20-F 1 d7124083_20-f.htm
UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, DC 20549
FORM 20-F
[_] REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR 12(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, 2015
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: 001-36185

DYNAGAS LNG PARTNERS LP
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

Republic of the Marshall Islands
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)

23, Rue Basse, 98000 Monaco
(Address of principal executive offices)
Michael Gregos
23, Rue Basse, 98000 Monaco
Tel. +377 99996445
(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:
 
Common units representing limited partnership interests
6.25% Senior Notes Due 2019
9.00% Series A Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Units
 
New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange
 
 
Title of class
 
Name of exchange on which registered
 

Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:  None
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act: None

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:
20,505,000 Common Units
3,000,000 9.00% Series A Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Units
14,985,000 Subordinated Units
35,526 General Partner Units
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
[_] Yes
[X] No
   
If this report is an annual report 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
[X] No
   
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.
[X] Yes
[_] 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 during the preceding 12 months
[X] Yes
[_] No
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of "large accelerated filer," "accelerated filer" and "smaller reporting company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
Large accelerated filer  [_]
Accelerated filer  [X]
Non-accelerated filer   [_]
(Do not check if a smaller reporting company)
Smaller reporting company  [_]

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
[X]  No
   

PRESENTATION OF INFORMATION IN THIS ANNUAL REPORT
This Annual Report on Form 20-F for the year ended December 31, 2015, or the Annual Report, should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and accompanying notes included in this Annual Report. Unless the context otherwise requires, references in this Annual Report to "Dynagas LNG Partners," the "Partnership," "we," "our" and "us" or similar terms refer to Dynagas LNG Partners LP and its wholly-owned subsidiaries, including Dynagas Operating LP.  Dynagas Operating LP owns, directly or indirectly, a 100% interest in the entities that own the LNG carriers in our fleet that we refer to as our "Fleet." References in this Annual Report to "our General Partner" refer to Dynagas GP LLC, the general partner of Dynagas LNG Partners LP.  References in this Annual Report to our "Sponsor" are to Dynagas Holding Ltd. and its subsidiaries other than us or our subsidiaries and references to our "Manager" refer to Dynagas Ltd., which is wholly owned by the chairman of our Board of Directors, Mr. George Prokopiou. References in this Annual Report to the "Prokopiou Family" are to our Chairman, Mr. George Prokopiou, and members of his family.
All references in this Annual Report to us for periods prior to our initial public offering, or IPO, on November 18, 2013 refer to our predecessor companies and their subsidiaries, which are former subsidiaries of our Sponsor that had interests in the Clean Energy, the Ob River and the Amur River, collectively our "Initial Fleet" or the "Sponsor Controlled Companies".
All references in this Annual Report to "BG Group," "Gazprom," "Statoil," and "Yamal" refer to BG Group Plc, Gazprom Global LNG Limited, Statoil ASA, and Yamal Trade Pte. Ltd., respectively, that are our current and prospective charterers.
References herein to the "Omnibus Agreement" refer to the Omnibus Agreement, as amended and as currently in effect, with our Sponsor.
Our Sponsor owns a minority ownership interest in each of the five entities that own Hull 2421, Hull 2422, Hull 2427, Hull 2428 and Hull 2429, respectively, including the related charters or other agreements relating to the operation or ownership of such hulls (or such LNG carriers upon delivery).  We refer to these hulls (or such LNG carriers upon delivery) throughout this Annual Report as the "Additional Optional Vessels." Pursuant to the Omnibus Agreement, we have the right but not the obligation, subject to certain terms and conditions, to acquire our Sponsor's ownership interest in the Additional Optional Vessels, which is our Sponsor's minority ownership interest in the applicable vessel-owning subsidiaries.
The "Yamal LNG Project" refers to the LNG production terminal that is currently under construction on the Yamal Peninsula in Northern Russia.  The completed terminal is expected to consist of three LNG trains with a total capacity of 16.5 million metric tons of LNG per year, that will require ice-class designated vessels to transport LNG from this facility, and for which certain of the vessels in our fleet, and the vessels in our Sponsor's fleet, including the Additional Optional Vessels, have been contracted.  The Yamal LNG Project is a joint venture between NOVATEK (50.1%), TOTAL (20%), China National Oil & Gas Exploration and Development Corporation (CNODC) (20%) and Silk Road Fund (9.9%). Please see "Item 4. Information on the Partnership—B. Business Overview."
Unless otherwise indicated, all references to "U.S. dollars," "dollars" and "$" in this Annual Report are to the lawful currency of the United States. We use the term "LNG" to refer to liquefied natural gas, and we use the term "cbm" to refer to cubic meters in describing the carrying capacity of our vessels.
FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report contains certain forward-looking statements (as such term is defined in Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act) concerning future events and our operations, performance and financial condition, including, in particular, the likelihood of our success in developing and expanding our business.  Statements that are predictive in nature, that depend upon or refer to future events or conditions, or that include words such as "expects," "anticipates," "intends," "plans," "believes," "estimates," "projects," "forecasts," "will," "may," "potential," "should," and similar expressions are forward-looking statements.  These forward-looking statements reflect management's current views only as of the date of this Annual Report and are not intended to give any assurance as to future results.  As a result, unitholders are cautioned not to rely on any forward-looking statements.
i

Forward-looking statements appear in a number of places in this Annual Report and include statements with respect to, among other things:
· LNG market trends, including charter rates, factors affecting supply and demand, and opportunities for the profitable operations of LNG carriers;
· our anticipated growth strategies;
· the effect of a worldwide economic slowdown;
· potential turmoil in the global financial markets;
· fluctuations in currencies and interest rates;
· general market conditions, including fluctuations in charter hire rates and vessel values;
· changes in our operating expenses, including drydocking and insurance costs and bunker prices;
· forecasts of our ability to make cash distributions on the units or any increases in our cash distributions;
· our future financial condition or results of operations and our future revenues and expenses;
· the repayment of debt and settling of interest rate swaps (if any);
· our ability to make additional borrowings and to access debt and equity markets;
· planned capital expenditures and availability of capital resources to fund capital expenditures;
· our ability to maintain long-term relationships with major LNG traders;
· our ability to leverage our Sponsor's relationships and reputation in the shipping industry;
· our ability to realize the expected benefits from our vessel acquisitions;
· our ability to purchase vessels from our Sponsor and other parties in the future, including the Optional Vessels (defined later);
· our continued ability to enter into long-term time charters;
· our ability to maximize the use of our vessels, including the re-deployment or disposition of vessels no longer under long-term time charters;
· future purchase prices of newbuildings and secondhand vessels and timely deliveries of such vessels;
· our ability to compete successfully for future chartering opportunities and newbuilding opportunities (if any);
· acceptance of a vessel by its charterer;
ii

· termination dates and extensions of charters;
· the expected cost of, and our ability to comply with, governmental regulations, maritime self-regulatory organization standards, as well as standard regulations imposed by our charterers applicable to our business;
· availability of skilled labor, vessel crews and management;
· our anticipated incremental general and administrative expenses as a publicly traded limited partnership and our fees and expenses payable under the fleet management agreements and the administrative services agreement with our Manager;
· the anticipated taxation of our Partnership and distributions to our unitholders;
· estimated future maintenance and replacement capital expenditures;
· our ability to retain key employees;
· charterers' increasing emphasis on environmental and safety concerns;
· potential liability from any pending or future litigation;
· potential disruption of shipping routes due to accidents, political events, piracy or acts by terrorists;
· future sales of our common units in the public market;
· our business strategy and other plans and objectives for future operations; and
· other factors detailed in this Annual Report and from time to time in our periodic reports.
Forward-looking statements in this Annual Report are estimates reflecting the judgment of senior management and involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties.  These forward-looking statements are based upon a number of assumptions and estimates that are inherently subject to significant uncertainties and contingencies, many of which are beyond our control.  Actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements.  Accordingly, these forward-looking statements should be considered in light of various important factors, including those set forth in this Annual Report under the heading "Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors."
We undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statement to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which such statement is made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.  New factors emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for us to predict all of these factors.  Further, we cannot assess the effect of each such factor on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to be materially different from those contained in any forward-looking statement.
We make no prediction or statement about the performance of our common units.  The various disclosures included in this Annual Report and in our other filings made with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, that attempt to advise interested parties of the risks and factors that may affect our business, prospects and results of operations should be carefully reviewed and considered.
iii


TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I.
 
5
ITEM 1.
IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
5
ITEM 2.
OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
5
ITEM 3.
KEY INFORMATION
5
ITEM 4.
INFORMATION ON THE PARTNERSHIP
42
ITEM 4A.
UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
74
ITEM 5.
OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS
74
ITEM 6.
DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES
91
ITEM 7.
MAJOR UNITHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS
95
ITEM 8.
FINANCIAL INFORMATION
105
ITEM 9.
THE OFFER AND LISTING.
108
ITEM 10.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
110
ITEM 11.
QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK
119
ITEM 12.
DESCRIPTION OF SECURITIES OTHER THAN EQUITY SECURITIES
121
PART II
 
121
ITEM 13.
DEFAULTS, DIVIDEND ARREARAGES AND DELINQUENCIES
121
ITEM 14.
MATERIAL MODIFICATIONS TO THE RIGHTS OF SECURITY HOLDERS AND USE OF PROCEEDS
121
ITEM 15.
CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES
121
ITEM 16.
[RESERVED]
123
ITEM 16A.
AUDIT COMMITTEE FINANCIAL EXPERT
123
ITEM 16B.
CODE OF ETHICS
123
ITEM 16C.
PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES
123
ITEM 16D.
EXEMPTIONS FROM THE LISTING STANDARDS FOR AUDIT COMMITTEES
124
ITEM 16E.
PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES BY THE ISSUER AND AFFILIATED PURCHASERS
124
ITEM 16F.
CHANGE IN REGISTRANTS' CERTIFYING ACCOUNTANT
124
ITEM 16G.
CORPORATE GOVERNANCE
124
ITEM 16H.
MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURE
125
PART III
 
125
ITEM 17.
FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
125
ITEM 18.
FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
125
ITEM 19.
EXHIBITS
125
 
iv

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
A.            SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
The following table presents our selected consolidated financial and operating data. For periods prior to the completion of our IPO, which occurred on November 18, 2013, our historical consolidated financial statements have been prepared according to a transaction that constitutes a reorganization of companies under common control and has been accounted for in a manner similar to a pooling of interests, as the Sponsor Controlled Companies were indirectly wholly-owned by the Prokopiou Family prior to the transfer of ownership of these companies to us. Accordingly, our financial statements have been presented, giving retroactive effect to the transaction described above, using consolidated and combined financial historical carrying costs of the assets and liabilities of Dynagas LNG Partners and the Sponsor Controlled Companies.
The following selected historical balance sheet data as of December 31, 2015 and 2014 and statement of income data for each of the years ended December 31, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 have been derived from our audited consolidated and combined financial statements which have been prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (U.S. GAAP). The following financial data should be read in conjunction with "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects" and our historical consolidated financial statements and the notes thereto included elsewhere in this Annual Report.
Our financial position, results of operations and cash flows could differ from those that would have resulted if we operated autonomously or as an entity independent of our Sponsor in the periods prior to our IPO for which historical financial data are presented below, and such data may not be indicative of our future operating results or financial performance.
   
Year Ended December 31,
 
   
2015
   
2014
   
2013
   
2012
   
2011
 
Statement of Income Data
 
(In thousands of Dollars, except for unit per unit data )
 
Voyage revenues
 
$
145,202
   
$
107,088
   
$
85,679
   
$
77,498
   
$
52,547
 
Voyage expenses- including related party (1)
   
(2,804
)
   
(2,273
)
   
(1,686
)
   
(3,468
)
   
(1,353
)
Vessel operating expenses
   
(23,244
)
   
(16,813
)
   
(11,909
)
   
(15,722
)
   
(11,350
)
General and administrative expenses- including related party
   
(1,805
)
   
(1,951
)
   
(387
)
   
(278
)
   
(54
)
Management fees
   
(4,870
)
   
(3,566
)
   
(2,737
)
   
(2,638
)
   
(2,529
)
Depreciation
   
(24,387
)
   
(17,822
)
   
(13,579
)
   
(13,616
)
   
(13,579
)
Dry-docking and special survey costs
   
-
     
-
     
-
     
(2,109
)
   
-
 
Operating income
 
$
88,092
   
$
64,663
   
$
55,381
   
$
39,667
   
$
23,682
 
Interest income
   
35
     
221
     
-
     
1
     
4
 
Interest and finance costs
   
(27,974
)
   
(14,524
)
   
(9,732
)
   
(9,576
)
   
(3,977
)
Loss on derivative financial instruments
   
-
     
-
     
-
     
(196
)
   
(824
)
Other, net
   
(103
)
   
201
     
(29
)
   
(60
)
   
(65
)
Net Income
 
$
60,050
   
$
50,561
   
$
45,620
   
$
29,836
   
$
18,820
 
Earnings per Unit (basic and diluted):
                                       

Common Unit (basic and diluted)     1.60      1.58      2.95      1.37     0.87  
Weighted average number of units outstanding (basic and diluted):
                                       
Common units
   
20,505,000
     
17,964,288
     
7,729,521
     
6,735,000
     
6,735,000
 
Cash distributions declared and paid per common unit
 
$
1.69
   
$
1.29
(2)
 
$
-
   
$
-
   
$
-
 
Balance Sheet Data:
                                       
Total current assets
 
$
25,814
   
$
14,348
   
$
7,606
   
$
8,981
   
$
3,453
 
Vessels, net
   
1,036,157
     
839,883
     
453,175
     
466,754
     
480,370
 
Total assets
   
1,108,103
     
887,376
     
488,735
     
476,275
     
484,363
 
Total current liabilities
   
51,353
     
33,249
     
14,903
     
398,434
     
439,024
 
Total long term debt, including current portion, gross of deferred financing fees
   
688,333
     
575,000
     
219,585
     
380,715
     
402,189
 
Total partners' equity
   
367,838
     
297,698
     
257,699
     
75,175
     
45,339
 
Cash Flow Data:
                                       
Net cash provided by operating activities
 
$
96,944
   
$
76,443
   
$
44,204
   
$
27,902
   
$
28,974
 
Net cash used in investing activities
   
(205,045
)
   
(404,530
)
   
-
     
-
     
-
 
Net cash provided by/ (used in) financing activities
   
120,445
     
334,359
     
(38,527
)
   
(27,902
)
   
(28,974
)
Fleet Data:
                                       
Number of vessels at the end of the year
   
6
     
5
     
3
     
3
     
3
 
Average number of vessels in operation (3)
   
5.0
     
3.8
     
3.0
     
3.0
     
3.0
 
Average age of vessels in operation at end of year (years)
   
5.4
     
5.0
     
6.4
     
5.4
     
4.4
 
Available days (4)
   
1,836
     
1,384
     
1,095
     
1,056
     
1,095
 
Time Charter Equivalent (in US dollars) (5)
 
$
77,559
   
$
75,733
   
$
76,706
   
$
70,104
   
$
46,753
 
Fleet utilization (6)
   
99
%
   
100
%
   
100
%
   
99.5
%
   
99.5
%
Other Financial Data:
                                       
Adjusted EBITDA (7)
 
$
113,202
   
$
84,751
   
$
64,749
   
$
55,889
   
$
37,196
 

5

(1)
Voyage expenses include commissions of 1.25% paid to our Manager and third-party ship brokers.
(2)
Includes a prorated quarterly distribution for the period beginning on November 18, 2013 and ending on December 31, 2013 that was declared on January 31, 2013 and paid on February 14, 2014. The cash distribution for the fourth quarter of 2014 of $0.4225 per unit was approved on January 14, 2014 and paid on February 12, 2015 to all unitholders of record as of February 5, 2015.
(3)
Represents the number of vessels that constituted our Fleet for the relevant year, 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 the period.
(4)
Available days are the total number of calendar days our vessels were in our possession during a period, less the total number of scheduled off-hire days during the period associated with major repairs, or drydockings.
(5)
Time charter equivalent rates, or TCE rates, is a measure of the average daily revenue performance of a vessel. For time charters, this is calculated by dividing total voyage revenues, less any voyage expenses, by the number of Available days during that period. Under a time charter, the charterer pays substantially all of the vessel voyage related expenses. However, we may incur voyage related expenses when positioning or repositioning vessels before or after the period of a time charter, during periods of commercial waiting time or while off-hire during dry-docking or due to other unforeseen circumstances. The TCE rate is not a measure of financial performance under U.S. GAAP (non-GAAP measure), and should not be considered as an alternative to voyage revenues, the most directly comparable GAAP measure, or any other measure of financial performance presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP. However, TCE rate is standard shipping industry performance measure used primarily to compare period-to-period changes in a company's performance and assists our management in making decisions regarding the deployment and use of our vessels and in evaluating their financial performance. Our calculation of TCE rates may not be comparable to that reported by other companies. The following table reflects the calculation of our TCE rates for the periods presented (amounts in thousands of U.S. dollars, except for TCE rates, which are expressed in U.S. dollars and Available days):
 
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
 
(In thousands of Dollars)
 
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
2012
 
2011
 
Voyage revenues
 
$
145,202
   
$
107,088
   
$
85,679
   
$
77,498
   
$
52,547
 
Voyage expenses
   
(2,804
)
   
(2,273
)
   
(1,686
)
   
(3,468
)
   
(1,353
)
Time charter equivalent revenues
   
142,398
     
104,815
     
83,993
     
74,030
     
51,194
 
Total Available days
   
1,836
     
1,384
     
1,095
     
1,056
     
1,095
 
Time charter equivalent (TCE) rate
 
$
77,559
   
$
75,733
   
$
76,706
   
$
70,104
   
$
46,753
 
_________________________
(6)
We calculate fleet utilization by dividing the number of our revenue earning days, which are the total number of Available days of our vessels net of unscheduled off-hire days, during a period, by the number of our Available days during that period. The shipping industry uses fleet utilization to measure a company's efficiency in finding employment for its vessels and minimizing the amount of days that its vessels are offhire for reasons other than scheduled off-hires for vessel upgrades, drydockings or special or intermediate surveys.
(7)
Adjusted EBITDA is defined as earnings before interest and finance costs, net of interest income, gains/losses on derivative financial instruments (if any), taxes (when incurred), depreciation and amortization (when incurred) and significant non-recurring items, such as accelerated time charter amortization. Adjusted EBITDA is used as a supplemental financial measure by management and external users of financial statements, such as investors, to assess our operating performance. We believe that Adjusted EBITDA assists our management and investors by providing useful information that increases the comparability of our performance operating from period to period and against the operating performance of other companies in our industry that provide Adjusted EBITDA information. This increased comparability is achieved by excluding the potentially disparate effects between periods or companies of interest, other financial items, depreciation and amortization and taxes, which items are affected by various and possibly changing financing methods, capital structure and historical cost basis and which items may significantly affect net income between periods. We believe that including Adjusted EBITDA as a measure of operating performance benefits investors in (a) selecting between investing in us and other investment alternatives and (b) monitoring our ongoing financial and operational strength in assessing whether to continue to hold common units.
 
Adjusted EBITDA is not a measure of financial performance under U.S. GAAP, does not represent and should not be considered as an alternative to net income, operating income, cash flow from operating activities or any other measure of financial performance presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP. Adjusted EBITDA excludes some, but not all, items that affect net income and these measures may vary among other companies. Therefore, Adjusted EBITDA as presented below may not be comparable to similarly titled measures of other companies. The following table reconciles Adjusted EBITDA to net income, the most directly comparable U.S. GAAP financial measure, for the periods presented:

6


       
Year Ended December 31,
 
   
2015
   
2014
   
2013
   
2012
   
2011
 
Reconciliation to Net Income
           
Net Income
 
$
60,050
   
$
50,561
   
$
45,620
   
$
29,836
   
$
18,820
 
Net interest and finance costs (1)
   
27,939
     
14,303
     
9,732
     
9,771
     
4,797
 
Depreciation
   
24,387
     
17,822
     
13,579
     
13,616
     
13,579
 
Non- recurring expense from accelerated time charter amortization
   
-
     
908
     
-
     
-
     
-
 
Amortization of fair value of acquired time charter
   
218
     
-
     
-
     
-
     
-
 
Charter hire amortization and other non-cash revenue adjustments
   
608
     
1,157
     
(4,182
)
   
2,666
     
-
 
Adjusted EBITDA
 
$
113,202
   
$
84,751
   
$
64,749
   
$
55,889
   
$
37,196
 

(1) Includes interest and finance costs, net of interest income, and (gain)/ loss on derivative instruments, if any.
B.            CAPITALIZATION AND INDEBTEDNESS
Not applicable.
C.            REASONS FOR THE OFFER AND USE OF PROCEEDS
Not applicable.
D.            RISK FACTORS
The following risks relate principally to the industry in which we operate and to our business in general.  Other risks relate principally to the securities market and ownership of our securities, including our common units, our 9.00% Series A Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Units, or our Series A Preferred Units and our 6.25% Notes due October 30, 2019, or our 2019 Notes. The occurrence of any of the events described in this section could significantly and negatively affect our business, financial condition, operating results or cash available for distribution on our units and required payments on our 2019 Notes, and the trading price of our securities.
Risks Relating to Our Partnership
Our Fleet consists of only six LNG carriers. Any limitation in the availability or operation of these vessels could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition and could significantly reduce or eliminate our ability to pay the minimum quarterly distribution on our common units or distributions on our preferred units.
Our Fleet consists of only six LNG carriers. If any of our vessels is unable to generate revenues as a result of off-hire time, early termination of the time charter in effect or otherwise, our business, results of operations financial condition and ability to make quarterly and other distributions to our common and preferred unitholders could be materially adversely affected.
We currently derive all our revenue and cash flow from three charterers and the loss of any of these charterers could cause us to suffer losses or otherwise adversely affect our business.
We currently derive all of our revenue and cash flow from three charterers, BG Group, Gazprom and Statoil. For the year ended December 31, 2015, BG Group accounted for 29%, Gazprom accounted for 52% and Statoil accounted for 19% of our total revenue.  All of the charters for our Fleet have fixed terms, but may be terminated early due to certain events, such as a charterer's failure to make charter payments to us because of financial inability, disagreements with us or otherwise. The ability of each of our counterparties to perform its obligations under a charter with us will depend on a number of factors that are beyond our control and may include, among other things, general economic conditions, the condition of the LNG shipping industry, prevailing prices for natural gas and the overall financial condition of the counterparty. Should a counterparty fail to honor its obligations under an agreement with us, we may be unable to realize revenue under that charter and could sustain losses, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and ability to pay minimum quarterly distributions and other distributions to our unitholders.
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In addition, a charterer may exercise its right to terminate its charter if, among other things:
· the vessel suffers a total loss or is damaged beyond repair;
· we default on our obligations under the charter, including prolonged periods of vessel off-hire;
· war or hostilities significantly disrupt the free trade of the vessel;
· the vessel is requisitioned by any governmental authority; or
· a prolonged force majeure event occurs, such as war or political unrest, which prevents the chartering of the vessel.
In addition, the charter payments we receive may be reduced if the vessel does not perform according to certain contractual specifications. For example, charter hire may be reduced if the average vessel speed falls below the speed we have guaranteed or if the amount of fuel consumed to power the vessel exceeds the guaranteed amount.
Furthermore, in depressed market conditions, our charterers may no longer need a vessel that is then under charter or may be able to obtain a comparable vessel at lower rates. As a result, charterers may seek to renegotiate the terms of their existing charter agreements or avoid their obligations under those contracts. If our charterers fail to meet their obligations to us or attempt to renegotiate our charter agreements, it may be difficult to secure substitute employment for such vessel, and any new charter arrangements we secure may be at lower rates.
If any of our charters is terminated, we may be unable to re-deploy the related vessel on terms as favorable to us as our current charters, or at all. If we are unable to re-deploy a vessel for which the charter has been terminated, we will not receive any revenues from that vessel, and we may be required to pay ongoing expenses necessary to maintain the vessel in proper operating condition.  Any of these factors may decrease our revenue and cash flows.  Further, the loss of any of our charterers, charters or vessels, or a decline in charter hire under any of our charters, could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and ability to make minimum quarterly distributions and other distributions to our unitholders.
We are subject to certain risks with respect to our contractual counterparties, and failure of such counterparties to perform their obligations under such contracts could cause us to sustain significant losses, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We have entered into, and may enter in the future, contracts, charters, newbuilding and conversion contracts with shipyards, debt agreements with financial institutions and other counterparts, interest rate swaps, foreign currency swaps, equity swaps and other agreements. Such agreements subject us to counterparty risks.  The ability of each of our counterparties to perform its obligations under a contract with us will depend on a number of factors that are beyond our control and may include, among other things, general economic conditions and the overall financial condition of the counterparty.  Should a counterparty fail to honor its obligations under agreements with us, we could sustain significant losses, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.  Please also see "—We currently derive all our revenue and cash flow from three charterers and the loss of any of these charterers could cause us to suffer losses or otherwise adversely affect our business."
8

We may not have sufficient cash from operations following the establishment of cash reserves and payment of fees and expenses to enable us to pay the minimum quarterly distribution on our common units and distributions on our Series A Preferred Units or pay distributions at all.
Our Board of Directors makes determinations regarding the payment of distributions in its sole discretion and in accordance with our Partnership Agreement and applicable law, and there is no guarantee that we will continue to make distributions to our unitholders in the future.  In addition, the markets in which we operate our vessels are volatile and we cannot predict with certainty the amount of cash, if any, that will be available for distribution in any period. We may not have sufficient cash from operations to pay the minimum quarterly distribution of $0.365 per unit on our common units.  The amount of cash we can distribute on our common and preferred units principally depends upon the amount of cash we generate from our operations, which may fluctuate from quarter to quarter based on the risks described in this section, including, among other things:
· the rates we obtain from our charters;
· the level of our operating costs, such as the cost of crews and insurance;
· the continued availability of natural gas production;
· demand for LNG;
· supply of LNG carriers;
· prevailing global and regional economic and political conditions;
· currency exchange rate fluctuations; and
· the effect of governmental regulations and maritime self-regulatory organization standards on the conduct of our business.
In addition, the actual amount of cash available for distribution to our unitholders will depend on other factors, including:
· the level of capital expenditures we make, including for maintaining or replacing vessels, building new vessels, acquiring secondhand vessels and complying with regulations;
· the number of unscheduled off-hire days for our Fleet and the timing of, and number of days required for, scheduled drydocking of our vessels;
· our debt service requirements and restrictions on distributions contained in our debt instruments;
· the level of debt we will incur to fund future acquisitions, including the Optional Vessels that we have the right (but not the obligation) to acquire from our Sponsor, pursuant to the terms and subject to the conditions of the Omnibus Agreement (defined below). See "Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions";
· fluctuations in interest rates;
· fluctuations in our working capital needs;
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· variable tax rates;
· our ability to make, and the level of, working capital borrowings;
· the performance of our subsidiaries and their ability to distribute cash to us; and
· the amount of any cash reserves established by our Board of Directors.
The amount of cash we generate from our operations may differ materially from our profit or loss for the period, which will be affected by non-cash items. We may also incur expenses or liabilities or be subject to other circumstances in the future that reduce or eliminate the amount of cash that we have available for distributions.  As a result of this and the other factors mentioned above, we may make cash distributions during periods when we record losses and may not make cash distributions during periods when we record net income.
Our future growth depends on our ability to expand relationships with our existing charterers, establish relationships with new charterers and obtain new time charter contracts, for which we will face substantial competition from established companies with significant resources and potential new entrants.
We will seek to enter into additional multi-year time charter contracts upon the expiration or early termination of our existing charter arrangements, and we may also seek to enter into additional multi-year time charter contracts in connection with an expansion of our Fleet. The process of obtaining multi-year charters for LNG carriers is highly competitive and generally involves an intensive screening procedure and competitive bids, which often extends for several months. We believe LNG carrier time charters are awarded based upon a variety of factors relating to the ship and the ship operator, including:
· size, age, technical specifications and condition of the ship;
· efficiency of ship operation;
· LNG shipping experience and quality of ship operations;
· shipping industry relationships and reputation for customer service;
· technical ability and reputation for operation of highly specialized ships;
· quality and experience of officers and crew;
· safety record;
· the ability to finance ships at competitive rates and financial stability generally;
· relationships with shipyards and the ability to get suitable berths;
· construction management experience, including the ability to obtain on-time delivery of new ships according to customer specifications; and
· competitiveness of the bid in terms of overall price.
We expect substantial competition for providing marine transportation services for potential LNG projects from a number of experienced companies, including other independent ship owners as well as state-sponsored entities and major energy companies that own and operate LNG carriers and may compete with independent owners by using their fleets to carry LNG for third-parties. Some of these competitors have significantly greater financial resources and larger fleets than we have. A number of marine transportation companies—including companies with strong reputations and extensive resources and experience—have entered the LNG transportation market in recent years, and there are other ship owners and managers who may also attempt to participate in the LNG market in the future. This increased competition may cause greater price competition for time charters. As a result of these factors, we may be unable to expand our relationships with existing charterers or to obtain new time charter contracts on a profitable basis, if at all, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, including cash available for distributions to our unitholders.
10

We will be required to make substantial capital expenditures to expand the size of our Fleet.  Depending on whether we finance our expenditures through cash from operations or by issuing debt or equity securities, or by financing or re-financing our existing vessels, our ability to make cash distributions may be diminished, our financial leverage could increase or our unitholders could be diluted.
From time to time in the future, consistent with our growth strategy, we may acquire additional vessels, including the Optional Vessels, from our Sponsor and other entities. We will be required to make substantial capital expenditures to expand the size of our Fleet and we may be required to make significant installment payments to retrofit our existing LNG carriers and to acquire LNG carriers.  If we choose to purchase any other LNG carriers, we plan to finance the cost either through cash from operations, borrowings under debt facilities or other debt or equity financings.
Use of cash from operations to expand our Fleet will reduce cash available for distribution to unitholders.  Our ability to obtain bank or other financing or to access the capital markets 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, changes in the LNG industry and contingencies and uncertainties that are beyond our control.  Our failure to obtain the funds for future capital expenditures could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition and on our ability to make cash distributions.  Even if we are successful in obtaining necessary funds, the terms of any debt or equity financings could limit our ability to pay cash distributions to unitholders.  In addition, incurring additional debt may significantly increase our interest expense and financial leverage, and issuing additional equity securities may result in significant unitholder dilution and would increase the aggregate amount of cash required to pay the minimum quarterly distribution to unitholders, which could have a material adverse effect on our ability to make cash distributions.
We may be unable to make or realize expected benefits from acquisitions, which could have an adverse effect on our expected plans for growth.
Any acquisition of a vessel or business may not be profitable to us at or after the time we acquire it and may not generate cash flow sufficient to justify our investment.  In addition, our acquisition growth strategy exposes us to risks that may harm our business, financial condition and operating results, including risks that we may:
· fail to realize anticipated benefits, such as new customer relationships, cost-savings or cash flow enhancements;
· be unable to hire, train or retain qualified shore and seafaring personnel to manage and operate our growing business and fleet;
· decrease our liquidity by using a significant portion of our available cash or borrowing capacity to finance acquisitions;
· significantly increase our interest expense or financial leverage if we incur additional debt to finance acquisitions;
· incur or assume unanticipated liabilities, losses or costs associated with the business or vessels acquired; or
11

· incur other significant charges, such as impairment of goodwill or other intangible assets, asset devaluation or restructuring charges.
If we acquire secondhand vessels, as opposed to newbuildings, we may be exposed to additional risks.  Unlike newbuildings, secondhand vessels typically do not carry warranties as to their condition.  While we generally inspect secondhand vessels prior to purchase, such an inspection would normally not provide us with as much knowledge of a vessel's condition as we would possess if it had been built for us and operated by us during its life.  Repairs and maintenance costs for secondhand vessels are difficult to predict and may be substantially higher than for vessels we have operated since they were built.  These costs could decrease our cash flow and reduce our liquidity and could have an adverse effect on our expected plans for growth.
We may be subject to certain risks with respect to our acquisition ,or potential acquisition, of our Sponsor's ownership interest in the Additional Optional Vessels.
If we acquire any or all of our Sponsor's ownership interest in the Additional Optional Vessels pursuant to the terms and subject to the conditions of the Omnibus Agreement, we will own such vessels jointly with Sinotrans Shipping LNG Limited, or Sinotrans, and China LNG Shipping (Holdings) Limited, or China LNG Shipping, and we will become party to the shareholders' agreement which governs this joint venture relationship.  We will not own a majority of the ownership interests in the entities that own the Additional Optional Vessels and, as such, we may not be able to exercise control over such entities or the Additional Optional Vessels.  In addition, while we expect that the vessel owning entities will distribute all of their available cash to us and their other holders, we cannot guarantee whether such entities will do so, if at all.
Furthermore, the Additional Optional Vessels are being constructed with highly specialized technical specifications to meet the requirements for the Yamal LNG Project and will have limited redeployment prospects to operate as conventional trading LNG carriers if the Yamal LNG Project is abandoned or cancelled. To the extent these vessels are no longer employed under the Yamal LNG Project, we may lose our option to purchase our Sponsor's ownership interest in these vessels under the Omnibus Agreement, and further, if such contracts are terminated after we have acquired such ownership interest, we may be unable to re-charter or sell these vessels without making significant capital expenditures to reformat these vessels for trading in other markets.The occurrence of any of these events could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, and ability distribute cash to our unitholders.
The amount of our debt could limit our liquidity and flexibility in obtaining additional financing and in pursuing other business opportunities.
As of December 31, 2015, we had total outstanding long-term debt of $688.3 million consisting of amounts outstanding under our $340.0 million senior secured revolving credit facility that matures in March 2021, or our $340 Million Senior Credit Facility, our $200 million senior secured term loan facility that matures in December 2020, or our $200 Million Term Loan Facility, and our 2019 Notes. In addition, we have the ability to borrow an additional $30 million under our interest free $30 million revolving credit facility with our Sponsor, or the $30 Million Revolving Credit Facility. We expect that a large portion of our cash flow from operations will be used to repay the principal and interest on our outstanding indebtedness.
Our current indebtedness and future indebtedness that we may incur could affect our future operations, as a portion of our cash flow from operations will be dedicated to the payment of interest and principal on such debt and will not be available for other purposes.  Covenants contained in our debt agreements may affect our flexibility in planning for, and reacting to, changes in our business or economic conditions, limit our ability to dispose of assets or place restrictions on the use of proceeds from such dispositions, withstand current or future economic or industry downturns and compete with others in our industry for strategic opportunities, and limit our ability to obtain additional financing for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions, general corporate and other purposes and our ability to make minimum quarterly distributions to our unitholders.
12

Our ability to service our debt will depend upon, among other things, our future financial and operating performance, which will be affected by prevailing economic conditions and financial, business, regulatory and other factors, some of which are beyond our control. If our operating results are not sufficient to service our current or future indebtedness, we will be forced to take actions such as reducing or eliminating distributions to our unitholders, reducing or delaying our business activities, acquisitions, investments or capital expenditures, selling assets, restructuring or refinancing our debt, or seeking additional equity capital or bankruptcy protection.  We may not be able to effect any of these remedies on satisfactory terms, or at all.
Our Series A Preferred Units are subordinate to our indebtedness, and the interests of holders of Series A Preferred units could be diluted by the issuance of additional preferred units, including additional Series A Preferred Units, and by other transactions.

