have traded "strictly dry bulk," i.e. they have only been transporting dry cargo.  Mostly tankers, and a few dry bulk vessels- that's a mixed fleet.  The OBO vessels were decent revenue contributors, especially the time-chartered vessels.  But again, that's not going to continue for too much longer.

Several years back, there was a company based in Greece called Aries Maritime.  The company fleet consisted of product tankers and container vessels, wet cargoes and dry cargoes.  The company ran into problems, and began selling off the container vessels.  But then, a while later they merged with another entity, and the new entity brought a handful of dry bulk vessels.  Shortly afterward, the company renamed itself NewLead Holdings (NASDAQ: NEWL).  2012 is when things get interesting again.  First, the company sold off most of its dry bulk vessels.  Then, the company sold off most of its product tankers.  At the end of 2012, the company was left with a fleet of two product tankers and two dry bulk vessels.  Now the fun part.  NewLead Holdings just got a new partner.  What do they bring to the table?  Not vessels, not cash, but a whole lot of industrial metal. How bizarre does this deal sound - new capital in the form of industrial metals worth $236.4 million for a minority stake in NewLead Holdings? 

That was a strange one.  But let me now move onto another example of a mixed fleet.  Ship Finance International (NYSE: SFL) was a spin-off from Frontline.  Its initial fleet comprised of tankers, OBO vessels, and a couple of dry bulk vessels.  The tanker category included both Single-Hull (SH) tankers and Double-Hull (DH) tankers.  Over the first few years, the company sold off its Single-Hull tankers, and acquired vessels in other sectors.  Quite a few other sectors, in fact.  The following is the current Ship Finance International fleet:

17 Double-Hull (DH) VLCCs
8 Double-Hull (DH) Suezmaxes
5 Supramax vessels (dry bulk)
1 Oil-Bulk-Ore (OBO) vessel (Sold, delivers to new owner this month)
7 Handy-size vessels (dry bulk)
3 Ultra Deepwater (UDW) drilling assets
1 Jack-up drilling rig
2 Chemical tankers
6 offshore service vessels
2 huge (each carry 13.8K TEU units) Container vessels
9 smaller (each carry less than 3K TEU units) Container vessels
2 Car carriers (acquired in 4th quarter of 2012)
4 mid-size Container vessel newbuilds (delivery in 2013)
or 63 vessels/assets, plus 4 newbuilds

Now that's a pretty diverse mixed fleet!  The first few years of its existence, most of Ship Finance's revenue was from the tanker category.  The last few years, the offshore vessel category, in particular, the UDW assets contribute a majority of the revenue.

Another entity with a mixed fleet is Capital Products Partners (NASDAQ: CPLP).  This partnership started out with a fleet of 20+ refined product and/or chemicals-carrying tankers, plus one crude oil tanker. Then in 2011, they acquired five crude oil tankers from an affiliated company, Crude Carriers.  At the time they were finalizing that deal, the partnership acquired an additional vessel from their corporate sponsor, Capital Maritime & Trading Corporation (CMTC).  This was a dry bulk vessel, a Cape size, with a 10-year charter attached to the deal.  Recently, Capital Products Partners decided to mix things up even more.  They exchanged two container vessels for two Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) in their existing fleet with their sponsor, CMTC.  The two container vessels have 32 to 35 month charters with A.P. Moller-Maersk, and also have multiple year extension offers.  The deal diversifies their revenue sources and stretches out their contract coverage.  In addition, the vessel exchange lowers their operating costs without changing their debt profile significantly.

I know there are more examples of this fleet mix-and-match concept.  The examples above mostly illustrate that, at the right time, the mix-and-match idea can be successful and profitable.

Hohum777 has positions in Teekay Tankers, Frontline, and Ship Finance International. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

blog comments powered by Disqus