Should merchant ships transiting high risk areas carry small arms for defense against pirates?

Selected crew should be trained and have guns available
Professional armed security teams should be hired
No guns on merchant ships, ever

July 28, 2009

Blackstone hires Crowley to manage NASSCO-built Jones Act tankers

Under a settlement agreement recently approved by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge, an investor group led by the Blackstone Group has terminated its relationship with U.S. Shipping Partners. It has retained Crowley Maritime Corporation to manage five U.S.-flag petroleum tankers for the newly renamed company, American Petroleum Tankers LLC (APT).

Originally, the five tankers, two of which are in operation and three of which are due for delivery from NASSCO through 2010, were to be owned by a joint venture controlled primarily by affiliates of The Blackstone Group and U.S. Shipping Partners.

U.S. Shipping filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 earlier this year.

On July 17, 2009, the Bankruptcy Court approved a Settlement Agreement under which U.S. Shipping agreed to release its ownership interest and management role with the company. With the termination of U.S. Shipping's association, Blackstone is pleased to announce that the company will continue under the name American Petroleum Tankers. Crowley Maritime Corporation has been appointed as the construction manager for the three tankers still being built and vessel manager for all five vessels.

The company also expects to put in place new debt financing led by DVB Bank SE.

"We are very pleased to put the bankruptcy proceedings of U.S. Shipping behind us and to move forward," said David Foley, a Senior Managing Director of Blackstone. "We are excited to have Crowley on board to manage the construction and operation of these long term and strategic assets. Crowley has an outstanding safety record in the operation of petroleum vessels and a healthy balance sheet. They bring a strong management team with significant experience in vessel construction oversight and fleet management that will benefit APT and our charterers in the years to come."

"We are excited and honored to take part in this venture," said Tom Crowley, Crowley Chairman, President and CEO. "We look forward to bringing our technical vessel construction expertise to the new-build process, and on the operational side of the business, we're pleased to be working with some of our existing customers who have chartered these new ships. We pledge to deliver the same attention to detail and safety that we have always provided with our own petroleum vessels."

"We are pleased to be working with American Petroleum Tankers and its investors to arrange a senior secured debt financing facility that will provide up to $250 million to the Company," said Jurek Bochner, a Senior Vice President in DVB Bank SE's Product Tanker Group. "We believe APT is attractively positioned in the Jones Act market with a new and well-built fleet of NASSCO product tankers, a favorable charter profile and a strong and experienced vessel construction and management partner in Crowley."

APT's fleet includes the Golden State, which was delivered in January 2009 and is on long-term charter to BP, the Pelican State, which was delivered in June and is on long-term charter to Marathon, the Sunshine State, the Empire State, and the Evergreen State (the latter two are to be chartered to the Military Sealift Command), are scheduled for delivery later in 2009 and 2010.

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