Our Series A Preferred Units are subordinated to all of our existing and future indebtedness. The payment of principal and interest on our debt reduces cash available for distributions and therefore, our ability to pay distributions on, redeem at our option or pay the liquidation preference on our Series A Preferred Units in liquidation or otherwise may be subject to prior payments due to the holders of our indebtedness.
The issuance of additional limited partner interests on a parity with or senior to our Series A Preferred Units would dilute the interests of the holders of our Series A Preferred Units, and any issuance of senior securities or parity securities or additional indebtedness could affect our ability to pay distributions on, redeem or pay the liquidation preference on our Series A Preferred Units. No provisions relating to our Series A Preferred Units protect the holders of our Series A Preferred Units in the event of a highly leveraged or other transaction, including a merger or the sale, lease or conveyance of all or substantially all our assets or business, which might adversely affect the holders of our Series A Preferred Units.

We may be unable to comply with covenants in our debt agreements or any future financial obligations that impose operating and financial restrictions on us.
Certain of our existing and future debt agreements, which may be secured by mortgages on our vessels, impose and will impose certain operating and financial restrictions on us, mainly to ensure that the market value of the mortgaged vessel under the applicable credit facility does not fall below a certain percentage of the outstanding amount of the debt agreement, which we refer to as the asset coverage ratio. In addition, certain of our debt agreements require us to satisfy certain other financial covenants, including maintenance of minimum cash liquidity levels, minimum EBITDA to interest expense, minimum net worth, limitation on total borrowings and market value adjusted leverage.
The operating restrictions contained in our existing and future debt agreements may prohibit or otherwise limit our ability to, among other things:
· obtain additional financing, if necessary, for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions or other purposes on favorable terms, or at all;
· make distributions to unitholders when an event of default exists, as applicable;
· incur additional indebtedness, create liens or issue guarantees;
· charter our vessels or change the terms of our existing charter agreements;
· sell, transfer or lease our assets or vessels or the shares of our vessel-owning subsidiaries;
· make investments and capital expenditures;
· reduce our partners' capital; and
· undergo a change in ownership or Manager.
13

Therefore, we may need to seek permission from our lenders in order to engage in some actions. Our lenders' interests may be different from ours and we may not be able to obtain our lenders' permission when needed. This may limit our ability to pay distributions, including the minimum quarterly distributions on our common units and quarterly distributions on our Series A Preferred Units, finance our future operations or capital requirements, make acquisitions or pursue business opportunities.
In addition, our secured credit facilities require us to maintain specified financial ratios and to satisfy financial covenants, including ratios and covenants based on the market value of the vessels in our fleet. Should our charter rates or vessel values materially decline in the future, we may seek to obtain waivers or amendments from our lenders with respect to such financial ratios and covenants, or we may be required to take action to reduce our debt or to act in a manner contrary to our business objectives to meet any such financial ratios and satisfy any such financial covenants. Events beyond our control, including changes in the economic and business conditions in the shipping markets in which we operate, may affect our ability to comply with these covenants. We cannot assure you that we will meet these ratios or satisfy these covenants or that our lenders will waive any failure to do so or amend these requirements. A breach of any of the covenants in, or our inability to maintain the required financial ratios under, our credit facilities would prevent us from borrowing additional money under our credit facilities and could result in a default under our credit facilities. If a default occurs under our credit facilities, the lenders could elect to declare the outstanding debt, together with accrued interest and other fees, to be immediately due and payable and foreclose on the collateral securing that debt, which could constitute a part, all, or substantially all of our assets. Moreover, in connection with any waivers or amendments to our credit facilities that we may obtain, our lenders may impose additional operating and financial restrictions on us or modify the terms of our existing credit facilities. These restrictions may further restrict our ability to, among other things, make distributions to our unitholders repurchase our securities, make capital expenditures, or incur additional indebtedness.
A violation of any of the provisions contained in our existing or future debt agreements may constitute an event of default under such debt agreement, which, unless cured or waived or modified by our lenders, provides our lenders with the right to, among other things, 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 and the other assets securing the credit facilities, which would impair our ability to continue to conduct our business.
See "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—B. Liquidity and Capital Resources."
Our Sponsor may be unable to service its debt requirements and comply with the provisions contained in the credit agreements secured by the Optional Vessels. If our Sponsor fails to perform its obligations under its debt agreements or any other agreement relating to the Optional Vessels, our business and expected plans for growth may be materially affected.
Our Sponsor may be unable to fulfill its obligations under its debt and other agreements that are secured by or relate to the Optional Vessels. Failure on behalf of our Sponsor to perform its obligations under its debt, including paying scheduled installments and complying with certain covenants, may constitute an event of default under these secured loan agreements. If an event of default occurs under these loan agreements, our Sponsor's lenders could accelerate the outstanding loans and declare all amounts borrowed due and payable. In this case, if our Sponsor is unable to obtain a waiver or amendment or does not otherwise have enough cash on hand to repay the outstanding borrowings, its lenders may, among other things, foreclose their liens on the Optional Vessels. In addition, if our Sponsor fails to perform its obligations under other agreements governing the Optional vessels, we might not be able to take delivery of such Optional Vessels at all. In these cases, we may not be able to exercise our rights under the Omnibus Agreement to acquire the Optional Vessels, which would likely have a material adverse effect on our business and our expected plans for growth.
In addition, since our Sponsor is a private company and there is little or no publicly available information about it, we or an investor could have little advance warning of potential financial or other problems that might affect our Sponsor that could have a material adverse effect on us.
14

We are dependent on our affiliated Manager for the management of our Fleet and for the provision of executive management and financial support services.
We have entered into management agreements, or the Management Agreements, with our affiliated Manager for the commercial and technical management of our Fleet, including crewing, maintenance and repair. The loss of our Manager's services or its failure to perform its obligations to us could materially and adversely affect the results of our operations. In addition, our Manager provides us with significant management, administrative, executive, financial and other support services. Our operational success and ability to execute our growth strategy will depend significantly upon the satisfactory performance of these services. Our business will be harmed if our Manager fails to perform these services satisfactorily, if they cancel their agreements with us or if they stop providing these services to us.
The control of our General Partner may be transferred to a third-party without unitholder consent.
Our General Partner may transfer its General Partner interest to a third-party in a merger or in a sale of all or substantially all of its assets without the consent of the unitholders.  In addition, our Partnership Agreement does not restrict the ability of the members of our General Partner from transferring their respective membership interests in our General Partner to a third-party.
Our General Partner's affiliates, including our Sponsor, may compete with us.
Our Partnership Agreement provides that our General Partner will be restricted from engaging in any business activities other than acting as our General Partner and those activities incidental to its ownership of interests in us. In addition, our Partnership Agreement provides that our General Partner, for so long as it is General Partner of our Partnership, will cause its affiliates not to engage in, by acquisition or otherwise, the businesses described above.
Similarly, pursuant to the Omnibus Agreement with our Sponsor and our General Partner, our Sponsor and its affiliates (other than us, and our subsidiaries) generally have agreed, for the term of the Omnibus Agreement, not to acquire, own, operate or contract for any LNG carriers acquired or placed under contracts with an initial term of four or more years. The Omnibus Agreement, however, contains significant exceptions which include, among other things, the owning and operating of the Optional Vessels that may allow our Sponsor or any of its affiliates to compete with us, which could harm our business. Our Sponsor and its affiliates may compete with us, subject to the restrictions contained in the Omnibus Agreement, and could own and operate LNG carriers under charters of four years or more that may compete with our vessels if we do not acquire such vessels when they are offered to us pursuant to the terms of the Omnibus Agreement. See "Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions."
Mr. Tony Lauritzen, our Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Michael Gregos, our Chief Financial Officer, and certain other officers will not devote all of their time to our business, which may hinder our ability to operate successfully.
Mr. Tony Lauritzen, our Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Michael Gregos, our Chief Financial Officer, and certain other officers who perform executive officer functions for us, are not required to work full-time on our affairs and are involved in other business activities with our Sponsor and its affiliates, which may result in their spending less time than is appropriate or necessary to manage our business successfully. Based solely on the anticipated relative sizes of our Fleet and the fleet owned by our Sponsor and its affiliates over the next twelve months, we estimate that Mr. Lauritzen, Mr. Gregos, and certain other officers may spend a substantial portion of their monthly business time on our business activities and their remaining time on the business of our Sponsor and its affiliates. However, the actual allocation of time could vary significantly from time to time depending on various circumstances and needs of the businesses, such as the relative levels of strategic activities of the businesses. As a result, there could be material competition for the time and effort of our officers who also provide services to our General Partner's affiliates, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
15

