(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.; July 28, 2009) The Settlement Agreement recently approved by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge in New York became effective today, clearing the way for an investor group led by The Blackstone Group to terminate their relationship with U.S. Shipping and to retain Crowley Maritime Corporation to manage five U.S.-flag petroleum tankers for the newly renamed company, American Petroleum Tankers LLC ("APT" or the "Company").
The five tankers, two of which are in operation and three of which are due for delivery from shipbuilder NASSCO in San Diego 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 with the Company, 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.
Jacksonville-based Crowley Holdings Inc., a holding company of the 117-year-old Crowley Maritime Corporation, is a privately-held family and employee-owned company. Crowley has transported and delivered more than 350 million barrels of petroleum with its growing fleet of articulated tug barges (ATBs) and tankers since the inception of Crowley's ATB program in 2002. The company provides diversified transportation and logistics services in domestic and international markets by means of six operating lines of business: Puerto Rico/Caribbean Liner Services, Latin America Liner Services, Logistics Services, Petroleum Services, Marine Services and Technical Services. Offered within these operating lines of business are the following services: liner container shipping, logistics, contract towing and transportation; ship assist and escort; energy support; salvage and emergency response; vessel management; vessel construction and naval architecture; government services, and petroleum and chemical transportation, distribution and sales. Additional information about Crowley, its subsidiaries and business units may be found on the Internet at www.crowley.com.
Blackstone is one of the world's leading investment and advisory firms. We seek to create positive economic impact and long-term value for our investors, the companies we invest in, the companies we advise and the broader global economy. We do this through the commitment of our extraordinary people and flexible capital. Our alternative asset management businesses include the management of private equity funds, real estate funds, hedge funds, funds of funds, debt funds, collateralized loan obligation vehicles (CLOs) and closed-end mutual funds. The Blackstone Group also provides various financial advisory services, including mergers and acquisitions advisory, restructuring and reorganization advisory and fund placement service. Further information: www.blackstone.com.