Unitholders have limited voting rights, and our Partnership Agreement restricts the voting rights of our unitholders that own more than 4.9% of our common units.
Unlike the holders of common stock in a corporation, holders of common units have only limited voting rights on matters affecting our business. We will hold a meeting of the limited partners every year to elect one or more members of our Board of Directors that are eligible for reelection and to vote on any other matters that are properly brought before the meeting. Common unitholders are entitled to elect only three of the five members of our Board of Directors. The elected directors will be elected on a staggered basis and will serve for three year terms. Our General Partner has the right to appoint the remaining two directors and set the terms for which those directors will serve. The Partnership Agreement also contains provisions limiting the ability of unitholders to call meetings or to acquire information about our operations, as well as other provisions limiting the unitholders' ability to influence the manner or direction of management. Unitholders have no right to elect our General Partner, and our General Partner may not be removed except by a vote of the holders of at least 66 2/3% of the outstanding common units and subordinated units, including any units owned by our General Partner, our Sponsor and their respective affiliates, voting together as a single class.
Our Partnership Agreement further restricts unitholders' voting rights by providing that if any person or group owns beneficially more than 4.9% of any class of units then outstanding, any such units owned by that person or group in excess of 4.9% may not be voted on any matter and will not be considered to be outstanding when sending notices of a meeting of unitholders, calculating required votes (except for purposes of nominating a person for election to our board), determining the presence of a quorum or for other similar purposes under our Partnership Agreement, unless required by law. The voting rights of any such unitholders in excess of 4.9% will effectively be redistributed pro rata among the other common unitholders holding less than 4.9% of the voting power of all classes of units entitled to vote. Our General Partner, its affiliates and persons who acquired common units with the prior approval of our Board of Directors will not be subject to this 4.9% limitation except with respect to voting their common units in the election of the elected directors.
Our Partnership Agreement limits the duties our General Partner and our directors and officers may have to our unitholders and restricts the remedies available to unitholders for actions taken by our General Partner or our directors and officers.
Our Partnership Agreement provides that our Board of Directors has the authority to oversee and direct our operations, management and policies on an exclusive basis. The Marshall Islands Revised Limited Partnership Act, or the Partnership Act, states that a member or manager's "duties and liabilities may be expanded or restricted by provisions in the Partnership Agreement." As permitted by the Partnership Act, our Partnership Agreement contains provisions that reduce the standards to which our General Partner and our directors and our officers may otherwise be held by Marshall Islands law. For example, our Partnership Agreement:
· provides that our General Partner may make determinations or take or decline to take actions without regard to our or our unitholders' interests. Our General Partner may consider only the interests and factors that it desires, and it has no duty or obligation to give any consideration to any interest of, or factors affecting us, our affiliates or our unitholders. Decisions made by our General Partner will be made by its sole owner. Specifically, our General Partner may decide to exercise its right to make a determination to receive common units in exchange for resetting the target distribution levels related to the incentive distribution rights, call right, pre-emptive rights or registration rights, consent or withhold consent to any merger or consolidation of the Partnership, appoint certain of our directors or vote for the election of any director, vote or refrain from voting on amendments to our Partnership Agreement that require a vote of the outstanding units, voluntarily withdraw from the Partnership, transfer (to the extent permitted under our Partnership Agreement) or refrain from transferring its units, the general partner interest or incentive distribution rights or vote upon the dissolution of the Partnership;
· provides that our directors and officers are entitled to make other decisions in "good faith," meaning they reasonably believe that the decision is in our best interests;
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· generally provides that affiliated transactions and resolutions of conflicts of interest not approved by our conflicts committee of our Board of Directors and not involving a vote of unitholders must be on terms no less favorable to us than those generally being provided to or available from unrelated third-parties or be "fair and reasonable" to us and that, in determining whether a transaction or resolution is "fair and reasonable," our Board of Directors may consider the totality of the relationships between the parties involved, including other transactions that may be particularly advantageous or beneficial to us; and
· provides that neither our General Partner nor our officers or our directors will be liable for monetary damages to us, our members or assignees for any acts or omissions unless there has been a final and non-appealable judgment entered by a court of competent jurisdiction determining that our General Partner, our directors or officers or those other persons engaged in actual fraud or willful misconduct.
In order to become a member of our Partnership, a common unitholder is required to agree to be bound by the provisions in the Partnership Agreement, including the provisions discussed above.
Fees and cost reimbursements, which our Manager will determine for services provided to us, will be substantial, will be payable regardless of our profitability and will reduce our cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Our Manager, which is wholly-owned by Mr. George Prokopiou, is responsible for the commercial and technical management of the vessels in our Fleet pursuant to the Management Agreements. We currently pay our Manager a fee of $2,732 per day for each vessel for providing our ship owning subsidiaries with technical, commercial, insurance, accounting, financing, provisions, crewing and bunkering services. In addition we pay our Manager a commercial management fee equal to 1.25% of the gross charter hire and the ballast bonus, which is the amount paid to the shipowner as compensation for all or part of the cost of positioning the vessel to the port where the vessel will be delivered to the charterer. We incurred an aggregate expense of approximately $6.7 million in connection with the commercial and technical management of our Fleet for the year ended December 31, 2015.
The management fee increases by 3% annually unless otherwise agreed, between us, with approval of our conflicts committee, and our Manager. The management fees payable for the vessels may be further increased if our Manager has incurred material unforeseen costs of providing the management services, by an amount to be agreed between us and our Manager, which amount will be reviewed and approved by our conflicts committee.
We have further entered into an executive services agreement, or the Executive Services Agreement, with our Manager, pursuant to which our Manager provides us with the services of our executive officers, who report directly to our Board of Directors. Under the Executive Services Agreement, our Manager is entitled to an executive services fee of €538,000 per annum, for the initial five year term, which expires in November 2018, payable in equal monthly installments. After the expiration of the firm period, the Executive Services Agreement will automatically be renewed for successive five year terms unless terminated earlier. As of December 31, 2015, we incurred approximately $0.6 million in connection with this agreement.
Pursuant to an administrative services agreement, or the Administrative Services Agreement, our Manager also provides us with certain administrative and support services for which we currently pay a monthly fee of $10,000, plus all related costs and expenses. As of December 31, 2015, we incurred $0.1 million in connection with this agreement.
For a description of our Management Agreements, Executive Services Agreement and Administrative Services Agreement, see "Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions." The fees and expenses payable pursuant to the Management Agreements, Executive Services Agreement and the Administrative Services Agreement will be payable without regard to our financial condition or results of operations. The payment of fees to could adversely affect our ability to pay cash distributions to our unitholders.
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Our Partnership Agreement contains provisions that may have the effect of discouraging a person or group from attempting to remove our current management or our General Partner and even if public unitholders are dissatisfied, they will be unable to remove our General Partner without our Sponsor's consent, unless our Sponsor's ownership interest in us is decreased; all of which could diminish the trading price of our common units.
Our Partnership Agreement contains provisions that may have the effect of discouraging a person or group from attempting to remove our current management or our General Partner.
· The unitholders are unable to remove our General Partner without its consent because our General Partner and its affiliates, including our Sponsor, own sufficient units to be able to prevent its removal. The vote of the holders of at least 66 2/3% of all outstanding common and subordinated units voting together as a single class is required to remove our General Partner. Our Sponsor owns 610,000 of our common units and all of our subordinated units, representing approximately 43.9% of the outstanding common and subordinated units.
· If our General Partner is removed without "cause" during the subordination period and units held by our General Partner and our Sponsor are not voted in favor of that removal, all remaining subordinated units will automatically convert into common units, any existing arrearages on the common units will be extinguished, and our General Partner will have the right to convert its incentive distribution rights into common units or to receive cash in exchange for those interests based on the fair market value of those interests at the time. A removal of our General Partner under these circumstances would adversely affect the common units by prematurely eliminating their distribution and liquidation preference over the subordinated units, which would otherwise have continued until we had met certain distribution and performance tests. Any conversion of our General Partner's interest or incentive distribution rights would be dilutive to existing unitholders. Furthermore, any cash payment in lieu of such conversion could be prohibitively expensive. "Cause" is narrowly defined to mean that a court of competent jurisdiction has entered a final, non-appealable judgment finding our General Partner liable for actual fraud or willful or wanton misconduct. Cause does not include most cases of charges of poor business decisions, such as charges of poor management of our business by the directors appointed by our General Partner, so the removal of our General Partner because of the unitholders' dissatisfaction with our General Partner's decisions in this regard would most likely result in the termination of the subordination period.
· Common unitholders are entitled to elect only three of the five members of our Board of Directors. Our General Partner in its sole discretion appoints the remaining two directors.
· Election of the three directors elected by unitholders is staggered, meaning that the members of only one of three classes of our elected directors are selected each year. In addition, the directors appointed by our General Partner serve for terms determined by our General Partner.
· Our Partnership Agreement contains provisions limiting the ability of unitholders to call meetings of unitholders, to nominate directors and to acquire information about our operations as well as other provisions limiting the unitholders' ability to influence the manner or direction of management.
· Unitholders' voting rights are further restricted by the Partnership Agreement provision providing that if any person or group owns beneficially more than 4.9% of any class of units then outstanding, any such units owned by that person or group in excess of 4.9% may not be voted on any matter and will not be considered to be outstanding when sending notices of a meeting of unitholders, calculating required votes (except for purposes of nominating a person for election to our board), determining the presence of a quorum or for other similar purposes under our Partnership Agreement, unless required by law. The voting rights of any such unitholders in excess of 4.9% will effectively be redistributed pro rata among the other common unitholders holding less than 4.9% of the voting power of all classes of units entitled to vote. Our General Partner, its affiliates and persons who acquired common units with the prior approval of our Board of Directors are not be subject to this 4.9% limitation except with respect to voting their common units in the election of the elected directors.
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· There are no restrictions in our Partnership Agreement on our ability to issue additional equity securities.
The effect of these provisions may be to diminish the price at which the common units will trade.
You may not have limited liability if a court finds that unitholder action constitutes control of our business.
As a limited partner in a partnership organized under the laws of the Marshall Islands, you could be held liable for our obligations to the same extent as a General Partner if you participate in the "control" of our business. Our General Partner generally has unlimited liability for the obligations of the Partnership, such as its debts and environmental liabilities, except for those contractual obligations of the Partnership that are expressly made without recourse to our General Partner. In addition, the limitations on the liability of holders of limited partner interests for the obligations of a limited partnership have not been clearly established in some jurisdictions in which we do business.
We can borrow money to pay distributions, which would reduce the amount of credit available to operate our business.
Our Partnership Agreement allows us to make working capital borrowings to pay distributions. Accordingly, if we have available borrowing capacity, we can make distributions on all our units even though cash generated by our operations may not be sufficient to pay such distributions. Any working capital borrowings by us to make distributions will reduce the amount of working capital borrowings we can make for operating our business. For more information, see "Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects."
We depend on our Manager to assist us in operating and expanding our business.
We subcontract the commercial and technical management of our Fleet, including crewing, maintenance and repair, to our Manager; the loss of our Manager's services or its failure to perform its obligations to us could materially and adversely affect the results of our operations.
Our operational success and ability to execute our growth strategy will depend significantly upon the satisfactory performance of these services. Our business will be harmed if our service providers fail to perform these services satisfactorily, if they cancel their agreements with us or if they stop providing these services to us.
Our ability to enter into new charters and expand our customer relationships will depend largely on our ability to leverage our relationship with our Manager and its reputation and relationships in the shipping industry. If our Manager suffers material damage to its reputation or relationships, it may harm our ability to:
· renew existing charters upon their expiration;
· obtain new charters;
· successfully interact with shipyards;
· obtain financing on commercially acceptable terms;
· maintain access to capital under the Sponsor credit facility; or
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· maintain satisfactory relationships with suppliers and other third-parties.
Our current time charters and certain of our debt agreements prevent us from changing our Manager.
Our ability to change our Manager with another affiliated or third-party Manager, is prohibited by provisions in our current time charters and would constitute an event of default under our $340 Million Senior Credit Facility and our $200 Million Term Loan Facility, without their prior consent.  In addition, we cannot assure you that future debt agreements or time charter contracts with our existing or new lenders or charterers, respectively, will not contain similar provisions.
Since our Manager is a privately held company and there is little or no publicly available information about it, an investor could have little advance warning of potential financial and other problems that might affect our Manager that could have a material adverse effect on us.
The ability of our Manager to continue providing services for our benefit will depend in part on its own financial strength. Circumstances beyond our control could impair our Manager's financial strength, and because it is privately held, it is unlikely that information about its financial strength would become public unless our Manager began to default on its obligations. As a result, an investor in our common units might have little advance warning of problems affecting our Manager, even though these problems could have a material adverse effect on us.
Our Manager may be unable to attract, provide and retain key management personnel, which may negatively impact the effectiveness of our management and our results of operation.
Our success depends to a significant extent upon the abilities and the efforts of our executive officers, whose services are provided to us by our Manager pursuant to our Executive Services Agreement. While we believe that we have an experienced management team, the loss or unavailability of one or more of our senior executives for any extended period of time could have an adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
A shortage of qualified officers and crew could have an adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
LNG carriers require a technically skilled officer staff with specialized training. As the world LNG carrier fleet continues to grow, the demand for technically skilled officers and crew has been increasing. Increases in our historical vessel operating expenses have been attributable primarily to the rising costs of recruiting and retaining officers for our Fleet. If we or our third-party ship Managers are unable to employ technically skilled staff and crew, we will not be able to adequately staff our vessels. A material decrease in the supply of technically skilled officers or an inability of our Manager to attract and retain such qualified officers could impair our ability to operate, or increase the cost of crewing our vessels, which would materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and significantly reduce our ability to pay quarterly distributions to our common and preferred unitholders.
The derivative contracts we may enter into, in the future, to hedge our exposure to fluctuations in interest rates could result in higher than market interest rates and charges against our income.
As of December 31, 2015, we had total outstanding long-term debt of $688.3 million, of which $438.3 million was exposed to a floating interest rate. In order to manage our current or future exposure to interest rate fluctuations, we may use interest rate swaps to effectively fix a part of our floating rate debt obligations. As of December 31, 2015, we had not entered into interest rate swap agreements to fix the interest rate on our floating rate bank debt. Any future hedging strategies, however, may not be effective and we may incur substantial losses if interest rates move materially differently from our expectations.
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We are a holding company, and our ability to make cash distributions to our unitholders will be limited by the value of investments we currently hold and by the distribution of funds from our subsidiaries.
We are a holding company whose assets mainly consist of equity interests in our subsidiaries. As a result, our ability to make cash distributions to our unitholders will depend on the performance of our operating subsidiaries. If we are not able to receive sufficient funds from our subsidiaries, we will not be able to pay distributions unless we obtain funds from other sources. We may not be able to obtain the necessary funds from other sources on terms acceptable to us.
We are an "emerging growth company" and we cannot be certain if the reduced disclosure requirements applicable to emerging growth companies will make our common units less attractive to investors.
We are an "emerging growth company" as defined in the JOBS Act. As an "emerging growth company" we are exempt from having our independent auditor assess our internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  We cannot predict if investors will find our common units less attractive because we rely on this exemption. If some investors find our common units less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for our units and our unit price may be more volatile. We will continue to be deemed an "emerging growth company" until the earliest of the last day of the fiscal year of during which we had total annual gross revenues of $1 billion or more, the last day of the fiscal year following our fifth IPO anniversary, the date in which, during the previous 3-year period, we have issued more than $1.0 billion in non-convertible debt, or the date on which we will be deemed to be a large accelerated filer.
Our ability to grow and to meet our financial needs, including our future obligations to holders of the Series A Preferred Units, may be adversely affected by our cash distribution policy.
Our cash distribution policy, which is consistent with our Partnership Agreement, requires us to distribute all of our available cash (as defined in our Partnership Agreement) each quarter. As a result, we do not expect to accumulate significant amounts of cash. Accordingly, our growth may not be as fast as businesses that reinvest their available cash to expand ongoing operations.
In determining the amount of cash available for distribution, our Board of Directors approves the amount of cash reserves to set aside, including reserves for future maintenance and replacement capital expenditures, working capital and other matters. We also rely upon external financing sources, including commercial borrowings, to fund our capital expenditures. Accordingly, to the extent we do not have sufficient cash reserves or are unable to obtain financing, our cash distribution policy may significantly impair our ability to meet our financial needs or to grow.
In addition, we are not required to accumulate cash for the purpose of meeting our future obligations to holders of our Series A Preferred Units. Depending on the timing and amount of our cash distributions, these distributions could significantly reduce or eliminate the cash available to us in subsequent periods to make payments on the Series A Preferred Units.
Due to our lack of diversification, adverse developments in our LNG shipping business could reduce our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
We rely exclusively on the cash flow generated from our LNG carriers. Due to our lack of diversification, an adverse development in the LNG shipping industry could have a significantly greater impact on our financial condition and results of operations than if we maintained more diverse assets or lines of businesses.
We may experience operational problems with vessels that reduce revenue and increase costs.
LNG carriers are complex and their operation is technically challenging. Marine transportation operations are subject to mechanical risks and problems. Operational problems may lead to loss of revenue or higher than anticipated operating expenses or require additional capital expenditures. Any of these results could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and ability to make cash distributions to our unitholders.
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Upon the expiration of the subordination period, the subordinated units will convert into common units and will then participate pro rata with other common units in distributions of available cash.
During the subordination period, which we define elsewhere in this Annual Report, the common units will have the right to receive distributions of available cash from operating surplus in an amount equal to the minimum quarterly distribution of $0.365 per unit, plus any arrearages in the payment of the minimum quarterly distribution on the common units from prior quarters, before any distributions of available cash from operating surplus may be made on the subordinated units. Distribution arrearages do not accrue on the subordinated units. The purpose of the subordinated units is to increase the likelihood that during the subordination period there will be available cash from operating surplus to be distributed on the common units. Upon the expiration of the subordination period, the subordinated units will convert into common units and will then participate pro rata with other common units in distributions of available cash. See "Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Our Cash Distribution Policy."
Actions taken by our Board of Directors may affect the amount of cash available for distribution to unitholders or accelerate the right to convert subordinated units.
The amount of cash that is available for distribution to unitholders is affected by decisions of our Board of Directors regarding such matters as:
· the amount and timing of asset purchases and sales;
· cash expenditures;
· borrowings;
· estimates of maintenance and replacement capital expenditures;
· the issuance of additional units; And
· the creation, reduction or increase of reserves in any quarter.
In addition, borrowings by us and our affiliates do not constitute a breach of any duty owed by our General Partner or our directors to our unitholders, including borrowings that have the purpose or effect of:
· enabling our General Partner or its affiliates to receive distributions on any subordinated units held by them or the incentive distribution rights; or
· hastening the expiration of the subordination period.
For example, in the event we have not generated sufficient cash from our operations to pay the minimum quarterly distribution on our common units and our subordinated units, our Partnership Agreement permits us to borrow funds, which would enable us to make this distribution on all outstanding units.
Our Partnership Agreement provides that we and our subsidiaries may borrow funds from our General Partner and its affiliates. Our General Partner and its affiliates may not borrow funds from us or our subsidiaries.
Risks Relating to Our Industry
Our future growth and performance depends on continued growth in LNG production and demand for LNG and LNG shipping.
A complete LNG project includes production, liquefaction, storage, regasification and distribution facilities, in addition to the marine transportation of LNG. Increased infrastructure investment has led to an expansion of LNG production capacity in recent years, but material delays in the construction of new liquefaction facilities could constrain the amount of LNG available for shipping, reducing ship utilization. While global LNG demand has continued to rise, it has risen at a slower pace than previously predicted and the rate of its growth has fluctuated due to several factors, including the global economic crisis and continued economic uncertainty, fluctuations in the price of natural gas and other sources of energy, the continued acceleration in natural gas production from unconventional sources in regions such as North America and the highly complex and capital intensive nature of new or expanded LNG projects, including liquefaction projects. Continued growth in LNG production and demand for LNG and LNG shipping could be negatively affected by a number of factors, including:
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· increases in interest rates or other events that may affect the availability of sufficient financing for LNG projects on commercially reasonable terms;
· increases in the cost of natural gas derived from LNG relative to the cost of natural gas generally;
· increases in the production levels of low-cost natural gas in domestic natural gas consuming markets, which could further depress prices for natural gas in those markets and make LNG uneconomical;
· increases in the production of natural gas in areas linked by pipelines to consuming areas, the extension of existing, or the development of new pipeline systems in markets we may serve, or the conversion of existing non-natural gas pipelines to natural gas pipelines in those markets;
· decreases in the consumption of natural gas due to increases in its price, decreases in the price of alternative energy sources or other factors making consumption of natural gas less attractive;
· any significant explosion, spill or other incident involving an LNG facility or carrier;
· infrastructure constraints such as delays in the construction of liquefaction facilities, the inability of project owners or operators to obtain governmental approvals to construct or operate LNG facilities, as well as community or political action group resistance to new LNG infrastructure due to concerns about the environment, safety and terrorism;
· labor or political unrest or military conflicts affecting existing or proposed areas of LNG production or regasification;
· decreases in the price of LNG, which might decrease the expected returns relating to investments in LNG projects;
· new taxes or regulations affecting LNG production or liquefaction that make LNG production less attractive; or
· negative global or regional economic or political conditions, particularly in LNG consuming regions, which could reduce energy consumption or its growth.
Reduced demand for LNG and LNG shipping or any reduction or limitation in LNG production capacity, could have a material adverse effect on our ability to secure future multi-year time charters upon expiration or early termination of our current charter arrangements, or for any new ships we acquire, which could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, including cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Fluctuations in overall LNG demand growth could adversely affect our ability to secure future time charters.
Over the past five years, global LNG demand has remained flat at around 240 million tons per year.  The effect of rising Asian demand has been offset by declining demand from European countries. Preliminary estimates by Drewry Shipping Consultants Ltd., or Drewry, suggest that global LNG trade in 2015 declined marginally by 3% mainly because of the changing priorities of major LNG importers such as Japan and South Korea in favor of nuclear energy and coal based power plants. Lower crude oil prices have also put a pressure on the LNG demand.  Continued economic uncertainty and the continued acceleration of unconventional natural gas production could also have an adverse effect on our ability to secure future term charters.
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Demand for LNG shipping could be significantly affected by volatile natural gas prices and the overall demand for natural gas.
Gas prices are volatile and are affected by numerous factors beyond our control, including but not limited to the following:
· worldwide demand for natural gas;
· the cost of exploration, development, production, transportation and distribution of natural gas;
· expectations regarding future energy prices for both natural gas and other sources of energy;
· the level of worldwide LNG production and exports;
· government laws and regulations, including but not limited to environmental protection laws and regulations;
· local and international political, economic and weather conditions;
· political and military conflicts; and
· the availability and cost of alternative energy sources, including alternate sources of natural gas in gas importing and consuming countries.
Seasonality in demand, peak-load demand, and other short-term factors such as pipeline gas disruptions and maintenance schedules of utilities affect charters of less than two years and rates. In general, reduced demand for LNG, LNG carriers or LNG shipping would have a material adverse effect on our future growth and could harm our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Hire rates for LNG carriers may fluctuate substantially. If rates are lower when we are seeking a new charter, our revenues and cash flows may decline.
Our ability from time to time to charter or re-charter any ship at attractive rates will depend on, among other things, the prevailing economic conditions in the LNG industry. Hire rates for LNG carriers may fluctuate over time as a result of changes in the supply-demand balance relating to current and future ship capacity. This supply-demand relationship largely depends on a number of factors outside our control. The LNG charter market is connected to world natural gas prices and energy markets, which we cannot predict. A substantial or extended decline in demand for natural gas or LNG could adversely affect our ability to re-charter our vessels at acceptable rates or to acquire and profitably operate new ships. Hire rates for newbuildings are correlated with the price of newbuildings. Hire rates at a time when we may be seeking new charters may be lower than the hire rates at which our vessels are currently chartered. If hire rates are lower when we are seeking a new charter, our revenues and cash flows, including cash available for distributions to our unitholders, may decline, as we may only be able to enter into new charters at reduced or unprofitable rates or we may have to secure a charter in the spot market, where hire rates are more volatile. Prolonged periods of low charter hire rates or low ship utilization could also have a material adverse effect on the value of our assets.
Vessel values may fluctuate substantially and, if these values are lower at a time when we are attempting to dispose of vessels, we may incur a loss.
Factors that influence vessel values include:
· prevailing economic conditions in the natural gas and energy markets;
· a substantial or extended decline in demand for LNG;
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· increases in the supply of vessel capacity;
· the size and age of a vessel; and
· the cost of retrofitting or modifying secondhand vessels, as a result of technological advances in vessel design or equipment, changes in applicable environmental or other regulations or standards, customer requirements or otherwise.
As our vessels age, the expenses associated with maintaining and operating them are expected to increase, which could have an adverse effect on our business and operations if we do not maintain sufficient cash reserves for maintenance and replacement capital expenditures. Moreover, the cost of a replacement vessel would be significant. If a charter terminates, we may be unable to re-deploy the affected vessels at attractive rates and, rather than continue to incur costs to maintain and finance them, we may seek to dispose of them. Our inability to dispose of vessels at a reasonable value could result in a loss on their sale and adversely affect our ability to purchase a replacement vessel, results of operations and financial condition and ability to pay minimum quarterly or other distributions to our unitholders.
An oversupply of ships or delays or abandonment of planned projects may lead to a reduction in the charter hire rates we are able to obtain when seeking charters in the future.
According to Drewry, during the period from 2011 to January 2016, the global fleet of LNG carriers grew from 358 to 422 vessels due to the construction and delivery of new LNG carriers and low levels of vessel demolition. Although the global newbuilding orderbook dropped sharply in 2008, 2009 and 2010, ordering activity increased in the light of Fukushima nuclear disaster and, according to Drewry, a total of 56 LNG carrier newbuilding orders were placed in 2011 and a further 33 in 2012. In 2013 and2014, ordering activity remained firm and a total of 100 newbuild orders were placed.  However, provisional data suggest that only 32 new vessels were ordered in 2015 because of weaker macroeconomic outlook. According to Drewry, as of January 31, 2016, the newbuilding orderbook consisted of 141 vessels with a combined capacity of 23.6 million cbm, equivalent to 36.8% of the current global LNG carrier fleet by capacity. The delivery of these newbuildings will occur between 2016 and 2019.
According to Drewry, as of January 31, 2016 only 11 LNG carriers, representing 2.7% of the LNG vessels in the global LNG fleet, have an Ice Class 1A designation or equivalent rating.
According to Drewry, as of January 31, 2016, there were only 56 LNG carriers currently in operation, including the vessels in our Fleet, with a carrying capacity of between 149,000 and 155,000 cbm and a membrane containment system.  There are a total of 141 LNG carriers on order, of which 10 are being constructed with these specifications.
We may have more difficulty entering into multi-year time charters in the future if an active spot LNG shipping market continues to develop.
One of our principal strategies is to enter into additional LNG carrier long term time charters. Most shipping requirements for new LNG projects continue to be provided on a multi-year basis, though the level of spot voyages and time charters of less than 24 months in duration has grown in the past few years. If an active spot market continues to develop, we may have increased difficulty entering into multi-year time charters upon expiration or early termination of our current charters or for any vessels that we acquire in the future, and, as a result, our cash flow may be less stable. In addition, an active spot LNG market may require us to enter into charters based on changing market prices, as opposed to contracts based on a fixed rate, which could result in a decrease in our cash flow in periods when the market price for shipping LNG is depressed or insufficient funds are available to cover our financing costs for related vessels.
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Further technological advancements and other innovations affecting LNG carriers could reduce the charter hire rates we are able to obtain when seeking new employment and this could adversely impact the value of our assets.
The charter rates, asset value and operational life of an LNG carrier are determined by a number of factors, including the ship's efficiency, operational flexibility and physical life. Efficiency includes speed and fuel economy. Flexibility includes the ability to enter harbors, utilize related docking facilities and pass through canals and straits. Physical life is related to the original design and construction, the ongoing maintenance and the impact of operational stresses on the asset. If more advanced ship designs are developed in the future and new ships are built that are more efficient or more flexible or have longer physical lives than ours, competition from these more technologically advanced LNG carriers could adversely affect the charter hire rates we will be able to secure when we seek to re-charter our vessels upon expiration or early termination of our current charter arrangements and could also reduce the resale value of our vessels. This could adversely affect our revenues and cash flows, including cash available for distributions to our unitholders.
If we cannot meet our charterers' quality and compliance requirements we may not be able to operate our vessels profitably which could have an adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position.
Customers, and in particular those in the LNG industry, have a high and increasing focus on quality and compliance standards with their suppliers across the entire value chain, including the shipping and transportation segment. Our continuous compliance with these standards and quality requirements is vital for our operations. Related risks could materialize in multiple ways, including a sudden and unexpected breach in quality and/or compliance concerning one or more vessels, a continuous decrease in the quality concerning one or more LNG carriers occurring over time. Moreover, continuous increasing requirements from LNG industry constituents can further complicate our ability to meet the standards. Any noncompliance by the Partnership, either suddenly or over a period of time, on one or more LNG Carriers, or an increase in requirements by our charterers above and beyond what we deliver, may have a material adverse effect on our future performance, results of operations, cash flows and financial position.
Operating costs and capital expenses will increase as our vessels age.
In general, capital expenditures and other costs necessary for maintaining a ship in good operating condition increase as the age of the ship increases. Accordingly, it is likely that the operating costs of our vessels will increase in the future.
Reliability of suppliers may limit our ability to obtain supplies and services when needed.
We rely, and will in the future rely, on a significant supply of consumables, spare parts and equipment to operate, maintain, repair and upgrade our Fleet. Delays in delivery or unavailability of supplies could result in off-hire days due to consequent delays in the repair and maintenance of our Fleet. This would negatively impact our revenues and cash flows. Cost increases could also negatively impact our future operations.
Exposure to currency exchange rate fluctuations will result in fluctuations in our cash flows and operating results.
Historically our revenue has been generated in U.S. Dollars, but we incur capital, operating and administrative expenses in multiple currencies, including, among others, the Euro. If the U.S. Dollar weakens significantly, we would be required to convert more U.S. Dollars to other currencies to satisfy our obligations, which would cause us to have less cash available for distribution. Because we report our operating results in U.S. Dollars, changes in the value of the U.S. Dollar also result in fluctuations in our reported revenues and earnings. In addition, under U.S. GAAP, all foreign currency-denominated monetary assets and liabilities such as cash and cash equivalents, accounts receivable, restricted cash and accounts payable are revalued and reported based on the prevailing exchange rate at the end of the reporting period. This revaluation may cause us to report significant non-monetary foreign currency exchange gains and losses in certain periods.
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An increase in operating expenses, dry-docking costs or bunker costs could materially and adversely affect our financial performance.
Our operating expenses and dry-dock capital expenditures depend on a variety of factors including crew costs, provisions, deck and engine stores and spares, lubricating oil, insurance, maintenance and repairs and shipyard costs, many of which are beyond our control and affect the entire shipping industry. Also, while we do not bear the cost of fuel (bunkers) under our time charters, fuel is a significant expense in our operations when our vessels are, for example, moving to or from dry-dock or when off-hire. 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. These may increase vessel operating and dry-docking costs further, which could materially and adversely affect our results of operations.
The operation of LNG carriers is inherently risky, and an incident involving significant loss of or environmental consequences involving any of our vessels could harm our reputation and business.
Our vessels and their cargoes are at risk of being damaged or lost because of events such as:
· marine disasters;
· piracy;
· environmental accidents;
· bad weather;
· mechanical failures;
· grounding, fire, explosions and collisions;
· human error; and
· war and terrorism.
An accident involving any of our vessels could result in any of the following:
· death or injury to persons, loss of property or environmental damage;
· delays or failure in the delivery of cargo;
· loss of revenues from or termination of charter contracts;
· governmental fines, penalties or restrictions on conducting business;
· spills, pollution and the liability associated with the same;
· higher insurance rates; and
· damage to our reputation and customer relationships generally.
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Any of these events could result in a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and operating results. If our vessels suffer damage, they may need to be repaired. The costs of vessel repairs are unpredictable and can be substantial. We may have to pay repair costs that our insurance policies do not cover. The loss of earnings while these vessels are being repaired, as well as the actual cost of these repairs, would decrease our results of operations. If any of our vessels is involved in an accident with the potential risk of environmental consequences, the resulting media coverage could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and cash flows, which in turn could weaken our financial condition and negatively affect our ability to pay distributions to our unitholders.
Our insurance may be insufficient to cover losses that may occur to our property or result from our operations.
The operation of LNG carriers is inherently risky. Although we carry protection and indemnity insurance consistent with industry standards, all risks may not be adequately insured against, and any particular claim may not be paid. Any claims covered by insurance would be subject to deductibles, and since it is possible that a large number of claims may be brought, the aggregate amount of these deductibles could be material. Certain of our insurance coverage is maintained through mutual protection and indemnity associations, and as a member of such associations we may be required to make additional payments over and above budgeted premiums if member claims exceed association reserves. We may be unable to procure adequate insurance coverage at commercially reasonable rates in the future. For example, more stringent environmental regulations have led in the past to increased costs for, and in the future may result in the lack of availability of, insurance against risks of environmental damage or pollution. A marine disaster could exceed our insurance coverage, which could harm our business, financial condition and operating results. Any uninsured or underinsured loss could harm our business and financial condition. In addition, our insurance may be voidable by the insurers as a result of certain of our actions, such as our vessels failing to maintain certification with applicable maritime self-regulatory organizations.
Changes in the insurance markets attributable to terrorist attacks may also make certain types of insurance more difficult for us to obtain. In addition, upon renewal or expiration of our current policies, the insurance that may be available to us may be significantly more expensive than our existing coverage.
Our vessels may suffer damage and we may face unexpected costs and off-hire days.
In the event of damage to our owned vessels, the damaged ship would be off-hire while it is being repaired, which would decrease our revenues and cash flows, including cash available for distributions to our unitholders. In addition, the costs of ship repairs are unpredictable and can be substantial. In the event of repair costs that are not covered by our insurance policies, we may have to pay such repair costs, which would decrease our earnings and cash flows.
Volatile economic conditions may adversely impact our ability to obtain financing or refinance our future credit facilities on acceptable terms, which may hinder or prevent us from operating or expanding our business.
Global financial markets and economic conditions have been, and continue to be, volatile. These issues, along with significant write-offs in the financial services sector, the significant drop in crude oil prices, the re-pricing of credit risk and the current weak economic conditions, have made, and will likely continue to make, it difficult to obtain additional financing. The current state of global financial markets and current economic conditions might adversely impact our ability to issue additional equity at prices which will not be dilutive to our existing unitholders or preclude us from issuing equity at all.
Also, as a result of concerns about the stability of financial markets generally and the solvency of counterparties specifically, the cost of obtaining money from the credit markets has increased as many lenders have increased interest rates, enacted tighter lending standards, refused to refinance existing debt at all or on terms similar to current debt and reduced, and in some cases ceased, to provide funding to borrowers. Due to these factors, we cannot be certain that financing will be available to the extent required, or that we will be able to refinance our future credit facilities, on acceptable terms or at all. If financing or refinancing is not available when needed, or is available only on unfavorable terms, we may be unable to meet our obligations as they come due or we may be unable to enhance our existing business, complete the acquisition of newbuildings (if any) and additional vessels or otherwise take advantage of business opportunities as they arise.
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As of the date of this Annual Report, we have not secured any financing in connection with the potential acquisition of the Optional Vessels, since it is uncertain if and when such purchase options will be exercised. Our Sponsor has entered into loan agreements in connection with these Optional Vessels. In the event we acquire any or all of the Optional Vessels in the future, we may enter into agreements with our Sponsor to novate these loan agreements to us. Any such novation would be subject to each respective lender's consent.
In addition, volatility and uncertainty concerning current global economic conditions may cause our charterers to defer projects in response to tighter credit, decreased capital availability and declining customer confidence, which may negatively impact the demand for our vessels and services and could also result in defaults under our current charters. A tightening of the credit markets may further negatively impact our operations by affecting the solvency of our suppliers or charterers which could lead to disruptions in delivery of supplies such as equipment for conversions, cost increases for supplies, accelerated payments to suppliers, customer bad debts or reduced revenues.
Compliance with safety and other requirements imposed by classification societies may be very costly and may adversely affect our business.
The hull and machinery of every commercial LNG carrier must be classed by a classification society. The classification society certifies that the ship has been built and maintained in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations of that classification society. Moreover, every ship must comply with all applicable international conventions and the regulations of the ship's flag state as verified by a classification society. Finally, each ship must successfully undergo periodic surveys, including annual, intermediate and special surveys performed under the classification society's rules.
If any ship does not maintain its class, it will lose its insurance coverage and be unable to trade, and the ship's owner will be in breach of relevant covenants under its financing arrangements. Failure to maintain the class of one or more of our vessels could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, including cash available for distributions to our unitholders.
The LNG shipping industry is subject to substantial environmental and other regulations, which may significantly limit our operations or increase our expenses.
Our operations are materially affected by extensive and changing international, national, state and local environmental laws, regulations, treaties, conventions and standards which are in force in international waters or in the jurisdictional waters of the countries in which our vessels operate and in the countries in which our vessels are registered. These requirements relate to equipping and operating ships, providing security and to minimizing or addressing impacts on the environment from ship operations. We have incurred, and expect to continue to incur, substantial expenses in complying with these requirements, including expenses for ship modifications and changes in operating procedures. We also could incur substantial costs, including cleanup costs, civil and criminal penalties and sanctions, the suspension or termination of operations and third-party claims as a result of violations of, or liabilities under, such laws and regulations.
In addition, these requirements can affect the resale value or useful lives of our vessels, require a reduction in cargo capacity, necessitate ship modifications or operational changes or restrictions or lead to decreased availability of insurance coverage for environmental matters. They could further result in the denial of access to certain jurisdictional waters or ports or detention in certain ports. We are required to obtain governmental approvals and permits to operate our vessels. Delays in obtaining such governmental approvals may increase our expenses, and the terms and conditions of such approvals could materially and adversely affect our operations.
Additional laws and regulations may be adopted that could limit our ability to do business or increase our operating costs, which could materially and adversely affect our business. For example, new or amended legislation relating to ship recycling, sewage systems, emission control (including emissions of greenhouse gases) as well as ballast water treatment and ballast water handling may be adopted. The United States has enacted legislation and regulations that require more stringent controls of air and water emissions from ocean-going ships. Such legislation or regulations may require additional capital expenditures or operating expenses (such as increased costs for low-sulfur fuel) in order for us to maintain our vessels' compliance with international and/or national regulations. We also may become subject to additional laws and regulations if we enter new markets or trades.
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We also believe that the heightened environmental, quality and security concerns of insurance underwriters, regulators and charterers will generally lead to additional regulatory requirements, including enhanced risk assessment and security requirements as well as greater inspection and safety requirements on all LNG carriers in the marine transportation market. These requirements are likely to add incremental costs to our operations, and the failure to comply with these requirements may affect the ability of our vessels to obtain and, possibly, collect on, insurance or to obtain the required certificates for entry into the different ports where we operate.
Some environmental laws and regulations, such as the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990, or OPA, provide for potentially unlimited joint, several, and/or strict liability for owners, operators and demise or bareboat charterers for oil pollution and related damages. OPA applies to discharges of any oil from a ship in U.S. waters, including discharges of fuel and lubricants from an LNG carrier, even if the ships do not carry oil as cargo. In addition, many states in the United States bordering on a navigable waterway have enacted legislation providing for potentially unlimited strict liability without regard to fault for the discharge of pollutants within their waters. We also are subject to other laws and conventions outside the United States that provide for an owner or operator of LNG carriers to bear strict liability for pollution, such as the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims of 1976, or the "London Convention."
Some of these laws and conventions, including OPA and the London Convention, may include limitations on liability. However, the limitations may not be applicable in certain circumstances, such as where a spill is caused by a ship owner's or operators' intentional or reckless conduct. In addition, in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the U.S. Congress is currently considering a number of bills that could potentially modify or eliminate the limits of liability under OPA.
Compliance with OPA and other environmental laws and regulations also may result in ship owners and operators incurring increased costs for additional maintenance and inspection requirements, the development of contingency arrangements for potential spills, obtaining mandated insurance coverage and meeting financial responsibility requirements.
Please see "Item 4. Information on the Partnership—B. Business Overview—Environmental and Other Regulations."
Climate change and greenhouse gas restrictions may adversely impact our operations and markets.
Due to concern over the risks of climate change, a number of countries and the International Maritime Organization, or IMO, have adopted, or are considering the adoption of, regulatory frameworks to reduce greenhouse gas emission from ships. These regulatory measures may include adoption of cap and trade regimes, carbon taxes, increased efficiency standards and incentives or mandates for renewable energy. Although emissions of greenhouse gases from international shipping currently are not subject to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or the "Kyoto Protocol", a new treaty may be adopted in the future that includes additional restrictions on shipping emissions to those already adopted under the International Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), and some countries have made voluntary pledges to control the emissions of greenhouse gasses. The IMO has already approved two sets of mandatory requirements to address greenhouse gases from ships: the Energy Efficiency Design Index, or EEDI, and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management plan, or SEEMP. Compliance with future changes in laws and regulations relating to climate change could increase the costs of operating and maintaining our vessels and could require us to install new emission controls, as well as acquire allowances, pay taxes related to our greenhouse gas emissions, or administer and manage a greenhouse gas emissions program. Revenue generation and strategic growth opportunities may also be adversely affected.
Adverse effects upon the oil and gas production industry relating to climate change, including growing public concern about the environmental impact of climate change, may also have an effect on demand for our services. For example, increased regulation of greenhouse gases or other concerns relating to climate change may reduce the demand for oil and gas in the future or create greater incentives for use of alternative energy sources. Any long-term material adverse effect on the oil and gas production industry could have significant financial and operational adverse impacts on our business that we cannot predict with certainty at this time.
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Please see "Item 4. Information on the Partnership—B. Business Overview—Environmental and Other Regulations."
We operate our vessels worldwide, which could expose us to political, governmental and economic instability that could harm our business.
Because we operate our vessels worldwide in the geographic areas where our charterers do business, our operations may be affected by economic, political and governmental conditions in the countries where our vessels operate, where they are registered, or where our charterers are located. Any disruption caused by these factors could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. In particular, our vessels frequent LNG terminals in countries including Egypt, Equatorial Guinea and Trinidad as well as transit through the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Malacca. In addition, we, either directly, or indirectly through our customer Gazprom, an international energy company based in Russia, may be affected by political tension in Europe between Russia and the Ukraine following Russia's annexation of Crimea. Economic, political and governmental conditions in these and other regions have from time to time resulted in military conflicts, terrorism, attacks on ships, mining of waterways, piracy and other efforts to disrupt shipping. Future hostilities or other political instability in the geographic regions where we operate or may operate could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, including cash available for distributions to our unitholders. In addition, our business could also be harmed by tariffs, trade embargoes and other economic sanctions by the United States or other countries against countries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Russia or elsewhere as a result of terrorist attacks, hostilities or diplomatic or political pressures that limit trading activities with those countries.
Failure to comply with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other anti-bribery legislation in other jurisdictions could result in fines, criminal penalties, contract terminations and an adverse effect on our business.
We may operate in a number of countries throughout the world, including countries known to have a reputation for corruption. We are committed to doing business in accordance with applicable anti-corruption laws and have adopted a code of business conduct and ethics which is consistent and in full compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977. We are subject, however, to the risk that we, our affiliated entities or our or their respective officers, directors, employees and agents may take actions determined to be in violation of such anti-corruption laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Any such violation could result in substantial fines, sanctions, civil and/or criminal penalties, curtailment of operations in certain jurisdictions, and might adversely affect our business, results of operations or financial condition. In addition, actual or alleged violations could damage our reputation and ability to do business. Furthermore, detecting, investigating, and resolving actual or alleged violations is expensive and can consume significant time and attention of our senior management.
Terrorist attacks, international hostilities and piracy could adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
The threat of future terrorist attacks continues to cause uncertainty in the world financial markets and may affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, including cash available for distributions to our unitholders. Turmoil in Iran and uncertainty surrounding the Strait of Hormuz, as well as tension in Afghanistan, North Korea, Russia and the Ukraine, and the continuing hostilities in the Middle East, may lead to additional acts of terrorism, further regional conflicts and other armed actions around the world, which may contribute to further instability in the global financial markets. These uncertainties could also adversely affect our ability to obtain additional financing on terms acceptable to us, or at all or impact the shipyards constructing our Sponsor's LNG carrier newbuildings.
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In the past, political conflicts have also resulted in attacks on ships, mining of waterways and other efforts to disrupt international shipping, particularly in the Arabian Gulf region. Acts of terrorism and piracy have also affected and may continue to affect ships trading in regions such as the South China Sea, West Africa and the Gulf of Aden. In 2012,"M/T Smyrni", a vessel managed by an affiliated company, was hijacked by pirates and was released after almost one year in captivity. Any terrorist attacks targeted at our ships may in the future negatively materially affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows and could directly impact our vessels or our charterers. We may not be adequately insured to cover losses from these incidents. In addition, crew costs, including those due to employing onboard security guards, could increase in such circumstances.
In addition, LNG facilities, shipyards, ships, pipelines and gas fields could be targets of future terrorist attacks or piracy. Any such attacks could lead to, among other things, bodily injury or loss of life, as well as damage to the ships or other property, increased ship operating costs, including insurance costs, reductions in the supply of LNG and the inability to transport LNG to or from certain locations. Terrorist attacks, war or other events beyond our control that adversely affect the production, storage or transportation of LNG to be shipped by us could entitle our charterers to terminate our charter contracts in certain circumstances, which would harm our cash flows and our business.
Terrorist attacks, or the perception that LNG facilities and LNG carriers are potential terrorist targets, could materially and adversely affect expansion of LNG infrastructure and the continued supply of LNG. Concern that LNG facilities may be targeted for attack by terrorists has contributed significantly to local community and environmental group resistance to the construction of a number of LNG facilities, primarily in North America. If a terrorist incident involving an LNG facility or LNG carrier did occur, in addition to the possible effects identified in the previous paragraph, the incident may adversely affect the construction of additional LNG facilities and could lead to the temporary or permanent closing of various LNG facilities currently in operation.
The vessels we own or manage could be required by our charterers' instructions to call on ports located in countries that are subject to restrictions imposed by the United States and other governments.
Although no vessels operated by us have called on ports located in countries subject to sanctions and embargoes imposed by the U.S. government and countries identified by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran (sanctions lifted early in 2016), Sudan and Syria, in the future our vessels may call on ports in these countries from time to time on our charterers' instructions. The U.S. sanctions and embargo laws and regulations vary in their application, as they do not all apply to the same covered persons or proscribe the same activities, and such sanctions and embargo laws and regulations may be amended or strengthened over time. In 2010, the U.S. enacted the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act, or CISADA, which expanded the scope of the Iran Sanctions Act. Among other things, CISADA expands the application of the prohibitions to companies such as ours and introduces limits on the ability of companies and persons to do business or trade with Iran when such activities relate to the investment, supply or export of refined petroleum or petroleum products. In addition, in 2012, President Obama signed Executive Order 13608 which prohibits foreign persons from violating or attempting to violate, or causing a violation of any sanctions in effect against Iran or facilitating any deceptive transactions for or on behalf of any person subject to U.S. sanctions. Any persons found to be in violation of Executive Order 13608 will be deemed a foreign sanctions evader and will be banned from all contacts with the United States, including conducting business in U.S. dollars. Also in 2012, President Obama signed into law the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, or the Iran Threat Reduction Act, which created new sanctions and strengthened existing sanctions. Among other things, the Iran Threat Reduction Act intensifies existing sanctions regarding the provision of goods, services, infrastructure or technology to Iran's petroleum or petrochemical sector. The Iran Threat Reduction Act also includes a provision requiring the President of the United States to impose five or more sanctions from Section 6(a) of the Iran Sanctions Act, as amended, on a person the President determines is a controlling beneficial owner of, or otherwise owns, operates, or controls or insures a vessel that was used to transport crude oil from Iran to another country and (1) if the person is a controlling beneficial owner of the vessel, the person had actual knowledge the vessel was so used or (2) if the person otherwise owns, operates, or controls, or insures the vessel, the person knew or should have known the vessel was so used. Such a person could be subject to a variety of sanctions, including exclusion from U.S. capital markets, exclusion from financial transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction, and exclusion of that person's vessels from U.S. ports for up to two years.
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On November 24, 2013, the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China) entered into an interim agreement with Iran entitled the "Joint Plan of Action" ("JPOA"). Under the JPOA it was agreed that, in exchange for Iran taking certain voluntary measures to ensure that its nuclear program is used only for peaceful purposes, the U.S. and EU would voluntarily suspend certain sanctions for a period of six months.
On January 20, 2014, the U.S. and E.U. indicated that they would begin implementing the temporary relief measures provided for under the JPOA. These measures included, among other things, the suspension of certain sanctions on the Iranian petrochemicals, precious metals, and automotive industries from January 20, 2014 until July 20, 2014. The JPOA was subsequently extended twice.
On July 14, 2015, the P5+1 and the EU announced that they reached a landmark agreement with Iran titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran's Nuclear Program (the "JCPOA"), which is intended to significantly restrict Iran's ability to develop and produce nuclear weapons for 10 years while simultaneously easing sanctions directed toward non-U.S. persons for conduct involving Iran, but taking place outside of U.S. jurisdiction and does not involve U.S. persons.  On January 16, 2016 ("Implementation Day"), the United States joined the EU and the UN in lifting a significant number of their nuclear-related sanctions on Iran following an announcement by the International Atomic Energy Agency ("IAEA") that Iran had satisfied its respective obligations under the JCPOA.
U.S. sanctions prohibiting certain conduct that is now permitted under the JCPOA have not actually been repealed or permanently terminated at this time.  Rather, the U.S. government has implemented changes to the sanctions regime by: (1) issuing waivers of certain statutory sanctions provisions; (2) committing to refrain from exercising certain discretionary sanctions authorities; (3) removing certain individuals and entities from OFAC's sanctions lists; and (4) revoking certain Executive Orders and specified sections of Executive Orders.  These sanctions will not be permanently "lifted" until the earlier of "Transition Day," set to occur on October 20, 2023, or upon a report from the IAEA stating that all nuclear material in Iran is being used for peaceful activities.
Although we believe that we have been in compliance with all applicable sanctions and embargo laws and regulations, and intend to maintain such compliance, there can be no assurance that we will be in compliance in the future, particularly as the scope of certain laws may be unclear and may be subject to changing interpretations. Any such violation could result in fines, penalties or other sanctions that could severely impact our ability to access U.S. capital markets and conduct our business, and could result in some investors deciding, or being required, to divest their interest, or not to invest, in us. In addition, certain institutional investors may have investment policies or restrictions that prevent them from holding securities of companies that have contracts with countries identified by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism. The determination by these investors not to invest in, or to divest from, our common units may adversely affect the price at which our common units trade. Moreover, our charterers may violate applicable sanctions and embargo laws and regulations as a result of actions that do not involve us or our vessels, and those violations could in turn negatively affect our reputation. In addition, our reputation and the market for our securities may be adversely affected if we engage in certain other activities, such as entering into charters with individuals or entities in countries subject to U.S. sanctions and embargo laws that are not controlled by the governments of those countries, or engaging in operations associated with those countries pursuant to contracts with third-parties that are unrelated to those countries or entities controlled by their governments. Investor perception of the value of our common units may be adversely affected by the consequences of war, the effects of terrorism, civil unrest and governmental actions in these and surrounding countries. In addition, charterers and other parties that we have previously entered into contracts with regarding our vessels may be affiliated with persons or entities that are now or may soon be the subject of sanctions imposed by the Obama administration and/or the European Union or other international bodies in 2014 in response to recent events relating to Russia, Crimea and the Ukraine.  If we determine that such sanctions require us to terminate existing contracts or if we are found to be in violation of such sanctions, we may suffer reputational harm and our results of operations may be adversely affected.
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Governments could requisition our vessels during a period of war or emergency, resulting in loss of earnings.
The government of a jurisdiction where one or more of our vessels are registered could requisition for title or seize our vessels. Requisition for title occurs when a government takes control of a ship and becomes its owner. Also, a government could requisition our vessels for hire. Requisition for hire occurs when a government takes control of a ship and effectively becomes the charterer at dictated charter rates. Generally, requisitions occur during a period of war or emergency, although governments may elect to requisition ships in other circumstances. Although we would expect to be entitled to government compensation in the event of a requisition of one or more of our vessels, the amount and timing of payments, if any, would be uncertain. A government requisition of one or more of our vessels would result in off-hire days under our time charters and may cause us to breach covenants in debt agreements, and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, including cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Maritime claimants could arrest our vessels, which could interrupt our cash flows.
Crew members, suppliers of goods and services to a vessel, shippers of cargo and other parties may be entitled to a maritime lien against a vessel for unsatisfied debts, claims or damages. In many jurisdictions, a claimant may seek to obtain security for its claim by arresting a vessel through foreclosure proceedings. The arrest or attachment of one or more of our vessels could interrupt our cash flow and require us to pay large sums of money to have the arrest or attachment lifted. In addition, in some jurisdictions, such as South Africa, under the "sister ship" theory of liability, a claimant may arrest both the vessel which is subject to the claimant's maritime lien and any "associated" vessel, which is any vessel owned or controlled by the same owner. Claimants could attempt to assert "sister ship" liability against a vessel in our Fleet for claims relating to another of our vessels.
We may be subject to litigation that could have an adverse effect on us.
We may in the future be involved from time to time in litigation matters. These matters may include, among other things, contract disputes, personal injury claims, environmental claims or proceedings, toxic tort claims, employment matters and governmental claims for taxes or duties as well as other litigation that arises in the ordinary course of our business. We cannot predict with certainty the outcome of any claim or other litigation matter. The ultimate outcome of any litigation matter and the potential costs associated with prosecuting or defending such lawsuits, including the diversion of management's attention to these matters, could have an adverse effect on us and, in the event of litigation that could reasonably be expected to have a material adverse effect on us, could lead to an event of default under our credit facilities.
Risks Relating to our Common Units
The price of our common units may be volatile.
The price of our common units may be volatile and may fluctuate due to factors including:
· our payment of cash distributions to our unitholders;
· actual or anticipated fluctuations in quarterly and annual results;
· fluctuations in the seaborne transportation industry, including fluctuations in the LNG carrier market;
· mergers and strategic alliances in the shipping industry;
· changes in governmental regulations or maritime self-regulatory organization standards;
· shortfalls in our operating results from levels forecasted by securities analysts; announcements concerning us or our competitors;
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· the failure of securities analysts to publish research about us, or analysts making changes in their financial estimates;
· general economic conditions;
· terrorist acts;
· future sales of our units or other securities;
· investors' perception of us and the LNG shipping industry;
· the general state of the securities market; and
· other developments affecting us, our industry or our competitors.
Securities markets worldwide are experiencing significant price and volume fluctuations. The market price for our common units may also be volatile. This market volatility, as well as general economic, market or political conditions, could reduce the market price of our common units in spite of our operating performance.
Increases in interest rates may cause the market price of our common units to decline.
An increase in interest rates may cause a corresponding decline in demand for equity investments in general. Any such increase in interest rates or reduction in demand for our common units resulting from other relatively more attractive investment opportunities may cause the trading price of our common units to decline.
Unitholders may have liability to repay distributions.
Under some circumstances, unitholders may have to repay amounts wrongfully returned or distributed to them. Under the Marshall Islands Limited Partnership Act, or the Marshall Islands Act, we may not make a distribution to our unitholders if the distribution would cause our liabilities to exceed the fair value of our assets. Marshall Islands law provides that for a period of three years from the date of the impermissible distribution, limited partners who received the distribution and who knew at the time of the distribution that it violated Marshall Islands law will be liable to the limited partnership for the distribution amount. Assignees who become substituted limited partners are liable for the obligations of the assignor to make contributions to the Partnership that are known to the assignee at the time it became a limited partner and for unknown obligations if the liabilities could be determined from the Partnership Agreement. Liabilities to partners on account of their partnership interest and liabilities that are non-recourse to the partnership are not counted for purposes of determining whether a distribution is permitted.
We have been organized as a limited partnership under the laws of the Marshall Islands, which does not have a well-developed body of partnership law.
We are organized in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which does not have a well-developed body of case law or bankruptcy law and, as a result, unitholders may have fewer rights and protections under Marshall Islands law than under a typical jurisdiction in the United States. Our partnership affairs are governed by our Partnership Agreement and by the Marshall Islands Act. The provisions of the Marshall Islands Act resemble the limited partnership laws of a number of states in the United States, most notably Delaware. The Marshall Islands Act also provides that it is to be applied and construed to make it uniform with the Delaware Revised Uniform Partnership Act and, so long as it does not conflict with the Marshall Islands Act or decisions of the Marshall Islands courts, interpreted according to the non-statutory law (or case law) of the State of Delaware. There have been, however, few, if any, court cases in the Marshall Islands interpreting the Marshall Islands Act, in contrast to Delaware, which has a fairly well-developed body of case law interpreting its limited partnership statute. Accordingly, we cannot predict whether Marshall Islands courts would reach the same conclusions as the courts in Delaware. For example, the rights of our unitholders and the fiduciary responsibilities of our General Partner under Marshall Islands law are not as clearly established as under judicial precedent in existence in Delaware. As a result, unitholders may have more difficulty in protecting their interests in the face of actions by our General Partner and its officers and directors than would unitholders of a similarly organized limited partnership in the United States. Further, the Republic of the Marshall Islands does not have a well-developed body of bankruptcy law. As such, in the case of a bankruptcy of our Partnership, there may be a delay of bankruptcy proceedings and the ability of unitholders and creditors to receive recovery after a bankruptcy proceeding.
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We are a "foreign private issuer" under New York Stock Exchange, or the NYSE, rules, and as such we are entitled to exemption from certain corporate governance standards of the NYSE applicable to domestic companies, and holders of our common units may not have the same protections afforded to unitholders of companies that are subject to all of the NYSE corporate governance requirements.
We are a "foreign private issuer" under the securities laws of the United States and the rules of the NYSE. Under the securities laws of the United States, "foreign private issuers" are subject to different disclosure requirements than U.S. domiciled registrants, as well as different financial reporting requirements. Under the NYSE rules, a "foreign private issuer" is subject to less stringent corporate governance requirements. Subject to certain exceptions, the rules of the NYSE permit a "foreign private issuer" to follow its home country practice in lieu of the listing requirements of the NYSE.
A majority of our directors qualify as independent under the NYSE director independence requirements. However, we cannot assure you that we will continue to maintain an independent board in the future. In addition, we may have one or more non-independent directors serving as committee members on our compensation committee. As a result, non-independent directors may among other things, participate in fixing the compensation of our management, making share and option awards and resolving governance issues regarding our Partnership.
Accordingly, in the future holders of our common units may not have the same protections afforded to shareholders of companies that are subject to all of the NYSE corporate governance requirements.
For a description of our corporate governance practices, please see "Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees."
Because we are organized under the laws of the Marshall Islands, it may be difficult to serve us with legal process or enforce judgments against us, our directors or our management.
We are organized under the laws of the Marshall Islands, and substantially all of our assets are located outside of the United States. In addition, our directors and officers generally are or will be non-residents of the United States, and all or a substantial portion of the assets of these non-residents are located outside the United States. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible for holders of our common units to bring an action against us or against these individuals in the United States if they believe that their rights have been infringed under securities laws or otherwise. Even if holders of our common units are successful in bringing an action of this kind, the laws of the Marshall Islands and of other jurisdictions may prevent or restrict them from enforcing a judgment against our assets or the assets of our directors or officers.
Our Partnership Agreement designates the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware as the sole and exclusive forum, unless otherwise provided for by Marshall Islands law, for certain litigation that may be initiated by our unitholders, which could limit our unitholders' ability to obtain a favorable judicial forum for disputes with the Partnership.
Our Partnership Agreement provides that, unless otherwise provided for by Marshall Islands law, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware will be the sole and exclusive forum for any claims that:
· arise out of or relate in any way to the Partnership Agreement (including any claims, suits or actions to interpret, apply or enforce the provisions of the Partnership Agreement or the duties, obligations or liabilities among limited partners or of limited partners to us, or the rights or powers of, or restrictions on, the limited partners or us);
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· are brought in a derivative manner on our behalf;
· assert a claim of breach of a fiduciary duty owed by any director, officer or other employee of us or our General Partner, or owed by our General Partner, to us or the limited partners;
· assert a claim arising pursuant to any provision of the Partnership Act; or
· assert a claim governed by the internal affairs doctrine
regardless of whether such claims, suits, actions or proceedings sound in contract, tort, fraud or otherwise, are based on common law, statutory, equitable, legal or other grounds, or are derivative or direct claims. Any person or entity purchasing or otherwise acquiring any interest in our common units shall be deemed to have notice of and to have consented to the provisions described above. This forum selection provision may limit our unitholders' ability to obtain a judicial forum that they find favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers or other employees or unitholders.
Substantial future sales of our common units could cause the market price of our common units to decline.
Sales of a substantial number of our common units in the public market, or the perception that these sales could occur, may depress the market price for our common units. These sales could also impair our ability to raise additional capital through the sale of our equity securities in the future.
The issuance by us of additional common units or other equity securities would have the following effects:
· our existing unitholders' proportionate ownership interest in us will decrease;
· the distribution amount payable per unit on our common units may be lower;
· the relative voting strength of each previously outstanding common unit may be diminished; and
· the market price of our common units may decline.
Provisions in our organizational documents may have anti-takeover effects.
Our Partnership Agreement contains provisions that could make it more difficult for a third-party to acquire us without the consent of our Board of Directors. These provisions require approval of our Board of Directors and prior consent of our General Partner.
These provisions could also make it difficult for our unitholders to replace or remove our current Board of Directors or could have the effect of discouraging, delaying or preventing an offer by a third-party to acquire us, even if the third-party's offer may be considered beneficial by many unitholders. As a result, unitholders may be limited in their ability to obtain a premium for their common units.
Risks Relating to Conflicts of Interest
Our Sponsor, our General Partner and their respective affiliates own a significant interest in us and have conflicts of interest and limited duties to us and our common unitholders, which may permit them to favor their own interests to your detriment.
Members of the Prokopiou Family control our Sponsor, our Manager and our General Partner. Our Sponsor owns 610,000 of our common units and all of our subordinated units, representing approximately 43.9% of the outstanding common and subordinated units in aggregate (our Series A Preferred Units, which, generally, have no voting rights, are excluded), and our General Partner owns a 0.1% General Partner interest in us and 100% of our incentive distribution rights and therefore may have considerable influence over our actions. The interests of our Sponsor and the members of the Prokopiou Family may be different from your interests and the relationships described above could create conflicts of interest. We cannot assure you that any conflicts of interest will be resolved in your favor.
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Conflicts of interest may arise between our Sponsor and its affiliates on the one hand, and us and our unitholders, on the other hand. As a result of these conflicts, our Sponsor and its affiliates may favor their own interests over the interests of our unitholders. Although a majority of our directors are elected by our common unitholders, our General Partner, through its appointed directors, will have certain influence on decisions made by our Board of Directors. Our Board of Directors has a conflicts committee comprised of independent directors. Our Board of Directors may, but is not obligated to, seek approval of the conflicts committee for resolutions of conflicts of interest that may arise as a result of the relationships between our Sponsor and its affiliates, on the one hand, and us and our unaffiliated limited partners, on the other hand. There can be no assurance that a conflict of interest will be resolved in favor of us.
These conflicts include, among others, the following situations:
· neither our Partnership Agreement nor any other agreement requires our Sponsor or our General Partner or their respective affiliates to pursue a business strategy that favors us or utilizes our assets, and their officers and directors have a fiduciary duty to make decisions in the best interests of their respective unitholders, which may be contrary to our interests;
· our Partnership Agreement provides that our General Partner may make determinations or take or decline to take actions without regard to our or our unitholders' interests. Specifically, our General Partner may exercise its call right, pre-emptive rights, registration rights or right to make a determination to receive common units in exchange for resetting the target distribution levels related to the incentive distribution rights, consent or withhold consent to any merger or consolidation of the Partnership, appoint certain directors or vote for the election of any director, vote or refrain from voting on amendments to our Partnership Agreement that require a vote of the outstanding units, voluntarily withdraw from the Partnership, transfer (to the extent permitted under our Partnership Agreement) or refrain from transferring its units, the General Partner interest or incentive distribution rights or vote upon the dissolution of the Partnership;
· our General Partner and our directors and officers have limited their liabilities and any fiduciary duties they may have under the laws of the Marshall Islands, while also restricting the remedies available to our unitholders, and, as a result of purchasing common units, unitholders are treated as having agreed to the modified standard of fiduciary duties and to certain actions that may be taken by the General Partner and our directors and officers, all as set forth in the Partnership Agreement;
· our General Partner and our Manager are entitled to reimbursement of all reasonable costs incurred by them and their respective affiliates for our benefit; our Partnership Agreement does not restrict us from paying our General Partner and our Manager or their respective affiliates for any services rendered to us on terms that are fair and reasonable or entering into additional contractual arrangements with any of these entities on our behalf;
· our General Partner may exercise its right to call and purchase our common units if it and its affiliates own more than 80% of our common units; and is not obligated to obtain a fairness opinion regarding the value of the common units to be repurchased by it upon the exercise of its limited call right.
· Although a majority of our directors are elected by common unitholders, our General Partner will likely have substantial influence on decisions made by our Board of Directors.
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Neither our Partnership Agreement nor any other agreement requires our Sponsor to pursue a business strategy that favors us or utilizes our assets or dictates what markets to pursue or grow. Our Sponsor's directors and executive officers have a fiduciary duty to make these decisions in the best interests of the shareholders of our Sponsor, which may be contrary to our interests.
Because certain of our officers and directors are also officers of our Sponsor and its affiliates, such directors have fiduciary duties to our Sponsor and its affiliates that may cause them to pursue business strategies that disproportionately benefit our Sponsor, or which otherwise are not in the best interests of us or our unitholders.
Our General Partner is allowed to take into account the interests of parties other than us, such as our Sponsor.
Our Partnership Agreement contains provisions that reduce the standards to which our General Partner would otherwise be held by Marshall Islands fiduciary duty law. For example, our Partnership Agreement permits our General Partner to make a number of decisions in its individual capacity, as opposed to in its capacity as our General Partner. This entitles our General Partner to consider only the interests and factors that it desires, and it has no duty or obligations to give any consideration to any interest of or factors affecting us, our affiliates or any unitholder. Decisions made by our General Partner in its individual capacity will be made by its sole owner, Dynagas Holding Ltd. Specifically, our General Partner will be considered to be acting in its individual capacity if it exercises its call right, pre-emptive rights, registration rights or right to make a determination to receive common units in a resetting of the target distribution levels related to its incentive distribution rights, consents or withholds consent to any merger or consolidation of the Partnership, appoints any directors or votes for the election of any director, votes or refrains from voting on amendments to our Partnership Agreement that require a vote of the outstanding units, voluntarily withdraws from the Partnership, transfers (to the extent permitted under our Partnership Agreement) or refrains from transferring its units, General Partner interest or incentive distribution rights it owns or votes upon the dissolution of the Partnership.
We reimburse our General Partner and its affiliates for expenses.
We reimburse our General Partner and its affiliates for costs incurred, if any, in managing and operating us. Our Partnership Agreement provides that our General Partner will determine the expenses that are allocable to us in good faith.
Common unitholders have no right to enforce obligations of our General Partner and its affiliates under agreements with us.
Any agreements between us, on the one hand, and our General Partner and its affiliates, on the other, will not grant to the unitholders, separate and apart from us, the right to enforce the obligations of our General Partner and its affiliates in our favor.
Contracts between us, on the one hand, and our General Partner and its affiliates, on the other, will not be the result of arm's-length negotiations.
Neither our Partnership Agreement nor any of the other agreements, contracts and arrangements between us and our General Partner and its affiliates are or will be the result of arm's-length negotiations. Our Partnership Agreement generally provides that any affiliated transaction, such as an agreement, contract or arrangement between us and our General Partner and its affiliates, must be:
· on terms no less favorable to us than those generally being provided to or available from unrelated third-parties; or
· "fair and reasonable" to us, taking into account the totality of the relationships between the parties involved (including other transactions that may be particularly favorable or advantageous to us).
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Our Manager, which provides our executive officers and certain management and administrative services to us, may also enter into additional contractual arrangements with any of its affiliates on our behalf; however, there is no obligation of any affiliate of our Manager to enter into any contracts of this kind.
Common units are subject to our General Partner's limited call right.
Our General Partner may exercise its right to call and purchase common units as provided in the Partnership Agreement or assign this right to one of its affiliates or to us. Our General Partner may use its own discretion, free of fiduciary duty restrictions, in determining whether to exercise this right. Our General Partner is not obligated to obtain a fairness opinion regarding the value of the common units to be repurchased by it upon the exercise of this limited call right. As a result, a common unitholder may have common units purchased from the unitholder at an undesirable time or price.
We may choose not to retain separate counsel for ourselves or for the holders of common units.
The attorneys, independent accountants and others who perform services for us have been retained by our Board of Directors. Attorneys, independent accountants and others who perform services for us are selected by our Board of Directors or the conflicts committee and may perform services for our General Partner and its affiliates. We may retain separate counsel for ourselves or the holders of common units in the event of a conflict of interest between our General Partner and its affiliates, on the one hand, and us or the holders of common units, on the other, depending on the nature of the conflict. We do not intend to do so in most cases.
Tax Risks
In addition to the following risk factors, please see "Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation" for a more complete discussion of the material Marshall Islands and United States federal income tax consequences of owning and disposing of our common units.
We may be subject to taxes, which will reduce our cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
We and our subsidiaries may be subject to tax in the jurisdictions in which we are organized or operate, reducing the amount of cash available for distribution. In computing our tax obligation in these jurisdictions, we are required to take various tax accounting and reporting positions on matters that are not entirely free from doubt and for which we have not received rulings from the governing authorities. We cannot assure you that upon review of these positions the applicable authorities will agree with our positions. A successful challenge by a tax authority could result in additional tax imposed on us or our subsidiaries, further reducing the cash available for distribution. In addition, changes in our operations or ownership could result in additional tax being imposed on us or our subsidiaries in jurisdictions in which operations are conducted. Please see "Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation"
We may have to pay tax on United States-source income, which would reduce our earnings and cash flow.
Under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, (the "Code") the United States source gross transportation income of a ship-owning or chartering corporation, such as ourselves, generally is subject to a 4% United States federal income tax without allowance for deduction, unless that corporation qualifies for exemption from tax under a tax treaty or Section 883 of the Code and the Treasury Regulations promulgated thereunder. U.S. source gross transportation income consists of 50% of the gross shipping income that is attributable to transportation that begins or ends, but that does not both begin and end, in the United States.
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Based on advice we received from Seward & Kissel LLP, our United States counsel, we believe we qualified for this statutory tax exemption for our taxable year ended December 31, 2015, and we intend to take this position for United States federal income tax reporting purposes. However, there are factual circumstances beyond our control that could cause us to lose the benefit of this tax exemption in future taxable years and thereby become subject to the 4% United States federal income tax described above.  It is noted that holders of our common units are limited to owning 4.9% of the voting power of such common units.  Assuming that such limitation is treated as effective for purposes of determining voting power under Section 883, then our 5% Unitholders could not own 50% of more of our common units.  If contrary to these expectations, our 5% Unitholders were to own 50% or more of the common units, we would not qualify for exemption under Section 883 unless we could establish that among the closely-held group of 5% Unitholders, there are sufficient 5% Unitholders that are qualified stockholders for purposes of Section 883 to preclude non-qualified 5% Unitholders in the closely-held group from owning 50% or more of our common units for more than half the number of days during the taxable year. In order to establish this, sufficient 5% Unitholders that are qualified stockholders would have to comply with certain documentation and certification requirements designed to substantiate their identity as qualified stockholders. These requirements are onerous and there can be no assurance that we would be able to satisfy them. The imposition of this taxation could have a negative effect on our business and would result in decreased earnings and cash available for distribution payments to our unitholders. For a more detailed discussion, see "Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation."
United States tax authorities could treat us as a "passive foreign investment company," which would have adverse United States federal income tax consequences to United States unitholders.
A non-U.S. entity treated as a corporation for United States federal income tax purposes will be treated as a "passive foreign investment company" (or PFIC) for U.S. federal income tax purposes if at least 75% of its gross income for any taxable year consists of "passive income" or at least 50% of the average value of its assets produce, or are held for the production of, "passive income." For purposes of these tests, "passive income" includes dividends, interest, gains from the sale or exchange of investment property, and rents and royalties other than rents and royalties that 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." U.S. 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 interests in the PFIC. Based on our current and projected method of operation, and on an opinion of our United States counsel, Seward & Kissel LLP, we believe that we were not a PFIC in the year ended December 31, 2015 and will not be a PFIC for any future taxable year. We have received an opinion of our United States counsel in support of this position that concludes that the income our subsidiaries earned from certain of our time-chartering activities should not constitute passive income for purposes of determining whether we are a PFIC. In addition, we have represented to our United States counsel that we expect that more than 25% of our gross income for the year ended December 31, 2015 and each future year will arise from such time-chartering activities or other income which does not constitute passive income, and more than 50% of the average value of our assets for each such year will be held for the production of such non passive income. Assuming the composition of our income and assets is consistent with these expectations, and assuming the accuracy of other representations we have made to our United States counsel for purposes of their opinion, our United States counsel is of the opinion that we should not be a PFIC for the year ended December 31, 2014 year or any future year. This opinion is based and its accuracy is conditioned on representations, valuations and projections provided by us regarding our assets, income and charters to our United States counsel. While we believe these representations, valuations and projections to be accurate, the shipping market is volatile and no assurance can be given that they will continue to be accurate at any time in the future.
While Seward & Kissel LLP, our United States counsel, has provided us with an opinion in support of our position, the conclusions reached are not free from doubt, and it is possible that the United States Internal Revenue Service, or the IRS, or a court could disagree with this position. In addition, although we intend to conduct our affairs in a manner to avoid being classified as a PFIC with respect to each taxable year, we cannot assure you that the nature of our operations will not change in the future and that we will not become a PFIC in any taxable year. If the IRS were to find that we are or have been a PFIC for any taxable year (and regardless of whether we remain a PFIC for subsequent taxable years), our U.S. unitholders would face adverse United States federal income tax consequences.  See "Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation" for a more detailed discussion of the United States federal income tax consequences to United States unitholders if we are treated as a PFIC.
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ITEM 4. INFORMATION ON THE PARTNERSHIP
A.            HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE PARTNERSHIP
Dynagas LNG Partners LP was organized as a limited partnership in the Republic of the Marshall Islands on May 29, 2013 for the purpose of owning, operating, and acquiring LNG carriers.  In October 2013, we acquired from our Sponsor three LNG carriers, the Clean Energy, the Ob River and the Amur River (formerly named the Clean Force), which we refer to as our Initial Fleet, in exchange for 6,735,000 of our common units and all of our subordinated units.  In November 2013, we completed our underwritten IPO of 8,250,000 common units, together with 4,250,000 common units offered by our Sponsor, at $18.00 per common unit, and in December 2013, the underwriters in the IPO exercised in full their option to purchase an additional 1,875,000 common units from our Sponsor.  Our common units trade on the NYSE under the ticker symbol "DLNG."
Pursuant to the Omnibus Agreement that we, and certain of our subsidiaries, have entered into with our Sponsor and our General Partner, we have the right, subject to certain conditions, to acquire from our Sponsor certain identified LNG carriers.  Please see "—Optional Vessels" for a description of these vessels.
Securities Offerings
In September 2014, we completed our underwritten public offering of $250.0 million aggregate principal amount 6.25% Senior Notes due 2019, or our 2019 Notes.  The 2019 Notes commenced trading on the NYSE on December 30, 2014 under the ticker symbol "DLNG 19."
In June 2014, we completed our underwritten public offering of 4,800,000 common units at $22.79 common per unit, and on June 18, 2014, the underwriters in the offering exercised their option to purchase an additional 720,000 common units at the same price.
In July 2015, we completed our underwritten public offering of 3,000,000 9.00% Series A Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Units at $25.00 per unit. Our Series A Preferred Units trade on the NYSE under the ticker symbol "DLNG PR A."
Vessel Acquisitions
In June 2014, we completed the acquisition of the Arctic Aurora, a 2013-built ice class liquefied natural gas carrier, and the related time charter contract, from our Sponsor, pursuant to our right to acquire this vessel under the Omnibus Agreement in effect at that time, for a purchase price of $235.0 million. We funded the purchase price of this vessel using the net proceeds we received in the June 2014 offering together with the proceeds we received from our $340 Million Senior Credit Facility (which refinanced our 2013 Senior Credit Facility).
In September 2014, we completed the acquisition of the Yenisei River, a 2013-built ice class liquefied natural gas carrier, and the related time charter contract, from our Sponsor, pursuant to our right to acquire this vessel under the Omnibus Agreement in effect at that time, for a purchase price of $257.5 million. We funded the purchase price of this vessel using the net proceeds we received from our 2019 Notes offering, together with cash on hand.
In December 2015, we acquired the Lena River, a 2013-built ice class liquefied natural gas carrier, and the related time charter contract, from our Sponsor, pursuant to our right to acquire this vessel under the Omnibus Agreement in effect at that time, for a purchase price of $240.0 million. We funded the purchase price using the net proceeds we received from our offering of Series A Preferred Units, borrowings under our $200 Million Term Loan Facility, and cash on hand.
Our principal executive offices are located at 23, Rue Basse, 98000 Monaco and our telephone number at that address is 011 377 99 99 6445.
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B.            BUSINESS OVERVIEW
We are a growth-oriented limited partnership focused on owning and operating LNG carriers.  Our vessels are currently employed on multi-year time charters, which we define as charters of two years or more, with international energy companies, such as BG Group, Gazprom and Statoil, providing us with the benefits of stable cash flows and high utilization rates.  We intend to leverage the reputation, expertise, and relationships of our Sponsor and our Manager, in maintaining cost-efficient operations and providing reliable seaborne transportation services to our charterers. In addition, we intend to make further vessel acquisitions from our Sponsor and from third-parties.  There is no guarantee that we will grow the size of our Fleet or the per unit distributions that we intend to pay, or that we will be able to make further vessel acquisitions from our Sponsor or third-parties.
Our Fleet
We currently own and operate a fleet of six LNG carriers, consisting of the three LNG carriers in our Initial Fleet, the Clean Energy, the Ob River and the Amur River (formerly named the Clean Force), and three 2013-built Ice Class LNG carriers that we subsequently acquired from our Sponsor the Arctic Aurora, the Yenisei River, and the Lena River, which we refer to collectively as our "Fleet." The vessels in our Fleet have an average age of 5.7 years and are contracted under multi-year charters with BG Group, Gazprom, Statoil and Yamal with an average remaining charter term, as of April 15, 2016, of approximately 10.4 years, including the charter agreements relating to the Yenisei River and the Lena River relating to the Yamal LNG Project. The Yamal LNG Project charter agreements relating to the Yenisei River and the Lena River are subject to important conditions, which, unless satisfied, may result in the cancellation of the charter agreement at the charterer's option, in which case we would not realize any revenues under such charter agreements.

Our Fleet is managed by our Manager, Dynagas Ltd., a company controlled by Mr. George Prokopiou. See "Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions."
All of the vessels in our Fleet other than the Clean Energy have been assigned with Lloyds Register Ice Class notation 1A FS, or Ice Class, designation for hull and machinery and are fully winterized, which means that they are designed to call at ice-bound and harsh environment terminals and to withstand temperatures up to minus 30 degrees Celsius. According to Drewry, only eleven LNG carriers, representing less than 3.0% of the LNG vessels in the global LNG fleet, have an Ice Class 1A designation or equivalent rating. Moreover, we are the only LNG transportation company in the world that is currently transiting the Northern Sea Route, which is a shipping lane from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean entirely in Arctic waters, with LNG carriers. In addition, we believe that each of the vessels in our Fleet is optimally sized with a carrying capacity of between approximately 150,000 and 155,000 cbm, which allows us to maximize operational flexibility as such medium-to-large size LNG vessels are compatible with most existing LNG terminals around the world. We believe that these specifications enhance our trading capabilities and future employment opportunities because they provide greater diversity in the trading routes available to our charterers.
We believe that the key characteristics of each of the vessels in our Fleet include the following:
· optimal sizing with a carrying capacity of between approximately 150,000 and 155,000 cbm (which is a medium- to large-size class of LNG carrier) that maximizes operational flexibility as such vessel is compatible with most existing LNG terminals around the world;
· the vessels in our Fleet consist of two series of sister vessels, which are vessels built at the same shipyard, Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd., that share (i) a near-identical hull and superstructure layout, (ii) similar displacement, and (iii) roughly comparable features and equipment;
· utilization of a membrane containment system that uses insulation built directly into the hull of the vessel with a membrane covering inside the tanks designed to maintain integrity and that uses the vessel's hull to directly support the pressure of the LNG cargo, which we refer to as a "membrane containment system" (see "—The International Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Shipping Industry—The LNG Fleet" for a description of the types of LNG containment systems); and
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· double-hull construction, based on the current LNG shipping industry standard.
According to Drewry, as of the date hereof, there are only 56 LNG carriers currently in operation, including the six vessels in our Fleet, with a carrying capacity of between 149,000 and 155,000 cbm and a membrane containment system, and a total of 141 LNG carriers on order of which 10 are being constructed with these specifications.
The following table sets forth additional information about our Fleet as of April 15, 2016:
Vessel Name
Shipyard*
Year
Built
Capacity
(cbm)
Ice
Class
Flag
State
Charterer
Charter
Commencement
Date
Earliest
Charter
Expiration
Latest Charter
Expiration
Including
Non-Exercised
Options
Clean Energy
HHI
2007
149,700
No
Marshall Islands
BG Group
February 2012
April 2017
May 2017
Ob River
HHI
2007
149,700
Yes
Marshall Islands
Gazprom
 
Gazprom
September 2012
 
April 2018
April 2018
 
March 2028
May 2018(1)
 
May 2028(2)
Amur River
HHI
2008
149,700
Yes
Marshall Islands
Gazprom
June 2015
June 2028
August 2028
Arctic Aurora
HHI
2013
155,000
Yes
Malta
Statoil
August 2013
July 2018
Renewal Options(3)
Yenisei River
HHI
2013
155,000
Yes
Marshall Islands
Gazprom
 
Yamal
July 2013
 
2019 (estimated)
July 2018
 
2034
August 2018
 
2049(4)
Lena River
HHI
2013
155,000
Yes
Marshall Islands
 
Gazprom
 
Yamal
October 2013
 
2019-2020
(estimated)
September 2018
 
2034/2035
 
October 2018
 
2049/2050(4)
*
As used in this Annual Report, "HHI" refers to the shipyard Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd.
(1)
On March 23, 2016, Gazprom extended the term of the existing charter, on substantially identical terms, until May 2018.
(2)
On March 24, 2016, we entered into a new long-term charter with Gazprom for the Ob River, for a firm charter duration of 10 years. This charter is expected to commence upon expiration of the current Gazprom charter for the Ob River.
(3)
Statoil may renew its charter for consecutive additional one-year periods each year following the initial five year period.
(4)
The Yenisei River and the Lena River are each contracted to commence employment between January 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020 under long-term time charter contracts for the Yamal LNG Project, each with an initial term of 15 years, which may be extended by three consecutive periods of five years each.  Each of these time charter contracts is subject to important conditions, which, if not satisfied, may result in their cancellation before charter term commences or early termination. Please see "—Our Chartering Strategy and Charterers" for additional information.
   
The Optional Vessels
The Omnibus Agreement provides us with the right to acquire from our Sponsor certain identified vessels.  Initially, this agreement provided us with the right to acquire from our Sponsor seven fully winterized LNG carrier vessels, of which, as of the date of this Annual Report, we have purchased three such vessels.  We currently have the right to acquire the four remaining Optional Vessels, which we refer to as the "Initial Optional Vessels."
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In addition, following an amendment to the Omnibus Agreement in April 2016, we also have the right to acquire from our Sponsor its interest, which is currently 49.0%, in each of the five entities that each owns a 172,000 cubic meter ARC7 LNG carrier that is currently under construction, or the Additional Optional Vessels, subject to the terms and conditions of the Omnibus Agreement.  We collectively refer to the Initial Optional Vessels and the Additional Optional Vessels as the "Optional Vessels."
We may exercise our right to purchase each of the Optional Vessels for a specified period following the date of delivery of such vessel from the shipyard.  For additional information, please see "—Rights to Purchase Optional Vessels" and "Item 7. Major Shareholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions."
Initial Optional Vessels
Our Sponsor owns, directly or indirectly, 100% of the equity interests of the entities that own the four Initial Optional Vessels.  One of the Initial Optional Vessels, the Clean Ocean, is operating under a multi-year time charter with Cheniere, after which time, it is scheduled to commence employment under a long-term time charter for the Yamal LNG Project. Three of the Initial Optional Vessels, the Clean Planet, Clean Horizon, and Clean Vision, currently operate in an LNG carrier pool, or the Cool Pool, that was established on October 1, 2015, by our Manager, Golar LNG Limited and Gaslog Carriers Ltd., with a view to optimizing the operation of the pool vessels through improved scheduling, efficiencies and common marketing of the pooled vessels. Vessels operating in the Cool Pool are employed in the LNG spot market on charters of twelve months or less. Together with our Sponsor's three vessels, the Cool Pool currently consists of 15 LNG carriers.  In 2019, the Clean Planet, Clean Horizon, and Clean Vision are scheduled to commence employment under long-term charters for the Yamal LNG Project.
The Additional Optional Vessels
In August 2015, our Sponsor and two unrelated third-parties, Sinotrans and China LNG Shipping, entered into a joint venture, pursuant to which they agreed to share in the ownership and operation of the Additional Optional Vessels.  The Additional Optional Vessels are currently under construction at Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., or DSME.  Two of the Additional Optional Vessels are expected to be delivered to the joint venture in the fourth quarter of 2017 and three of the Additional Optional Vessels are expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2019. Upon each of their deliveries, the Additional Optional Vessels are scheduled to commence employment under long-term charters for the Yamal LNG Project. Our Manager will provide vessel management services for the Additional Optional Vessels.
Our Sponsor currently owns a 49.0% ownership interest in each of the five entities that each owns an Additional Optional Vessel, and Sinotrans and China LNG Shipping equally split the remaining 51.0% ownership interest of each such entity.  Under the Omnibus Agreement, we have the right, subject to certain conditions, to acquire our Sponsor's ownership interest in each of the five entities referenced above that respectively own the Additional Optional Vessels.
Specifications of the Optional Vessels
Each of the Optional Vessels has, or is expected to have, the Ice Class designation, or its equivalent, for hull and machinery.  In the event we acquire any or all of the Optional Vessels in the future, we believe the staggered delivery dates of these newbuilding LNG carriers will facilitate a smooth integration of the vessels into our Fleet, contributing to our annual Fleet growth through 2021.
The Initial Optional Vessels are equipped with a membrane containment system. The compact and efficient utilization of the hull structure reduces the required principal dimensions of the vessel compared to earlier LNG designs and results in relatively higher fuel efficiency and smaller quantities of LNG required for cooling down vessels' tanks. In addition, the Initial Optional Vessels are equipped with a tri-fuel diesel electric propulsion system, which is expected to reduce both fuel costs and emissions.
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The five 172,000 cubic meter ARC7 Additional Optional Vessels that are under construction at DSME in South Korea will have a maximum of 2.1 meter ice breaking capabilities in both forward and reverse directions.
The following table provides certain information about the Optional Vessels as of April 15, 2016.
Vessel Name
 
Shipyard
 
Delivery
Date
 
Capacity
Cbm
 
Ice
Class
 
Charter
Commencement
 
Pool / Charterer
 
Earliest
Charter
Expiration
 
Initial Optional Vessels:
                             
Clean Ocean(1)
 
HHI
 
Q2-2014
 
162,000
 
Yes
 
Q2 2015
 
Cheniere & Yamal
 
2035
 
Clean Planet(2)
 
HHI
 
Q3-2014
 
162,000
 
Yes
 
2019
 
Cool Pool & Yamal
 
2034
 
Clean Horizon(2)
 
HHI
 
Q3-2015
 
162,000
 
Yes
 
2019
 
Cool Pool & Yamal
 
2034
 
Clean Vision(2)
 
HHI
 
Q1-2016
 
162,000
 
Yes
 
2019
 
Cool Pool & Yamal
 
2034
 
Additional Optional Vessels*:
                             
Hull No.2421(3)
 
DSME
 
Q4-2017
 
172,410
 
Yes
 
2017
 
Yamal
 
Q4-2045
 
Hull No.2422(3)
 
DSME
 
Q4-2017
 
172,410
 
Yes
 
2017
 
Yamal
 
Q4-2045
 
Hull No.2427(3)
 
DSME
 
Q1-2019
 
172,410
 
Yes
 
2019
 
Yamal
 
Q4-2045
 
Hull No.2428(3)
 
DSME
 
Q1-2019
 
172,410
 
Yes
 
2019
 
Yamal
 
Q4-2045
 
Hull No.2429(3)
 
DSME
 
Q1-2019
 
172,410
 
Yes
 
2019
 
Yamal
 
Q4-2045
 
* Our Sponsor directly or indirectly owns a 49.0% interest in these vessels.
(1) Following the expiration of the time charter with Cheniere, this vessel is contracted to be employed under a long term time charter for the Yamal LNG project, for a period of 15 years, which may be extended by three consecutive five-year optional periods.
(2) Vessel is contracted to commence employment within 2019 under long term charters for the Yamal LNG Project for an initial term of 15 years, which may be extended by three consecutive periods of five years each.
(3) Upon its delivery from the shipyard, vessel will operate under a fixed rate time charter contract for the Yamal LNG Project until December 31, 2045, plus extension options.
Rights to Purchase the Optional Vessels
Under the Omnibus Agreement, we have the right, subject to certain conditions, to purchase the Initial Optional Vessels and our Sponsor's ownership interest in the entities that respectively own the Additional Optional Vessels, from our Sponsor at a purchase price to be determined pursuant to the terms and conditions of the Omnibus Agreement. These purchase rights expire 24 months following the respective delivery of each Optional Vessel from the shipyard (or in the case of the Clean Ocean and the Clean Planet, until March 31, 2017, and in the case of our Sponsor's ownership interest in the entities that own the Additional Optional Vessels, within 24 months following the expiration, without acceptance, of our 30-day option to purchase such interests pursuant to the Omnibus Agreement, so long as such Additional Optional Vessels are employed under a long-term charter of four or more years upon their respective delivery dates). If we are unable to agree with our Sponsor on the purchase price of any of the Initial Optional Vessels or our Sponsor's ownership interest in the entities that respectively own the Additional Optional Vessels, as the case may be, the respective purchase price will be determined by an independent appraiser, such as an investment banking firm, broker or firm generally recognized in the shipping industry as qualified to perform the tasks for which such firm has been engaged, and we will have the right, but not the obligation, to purchase such assets at such price. The independent appraiser will be mutually appointed by our Sponsor and a committee comprised of certain of our independent directors, or the conflicts committee. See "Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions" for information on how the purchase price is calculated.
The purchase price of the Initial Optional Vessels or our Sponsor's ownership interest in the Additional Optional Vessels, as the case may be, as finally determined by an independent appraiser, may be an amount that is greater than what we are able or willing to pay or we may be unwilling to proceed to purchase such vessel if such acquisition would not be in our best interests. We will not be obliged to purchase the Optional Vessels at the determined price, and, accordingly, we may not complete the purchase of such vessels, which may have an adverse effect on our expected plans for growth. In addition, our ability to purchase the Optional Vessels, should we exercise our right to purchase such vessels, is dependent on our ability to obtain additional financing to fund all or a portion of the acquisition costs of these vessels.
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We acquired from our Sponsor the Arctic Aurora and the Yenisei River in 2014, and the Lena River in 2015, pursuant to our right to acquire such vessels under the Omnibus Agreement.  As of the date of this Annual Report, we have not secured any financing in connection with the potential acquisition of any of the remaining Optional Vessels.
Our Sponsor has secured financing for the Initial Optional Vessels.  In addition, our Sponsor together with its joint venture partners are in discussions with prospective lenders to secure financing for the Additional Optional Vessels.  In the event we acquire any or all of such Optional Vessels in the future, we may enter into agreements with our Sponsor to novate these loan agreements to us. Any such novation would be subject to each respective lender's consent.  Please see "Risk Factors—Our Sponsor may be unable to service its debt requirements and comply with the provisions contained in the credit agreements secured by the Optional Vessels. If our Sponsor fails to perform its obligations under its loan agreements, our business and expected plans for growth may be materially affected."
Our Chartering Strategy and Charterers
We seek to employ our vessels on multi-year time charters with international energy companies that provide us with the benefits of stable cash flows and high utilization rates. We charter our vessels for a fixed period of time at daily rates that are generally fixed, but which could contain a variable component to adjust for, among other things, inflation and/or to offset the effects of increases in operating expenses.
The Clean Energy is currently chartered to BG Group under a time charter contract with an average remaining term of approximately 1.0 year as of April 15, 2016, based on the earliest redelivery permitted under our charter. The Ob River, Yenisei River, Amur River and the Lena River are currently employed with Gazprom under time charter contracts with an average remaining term of approximately 4.8 years as of April 15, 2016, based on the earliest redelivery under our charters. The Ob River is further contracted to Gazprom for a charter term of 10 years, upon the expiration of its current charter. The Arctic Aurora is currently chartered to Statoil under a time charter contract with an average remaining term of approximately 2.4 years as of April 15, 2016, based on the earliest redelivery permitted under this charter.
The Yenisei River and the Lena River are further contracted for the Yamal LNG Project for an initial term of 15 years, beginning between January 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, which may be extended for three consecutive periods of five years each at charterer's option. These charter contracts are subject to significant conditions, which, if not satisfied, or waived by the charterer, may result in termination of the charter at the charterer's option, prior to or after employment commences, in which case we may not realize any revenues under such charter agreements.  These conditions include, but are not limited to, requirements with respect to our Sponsor and certain of its affiliates, which may be outside of our control. We can provide no assurance that these two vessels will be able to commence employment under the Yamal LNG Project charter agreements or realize any revenues under such charter agreements.
Based on the charter contracts described in the preceding paragraphs and the minimum expected number of days committed under those contracts (excluding options to extend), as of April 15, 2016, we had estimated contracted revenue backlog of approximately $1.6 billion with average remaining contract duration of 10.4 years.
We may not be able to perform under these contracts due to events within or beyond our control, and our counterparty may seek to cancel or renegotiate our contracts for various reasons.  Our inability or the inability of our counterparty, to perform under the respective contractual obligations may affect our ability to realize the estimated contractual backlog listed above and may have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations and cash flows and our ability to realize the contracted revenues under these agreements. Our estimated contract backlog may be adversely affected if the Yamal LNG Project for which certain of our vessels are contracted to be employed is delayed, abandoned or not completed due to failure of the project to obtain financing or due to changes in the demand for LNG.
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In the year ended December 31, 2015, we received all of our revenues from three charterers, which individually accounted for 52%, 29% and 19% of our revenues, respectively, as compared to the same period in 2014, which individually accounted for 36%, 50% and 14% respectively.
The International Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Shipping Industry
All the information and data presented in this section, including the analysis of the various sectors of the international liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipping industry has been provided by Drewry Shipping Consultants, Ltd., or Drewry, an independent consulting and research company. Drewry has advised that the statistical and graphical information contained herein is drawn from its database and other sources. In connection therewith, Drewry has advised that: (a) certain information in Drewry's database is derived from estimates or subjective judgments; (b) the information in the databases of other maritime data collection agencies may differ from the information in Drewry's database; (c) while Drewry has taken reasonable care in the compilation of the statistical and graphical information and believes it to be accurate and correct, data compilation is subject to limited audit and validation procedures.
Overview of Natural Gas Market
Natural gas is one of the key sources of global energy; the others include oil, coal, hydroelectricity and nuclear power. In the last three decades, demand for natural gas has grown faster than the demand for any other fossil fuel. Since the early 1970s, natural gas' share of total global primary energy consumption has risen from 18% in 1970 to just less than 24% in 2015, the latest year for which data is available.
Natural Gas Share of Primary Energy Consumption: 1970-2015
(% – Based On Million Tons Oil Equivalent)
(1)   Provisional
Source: Industry sources, Drewry
Natural gas has a number of advantages that will make it a competitive source of energy in the future. Apart from abundant supplies, which will help to keep gas prices competitive, it is the fossil fuel least affected by regulatory policies aimed to curb greenhouse gas emissions because it is the lowest carbon-intensive fossil fuel. In recent years, consumption of natural gas has risen steadily due to global economic growth and increasing energy demand, consumers' desires to diversify energy sources, market deregulation, competitive pricing and recognition that natural gas is a cleaner energy source as compared to coal and oil. Carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants from gas are half the level produced from coal when used in power generation.
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Natural gas is primarily used in power generation (electricity) and for heating. Worldwide reserves are estimated at 187 trillion cbm, which is enough for 55 years of supply at current rates of consumption. Over the past decade, global LNG demand has risen over 2.3% per annum, with growth of over 6% per annum in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific followed by Africa at 4%.
As such, in the last decade a large part of the growth in natural gas consumption has been accounted for by countries in Asia and the Middle East, where gas consumption almost doubled between 2005 and 2015.
World Natural Gas Consumption: 1970-2015
(Million Tons Oil Equivalent)
(1)   Provisional
Source: Industry sources, Drewry
The IEA has stated that global reserves of natural gas are large enough to accommodate rapid expansion of gas demand for several decades. Gas reserves and production are widely spread across the globe but the geographical disparity between areas of production and areas of consumption has been the principal stimulus of international trade in gas.
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World Natural Gas Production: 1970-2015
(Million Tons Oil Equivalent)
 
(1)   Provisional
Source: Industry sources, Drewry
Gas production in North America has increased due to the emergence of shale gas reserves and new techniques such as horizontal drilling & hydraulic fracturing to access and extract these reserves. U.S. domestic gas production now exceeds domestic gas consumption for a large part of the year which may reduce future gas import rates. Additionally, rising United States (U.S.) domestic production may drive down domestic gas prices and raise the likelihood of U.S. gas exports.
 
As a result of these developments the North American gas market is moving in a different cycle from the rest of the world and there is a price differential with other markets (see the chart below). Regional price differentials create the opportunity for arbitrage and also act as a catalyst for the construction of new productive capacity. Given these conditions, interest in exporting LNG gas from the U.S. has grown and a number of new liquefaction plants are now planned. However the price differential has reduced substantially in 2015 because of sharp decline in LNG prices in international market and this may lead to delay or cancellation of some new planned facilities.
Natural Gas Prices: 2005-2016
(U.S.$ per Mbtu)
Source: Drewry
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The LNG Market
To turn natural gas into a liquefied form, natural gas must be super cooled to a temperature of approximately minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit. This process reduces the gas to approximately 1/600th of its original volume in a gaseous state. Reducing the volume enables economical storage and transportation by ship over long distances. LNG is transported by sea in specially built tanks on double-hulled ships to a receiving terminal, where it is unloaded and stored in heavily insulated tanks. Next, in regasification facilities at the receiving terminal, the LNG is returned to its gaseous state, or regasified, to be shipped by pipeline for distribution to natural gas customers.

Source: Drewry
LNG Supply
Between 2013 and 2015 considerable investments were announced for new LNG productive capacity. Approximately 134 million tons of new LNG productive capacity was under construction in February 2016. In addition, firm plans have been announced for another 199 million tons of new LNG production capacity. There are also another 359 million tons of potential LNG speculative capacity for which no confirmed plans exist.
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World LNG Production Capacity – February 2016
(Million Tons per Annum)
Source: Drewry
LNG production capacity will expand significantly as several new production facilities which are now under construction and due on stream in the next few years. Generally, every additional one million tons of LNG productive capacity creates demand for up to two LNG carriers in the 150,000 cbm size range.
In the last decade, more countries have entered the LNG export market.  In January 2016, there were 22 producers and exporters of LNG compared with just 12 in 2004. As a result, world trade in LNG has risen from 130 million tons in 2002 to a provisional 245 million tons in 2015.
LNG Exports: 2004-2015
(Million Tons)
(1)   Provisional
Source: Drewry
Historically, LNG exporters were located in just three regions: Algeria and Libya in North Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Australia in Southeast Asia/Australasia, and Abu Dhabi and Qatar in the Middle East (excluding smaller scale LNG exports from Alaska). However, the entry of Trinidad & Tobago, Nigeria and Norway has added a significant regional diversification to LNG exports in the Atlantic basin. Equally, the addition of Oman as an exporter and the rapid expansion of Qatari production have also positioned the Middle East as an increasingly significant player in the global LNG business. Qatar is now the world's largest producer and exporter of LNG, accounting for close to one-third of all trade in LNG.
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Currently, U.S. LNG exports are from the established plant in Alaska, with exports expected to commence from the Sabine Pass project in the U.S. Gulf in 2016, as it has now received U.S. regulatory approval. Initial shipments from the first phase of this 12.2 cbm plant are scheduled to commence in March 2016, which we believe will create demand for 10-12 LNG carriers of 150,000 cbm plus. A second phase is also planned which will add a similar level of productive capacity. If and when the second phase of the Sabine Pass project goes ahead, we believe that it could create demand for additional 10-12 LNG carriers.  In the meantime some re-exports are also taking place from Lake Charles and Freeport LNG.
LNG Demand
In tandem with the growth in the number of LNG suppliers there has been a corresponding increase in the number of importers. In 2004 there were just 14 countries importing LNG, but by January 2016 this number had surged to 30.
LNG imports by country between 2004 and 2015 are shown in the table below. Despite diversification in the number of importers, Japan, and to a lesser extent South Korea, provide the backbone of LNG trades, collectively accounting for 52% of total LNG imports. Elsewhere, there has been strong growth in European imports, as LNG has provided a source of gas supplies during periods of high winter demand.
LNG Imports by Country 2004-2015
(Million Tons)
(1)   Provisional
Source: Drewry
 
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Chinese imports of LNG commenced in 2006 and since then have grown exponentially from mere 0.7 million tons to 19.7 billion tons in 2015.. The sharp rise in the country's LNG imports is attributed to the government's stated policy to increase the share of gas in total Chinese energy demand. The increased emphasis on LNG as a source of energy is the result of Beijing's aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65% from 2005 levels.
Further expansion of regasification and terminal import infrastructure which is now underway will support the continued growth in Chinese LNG imports. China is not dissimilar from the U.S. in that it has large deposits of shale gas, but geological structures in China are far more complicated. Additionally, China lacks the infrastructure to support the rapid development of domestic gas supplies. As such, this will create an opportunity for imported LNG.  Monthly trends in LNG imports among Asian importers between January 2000 and January 2016 are shown in the chart below.
Asian LNG Imports: 2000-2016
(Tons)
Source: Drewry
International Trade in Natural Gas
Generally, a pipeline is the most economical way of transporting natural gas from a producer to a consumer, provided that the pipeline is not too distant from the natural gas reserves. However, for some areas, such as the Far East, the lack of an adequate pipeline infrastructure means that natural gas must be turned into a liquefied form (LNG), as this is the only economical and feasible way it can be transported over long distances. Additionally, sea transportation of LNG is a more flexible solution than pipeline as it can accommodate required changes in trade patterns that are economically or politically driven.
International trade in natural gas has almost doubled between 2000 and 2015, with total LNG trade rising by 147% and account for one-third of total natural gas trade. As a result, LNG captured a growing share of international gas trade, with key drivers of this growth being the diversification of consumers, flexibility among producers, cost efficient transport and access to competitively priced gas.
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World Natural Gas Trade 1990-2015
(Billion Cubic Metres)
(1)   Provisional
Source: Drewry
LNG Shipping Routes
Although the number of LNG shipping routes has increased in recent years due to growth in the number of LNG suppliers and consumers, demand for shipping services remains heavily focused on a number of key trade routes. In 2015, the principal trade routes for LNG shipping included: the South Pacific (Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and Brunei) and the Middle East (Qatar, Oman and the UAE) to the North Pacific (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and increasingly China), North Africa and Nigeria to Europe and the U.S., and Trinidad to the U.S., South America and Europe.
One important result of the geographical shifts in LNG production and consumption is that demand for shipping services, expressed in terms of ton miles, has grown much faster that the underlying increase in LNG trade. Ton miles are derived by multiplying the volume of cargo by the distance between the load and discharge port on each voyage.
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LNG Seaborne Trade 2004-2015

(1)  Provisional
Source: Drewry
Between 2005 and 2015, total demand for LNG shipping services, expressed in terms of ton miles, increased by 155%.
LNG Trades Requiring Ice Class Tonnage
Ice Class Vessel Classifications
Ice class is assigned where a ship is strengthened to navigate in specific ice conditions. Ice class vessels are governed by different ice class rules and regulations depending on their area of operations.
Baltic Sea
· Bay and Gulf of Bothnia, Gulf of Finland - Finnish-Swedish Ice Class Rules (FSICR)
· Gulf of Finland (Russian territorial waters) - Russian Maritime Register (RMR) Ice Class Rules
Arctic Ocean
· Barents, Kara, Laptev, East Siberian and Chukchi Seas - Russian Maritime Register (RMR) Ice Class Rules
· Beaufort Sea, Baffin Bay, etc. - Canadian Arctic Shipping Pollution Prevention Rules (CASPPR)
· RMR Ice Class Rules
There are also ice class rules and regulations for commercial ship operations on inland lakes, mainly the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway.
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In the context of current commercial newbuilding orders, the FSICR have become the de facto standard for new tonnage. Four ice classes are defined in the FSICR. The FSICR fairway due ice classes along with the design notional level thicknesses, in order of strength from high to low, are:
Class
Standard
1A Super (1AS)
Design notional level ice thickness of 1.0m. For extreme harsh ice conditions.
1A
Design notional level ice thickness of 0.8m. For harsh ice conditions.
1B
Design notional level ice thickness of 0.6m. For medium ice conditions.
1C
Design notional level ice thickness of 0.4m. For mild ice conditions.

The FSICR and the system of ice navigation operated during the winter months in the Northern Baltic are the most well developed criteria and standards for ice navigation. The system of ice navigation comprises three fundamental elements:
· Ice class merchant vessels (compliant with the FSICR for navigation in the northern Baltic);
· Fairway navigation channels; and
· Ice breaker assistance.
Year-round navigation and continuity of trade using the above three fundamental elements was first introduced in the northern Baltic sea areas during the 1960s, and the current FSICR Rule set, as well as the system of ice navigation, has evolved over the years to its current state.
Requirement for Ice Class Tonnage
The FSICR include technical requirements for hull and machinery scantlings as well as for the minimum propulsion power of ships. The hull of ice class vessels and the main propulsion machinery must be safe. The vessel must have sufficient power for safe operation in ice-covered waters. During the vessels' normal operations, they encounter various ice interaction loadings, which calls for strengthened hull structures.
In addition to class rules, ships have to fulfill requirements set by maritime authorities in various jurisdictions. For example, the Russian marine operations headquarters accept ships with ice-strengthening according to or at least the equivalent of FSICR 1B to operate in the Northern Sea Route, or the NSR, if they fulfill additional requirements on crewing and icebreaker assistance.
Ice Class LNG Fleet
The number of ships in the international LNG fleet with an ice class standard is very low. As of January 2016, there were only 11 LNG carriers with Ice Class 1A standard in operation and a further 1 vessel with Ice Class 1A on order.  The only company to date that has experience with and performed NSR transits with LNG carriers is Dynagas Ltd.
Northern Sea Route (NSR)
Currently there are NSR cargo flows are dominated by oil and gas exports and the export of minerals, in particular coal and ore. Demand for shipping for these commodities in the region has been increasing in recent years, driven by several key factors:
· reduced level of sea ice has extended the summer shipping season in the Arctic and is making some areas easy to navigate;
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· increase in mineral resource development activities in the Arctic;
· commodity demand growth in Asian economies;
· technological developments which have made NSR a more feasible shipping route than in the past; and
· chronic political problems in the Middle East, piracy in North Africa and non-transparent commercial disputes over the Suez in Egypt.
These factors have made NSR a promising alternative.
Northern Sea Route

Source: Drewry
 
As a result, the NSR has experienced exponential growth in trade volumes between 2010 and 2013. The table below illustrates this development. The year 2013 set a record both in the number of vessels and in the amount of cargoes registered on this route. Traffic on the NSR dropped in 2014 and only 23 vessels passed through it. Moreover, the provisional data suggests that a further drop in traffic was recorded in 2015.
Northern Sea Route—Seaborne Traffic
Source: Drewry, Centre for High North Logistics
As of today the most suitable LNG terminal for loading LNG for transport to the Far East is located in Northern Norway. The NSR to Japan is approximately 45% shorter than traditional shipping routes generally sailing through the Suez Canal. The Arctic route allows ships to save on time, fuel, and environmental emissions. In Northern Russia located within the NSR there are large gas reserves that are being planned for LNG exports.
In general, ships below 1A ice-class will not be allowed to trade on NSR. This affords an advantage to those owners with ice class tonnage. Furthermore, owners/operators with experience of operating in ice conditions will have an edge over the traditional tramp operators who make occasional forays into the region during the winter months.
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The LNG Fleet
LNG carriers are specialist vessels designed to transport LNG between liquefaction facilities and import terminals. They are double-hulled vessels with a sophisticated containment system that holds and insulates LNG to maintain it in liquid form. Any LNG that evaporates during the voyage and converts to natural gas (normally referred to as boil-off) can be used as fuel to help propel the ship.
Among the existing fleet there are several different types of containment systems used on LNG carriers, but the two most popular systems are:
· The Moss Rosenberg spherical system, which was designed in the 1970s and is used by a large portion of the existing LNG fleet. In this system, multiple self-supporting, spherical tanks are built independent of the carrier and arranged inside its hull.
· The Gaz Transport membrane system, which is built inside the carrier and consists of insulation between thin primary and secondary barriers. The membrane is designed to accommodate thermal expansion and contraction without overstressing the membrane.
However, it is the case that most new vessels are being built with membrane systems such as the Gaz Transport system. This trend is primarily a result of lower Suez Canal fees and related costs associated with passage through the canal (which is required for many long-haul trade routes) for carriers with membrane systems. In addition, membrane system ships tend to operate more efficiently since the spheres on the Moss Rosenberg systems create more wind resistance. Generally, membrane ships achieve better speed consumption due to improved hull utilization, reduced cool down time and better terminal capacity.
The cargo capacity of an LNG carrier is measured in cbm. As of January 31, 2016, the worldwide fleet totaled 422 ships with a combined capacity of 64.2 million cbm. The breakdown of the fleet by vessel size is shown below.
The LNG Fleet by Vessel Size: January 31, 2016
Source: Drewry
Within the current fleet there are only 33 vessels with ice class certification and they account for less than 9% of the global LNG fleet. These ships are niche part of the market and command a premium over the freight rates of non-ice class vessels.
The age profile of the existing fleet as of January 31, 2016 is shown below. The average age of all LNG carriers in service is 10.3 years, with fleet age generally increases as ship size decreases.
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LNG Fleet Age Profile: January 31, 2016
Source: Drewry
Due to high quality construction and in most cases high quality maintenance, LNG carriers tend to have longer trading lives than oil tankers; it is not unusual to see ships older than 35 years still in service. However, there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that older ships may find it harder to find employment in the future. Ships built before 1990 will likely become candidates for replacement in the not too distant future.
LNG Shipping Arrangements
LNG carriers are usually chartered for a fixed period of time with the charter rate payable to the owner on a monthly basis. Shipping arrangements are normally based on charters of five years or more because:
· LNG projects are expensive and typically involve an integrated chain of dedicated facilities. Accordingly, the overall success of an LNG project depends heavily on long-term planning and coordination of project activities, including marine transportation.
· LNG carriers are expensive to build, and the cash-flow from long-term fixed-rate charters supports vessel financing.
Most end users of LNG are utility companies, power stations or petrochemical producers and their operations depend on reliable and uninterrupted delivery of LNG. Although most shipping requirements for new LNG projects continue to be provided on a long-term basis, spot voyages (typically consisting of a single voyage) and time charters of four years or less have become a feature of the market in recent years. However, it should be noted that the LNG spot market is different from the tanker spot market. In the tanker market, the term "spot trade" refers to a single voyage, which is arranged at a short notice. In the LNG market, it relates to the transport of one or more cargoes, sometimes within a specified time period between one and six months, with a set-up time of possibly several months.
Newbuilding Prices
Similar to other types of vessels, newbuilding prices for LNG carriers rose steeply in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and then began to drift downwards in the mid-1990s and fall sharply in the late 1990s. At the beginning of 1992, the price of a 125,000 cbm ship from a Far East yard was reported to be approximately $270 million to $290 million, compared with a low of $120 million at the end of 1986. However, by early 2000 new orders were being struck at a new low of around $150 million.
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After the lows of early 2000, prices crept above $165 million in the first half of 2001, but fell back to the $160 million to $165 million range in the second half of the year. Further pressure on newbuilding prices in general pushed typical prices closer to $160 million in 2002, and by 2003 prices fell to just above $150 million. However, a host of factors, including constrained shipbuilding capacity, currency movements and high steel prices led to an increase in prices in 2004 to around $175 million. Prices rose above $200 million in 2005 and renewed pressure on shipbuilding prices pushed prices close to $220 million in 2006.
LNG Carrier Newbuilding Prices: 2003-2016
(End Period - U.S. $ Million)
Source: Drewry
Prices for larger sized LNG carriers of 210-220,000 cbm were around $215 million when first ordered in late 2004 and increased to $235 million in the summer of 2005.
Newbuilding prices reached an all-time high mark of $250 million around mid-2008, influenced by a number of factors, including the declining dollar exchange rate, easy availability of finance, high steel prices and tight shipbuilding capacity. However, newbuilding prices then fell in the wake of little new ordering in the period 2008-2011.  The newbuilding price for LNG carries increase marginally by 2% from $202 million in 2011 to $206 million in 2014.  In January 2016 the newbuilding price for a 150-160,000 cbm ship was assessed at US$206 million.
LNG Safety
LNG shipping is generally safe relative to other forms of commercial marine transportation. In the past forty years, there have been no significant accidents or cargo spillages involving an LNG carrier, even though over 40,000 plus LNG voyages have been made during that time.
LNG is non-toxic and non-explosive in its liquid state. It only becomes explosive or inflammable when heated and vaporized, and then only when in a confined space within a narrow range of concentrations in the air (5% to 15%). The risks and hazards from an LNG spill vary depending on the size of the spill, environmental conditions and the site at which the spill occurs.
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Competition
We operate in markets that are highly competitive and based primarily on supply and demand. The process of obtaining new time charters generally involves intensive screening and competitive bidding, and often extends for several months. LNG carrier time charters are generally awarded based upon a variety of factors relating to the vessel operator, including but not limited to price, customer relationships, operating expertise, professional reputation and size, age and condition of the vessel. We believe that the LNG shipping industry is characterized by the significant time required to develop the operating expertise and professional reputation necessary to obtain and retain charterers.
We expect substantial competition for providing marine transportation services for potential LNG projects from a number of experienced companies, including state-sponsored entities and major energy companies. Many of these competitors have significantly greater financial resources and larger and more versatile fleets than we do. We anticipate that an increasing number of marine transportation companies, including many with strong reputations and extensive resources and experience, will enter the LNG transportation market. This increased competition may cause greater price competition for time charters.
Seasonality
Historically, LNG trade, and therefore charter rates, increased in the winter months and eased in the summer months as demand for LNG in the Northern Hemisphere rose in colder weather and fell in warmer weather.  The tanker industry in general has become less dependent on the seasonal transport of LNG than a decade ago as new uses for LNG have developed, spreading consumption more evenly over the year.  There is a higher seasonal demand during the summer months due to energy requirements for air conditioning in some markets and a pronounced higher seasonal demand during the winter months for heating in other markets. However, our vessels primarily operate under multi-year charters and are not subject to the effect of seasonal variations in demand.
Environmental and Other Regulations
General
Governmental and international agencies extensively regulate the carriage, handling, storage and regasification of LNG. These regulations include international conventions and national, state and local laws and regulations in the countries where our vessels now or, in the future, will operate or where our vessels are registered. We cannot predict the ultimate cost of complying with these regulations, or the impact that these regulations will have on the resale value or useful lives of our vessels. Various governmental and quasi-governmental agencies require us to obtain permits, licenses and certificates for the operation of our vessels.
Although we believe that we are substantially in compliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations and have all permits, licenses and certificates required for our vessels, future non-compliance or failure to maintain necessary permits or approvals could require us to incur substantial costs or temporarily suspend operation of one or more of our vessels. A variety of governmental and private entities inspect our vessels on both a scheduled and unscheduled basis. These entities, each of which may have unique requirements and each of which conducts frequent inspections, include local port authorities, such as the U.S. Coast Guard, harbor master or equivalent, classification societies, flag state, or the administration of the country of registry, charterers, terminal operators and LNG producers.
International Maritime Regulation of LNG Vessels
The IMO is the United Nations' agency that provides international regulations governing shipping and international maritime trade, including the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, or the "MARPOL Convention." The flag state, as defined by the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, has overall responsibility for the implementation and enforcement of international maritime regulations for all ships granted the right to fly its flag. The "Shipping Industry Guidelines on Flag State Performance" evaluates flag states based on factors such as sufficiency of infrastructure, ratification of international maritime treaties, implementation and enforcement of international maritime regulations, supervision of surveys, casualty investigations, and participation at IMO meetings. The requirements contained in the International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (the ISM Code) promulgated by the IMO, govern our operations. Among other requirements, 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 policy for safety and environmental protection policy setting forth instructions and procedures for operating its vessels safely and also describing procedures for responding to emergencies. We are compliant with the requirement to hold a Document of Compliance under the ISM Code.
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Vessels that transport gas, including LNG carriers, are also subject to regulation under the International Gas Carrier Code (or the IGC Code) published by the IMO. The IGC Code provides a standard for the safe carriage of LNG and certain other liquid gases by prescribing the design and construction standards of vessels involved in such carriage. Compliance with the IGC Code must be evidenced by a Certificate of Fitness for the Carriage of Liquefied Gases of Bulk. Each of our vessels is in compliance with the IGC Code and each of our newbuilding/conversion contracts requires that the vessel receive certification that it is in compliance with applicable regulations before it is delivered. Non-compliance with the IGC Code or other applicable IMO regulations may subject a shipowner or a bareboat charterer to increased liability, may lead to decreases in available insurance coverage for affected vessels and may result in the denial of access to, or detention in, some ports.
In 1996, the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damages in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea (HNS) was adopted and subsequently amended by the 2010 Protocol.  The HNS Convention introduces strict liability for the shipowner and covers pollution damage as well as the risks of fire and explosion, including loss of life or personal injury and damage to property. HNS includes, among other things, liquefied natural gas.  However, the HNS Convention lacked the ratifications required to come into force.  In April 2010, a consensus at the Diplomatic Conference convened by the IMO adopted the 2010 Protocol.  Under the 2010 Protocol, if damage is caused by bulk HNS, compensation would first be sought from the shipowner.  The 2010 Protocol has not yet entered into effect.  It will enter into force eighteen months after the date on which certain consent and administrative requirements are satisfied.  While a majority of the necessary number of states has indicated their consent to be bound by the 2010 Protocol, the required minimum has not been met.
The IMO also promulgates ongoing amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974 and its protocol of 1988, otherwise known as the SOLAS Convention. The SOLAS Convention provides rules for the construction of and equipment required for commercial vessels and includes regulations for safe operation. It requires the provision of lifeboats and other life-saving appliances, requires the use of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System which is an international radio equipment and watchkeeping standard, afloat and at shore stations, and relates to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (or STCW) also promulgated by the IMO. Flag states that have ratified the SOLAS Convention and STCW generally employ the classification societies, which have incorporated the SOLAS Convention and STCW requirements into their class rules, to undertake surveys to confirm compliance. May 2012 SOLAS Convention amendments entered into force as of January 1, 2014. Additionally, May 2013 SOLAS Convention amendments, pertaining to emergency drills, entered into force in January 2015.
In the wake of increased worldwide security concerns, the IMO amended the SOLAS Convention and added the International Ship and Port Facilities Security Code (ISPS) as a new chapter to that convention. The objective of the ISPS, which came into effect on July 1, 2004, is to detect security threats and take preventive measures against security incidents affecting ships or port facilities. Our Manager has developed Security Plans, appointed and trained Ship and Office Security Officers and all of our vessels have been certified to meet the ISPS Code. See "—Vessel Security Regulations" for a more detailed discussion about these requirements.
The SOLAS Convention and other IMO regulations concerning safety, including those relating to treaties on training of shipboard personnel, lifesaving appliances, radio equipment and the global maritime distress and safety system, are applicable to our operations. Non-compliance with these types of IMO regulations may subject us to increased liability or penalties, may lead to decreases in available insurance coverage for affected vessels and may result in the denial of access to or detention in some ports. For example, the U.S. Coast Guard and European Union authorities have indicated that vessels not in compliance with the ISM Code will be prohibited from trading in U.S. and European Union ports.
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The MARPOL Convention establishes environmental standards relating to oil leakage or spilling, garbage management, sewage, air emissions, handling and disposal of noxious liquids and the handling of harmful substances in packaged form. MARPOL is broken into six Annexes, each of which establishes environmental standards relating to different sources of pollution: Annex I relates to oil leakage or spilling; Annexes II and III relate to harmful substances carried, in bulk, in liquid or packaged form, respectively; Annexes IV and V relate to sewage and garbage management, respectively; and Annex VI, adopted by the IMO in September of 1997, relates to air emissions.
The IMO amended Annex I to MARPOL, including a new regulation relating to oil fuel tank protection, and the new regulation applies to various ships delivered on or after August 1, 2010. It includes requirements for the protected location of the fuel tanks, performance standards for accidental oil fuel outflow, a tank capacity limit and certain other maintenance, inspection and engineering standards. IMO regulations also require owners and operators of vessels to adopt Ship Oil Pollution Emergency Plans. Periodic training and drills for response personnel and for vessels and their crews are required.
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 regulation may have on our operations.
Air Emissions
In September 1997, the IMO adopted MARPOL 73/78 Annex VI "Regulations for the prevention of Air Pollution" (or Annex VI) to MARPOL to address air pollution from ships. Annex VI came into force on May 19, 2005. It applies to all ships, fixed and floating drilling rigs and other floating platforms and sets limits on sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts, and prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). Annex VI also includes a global cap on sulfur content of fuel oil and allows for special areas to be established with more stringent controls on sulfur emissions. The certification requirements for Annex VI depend on size of the vessel and time of periodical classification survey. Ships weighing more than 400 gross tons and engaged in international voyages involving countries that have ratified the conventions, or ships flying the flag of those countries, are required to have an International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate (or an IAPP Certificate). Annex VI has been ratified by some but not all IMO member states. Annex VI came into force in the United States on January 8, 2009, and the U.S. Coast Guard issues IAPP Certificates. All the vessels in our Fleet have been issued with IAPP Certificates.
On July 1, 2010 amendments to Annex VI to the MARPOL Convention that require progressively stricter limitations on sulfur emissions from ships proposed by the United States, Norway and other IMO member states took effect. Beginning on January 1, 2012, fuel used to power ships may contain no more than 3.5% sulfur. This cap will then decrease to 0.5% by January 1, 2020 subject to IMO review on availability of 0.50% sulfur fuels which has to be completed by 2018. However, as of July 1, 2010 in Emission Control Areas (or ECAs), limitations on sulfur emissions require that fuels contain no more than 1% sulfur and his cap was further reduced to 0.1% as of January 1, 2015. In fact, the EPA released a penalty policy for violations of the sulfur fuel standard and related provisions for ships on January 16, 2015, which applies to violations of the international standards for sulfur emissions from ships that went into effect on January 1, 2015. In August 2012, the North American ECA became enforceable. The Baltic Sea and the North Sea have also been designated ECAs. The North American ECA includes areas subject to the exclusive sovereignty of the United States and Canada. Consequently, in August 2012, when the North American ECA became effective, the sulfur limit in marine fuel was capped at 1.0%, which was the capped amount for all other ECAs (Baltic Sea ECA and North Sea ECA) since July 1, 2010. In January 1, 2014 when the US Caribbean ECA became effective, the sulfur limit in marine fuel was capped at 1.0 %. As of January 1, 2015 the cap on fuel sulfur content in all ECAs including North American ECA and US Caribbean ECA is reduced to 0.1%. The amendments also establish new tiers of stringent nitrogen oxide emissions standards for marine engines installed in new vessels, having keel laying on or after January 1, 2016 and sailing within North American and US Caribbean ECAs. Further, the European directive 2005/33/EC, which became effective January 1, 2010, bans the use of fuel oils containing more than 0.1% sulfur by mass by any merchant vessel while at berth in any EU country. Our vessels have achieved compliance, where necessary, by being arranged to burn gas only in their boilers when alongside. Marine Gas Oil and Low Sulfur Marine Gas Oil, or MGO and LSMGO, respectively, have been purchased as the only fuel for the Diesel Generators.
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Additionally, as discussed above, more stringent emission standards could apply in coastal areas designated as ECAs, such as the United States and Canadian coastal areas designated by the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), as discussed in "—U.S. Clean Air Act" below. U.S. air emissions standards are now equivalent to these amended Annex VI requirements, and once these amendments become effective, we may incur costs to comply with these revised standards. Additional or new conventions, laws and regulations may be adopted that could require the installation of expensive emission control systems.
Ballast Water Management Convention
The IMO has negotiated international conventions that impose liability for oil pollution in international waters and the territorial waters of the signatory to such conventions. For example, 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 a requirement for mandatory ballast water treatment. 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. The Convention has not yet entered into force because a sufficient number of states have failed to adopt it, but it is close.
The IMO has passed a resolution encouraging the ratification of the Convention and calling upon those countries that have already ratified to encourage the installation of ballast water management systems on new ships.  Many of the implementation dates originally written in the BWM Convention have already passed, so that once the BWM Convention enters into force, the period for installation of mandatory ballast water exchange requirements would be extremely short, with several thousand ships a year needing to install ballast water treatment systems (BWTS).  For this reason, on December 4, 2013, the IMO Assembly passed a resolution revising the application dates of BWM Convention so that they are triggered by the entry into force date and not the dates originally in the BWM Convention.  This in effect makes all vessels constructed before the entry into force date 'existing' vessels, and allows for the installation of a BWTS on such vessels at the first IOPP renewal survey following the entry into force of the Convention.
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As referenced below, the U.S. Coast Guard issued new ballast water management rules on March 23, 2012. Under the requirements of the convention for units with ballast water capacity more than 5000 cubic meters that were constructed in 2011 or before, ballast water management exchange or treatment will be accepted until 2016. From 2016 (or not later than the first intermediate or renewal survey after 2016), only ballast water treatment will be accepted by the Convention.
Bunkers Convention/CLC State Certificate
The IMO has negotiated international conventions that impose liability for oil pollution in international waters and the territorial waters of the signatory to such conventions. For example, 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. To date, the BWM Convention has not yet been ratified but proposals regarding implementation have recently been submitted to the IMO.
The IMO has passed a resolution encouraging the ratification of the Convention and calling upon those countries that have already ratified to encourage the installation of ballast water management systems on new ships.  Many of the implementation dates originally written in the BWM Convention have already passed, so that once the BWM Convention enters into force, the period for installation of mandatory ballast water exchange requirements would be extremely short, with several thousand ships a year needing to install ballast water management systems (BWMS).  For this reason, on December 4, 2013, the IMO Assembly passed a resolution revising the application dates of BWM Convention so that they are triggered by the entry into force date and not the dates originally in the BWM Convention.  This in effect makes all vessels constructed before the entry into force date "existing" vessels, and allows for the installation of a BWMS on such vessels at the first renewal survey following entry into force of the convention. Furthermore, in October 2014 the MEPC met and adopted additional resolutions concerning the BWM Convention's implementation. Once mid-ocean ballast exchange or ballast water treatment requirements become mandatory, the cost of compliance could increase for ocean carriers and the costs of ballast water treatments may be material.  However, many countries already regulate the discharge of ballast water carried by vessels from country to country to prevent the introduction of invasive and harmful species via such discharges.  The United States for example, requires vessels entering its waters from another country to conduct mid-ocean ballast exchange, or undertake some alternate measure, and to comply with certain reporting requirements. Although we do not believe that the costs of such compliance would be material, it is difficult to predict the overall impact of such a requirement on our operations.
As referenced below, the U.S. Coast Guard issued new ballast water management rules on March 23, 2012. Under the requirements of the convention for units with ballast water capacity more than 5000 cubic meters that were constructed in 2011 or before, ballast water management exchange or treatment were accepted until January 1, 2016. From January 1, 2016 (or not later than the first intermediate or renewal survey after 2016), only ballast water treatment will be accepted by the Convention.
Anti-Fouling Requirements
In 2001, the IMO adopted the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships, or the "Anti-fouling Convention." The Anti-fouling Convention, which entered into force on September 17, 2008, prohibits the use of organotin compound coatings to prevent the attachment of mollusks and other sea life to the hulls of vessels after September 1, 2003. Vessels of over 400 gross tons engaged in international voyages must obtain an International Anti-fouling System Certificate and undergo a survey before the vessel is put into service or when the antifouling systems are altered or replaced. We have obtained Anti-fouling System Certificates for all of our vessels that are subject to the Anti-Fouling Convention and do not believe that maintaining such certificates will have an adverse financial impact on the operation of our vessels.
United States Environmental Regulation of LNG Vessels
Our vessels operating in U.S. waters now or, in the future, will be subject to various federal, state and local laws and regulations relating to protection of the environment. In some cases, these laws and regulations require us to obtain governmental permits and authorizations before we may conduct certain activities. These environmental laws and regulations may impose substantial penalties for noncompliance and substantial liabilities for pollution. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations may result in substantial civil and criminal fines and penalties. As with the industry generally, our operations will entail risks in these areas, and compliance with these laws and regulations, which may be subject to frequent revisions and reinterpretation, increases our overall cost of business.
Oil Pollution Act and CERCLA
The U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) established an extensive regulatory and liability regime for environmental protection and cleanup of oil spills. OPA 90 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 U.S. territorial waters and the two hundred nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the United States. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) applies to the discharge of hazardous substances whether on land or at sea. While OPA 90 and CERCLA would not apply to the discharge of LNG, they may affect us because we carry oil as fuel and lubricants for our engines, and the discharge of these could cause an environmental hazard. Under OPA 90, vessel operators, including vessel owners, managers and bareboat or "demise" charterers, are "responsible parties" who are all liable regardless of fault, individually and as a group, for all containment and clean-up costs and other damages arising from oil spills from their vessels. These "responsible parties" would not be liable if the spill results solely from the act or omission of a third-party, an act of God or an act of war. The other damages aside from clean-up and containment costs are defined broadly to include:
· natural resource damages and related assessment costs;
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· real and personal property damages;
· 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.
Effective December 21, 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard adjusted the limits of OPA liability to the greater of $2,200 per gross ton or $18,796,800 for any double-hull tanker that is over 3,000 gross tons (subject to possible adjustment for inflation). 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 likewise 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. This limit is subject to possible adjustment for inflation. OPA 90 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, which have enacted their own legislation, have not yet issued implementing regulations defining shipowners' responsibilities under these laws.
CERCLA, which also applies to owners and operators of vessels, contains a similar liability regime and provides for cleanup, removal and natural resource damages for releases of "hazardous substances." Liability under CERCLA is limited to the greater of $300 per gross ton or $0.5 million for each release from vessels not carrying hazardous substances as cargo or residue, and $300 per gross ton or $5 million for each release from vessels carrying hazardous substances as cargo or residue. As with OPA 90, these limits of liability do not apply 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 or if the responsible party fails or refuses to report the incident or to cooperate and assist in connection with the substance removal activities. OPA 90 and CERCLA each preserve the right to recover damages under existing law, including maritime tort law. We believe that we are in substantial compliance with OPA 90, CERCLA and all applicable state regulations in the ports where our vessels call.
OPA 90 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 OPA 90/CERCLA. Under the regulations, evidence of financial responsibility may be demonstrated by insurance, surety bond, self-insurance or guaranty. Under OPA 90 regulations, an owner or operator of more than one vessel is required to demonstrate evidence of financial responsibility for the entire fleet in an amount equal only to the financial responsibility requirement of the vessel having the greatest maximum liability under OPA 90/CERCLA. Each of our shipowning subsidiaries that has vessels trading in U.S. waters has applied for, and obtained from the U.S. Coast Guard National Pollution Funds Center, three-year certificates of financial responsibility, supported by guarantees which we purchased from an insurance based provider. We believe that we will be able to continue to obtain the requisite guarantees and that we will continue to be granted certificates of financial responsibility from the U.S. Coast Guard for each of our vessels that is required to have one.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may also result in additional regulatory initiatives or statutes, including the raising of liability caps under OPA.  For example, on August 15, 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) issued a final drilling safety rule that became effective on October 22, 2012 for offshore oil and gas operations that strengthens the requirements for safety equipment, well control systems, and blowout prevention practice. A rule issued by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, that increased the limits of liability of damages for offshore facilities under the OPA based on inflation took effect in January 2015. Compliance with any new requirements of OPA may substantially impact our cost of operations or require us to incur additional expenses to comply with any new regulatory initiatives or statutes.
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Clean Water Act
The United States Clean Water Act (or CWA) prohibits the discharge of oil or hazardous substances in United States navigable waters unless authorized by a permit or exemption, and imposes strict liability in the form of penalties for unauthorized discharges. The CWA also imposes substantial liability for the costs of removal, remediation and damages and complements the remedies available under OPA and CERCLA. In additional, many U.S. states that border a navigable waterway have enacted environmental pollution laws that impose strict liability on a person for removal costs and damages resulting from a discharge of oil or a release of a hazardous substance. These laws may be more stringent that U.S. federal law.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the discharge of ballast water, bilge water, and other discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels within U.S. waters. Under the new rules, which took effect February 6, 2009, commercial vessels 79 feet in length or longer (other than commercial fishing vessels), or Regulated Vessels, are required to obtain a CWA permit regulating and authorizing such normal discharges. This permit, which the EPA has designated as the Vessel General Permit for Discharges Incidental to the Normal Operation of Vessels (or VGP) incorporates the current U.S. Coast Guard requirements for ballast water management as well as supplemental ballast water requirements, and includes limits applicable to 26 specific discharge streams, such as deck runoff, bilge water and gray water. For each discharge type, among other things, the VGP establishes effluent limits pertaining to the constituents found in the effluent, including best management practices (or BMPs) designed to decrease the amount of constituents entering the waste stream. Unlike land-based discharges, which are deemed acceptable by meeting certain EPA-imposed numerical effluent limits, each of the 26 VGP discharge limits is deemed to be met when a Regulated Vessel carries out the BMPs pertinent to that specific discharge stream. The VGP imposes additional requirements on certain Regulated Vessel types that emit discharges unique to those vessels. Administrative provisions, such as inspection, monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements, are also included for all Regulated Vessels. Several U.S. states have added specific requirements to the VGP and, in some cases, may require vessels to install ballast water treatment technology to meet biological performance standards. For a new vessel delivered to an owner or operator after September 19, 2009 to be covered by the VGP, the owner must submit a Notice of Intent, or NOI, at least 30 days before the vessel operates in United States waters. On March 28, 2013 the EPA re-issued the VGP for another five years, which took effect December 19, 2013. The 2013 VGP contains ballast water discharge standards for most vessels that now contain numeric limits. EPA is also planning to finalize the VGP for small vessels- the VGP but the final rule has not yet been issued.
National Aquatic Invasive Species Act
The 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, which require the installation of equipment to treat ballast water before it is discharged in U.S. waters or, in the alternative, the implementation of other port facility disposal arrangements or procedures.  Vessels not complying with these regulations are restricted from entering U.S. waters.  The U.S. Coast Guard must approve any technology before it is placed on a vessel but has not yet approved the technology for vessels to meet these standards.  Under NISA, mid-ocean ballast water exchange is voluntary, except for ships heading to the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, or vessels engaged in the foreign export of Alaskan North Slope crude oil. However, NISA's exporting and record-keeping requirements are mandatory for vessels bound for any port in the United States. If the mid-ocean ballast exchange is made mandatory throughout the United States, or if water treatment requirements or options are instituted, the costs of compliance could increase for ocean carriers.
The Coast Guard's revised regulations on ballast water management by establishing standards are consistent with those adopted by the IMO in 2004. The final rule requires that ballast water discharge have no more than 10 living organisms per milliliter for organisms between 10 and 50 micrometers in size. For organisms larger than 50 micrometers, the discharge can have 10 living organisms per cubic meter of discharge. New ships constructed on or after December 1, 2012 must comply with these standards and some existing ships must comply with these standards and some existing ships must comply by their first dry dock after January 1, 2014. Compliance with these regulations will require us to incur additional costs and other measures that may be significant.
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Notwithstanding the foregoing, as of January 1, 2014, vessels are technically subject to the phasing-in of these standards. As a result, the USCG has provided waivers to vessels which cannot install the as-yet unapproved technology. The EPA, on the other hand, has taken a different approach to enforcing ballast discharge standards under the VGP. On December 27, 2013, the EPA issued an enforcement response policy in connection with the new VGP in which the EPA indicated that it would take into account the reasons why vessels do not have the requisite technology installed, but will not grant any waivers.
It should also be noted that in October 2015, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that directed the EPA to redraft the sections of the 2013 VGP that address ballast water. However, the Second Circuit stated that 2013 VGP will remain in effect until the EPA issues a new VGP.  It presently remains unclear how the ballast water requirements set forth by the EPA, the USCG, and IMO BWM Convention, some of which are in effect and some which are pending, will co-exist.
The USCG's revised ballast water standards are consistent with requirements under the BWM Convention. Compliance with the EPA and the USCG regulations could 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, or may otherwise restrict our vessels from entering U.S. waters.  In addition, certain states have enacted more stringent discharge standards as conditions to their required certification of the VGP.
Clean Air Act
The U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970, as amended (or the CAA) requires the EPA to promulgate standards applicable to emissions of volatile organic compounds and other air contaminants. Our vessels are subject to vapor control and recovery requirements for certain cargoes when loading, unloading, ballasting, cleaning and conducting other operations in regulated port areas and emission standards for so-called "Category 3" marine diesel engines operating in U.S. waters. The marine diesel engine emission standards are currently limited to new engines beginning with the 2004 model year. On April 30, 2010, the EPA promulgated final emission standards for Category 3 marine diesel engines equivalent to those adopted in the amendments to Annex VI to MARPOL. The emission standards apply in two stages: near-term standards for newly-built engines will apply from 2011, and long-term standards requiring an 80% reduction in nitrogen dioxides (or NOx) will apply from 2016. The CAA also requires states to draft State Implementation Plans, or SIPs, designed to attain national health-based air quality standards in each state.  Although state-specific, SIPs may include regulations concerning emissions resulting from vessel loading and unloading operations by requiring the installation of vapor control equipment.  Compliance with these standards may cause us to incur costs to install control equipment on our vessels in the future.
Other Regulations
The European Union has also adopted legislation that would: (1) ban manifestly sub-standard vessels (defined as those over 15 years old that have been detained by port authorities at least twice in a six month period) from European waters and create an obligation of port states to inspect vessels posing a high risk to maritime safety or the marine environment; and (2) provide the European Union with greater authority and control over classification societies, including the ability to seek to suspend or revoke the authority of negligent societies.
The European Union has implemented regulations requiring vessels to use reduced sulfur content fuel for their main and auxiliary engines. The EU Directive 2005/33/EC (amending Directive 1999/32/EC) introduced parallel requirements in the European Union to those in MARPOL Annex VI in respect of the sulfur content of marine fuels. In addition, it has introduced a 0.1% maximum sulfur requirement for fuel used by ships at berth in EU ports, effective January 1, 2010.
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In 2005, the European Union adopted a directive on ship-source pollution, imposing criminal sanctions for intentional, reckless or negligent pollution discharges by ships. The directive could result in criminal liability for pollution from vessels in waters of European countries that adopt implementing legislation. Criminal liability for pollution may result in substantial penalties or fines and increased civil liability claims. We cannot predict what regulations, if any, may be adopted by the European Union or any other country or authority.
Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
In February 2005, the Kyoto Protocol entered into force. Pursuant to the Kyoto Protocol, adopting countries are required to implement national programs to reduce emissions of certain gases, generally referred to as greenhouse gases, which are suspected of contributing to global warming. Currently, the emissions of greenhouse gases from ships involved in international transport are not subject to the Kyoto Protocol. In December 2009, more than 27 nations, including the United States and China, signed the Copenhagen Accord, which includes a non-binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, in December 2011, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change adopted the Durban Platform which calls for a process to develop binding emissions limitations on both developed and developing countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change applicable to all Parties. The 2015 United Nations Convention on Climate Change Conference in Paris did not result in an agreement that directly limited greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. For 2020, the EU made a unilateral commitment to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from its member stated by 20% of 1990 levels. The EU also committed to reduce its emissions by 20% under the Kyoto Protocol's second period, from 2013 to 2020.
As of January 1, 2013, all ships (including rigs and drillships) must comply with mandatory requirements adopted by MEPC in July 2011 relating to greenhouse gas emissions. The amendments to MARPOL Annex VI Regulations for the prevention of air pollution from ships add a new Chapter 4 to Annex VI on Regulations on energy efficiency requiring the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), for new ships, and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) for all ships. Other amendments to Annex VI add new definitions and requirements for survey and certification, including the format for the International Energy Efficiency Certificate. The regulations apply to all ships of 400 gross tonnage and above. These new rules will likely affect the operations of vessels that are registered in countries that are signatories to MARPOL Annex VI or vessels that call upon ports located within such countries. The implementation of the EEDI and SEEMP standards could cause us to incur additional compliance costs. The IMO is also planning to implement market-based mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships at an upcoming MEPC session. It is impossible to predict the likelihood that such a standard might be adopted or its potential impact on our operations at this time.
In the United States, the EPA has issued a final finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health and safety, and has promulgated regulations that regulate the emission of greenhouse gases. In 2009 and 2010, EPA adopted greenhouse reporting requirements for various onshore facilities, and also adopted a rule potentially imposing control technology requirements on certain stationary sources subject to the federal Clean Air Act. The EPA may decide in the future to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from ships and has already been petitioned by the California Attorney General to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from ocean-going vessels. Other federal and state regulations relating to the control of greenhouse gas emissions may follow, including climate change initiatives that have recently been considered in the U.S. Congress. Any passage of climate control legislation or other regulatory initiatives by the IMO, the European Union, the United States, or other countries where we operate, or any treaty adopted at the international level to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, that restrict emissions of greenhouse gases could require us to make significant financial expenditures, including capital expenditures to upgrade our vessels, that we cannot predict with certainty at this time. In addition, even without such regulation, our business may be indirectly affected to the extent that climate change results in sea level changes or more intense weather events.
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 Maritime Transportation Act of 2002 (or MTSA) came into effect. To implement certain portions of the MTSA, in July 2003, the U.S. Coast Guard issued regulations requiring the implementation of certain security requirements aboard vessels operating in waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Similarly, in December 2002, amendments to the SOLAS Convention created a new chapter of the convention dealing specifically with maritime security. The new chapter became effective in July 2004 and imposes various detailed security obligations on vessels and port authorities, most of which are contained in the ISPS Code. The ISPS Code is designed to protect ports and international shipping against terrorism. After July 1, 2004, to trade internationally, a vessel must attain an International Ship Security Certificate (or ISSC) from a recognized security organization approved by the vessel's flag state.
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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, the 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 non-U.S. vessels from obtaining U.S. Coast Guard-approved MTSA vessel security plans provided such vessels have on board an ISSC that attests to the vessel's compliance with the SOLAS Convention security requirements and the ISPS Code.
Our Manager has developed Security Plans, appointed and trained Ship and Office Security Officers and each of our vessels in our Fleet complies with the requirements of the ISPS Code, the SOLAS Convention and the MTSA.
Other Regulation
Our LNG vessels may also become subject to the 2010 HNS Convention, if it is entered into force. The Convention creates a regime of liability and compensation for damage from hazardous and noxious substances (or HNS), including liquefied gases. The 2010 HNS Convention sets up a two-tier system of compensation composed of compulsory insurance taken out by shipowners and an HNS Fund which comes into play when the insurance is insufficient to satisfy a claim or does not cover the incident. Under the 2010 HNS Convention, if damage is caused by bulk HNS, claims for compensation will first be sought from the shipowner up to a maximum of 100 million Special Drawing Rights (or SDR). If the damage is caused by packaged HNS or by both bulk and packaged HNS, the maximum liability is 115 million SDR. Once the limit is reached, compensation will be paid from the HNS Fund up to a maximum of 250 million SDR. The 2010 HNS Convention has not been ratified by a sufficient number of countries to enter into force, and we cannot estimate the costs that may be needed to comply with any such requirements that may be adopted with any certainty at this time.
 
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In-House Inspections
Our Manager carries out ship audits and inspections of the ships on a regular basis; both at sea and while the vessels are in port. The results of these inspections, which are conducted both in port and underway, result in a report containing recommendations for improvements to the overall condition of the vessel, maintenance, safety and crew welfare. Based in part on these evaluations, our Manager has created and implemented a program of continual maintenance for our vessels and their systems.
Inspection by Classification Societies
Every large, commercial seagoing vessel must be "classed" by a classification society. A classification society certifies that a vessel is "in class," signifying that the vessel has been built and maintained in accordance with the rules of the classification society and 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.
For maintenance of the class certificate, regular and special surveys of hull, machinery, including the electrical plant and any special equipment classed, are required to be performed by the classification society, to ensure continuing compliance. Vessels are dry-docked at least once during a five-year class cycle for inspection of the underwater parts and for repairs related to inspections. Vessels under five years of age can waive dry docking in order to increase available days and decrease capital expenditures, provided the vessel is inspected underwater. If any defects are found, the classification surveyor will issue a "recommendation" which must be rectified by the shipowner within prescribed time limits. The classification society also undertakes on request of the flag state other surveys and checks that are required by the regulations and requirements of that flag state. These surveys are subject to agreements made in each individual case and/or to the regulations of the country concerned.
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 (the IACS). In 2012, the IACS issued draft harmonized Common Structure Rules that align with IMO goal standards, and are expected to be adopted in 2013. All of the vessels in our Fleet are certified by Lloyds Register, have been awarded ISM certification and are currently "in class."
Our Manager carries out inspections of the ships on a regular basis; both at sea and while the vessels are in port. The results of these inspections, which are conducted both in port and underway, result in a report containing recommendations for improvements to the overall condition of the vessel, maintenance, safety and crew welfare. Based in part on these evaluations we create and implement a program of continual maintenance and improvement for our vessels and their systems.
Safety, Management of Ship Operations and Administration
Safety is our top operational priority. Our vessels are operated in a manner intended to protect the safety and health of the crew, the general public and the environment. We actively manage the risks inherent in our business and are committed to preventing incidents that threaten safety, such as groundings, fires and collisions. We are also committed to reducing emissions and waste generation. We have established key performance indicators to facilitate regular monitoring of our operational performance. We set targets on an annual basis to drive continuous improvement, and we review performance indicators monthly to determine if remedial action is necessary to reach our targets. Our Manager's shore staff performs a full range of technical, commercial and business development services for us. This staff also provides administrative support to our operations in finance, accounting and human resources.
Risk of Loss and Liability Insurance
The operation of any vessel, including LNG carriers, has inherent risks. These risks include mechanical failure, personal injury, collision, property loss, vessel or cargo loss or damage and business interruption due to political circumstances in foreign countries or hostilities. In addition, there is always an inherent possibility of marine disaster, including explosion, spills and other environmental mishaps, and the liabilities arising from owning and operating vessels in international trade. We believe that our present insurance coverage is adequate to protect us against the accident related risks involved in the conduct of our business and that we maintain appropriate levels of environmental damage and pollution insurance coverage consistent with standard industry practice. However, 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.
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We have obtained hull and machinery insurance on all our vessels against marine and war risks, which include the risks of damage to our vessels, salvage or towing costs, and also insure against actual or constructive total loss of any of our vessels. However, our insurance policies contain deductible amounts for which we will be responsible. We have also arranged additional total loss coverage for each vessel. This coverage, which is called disbursements increased value coverage, provides us additional coverage in the event of the total loss of a vessel. The agreed deductible on each vessel averages $250,000.
We have also obtained loss of hire insurance to protect us against loss of income in the event one of our vessels cannot be employed due to damage that is covered under the terms of our hull and machinery insurance. Under our loss of hire policies, our insurer will pay us the daily rate agreed in respect of each vessel for each day, in excess of a certain number of deductible days, for the time that the vessel is out of service as a result of damage, for a maximum of 120 days. The number of deductible days varies from 14 days to 120 days, depending on the type of damage, machinery or hull damage. The number of deductible days for the vessels in our Fleet is 14 days per vessel.
Protection and indemnity insurance, which covers our third-party legal liabilities in connection with our shipping activities, is provided by a mutual protection and indemnity association, or P&I club. This includes third-party liability and other expenses related to the injury or death of crew members, passengers and other third-party persons, loss or damage to cargo, claims arising from collisions with other vessels or from contact with jetties or wharves and other damage to other third-party property, including pollution arising from oil or other substances, and other related costs, including wreck removal. Subject to the capping discussed below, our coverage, except for pollution, is unlimited. Our current protection and indemnity insurance coverage for pollution is $1 billion per vessel per incident. The thirteen P&I clubs that comprise the International Group of Protection and Indemnity Clubs 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 club has capped its exposure in this pooling agreement so that the maximum claim covered by the pool and its reinsurance would be approximately $5.45 billion per accident or occurrence. We are a member of the North of England P&I Club. As a member of these P&I clubs, we are subject to a call for additional premiums based on the clubs' claims record, as well as the claims record of all other members of the P&I clubs comprising the International Group. However, our P&I clubs have reinsured the risk of additional premium calls to limit our additional exposure. This reinsurance is subject to a cap, and there is the risk that the full amount of the additional call would not be covered by this reinsurance.
C.            ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE
We were formed on May 29, 2013 as a Marshall Islands limited partnership. We own (i) a 100% limited partner interest in Dynagas Operating LP, which owns a 100% interest in our Fleet through intermediate holding companies and (ii) the non-economic general partner interest in Dynagas Operating LP through our 100% ownership of its general partner, Dynagas Operating GP LLC.
Please see Exhibit 8.1 to this Annual Report for a list of our current subsidiaries.
D.            PROPERTY, PLANT AND EQUIPMENT
For a description of our Fleet, please see "Item 4. Information on the Partnership—B. Business Overview—Our Fleet."
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ITEM 4A. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
Not applicable.
ITEM 5. OPERATING AND FINANCIAL REVIEW AND PROSPECTS
The following management's discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with the "Selected Financial Data" and the accompanying audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes included in "Item 18. Financial Statements" of this Annual Report. Amounts relating to percentage variations in period—on—period comparisons shown in this section are derived from the actual numbers in our books and records. The following discussion contains forward-looking statements that reflect our future plans, estimates, beliefs and expected performance. The forward-looking statements are dependent upon events, risks and uncertainties that may be outside our control. Our actual results could differ materially from those discussed in these forward-looking statements. See "Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors" and the section entitled "Forward-Looking Statements" at the beginning of this Annual Report. In light of these risks, uncertainties and assumptions, the forward-looking events discussed may not occur.
A.            RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
Overview
We are a growth-oriented limited partnership focused on owning and operating LNG carriers.  Our vessels are employed on multi-year time charters, which we define as charters of two years or more, with international energy companies, providing us with the benefits of stable cash flows and high utilization rates.  We intend to leverage the reputation, expertise, and relationships of our Sponsor and our Manager, in maintaining cost-efficient operations and providing reliable seaborne transportation services to our charterers. In addition, we intend to make further vessel acquisitions from our Sponsor and from third-parties and in connection with such acquisitions, we may enter into additional financing arrangements, refinance existing arrangements that our Sponsor, or any of its affiliates, has in place for vessels that we may acquire from it, and, subject to favorable market conditions we may raise capital through public or private debt or equity offerings of our securities. There is no guarantee that we will grow the size of our Fleet or the per unit distributions that we intend to pay or that we will be able to make further vessel acquisitions from our Sponsor or third-parties.
Principal Factors Affecting Our Results of Operations
The principal factors which have affected our results and are expected to affect our future results of operations and financial position, include:
· Ownership days.  The number of vessels in our Fleet is a key factor in determining the level of our revenues. Aggregate expenses also increase as the size of our Fleet increases;
· Charter rates. Our revenue is dependent on the charter rates we are able to obtain on our vessels. Charter rates on our vessels are based primarily on demand for and supply of LNG carrier capacity at the time we enter into the charters for our vessels, which is influenced by demand and supply for natural gas and in particular LNG as well as the supply of LNG carriers available for employment. The charter rates we obtain are also dependent on whether we employ our vessels under multi-year charters or charters with initial terms of less than two years. The vessels in our Fleet are currently employed under multiyear time charters with staggered maturities, which will make us less susceptible to cyclical fluctuations in charter rates than vessels operated on charters of less than two years. However, we will be exposed to fluctuations in prevailing charter rates when we seek to re-charter our vessels upon the expiry of their respective current charters and when we seek to charter vessels that we may acquire in the future;
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· Utilization of our Fleet. Historically, our Fleet has had a limited number of unscheduled off-hire days. However, an increase in annual off-hire days would reduce our utilization. The efficiency with which suitable employment is secured, the ability to minimize off-hire days and the amount of time spent positioning vessels also affects our results of operations. If the utilization pattern of our Fleet changes, our financial results would be affected;
· Daily operating expenses. The level of our vessel operating expenses, including crewing costs, insurance and maintenance costs. Our ability to control our vessel operating expenses also affects our financial results. These expenses include commission expenses, crew wages and related costs, the cost of insurance, expenses for repairs and maintenance, the cost of spares and consumable stores, lubricating oil costs, tonnage taxes and other miscellaneous expenses. In addition, factors beyond our control, such as developments relating to market premiums for insurance and the value of the U.S. dollar compared to currencies in which certain of our expenses, primarily crew wages, are paid, can cause our vessel operating expenses to increase;
· Our ability to exercise the options to purchase the Optional Vessels;
· The timely delivery of the vessels we may acquire in the future;
· Our ability to maintain solid working relationships with our existing charterers and our ability to increase the number of our charterers through the development of new working relationships;
· The performance of our charterer's obligations under their charter agreements;
· The effective and efficient technical management of the vessels under our management agreements;
· Our ability to obtain acceptable debt financing to fund our capital commitments;
· The ability of our Sponsor to fund its capital commitments and take delivery of the Optional Vessels under construction;
· Our ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approvals and to satisfy technical, health, safety and compliance standards that meet our charterer's requirements;
· Economic, regulatory, political and governmental conditions that affect shipping and the LNG industry, which includes changes in the number of new LNG importing countries and regions, as well as structural LNG market changes impacting LNG supply that may allow greater flexibility and competition of other energy sources with global LNG use;
· Our ability to successfully employ our vessels at economically attractive rates, as our charters expire or are otherwise terminated;
· Our access to capital required to acquire additional ships and/or to implement our business strategy;
· Our level of debt, the related interest expense and the timing of required payments of principal;
· The level of our general and administrative expenses, including salaries and costs of consultants;
· Our charterer's right for early termination of the charters under certain circumstances;
· Performance of our counterparties and our charterer's ability to make charter payments to us; and
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· The level of any distribution on all classes of our units.
The following table illustrates our ownership days, Available Days, Revenue Earning Days, Time Charter Equivalent  (or TCE) rate, daily operating expenses and Fleet Utilization for the periods presented:
   
Year Ended December 31,
 
 
(expressed in United states dollars except for operational data)
 
2015
   
2014
   
2013
 
Ownership days
   
1,836.0
     
1,385.0
     
1,095.0
 
Available Days (1)
   
1,836.0
     
1,384.0
     
1,095.0
 
Revenue Earning Days (2)
   
1,813.5
     
1,384.0
     
1,095.0
 
Time Charter Equivalent (1)
 
$
77,559
   
$
75,733
   
$
76,706
 
Daily operating expenses
 
$
12,660
   
$
12,139
   
$
10,876
 
Fleet Utilization (1)
   
99
%
   
100
%
   
100
%

(1) For these definitions see Important Financial and Operational Terms and Concepts and "Item 3. Key information—A. Selected Financial Data"
(2) Revenue Earning Days are the total number of Available Days of our vessels net of unscheduled off-hire days, during a period.
See "Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors" for a discussion of certain risks inherent in our business.
Important Financial and Operational Terms and Concepts
We use a variety of financial and operational terms and concepts when analyzing our performance. These include the following:
Voyage Revenues. Our time charter revenues are driven primarily by the number of vessels in our Fleet, the amount of daily charter hire that our LNG carriers earn under time charters and the number of Revenue Earning Days during which our vessels generate revenues. These factors are, in turn, affected by our decisions relating to vessel acquisitions, the amount of time that our LNG carriers spend dry-docked undergoing repairs, maintenance and upgrade work, the age, condition and specifications of our vessels and the levels of supply and demand in the LNG carrier charter market. Our revenues will also be affected if any of our charterers cancel a time charter or if we agree to renegotiate charter terms during the term of a charter resulting in aggregate revenue reduction. Our time charter arrangements have been contracted in varying rate environments and expire at different times. We recognize revenues from time charters over the term of the charter as the applicable vessel operates under the charter. Under time charters, revenue is not recognized during days a vessel is off-hire. Revenue is recognized from delivery of the vessel to the charterer, until the end of the time charter period. Under time charters, we are responsible for providing the crewing and other services related to the vessel's operations, the cost of which is included in the daily hire rate, except when off-hire.
Off-hire (Including Commercial Waiting Time). When a vessel is "off-hire"—or not available for service—the charterer generally is not required to pay the time charter hire rate and we are responsible for all costs. Prolonged off-hire may lead to vessel substitution or termination of a time charter. Our vessels may be out of service, that is, off-hire, for several reasons: scheduled dry-docking, special survey, vessel upgrade or maintenance or inspection, which we refer to as scheduled off-hire; days spent waiting for a charter, which we refer to as commercial waiting time; and unscheduled repairs, maintenance, operational efficiencies, equipment breakdown, accidents, crewing strikes, certain vessel detentions or similar problems, or our failure to maintain the vessel in compliance with its specifications and contractual standards or to provide the required crew, which we refer to as unscheduled off-hire. We have obtained loss of hire insurance to protect us against loss of income in the event one of our vessels cannot be employed due to damage that is covered under the terms of our hull and machinery insurance. Under our loss of hire policies, our insurer generally will pay us the hire rate agreed in respect of each vessel for each day in excess of 14 days and with a maximum period of 120 days.
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Voyage Expenses. Voyage expenses primarily include port and canal charges, bunker (fuel) expenses and agency fees which are paid for by the charterer under our time charter arrangements or by us during periods of off-hire except for commissions, which are always paid for by us. All voyage expenses are expensed as incurred. We may incur voyage related expenses when positioning or repositioning vessels before or after the period of a time charter, during periods of commercial waiting time or while off-hire during a period of dry-docking. Voyage expenses can be higher when vessels trade on charters with initial terms of less than two years due to fuel consumption during idling, cool down requirements, commercial waiting time in between charters and positioning and repositioning costs. From time to time, in accordance with industry practice, we pay commissions ranging up to 1.25% of the total daily charter rate under the charters to unaffiliated ship brokers, depending on the number of brokers involved with arranging the charter. These commissions do not include the fees we pay to our Manager, which are described below under "—Management Fees."
Available Days. Available days are the total number of ownership days our vessels were in our possession during a period, less the total number of scheduled off-hire days during the period associated with major repairs, or dry-dockings.
Average Number of Vessels. 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 ownership days in the period.
Fleet utilization. We calculate fleet utilization by dividing the number of our Revenue Earning Days by the number of our Available Days during that period. The shipping industry uses fleet utilization to measure a company's efficiency in finding employment for its vessels and minimizing the amount of days that its vessels are off-hire for reasons such as unscheduled repairs but excluding scheduled off-hires for vessel upgrades, drydockings or special or intermediate surveys.
Vessel Operating Expenses. Vessel operating expenses include crew wages and related costs, the cost of insurance, expenses for repairs and maintenance, the cost of spares and consumable stores, lubricant costs, statutory and classification expenses, forwarding and communications expenses and other miscellaneous expenses. Vessel operating expenses also include all peripheral expenses incurred while vessels perform their classification special survey and dry-docking such as spare parts, port dues, tugs, service engineer attendance etc.
Vessel operating expenses are paid by the ship-owner under time charters and are recognized when incurred. We expect that insurance costs, dry-docking and maintenance costs will increase as our vessels age. Factors beyond our control, some of which may affect the shipping industry in general—for instance, developments relating to market premiums for insurance and changes in the market price of lubricants due to increases in oil prices—may also cause vessel operating expenses to increase. In addition, a considerable portion of our vessel operating expenses, are in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, and may increase or decrease as a result of fluctuation of the U.S. dollar against these currencies.
Dry-docking. We must periodically drydock each of our vessels for inspection, repairs and maintenance and any modifications required to comply with industry certification or governmental requirements. In accordance with industry certification requirements, we drydock our vessels every 60 months until the vessel is 15 years old, after which dry-docking takes place every 30 months thereafter as required for the renewal of certifications required by classification societies. Special survey and dry-docking costs (which is mainly comprised of shipyard costs, paints and class renewal expense) are expensed as incurred. The number of dry-dockings undertaken in a given period and the nature of the work performed determine the level of dry-docking expenditures. We expense costs related to routine repairs and maintenance performed during dry-docking or as otherwise incurred. The three vessels in our Initial Fleet completed their initial scheduled special survey and dry-docking repairs in 2012. The next scheduled special survey and drydocking repairs for these vessels and the initial scheduled dry-dock for the remaining vessels in our Fleet are due in 2017 and 2018.
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Depreciation. We depreciate our LNG carriers on a straight-line basis over their remaining useful economic lives. Depreciation is based on the cost of the vessel less its estimated salvage value. We estimate the useful life of the LNG carriers in our Fleet to be 35 years from their initial delivery from the shipyard, consistent with LNG industry practice. Vessel residual value is estimated based on historical market trends and represents Management's best estimate of the current selling price assuming the vessels are already of age and condition expected at the end of its useful life. The assumptions made reflect our experience, market conditions and the current practice in the LNG industry; however they required more discretion since there is a lack of historical references in scrap prices of similar types of vessels.
Interest and Finance Costs. We incur interest expense on outstanding indebtedness under our existing debt agreements which we include in interest and finance costs. Interest expense depends on our overall level of borrowings and may significantly increase when we acquire or refinance ships. Interest expense may also change with prevailing interest rates, although interest rate swaps or other derivative instruments may reduce the effect of these changes. We also incur financing and legal costs in connection with establishing debt agreements, which are deferred and amortized to interest and finance costs using the effective interest method. We will incur additional interest expense in the future on our outstanding borrowings and under future borrowings. For a description of our existing credit facilities, please see "—B. Liquidity and Capital Resources—Our Borrowing Activities."
Vessel Lives and Impairment. Vessels are reviewed for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of an asset may not be recoverable. If circumstances require a long-lived asset or asset group to be tested for possible impairment, we first compare the undiscounted cash flows expected to be generated by that asset or asset group to its carrying value. If the carrying value of the long lived asset is not recoverable on an undiscounted cash flow basis, impairment is recognized to the extent that the carrying value exceeds its fair value. Fair value is determined through various valuation techniques including discounted cash flow models, quoted market values and third-party independent appraisals as considered necessary. Since our inception, there were no events or changes in circumstances indicating that the carrying amount of the vessels may not be recoverable and, accordingly, no impairment loss was recorded in any of the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2014.
Insurance
Hull and Machinery Insurance. We have obtained hull and machinery insurance on all our vessels to insure against marine and war risks, which include the risks of damage to our vessels, salvage and towing costs, and also insures against actual or constructive total loss of any of our vessels. However, our insurance policies contain deductible amounts for which we will be responsible. We have also arranged additional total loss coverage for each vessel. This coverage, which is called disbursements increased value coverage, provides us additional coverage in the event of the total loss or the constructive total loss of a vessel. The agreed deductible on each vessel averages $250,000.
Loss of Hire Insurance. We have obtained loss of hire insurance to protect us against loss of income in the event one of our vessels cannot be employed due to damage that is covered under the terms of our hull and machinery insurance. Under our loss of hire policies, our insurer will pay us the hire rate agreed in respect of each vessel for each day, in excess of a certain number of deductible days, for the time that the vessel is out of service as a result of damage, for a maximum of 120 days. The number of deductible days for the vessels in our Fleet is 14 days per vessel.
Protection and Indemnity Insurance. Protection and indemnity insurance, which covers our third-party legal liabilities in connection with our shipping activities, is provided by a mutual protection and indemnity association, or P&I club. This includes third-party liability and other expenses related to the injury or death of crew members, passengers and other third-party persons, loss or damage to cargo, claims arising from collisions with other vessels or from contact with jetties or wharves and other damage to other third-party property, including pollution arising from oil or other substances, and other related costs, including wreck removal. Our current protection and indemnity insurance coverage is unlimited, except for pollution, which is limited to $1 billion per vessel per incident.
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Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
The discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations is based upon our consolidated financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP. We are an "emerging growth company," as defined in the JOBS Act. We have elected to take advantage of the reduced reporting obligations, including the extended transition period for complying with new or revised accounting standards under Section 102 of the JOBS Act, and as such, the information that we provide to our unitholders may be different from information provided by other public companies and our financial statements may not be comparable to companies that comply with public company effective dates. The preparation of those financial statements requires us to make estimates and judgments that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, revenues and expenses and related disclosure at the date of our financial statements. Actual results may differ from these estimates under different assumptions and conditions.
Critical accounting policies are those that reflect significant judgments of uncertainties and potentially result in materially different results under different assumptions and conditions. For a description of all our significant accounting policies, see Note 2 to our consolidated financial statements included under "Item 18. Financial Statements" of this Annual Report.
Voyage Revenues
We recognize revenues from time charters over the term of the charter as the applicable vessel operates under the charter. Under time charters, revenue is not recognized during days a vessel is off-hire. Revenue is recognized from delivery of the vessel to the charterer, until the end of the time charter period. Under time charters, we are responsible for providing the crewing and other services related to vessel's operations, the cost of which is included in the daily hire rate, except when off-hire. Revenues are affected by charter rates and the number of days a vessel operates.
Our time charter revenues are driven primarily by the number of vessels in our Fleet, the amount of daily charter hire that our vessels earn under time charters and the number of revenue earning days during which our vessels generate revenues. These factors are, in turn, affected by our decisions relating to vessel acquisitions, the amount of time that we spend positioning our vessels, the amount of time that our vessels spend in drydock undergoing repairs, maintenance and upgrade work, the age, condition and specifications of our vessels and the levels of supply and demand in the LNG carrier charter market.
Our LNG carriers are employed through multi-year time charter contracts, which for accounting purposes are considered as operating leases and are thus recognized on a straight line basis over the term of such charter agreements, as service is performed. Revenues under our time charters are recognized when services are performed, revenue is earned and the collection of the revenue is reasonably assured.
Advance payments under time charter contracts are classified as liabilities until such time as the criteria for recognizing the revenue are met. Our revenues will be affected by the acquisition of any additional vessels in the future subject to time charters. Our revenues will also be affected if any of our charterers cancel a time charter or if we agree to renegotiate charter terms during the term of a charter resulting in aggregate revenue reduction or increase. Our time charter arrangements have been contracted in varying rate environments and expire at different times. Rates payable in the market for LNG carriers have been uncertain and volatile as has the supply and demand for LNG carriers.
Vessels Lives and Impairment
The carrying value of a vessel represents its historical acquisition or construction cost, including capitalized interest, supervision, technical and delivery cost, net of accumulated depreciation and impairment loss, if any. Expenditures for subsequent conversions and major improvements are capitalized provided that such costs increase the earnings capacity or improve the efficiency or safety of the vessels.
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We depreciate the original cost, less an estimated residual value, of our LNG carriers on a straight-line basis over each vessel's estimated useful life. The carrying values of our vessels may not represent their market value at any point in time because the market prices tend to fluctuate with changes in hire rates and the cost of newbuilds. Both hire rates and newbuild costs tend to be cyclical in nature.
We review vessels for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate the carrying value of an asset may not be recoverable, which occurs when the asset's carrying value is greater than the future undiscounted cash flows the asset is expected to generate over its remaining useful life. We determine undiscounted projected net operating cash flows for each vessel and compare it to the vessel's carrying value. In developing estimates of future cash flows, we must make assumptions about future charter rates, vessel operating expenses, fleet utilization, and the estimated remaining useful life of the vessels. These assumptions are based on historical trends as well as future expectations. The projected net operating cash flows are determined by considering the charter revenues from existing time charters for the fixed fleet days and an estimated charter rate for the unfixed days. If the estimated future undiscounted cash flows of an asset exceed the asset's carrying value, no impairment is recognized even though the fair value of the asset may be lower than its carrying value. If the estimated future undiscounted cash flows of an asset is less than the asset's carrying value and the fair value of the asset is less than its carrying value, the asset is written down to its fair value. Historically, there was no indication of impairment for any of the six vessels in our Fleet.
We determine the fair value of our vessels based on our estimates and assumptions and by making use of available market data and taking into consideration third-party valuations. As of December 31, 2015 and 2014, the aggregate charter-free market value of our vessels substantially exceeded their aggregate carrying value as of the same date. We employ our LNG carriers on fixed-rate charters with major companies. These charters typically have original terms of two or more years in length. Consequently, while the market value of a vessel may decline below its carrying value, the carrying value of a vessel may still be recoverable based on the future undiscounted cash flows the vessel is expected to obtain from servicing its existing and future charters.
Depreciation on our LNG carriers is calculated using an estimated useful life of 35 years, commencing at the date the vessel was originally delivered from the shipyard. However, the actual life of a vessel may be different than the estimated useful life, with a shorter actual useful life resulting in an increase in the depreciation and potentially resulting in an impairment loss. The estimated useful life of our LNG carriers takes into account design life, commercial considerations and regulatory restrictions. Our estimates of future cash flows involve assumptions about future hire rates, vessel utilization, operating expenses, dry-docking expenditures, vessel residual values and the remaining estimated life of our vessels. Our estimated hire rates are based on rates under existing vessel charters and an estimated charter rate for the unfixed periods. Our estimates of vessel utilization, including estimated off-hire time are based on historical experience of trading our vessels and our projections of future chartering prospects. Our estimates of operating expenses and dry-docking expenditures are based on our historical operating and dry-docking costs and our expectations of future inflation and operating requirements. Vessel residual values are based on our estimation over our vessels sale price at the end of their useful life, being a product of a vessel's lightweight tonnage and an estimated scrap rate and the estimated resale price of certain equipment and material. The remaining estimated lives of our vessels used in our estimates of future cash flows are consistent with those used in the calculation of depreciation.
Certain assumptions relating to our estimates of future cash flows are more predictable by their nature in our experience, including estimated revenue under existing charter terms, on-going operating costs and remaining vessel life. Certain assumptions relating to our estimates of future cash flows require more discretion and are inherently less predictable, such as future hire rates beyond the firm period of existing charters and vessel residual values, due to factors such as the volatility in vessel hire rates and the lack of historical references in scrap prices of similar type of vessels. We believe that the assumptions used to estimate future cash flows of our vessels are reasonable at the time they are made. We can make no assurances, however, as to whether our estimates of future cash flows, particularly future vessel hire rates or vessel values, will be accurate. If we conclude that a vessel is impaired, we recognize a loss in an amount equal to the excess of the carrying value of the asset over its fair value at the date of impairment. The fair value at the date of the impairment becomes the new cost basis and will result in a lower depreciation expense than for periods before the vessel impairment.
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The table set forth below indicates the carrying value of each of our vessels as of December 31, 2015 and 2014.
           
Carrying Value (in millions of US dollars)
 
Vessel
 
Capacity
(cbm)
   
Year Built/
Purchased
   
December 31,
2015
   
December 31,
2014
 
Clean Energy
   
149,700
     
2007
   
$
138.6
   
$
143.1
 
Ob River
   
149,700
     
2007
     
138.5
     
142.9
 
Amur River
   
149,700
     
2008
     
149.0
     
153.6
 
Arctic Aurora
   
155,000
     
2014
     
201.5
     
206.7
 
Yenisei River
   
155,000
     
2014
     
188.7
     
193.6
 
Lena River
   
155,000
     
2015
     
219.9
     
-
 
TOTAL
   
914,100
           
$
1,036.2
   
$
839.9
 

As of December 31, 2015 and 2014, the Partnership has not identified any indicators of potential impairment to the carrying value of its long-lived assets. As such, the Partnership was not required and did not perform an impairment test. Even if such indicators were present, the market value of each vessel individually and in the aggregate substantially exceeds the respective carrying value of each vessel as of December 31, 2015 and 2014 and no impairment loss would be recorded to the Partnership's consolidated financial statements in any of the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2014. We refer you to the risk factor entitled "Vessel values may fluctuate substantially and, if these values are lower at a time when we are attempting to dispose of vessels, we may incur a loss" and the discussion herein under the heading "Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors —Risks relating to our Partnership."
Our estimates of basic market value assume that our vessels are all in good and seaworthy condition without need for repair and if inspected would be certified in class without notations of any kind. Our estimates are based on information available from various industry sources, including:
· reports by industry analysts and data providers that focus on our industry and related dynamics affecting vessel values;
· news and industry reports of similar vessel sales;
· news and industry reports of sales of vessels that are not similar to our vessels where we have made certain adjustments in an attempt to derive information that can be used as part of our estimates;
· approximate market values for our vessels or similar vessels that we have received from shipbrokers, whether solicited or unsolicited, or that shipbrokers have generally disseminated;
· vessel sale prices and values of which we are aware through both formal and informal communications with ship-owners, shipbrokers, industry analysts and various other shipping industry participants and observers.
As we obtain information from various industry and other sources, our estimates of basic market value are inherently uncertain. In addition, vessel values are highly volatile; as such, our estimates may not be indicative of the current or future basic market value of our vessels or prices that we could achieve if we were to sell them.
Depreciation
We depreciate our vessels on a straight-line basis over their estimated useful lives, after considering their estimated residual values, based on the assumed value of the scrap premium steel available for recycling after demolition. Useful economic live of each vessel in our Fleet is estimated to be 35 years from their initial delivery from the shipyard. Up to September 30, 2014, we used an average scrap rate of $717 per lightweight ton (or 12% of the initial vessel cost of each vessel), which, effective October 1, 2014, was adjusted to $685 per lightweight ton per LNG carrier.  This assumption is reflective of current and historical market trends and current practice in the LNG industry. The decrease in the estimated scrap rate will increase the total depreciation expense we will record for the remainder of the useful life of each vessel. The effect of this change in accounting estimate, which did not require retrospective adoption as per ASC 250 "Accounting Changes and Error Corrections", had a $152,000 and $38,000 impact on our net income for each of the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2014 and an immaterial impact on our earnings per common unit, basic and diluted for the years then ended. A decrease in the useful life of a vessel or in its residual value would have the effect of increasing the annual depreciation charge. When regulations place limitations over the ability of a vessel to trade on a worldwide basis, its remaining useful life is adjusted at the date such regulations become effective.
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Recent Accounting Pronouncements
For a discussion on Recent Accounting Pronouncements, see Note 2 to our consolidated financial statements included in this Annual Report.
Results of Operations
Year ended December 31, 2015 compared to the year ended December 31, 2014
Voyage Revenues.  Voyage revenues increased by $38.1 million, or 35.6%, to $145.2 million in the year ended December 31, 2015, compared to $107.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2014. This growth in revenues is primarily associated with the increase in the average number of vessels comprising our Fleet, from 3.8 vessels in the year ended December 31, 2014, to 5.0 in the year ended December 31, 2015, followed by an increase in Revenue Earning Days from 1,384.0 to 1,813.5, respectively, in the periods discussed, both of which came as a result of our Fleet expansion.
Voyage Expenses—including related party. In the year ended December 31, 2015, voyage expenses increased to $2.8 million, compared to $2.3 million for the year ended December 31, 2014, representing an increase of $0.5 million or 23.4%.  Voyage expenses in each of the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2014, primarily relate to voyage commissions charged both by affiliated and unaffiliated parties. The increase in voyage expenses is consistent with our increased operating revenues, as commissions are incurred as revenues are earned.
Vessels' Operating Expenses. Vessels' operating expenses increased by 38.3%, or $6.4 million, to $23.2 million during the year ended December 31, 2015, from $16.8 million during the year ended December 31, 2014. The increase in operating expenses is primarily attributable to the $5.6 million incremental operating costs associated with the Arctic Aurora and the Yenisei River contribution to Fleet operations for a full year in 2015 versus a fractioned period in 2014, and at a lesser extent associated with the operating costs incurred as a result of the Lena River acquisition late in 2015 and other increases in vessel operational costs.
General and administrative expenses—including related party. General and administrative expenses decreased by 7.5%, or $0.1 million, to $1.8 million during the year ended December 31, 2015, from $1.9 million during the year ended December 31, 2014. General and administrative expenses are mainly comprised of legal, consultancy, audit, executive services, administrative services and Board of Directors fees as well as other miscellaneous expenditures, essential to conduct our business.
Management Fees. We incurred an aggregate of $4.9 million, or $2,652 per LNG carrier per day in management fees for the year ended December 31, 2015, compared to an aggregate of $3.6 million, or $2,575 per LNG carrier per day in management fees for the year ended December 31, 2014. The 36.6%, or $1.3 million, increase in management fees is attributable by $1.2 million to the increase in Fleet calendar days as a result of the increase in the average number of vessels that comprised our Fleet during 2015, compared to 2014, and by $0.1 million to the annual 3% increase in daily management fees pursuant to our Management Agreements.
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Depreciation. Depreciation expense increased by 36.8%, or $6.6 million, to $24.4 million in the year ended December 31, 2015, compared to $17.8 million in the corresponding period in 2014. This increase is primarily attributable to the ownership and operation for a full year of the Arctic Aurora and the Yenisei River that we acquired back in 2014 from our Sponsor and the acquisition of the Lena River late in 2015, that increased our Fleet ownership days from 1,385 in 2014 to 1,836 in 2015, and at a lesser extent to the decrease in the estimated scrap rate, effective the fourth quarter of 2014, discussed elsewhere in this Annual Report, which increased period's depreciation expense by $152,000.
Interest and Finance Costs. Interest and finance costs increased by 92.6%, to $28.0 million, during the year ended December 31, 2015, from $14.5 million during the year ended December 31, 2014. This increase is predominantly driven from the increase in debt expense that increased by 94.4%, or $12.6 million, to $25.9 million during the year ended December 31, 2015, from $13.3 million during the year ended December 31, 2014. Such increase is directly associated with the higher levels of weighted average interest accruing in 2015 on our debt agreements (indicatively 4.5% in 2015 compared to 3.8% in 2014) and the increase in weighted average outstanding indebtedness in the year ended December 31, 2015, as compared to the corresponding period of 2014, which was the result of the debt agreements we entered into in order to finance the three vessels acquisitions from our Sponsor in 2014 and 2015.
Year ended December 31, 2014 compared to the year ended December 31, 2013
Voyage Revenues.  Voyage revenues increased by $21.4 million, or 25.0%, to $107.1 million in the year ended December 31, 2014, compared to $85.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2013. This growth in revenues is the direct result of the increased number of vessels in our Fleet following the acquisitions from our Sponsor in 2014 of the Arctic Aurora and the Yenisei River, which increased charter revenues earned by approximately $23.2 million. This increase was offset by $1.4 million non-cash charges related to accelerated time charter amortization on one of our charters and the decrease in other voyage income by $0.4 million.
Voyage Expenses—including related party. In the year ended December 31, 2014, voyage expenses increased to $2.3 million, compared to $1.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2013, representing an increase of $0.6 million or 34.8%. This increase is almost exclusively attributed to the increase in commissions charged both by affiliated and unaffiliated parties during the year ended December 31, 2014, consistent with our increased charter revenues, as commissions are incurred as revenues are earned.
Vessels' Operating Expenses. Vessels' operating expenses increased by 41.2%, or $4.9 million, to $16.8 million during the year ended December 31, 2014 from $11.9 million during the year ended December 31, 2013. The increase in operating expenses is primarily attributable to the $3.7 million incremental operating costs associated with the Arctic Aurora and the Yenisei River acquisitions in 2014, increase in crew expenses by approximately $0.3 million, increase in stores and spares by approximately $0.6 million and other increases in vessel operational costs.
General and administrative expenses—including related party. General and administrative expenses increased by 404.1%, or $1.6 million, to $2.0 million during the year ended December 31, 2014, from $0.4 million during the year ended December 31, 2013. This increase reflects our operation for a full year as a public company, since our IPO in November 2013. General and administrative expenses are mainly comprised of legal, consultancy, audit, executive services, administrative services and Board of Directors fees as well as other miscellaneous expenditures, essential to conduct our business.
Management Fees.  We incurred an aggregate of $3.6 million, or $2,575 per LNG carrier per day in management fees for the year ended December 31, 2014, compared to an aggregate of $2.7 million, or $2,500 per vessel per day in management fees for the year ended December 31, 2013. The 30.3%, $0.8 million, increase in management fees is attributable by $0.7 million to the increase in the average number of vessels that operated during 2014, compared to 2013, following our Fleet expansion, and by $0.1 million to the annual 3% increase in daily management fees pursuant to our Management Agreements.
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Depreciation. Depreciation expense increased by 31.2%, or $4.2 million, to $17.8 million in the year ended December 31, 2014, compared to $13.6 million in the corresponding period in 2013. This increase is primarily attributable to our Fleet expansion in 2014 that increased Fleet ownership days from 1,095 in 2013 to 1,385 in 2014 and at a lesser extent to the decrease in the estimated scrap rate, effective the fourth quarter of 2014, discussed elsewhere in this Annual Report, which increased period's depreciation expense by $38,000.
Interest and Finance Costs. Interest and finance costs increased by 49.2%, to $14.5 million, during the year ended December 31, 2014, from $9.7 million during the year ended December 31, 2013. Interest expense increased by 61.7% to $13.3 million during the year ended December 31, 2014, from $8.2 million during the year ended December 31, 2013. Such increase in debt interest expense is primarily driven by the higher levels of weighted average interest accruing in 2014 on our debt agreements compared to the previous year (indicatively 3.8% in 2014 compared to 2.4% in 2013). Such increase was counterbalanced by the $0.3 million decrease in the amortization and write-off of financing fees, attributable to the full repayment of all loans outstanding at the IPO closing date.
Interest Income.  Interest income of approximately $0.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2014 primarily arose from our restricted and other cash deposits associated with our debt agreements.
B.            LIQUIDITY AND CAPITAL RESOURCES
Liquidity and Cash Needs
Our principal sources of funds are operating cash flows, borrowings under our 2019 Notes, $200 Million Term Loan, our $340 Million Senior Credit Facility and our $30 Million Revolving Credit Facility and equity contributions by our unitholders. Our liquidity requirements relate to servicing our debt and funding capital expenditures and working capital. We frequently monitor our capital needs by projecting our upcoming income, expenses and debt obligations, and seek to maintain adequate cash reserves to compensate for any budget overruns. Our short-term liquidity requirements relate to funding working capital, including vessel operating expenses and payments under our management agreements. Our long-term liquidity requirements relate to funding capital expenditures, including the acquisition of additional vessels and the repayment of our long-term debt.
In addition to paying distributions to our unitholders, our other liquidity requirements relate to servicing our debt, funding potential investments (including the equity portion of investments in the Optional Vessels or other third-party acquisitions), funding working capital and maintaining cash reserves against fluctuations in operating cash flows. Because we distribute all of our available cash, we expect that we will rely upon external financing sources, including bank borrowings and the issuance of debt and equity securities, to fund acquisitions and other expansion capital expenditures. Cash and cash equivalents are held in U.S. dollars. We have not made use of derivative instruments since July 2012, when all of our swaps matured.
We may exercise our options under the Omnibus Agreement to purchase the Optional Vessels during specified periods. To the extent we exercise any of these options, we will incur additional payment obligations. As of the date of this Annual Report, we have not secured any other financing in connection with the potential acquisition of the Optional Vessels since it is uncertain if and when such purchase options will be exercised.
Working capital is equal to current assets minus current liabilities, including the current portion of long-term debt. Our working capital deficit was $25.5 million as of December 31, 2015, compared to a working capital deficit of $18.9 million as of December 31, 2014. The deficit increase was mainly due to the financing obligations imposed under our new $200 Million Term Loan and other working capital variations between compared periods.
We believe that our current sources of funds and those that we anticipate to internally generate for a period of at least the next twelve months, will be sufficient to fund the operations of our Fleet, including the normal working capital requirements, serve our principal and interest debt scheduled repayments and make at least the required distribution on our Series A Preferred Units and minimum quarterly distribution on our common and subordinated units in accordance with our Partnership Agreement.
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Cash
As of December 31, 2015, we had cash of $49.3 million (including minimum cash liquidity requirements imposed by our lenders) which increased by $13.3 million, or 37.1%, compared to $35.9 million, as of December 31, 2014, attributable to the excess of the $20.5 million increase in cash generated from operating activities on a year to year basis following the expansion of our Fleet, which was primarily used to serve our financing activities, including cash distributions towards our unitholders.
Equity Offerings
On November 18, 2013, we completed our IPO of 8,250,000 common units at $18.00 per unit and raised gross proceeds of approximately $148.5 million. The net proceeds of this offering, including the underwriting discount and offering costs of $2.7 million, were approximately $136.9 million.
On June 18, 2014, we completed our underwritten public offering of 4,800,000 common units at $22.79 common per unit, and on the same date, the underwriters in the offering exercised their option to purchase an additional 720,000 common units at the same public offering price. The proceeds of the offering were used to finance a portion of the purchase price of the Arctic Aurora.
On July 20, 2015, we completed our underwritten public offering of the Series A Preferred Units at $25.00 per unit.  The proceeds of this offering were used to partially finance the Lena River acquisition.
Our Borrowing Activities
As of December 31, 2015, we had $688.3 million of indebtedness outstanding under our debt agreements and had access to $30.0 million of available borrowing capacity under our $30 million Sponsor facility. As of December 31, 2015, we were in compliance with all the financial and liquidity covenants contained in our debt agreements.
$30 Million Revolving Credit Facility
On November 18, 2013, concurrently with the consummation of our IPO, we entered into an interest free $30.0 million revolving credit facility with our Sponsor, with an original term of five years from the closing date, to be used for general partnership purposes. As of December 31, 2013, $5.5 million was outstanding under the facility, which was repaid early in January 2014. No amounts have been drawn under the respective facility since then.
$340 Million Senior Secured Revolving Credit Facility
On June 19, 2014, we entered into an agreement with an affiliate of Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, or Credit Suisse, for a new $340 million senior secured credit facility, or our $340 Million Senior Credit Facility, to refinance $214.1 million then outstanding under our 2013 Senior Credit Facility and to fund a portion of the purchase price for the Arctic Aurora and the related charter. This facility is secured by a first priority or preferred cross-collateralized mortgage on each of the Amur River, the Ob River, the Clean Energy and the Arctic Aurora, a specific assignment of the existing charters and a first assignment of earnings and insurances in relation to the vessels. Under this facility, our subsidiaries that directly own the vessels that serve as security under this facility serve as the borrowers and we and Dynagas Equity Holding Ltd. and Dynagas Operating LP, our wholly-owned subsidiaries, serve as guarantors. The facility bears interest at LIBOR plus a margin and is payable in consecutive equal quarterly payments of $5.0 million that commenced on June 30, 2014 and a balloon payment at maturity in March 2021.
During the term of this facility, Mr. George Prokopiou, our Chairman, and his family is required to own or control, directly or indirectly, at least 30% of our share capital entitled to vote and 100% of the ownership interests in our General Partner.
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$200 Million Term Loan Facility
On December 17, 2015, two of our wholly-owned vessel owning subsidiaries, Navajo Marine Limited, or Navajo Marine, and Solana Holding Ltd., or Solana Holding, entered, on a joint and several basis, into a facility agreement with a group of lenders and ABN Amro NV, as agent, for a senior secured term loan facility of up to $200 million, or our $200 Million Term Loan Facility. A substantial part of the proceeds from this facility were used to partially finance the Lena River acquisition, while the unused portion of the proceeds, will be used for working capital purposes. The facility has a five year maturity profile and is split in two vessel tranches of $100.0 million, one for each vessel owned by Navajo Marine and Solana Holding, respectively. The $200 Million Term Loan Facility bears interest at LIBOR plus a margin. Each tranche is repayable in 20 consecutive quarterly installments of approximately $1.56 million each and a balloon payment of $68.8 million at maturity, such balloon payment and regular installments to be reduced pro-rata for a tranche of less than $100 million. The $200 Million Term Loan Facility is guaranteed by us and is secured by a first priority cross-collateralized mortgage on each of the Yenisei River and the Lena River, a first priority specific assignment of the existing time charters of the vessels, a first priority assignment of all insurances and earnings of the vessels and an assignment of any subsequent time charter of a duration of more than twelve months.
The $200 Million Term Loan Facility contains customary general undertakings that require us to limit shareholder loans with respect to the borrowers up to a maximum amount, to restrict additional indebtedness with respect to the borrowers, to procure that the Sponsor maintains, directly or indirectly, at least 30% of the outstanding voting interests in us. Like the terms of our $340 Million Senior Secured Credit Facility and our 2019 Notes, the $200 Million Term Loan Facility restricts us from paying any distributions if an event of default occurs.
Senior Unsecured Notes due 2019
On September 15, 2014, we issued $250.0 million aggregate principal amount of our 6.25% Senior Unsecured Notes due 2019, or our 2019 Notes.  The 2019 Notes bear interest at the rate of 6.25% per year, payable quarterly in arrears on the 30th day of January, April, July and October of each year, commencing on October 30, 2014.  The 2019 Notes will be our unsubordinated unsecured obligations. The 2019 Notes will rank senior to any of our future subordinated debt and rank equally in right of payment with all of our existing and future unsecured and unsubordinated debt.  The 2019 Notes will effectively rank junior to our existing and future secured debt, to the extent of the value of the assets securing such debt as well as to existing and future debt and other liabilities of our subsidiaries.  The 2019 Notes were issued in minimum denominations of $1,000 and integral multiples of $1,000 in excess thereof.  The 2019 Notes are listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "DLNG 19." The net proceeds of the 2019 Notes were used to finance the majority of the purchase price of the Yenisei River.
If a Change of Control (as defined in the Indenture for the 2019 Notes) occurs, holders of the 2019 Notes have the right, at their option, to require us to purchase any or all of such holders' 2019 Notes at a purchase price of 101% of the principal amount of the 2019 Notes to be purchased, plus accrued and unpaid interest.
In addition, if an event of default or an event or circumstance which, with the giving of any notice or the lapse of time, would constitute an event of default under the 2019 Notes has occurred and is continuing, or we are not in compliance with certain  financial covenants under the indenture, then none of the Partnership or any subsidiary will be permitted to declare or pay any dividends or return any capital to its equity holders (other than the Partnership or a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Partnership) or authorize or make any other distribution, payment or delivery of property or cash to its equity holders (other than the Partnership or a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Partnership), or redeem, retire, purchase or otherwise acquire, directly or indirectly, for value, any interest of any class or series of its equity interests (or acquire any rights, options or warrants relating thereto but not including convertible debt) now or hereafter outstanding and held by persons other than the Partnership or any wholly-owned subsidiary, or repay any subordinated loans to equity holders (other than the Partnership or a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Partnership) or set aside any funds for any of the foregoing purposes.
86

Credit Facilities Repaid in Full
2013 Senior Secured Revolving Credit Facility
On November 14, 2013, in connection with the closing of the IPO, we entered into an agreement with an affiliate of Credit Suisse Securities for a senior secured revolving credit facility of up to $262.1 million, or our 2013 Senior Credit Facility, of which $214.1 million was drawn upon closing of the IPO, which, together with the net proceeds of the IPO, was used to repay all of our existing outstanding indebtedness at that time. We refer to this credit facility as our 2013 Senior Credit Facility. This facility was secured by a first priority or preferred cross-collateralized mortgage on each of the Clean Force (currently renamed the Amur River), Clean Energy and Ob River, a first priority assignment of all charters, earnings, insurances and requisition compensation and corporate guarantees. As of December 31, 2013, there was $214.1 million outstanding under this facility and on June 23, 2014 it was repaid in full with a portion of the proceeds under the $340 Million Senior Credit Facility.
Debt Covenants
Our debt arrangements contain customary financial and other covenants that require us to maintain:
· a maximum ratio of total consolidated liabilities of the Partnership's consolidated market value adjusted total assets;
· a minimum interest coverage ratio;
· certain levels of consolidated minimum liquidity;
· a maximum ratio expressed as a percentage of total borrowings to total book assets;
· a certain minimum net worth level;
· a minimum asset coverage ratio, being the ratio of the aggregate of the vessels' market values and the net realizable value of any additional security over the outstanding amount of the facility; and
· hull and machinery and war risks insurance equal to the greater of (i) 120% of the outstanding borrowings under this facility and (ii) the market value of the collateral vessels.
The $200 Million Term Loan Facility imposes certain additional cash related restrictions that require the borrowing entities to:
· maintain certain minimum liquidity levels on a per vessel basis; and
·
to maintain and transfer funds to a cash collateral reserve account for each vessel to the extent that each vessel remains under its current time charterparty or until the expiry thereof and one of the borrowing entities does not enter into a replacement or subsequent time charter contract with a minimum firm term until the credit facility maturity date at a minimum specified daily time charter rate per day. To the extent a borrowing entity enters into such a charterparty, the funds will be released from each vessel's reserve account.
 
Estimated Maintenance and Replacement Capital Expenditures
Our Partnership Agreement requires our Board of Directors to deduct from operating surplus each quarter estimated maintenance and replacement capital expenditures, as opposed to actual maintenance and replacement capital expenditures in order to reduce disparities in operating surplus caused by fluctuating maintenance and replacement capital expenditures, such as dry-docking and vessel replacement. Because of the substantial capital expenditures we are required to make to maintain our Fleet, currently, our annual estimated maintenance and replacement capital expenditures for purposes of estimating maintenance and replacement capital expenditures will be $16.9 million per year, which is composed of $4.1 million for dry-docking and $12.8 million, including financing costs, for replacing our vessels at the end of their useful lives. The $12.8 million for future vessel replacement is based on assumptions and estimates regarding the remaining useful lives of our vessels, a long term net investment rate equivalent to our current expected long-term borrowing costs, vessel replacement values based on current market conditions and residual value of the vessels at the end of their useful lives based on current steel prices. The actual cost of replacing the vessels in our Fleet will depend on a number of factors, including prevailing market conditions, hire rates and the availability and cost of financing at the time of replacement. Our Board of Directors, with the approval of the conflicts committee, may determine that one or more of our assumptions should be revised, which could cause our Board of Directors to increase the amount of estimated maintenance and replacement capital expenditures. We may elect to finance some or all of our maintenance and replacement capital expenditures through the issuance of additional common units which could be dilutive to existing unitholders.
87

Cash Flows
The following table summarizes our net cash flows from operating, investing and financing activities and our cash and cash equivalents for the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2014:
   
Year Ended December 31,
 
   
2015
   
2014
 
Net cash provided by operating activities
 
$
96,944
   
$
76,443
 
Net cash used in investing activities
   
(205,045
)
   
(404,530
)
Net cash provided by financing activities
   
120,445
     
334,359
 
Cash and cash equivalents at beginning of year
   
11,949
     
5,677
 
Cash and cash equivalents at end of year
 
$
24,293
   
$
11,949
 

Net Cash Provided by Operating Activities.
Net cash flows provided by operating activities increased by $20.5 million, or 26.8%, to $96.9 million for the year ended December 31, 2015, compared to $76.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2014. The increase is primarily attributable to net operating cash flows that the Arctic Aurora, the Yenisei River and, to a lesser extent, the Lena River contributed to the Partnership during the year ended December 31, 2015 and our increased charter revenue pre-collections as of December 31, 2015 that increased net cash from operating activities by $5.7 million.
Net cash flows provided by operating activities increased by $32.2 million, or 72.9%, to $76.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2014, compared to $44.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2013. The increase is primarily attributable to (i) the $21.4 million period increase in charter revenues due to the enlargement of our Fleet following the Arctic Aurora and the Yenisei River  acquisitions during the second and third quarters of 2014 , partially counterbalanced by higher operational and interest costs associated with these acquisitions, (ii) higher charter revenues earned on a cash basis on one of our Initial Fleet vessels during the year ended December 31, 2014, (iii) the significant decrease by approximately $5.7 million in cash settlements performed during the year ended December 31, 2014 towards our Manager compared to the prior year,  (iv) our increased charter revenue pre-collections as of December 31, 2014 following our Fleet expansion compared to the reduced pre-collections of the corresponding period of 2013 that contributed to an $4.5 million in net cash from operating activities, and (v) other non-cash and operating assets and liabilities variations between compared periods.
Net Cash Used in Investing Activities.
Net cash used in investing activities of $205,045 as of December 31, 2015, relates to the cash aspect of the Lena River acquisition transaction, materialized on December 17, 2015.
Net cash used in investing activities of $404,530 as of December 31,2014,  is directly associated with the acquisitions from our Sponsor of the Arctic Aurora and the Yenisei River, materialized in the second and third quarters of 2014.
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Net Cash Used in Financing Activities.
Net cash provided by financing activities of $120.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2015 consisted of the $133.3 million drawn down under our $200 Million Term Loan Facility and the $72.4 million net proceeds in connection with the issuance of our Series A Preferred Units, that were both used to finance the Lena River acquisition, counterbalanced by (i) increase in restricted cash by $1.0 million as per the minimum liquidity requirements of our $200 Million Term Loan Facility, (ii) distributions paid to all classes of unitholders amounting to $62.2 million, (iii) regular quarterly instalments on our $340 Million Credit Facility of $20.0 million, and (iv) payment of deferred finance costs amounting to $2.1 million in connection with the closing of the abovementioned facility.
Net cash provided by financing activities of $334.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2014, consisted mainly of the $120.5 million net proceeds from our June 2014 follow-on offering of common units and accompanying $0.1 million proceeds from the issuance of a number of general partner units to allow the Sponsor to maintain its general partner interests in us, the $590.0 million proceeds from the $340 Million Senior Credit Facility and the issuance of our 2019 Notes, offset by the $2.0 million increase in restricted cash as per the minimum liquidity requirements of our $340 Million Senior Credit Facility, the payment of cash distributions to our unitholders during the year of $43.0 million, the scheduled and full repayments during the year on our existing and previous debt agreements by approximately $229.1 million, the $88.1 million preferential deemed dividend in connection with the Optional Vessel acquisitions discussed elsewhere in this Annual Report, the full repayment of the $5.5 million outstanding under our Sponsor facility, the $1.9 million payments we incurred in connection with IPO and other filing costs and, finally, the $6.6 million cash expenditures we incurred concurrently with our entering into our the $340 Million Senior Credit Facility and 2019 Notes.
Distributions
Distributions on Common and Subordinated Units
On February 12, 2015, we paid a cash distribution for the fourth quarter of 2014 of $0.4225 per unit to all common and subordinated unitholders of record as of February 5, 2015.  On May 12, 2015, we paid a cash distribution for the first quarter of 2015 of $0.4225 per unit to all common and subordinated unitholders of record as of May 5, 2015. On August 13, 2015, we paid a cash distribution for the second quarter of 2015 of $0.4225 per unit to all common and subordinated unitholders of record as of August 6, 2015. On November 12, 2015, we paid a cash distribution for the third quarter of 2015 of $0.4225 per unit to all common and subordinated unitholders of record as of November 5, 2015.On February 12, 2016, we paid a cash distribution for the fourth quarter of 2015 of $0.4225 per unit to all common and subordinated unitholders of record as of February 5, 2016.
Distributions on Series A Preferred Units
On November 12, 2015, we paid a cash distribution for the period from July 20, 2015, to November 12, 2015 of $0.70 per unit to all Series A Preferred unitholders of record as of November 5, 2015. On February 12, 2016, we paid a cash distribution for the period from November 12, 2015 to February 12, 2016, of $0.5625 per unit to all Series A Preferred unitholders of record as of February 5, 2016.
General Partner Distributions
During the year ended December 31, 2015, we paid our General Partner and holder of the incentive distribution rights in the Partnership, an amount of $130,000 in aggregate.
The declaration and payment of distributions, if any, is always be subject to the discretion of our Board of Directors.
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C.            RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, PATENTS AND LICENSES
None.
D.            TREND INFORMATION
Historically spot and short term charter hire rates for LNG carriers have been uncertain and volatile as has the supply and demand for LNG carriers. An excess of LNG carriers first became evident in 2004 before reaching a peak in the second quarter of 2010 when spot and short term charter hire rates together with utilization reached historic lows.  Due to a lack of newbuilding orders placed between 2008 and 2010, this trend then reversed from the third quarter of 2010, such that the demand for LNG shipping was not being met by available supply in 2011 and the first half of 2012. Spot and short-medium term charter hire rates together with fleet utilization reached historic highs as a result. What turned the tide for LNG shipping demand from the 2Q 2011 was the unprecedented rise in Japanese LNG demand following the Fukishima nuclear leak.
Charter rates for LNG vessels started declining from 2013 as fleet growth picked up while there was only marginal addition to liquefaction capacity with one LNG plant becoming operational in 2013 in Angola. The downward pressure on charter rates increased in 2014 and 2015 because 38 and 28 vessels were delivered, respectively, while demand for LNG was subdued due to stiff competition from low priced crude. Moreover, demand from traditional Asian buyers such as Japan and South Korea remained flat due to a weaker macroeconomic environment and greater preference for coal in power production, and in the case of Japan a switch back to nuclear power.
In 2015, the LNG fleet increased in size by 6% rising from 392 to 417 ships by December 2105 with a combined capacity of 63.4 million cubic metres (cbm). Supply growth has outpaced demand growth and, as a result freight rates have been under pressure. Specifically short-term rates (one to three years) for LNG steam turbine vessels plunged from US$131,000 per day in 2012 to US$28,000 per day in 2015.  Long term rates (in excess of three years) for steam turbine vessels in 2015 were on a par with 2014. The 2015 average long-term charter rate for a vessel with a capacity of 155,000 cbm was US$ 55,000/day.
E.            OFF-BALANCE SHEET ARRANGEMENTS
We do not have any off-balance sheet arrangements.
F.            CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS
The following table sets forth our contractual obligations and their maturity dates as of December 31, 2015:
   
Payments due by period
 
 
Obligations
 
 
Total
   
Less than
1 year
   
1-3 years
   
3-5 years
   
More
than
5 years
 
   
(in thousands of Dollars)
 
Long Term Debt
 
$
688,333
   
$
28,333
   
$
56,667
   
$
398,333
   
$
205,000
 
Interest on long term debt (1)
   
125,887
     
30,468
     
57,906
     
35,690
     
1,823
 
Management Fees & commissions payable to the Manager (2)
   
39,681
     
8,232
     
15,347
     
13,897
     
2,205
 
Executive Services fee (3)
   
1,690
     
587
     
1,103
     
     
 
Administrative Services fee (4)
   
40
     
40
     
     
     
 
Total
 
$
855,631
   
$
67,660
   
$
131,023
   
$
447,920
   
$
209,028
 

(1)
Our long-term bank debt outstanding as of December 31, 2015 bears variable interest at a margin over LIBOR. The calculation of interest payments has been made assuming interest rates based on the 3-month period LIBOR, the LIBOR specific to our loan agreements as of December 31, 2015 and our applicable margin rate.
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(2)
Under the terms of the Management Agreements, we currently pay a management fee of $2,732 per day which is subject to an annual increase of 3% and further annual increases to reflect material unforeseen costs increases of providing the management services, by an amount to be agreed between us and our Manager, which amount will be reviewed and approved by our conflicts committee. The Management Agreements also provide for commissions of 1.25% of charter-hire revenues arranged by the Manager. The agreements will terminate automatically after a change of control of the applicable shipping subsidiary and/or of the owner's ultimate parent, in which case an amount equal to fees of at the least 36 months and not more than 60 months, will become payable to the Manager.
(3)
On March 21, 2014, we entered into the Executive Services Agreement with our Manager, with retroactive effect to the date of the closing of our IPO, pursuant to which our Manager provides us with the services of our executive officers, who report directly to our Board of Directors. Under the Executive Services Agreement, our Manager is entitled to an executive services fee of €538,000 per annum, for the initial five year term, payable in equal monthly installments. The agreement has an initial term of five years and will automatically be renewed for successive five year terms unless terminated earlier. The calculation of the contractual services fee set forth in the table above assumes an exchange rate of €1.000 to $1.0906, the EURO/USD exchange rate as of December 31, 2015 and does not include any incentive compensation which our Board of Directors may agree to pay.
(4)
On December 30, 2014 and effective as of the IPO closing date, we entered into the Administrative Services Agreement with our Manager, pursuant to which the Partnership is provided with certain financial, accounting, reporting, secretarial and information technology services, for a monthly fee of $10,000, plus expenses, payable in quarterly installments. The Agreement can be terminated upon 120 days' notice granted either by the Partnership's Board or by the Manager as per the provisions of the agreement.

Capital Commitments
Possible Acquisitions of Other Vessels
Although we do not currently have in place any agreements relating to acquisitions of other vessels (other than our right to purchase the Optional Vessels subject to the provisions of the Omnibus Agreement), we assess potential acquisition opportunities on a regular basis.
Pursuant to the Omnibus Agreement that we have entered into with our Sponsor and our General Partner, in addition to the Optional Vessels, we also have the right, but not the obligation, to purchase any LNG carriers acquired or placed under contracts with an initial term of four or more years, for so long as the Omnibus Agreement is in full force and effect. Subject to the terms of our loan agreements, we could elect to fund any future acquisitions with equity or debt or cash on hand or a combination of these forms of consideration. Any debt incurred for this purpose could make us more leveraged and subject us to additional operational or financial covenants.
G.            SAFE HARBOR
See the section entitled "Forward Looking Statements" at the beginning of this Annual Report.
ITEM 6. DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND EMPLOYEES
A.            DIRECTORS AND SENIOR MANAGEMENT
The following provides information about each of our directors and senior management.  The business address for these individuals is 23, Rue Basse, 98000 Monaco.
Name
Age
Position
George Prokopiou
69
Appointed Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors
Tony Lauritzen
39
Chief Executive Officer and Appointed Director
Michael Gregos
44
Chief Financial Officer
Levon Dedegian
64
Class III Director
Alexios Rodopoulos
68
Class II Director
Evangelos Vlahoulis
69
Class I Director

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Certain biographical information about each of our directors and executive officers is set forth below.
George Prokopiou. Mr. George Prokopiou has served as our Chairman of our Board of Directors since our inception. Since entering the shipping business in 1974, Mr. Prokopiou has managed a shipping fleet consisting in excess of 250 vessels and is among other, the founder of Dynacom Tankers Management, Sea Traders and Dynagas Ltd., our Manager. Dynacom was founded in 1991 to manage tankers and Sea Traders SA was founded in 1974 to manage bulk carriers. Since 2002, companies controlled by Mr. Prokopiou have built more than 93 vessels at shipyards in South Korea, Japan and China. Mr. Prokopiou holds a civil engineering degree from the National Technical University of Athens. Mr. Prokopiou has also served as Chairman of the North of England P&I Association. He is Chairman of the Greek committee of Bureau Veritas, as well as member of the Greek committees of Germanischer Lloyd, Det Norske Veritas, Lloyd's Register and ABS. In 2005 Dynacom was awarded Tanker Company of the Year award in 2005 by Lloyd's List.
Tony Lauritzen. Mr. Tony Lauritzen has served as our Chief Executive Officer since our inception. Mr. Lauritzen has served on our Board of Directors since our inception. Mr. Lauritzen has been the commercial manager of our Sponsor's LNG activities from 2006 to date. He joined the company when the first vessel was delivered in 2007. He worked for the shipowner and shipmanager Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement Ltd. from 2004 until 2007 where he was project manager with a focus on the gas shipping segment. Prior to that, he worked for Westshore Shipbrokers AS in the offshore shipbroking segment. He holds a Master of Science in Shipping Trade and Finance from Cass Business School, London from 2003 and a Master of Arts in Business and Finance from Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh from 2002. Mr. Lauritzen is married to Marina Kalliope Prokopiou, daughter of our Chairman George Prokopiou.
Michael Gregos. Mr. Michael Gregos has served as our Chief Financial Officer since our inception. From  2010 until 2014, Mr. Gregos  served on the board of Ocean Rig UDW Inc. (NASDAQ: ORIG). Mr. Gregos has served as commercial manager of the activities of Dynacom Tankers Management since 2009. From 2007 to 2009, Mr. Gregos served as Chief Operating Officer of OceanFreight Inc. a shipping transportation company listed on NASDAQ. Prior to that, Mr. Gregos was commercial manager of the activities of Dynacom Tankers Management. Mr. Gregos has also worked for Oceania Maritime Agency, a shipping transportation company in Connecticut, USA and ATE Finance the corporate finance arm of Agricultural Bank of Greece responsible for the implementation of initial public offerings in the Greek equities market. He is a graduate of Queen Mary University in London and holds an M.Sc. in Shipping, Trade and Finance from City University.
Levon A. Dedegian. Mr. Levon A. Dedegian has served as one of our directors since the closing of our IPO in November 2013 and also serves as Chairman of our conflicts committee. Mr. Dedegian has been involved in shipping since 1975 with various companies and positions. From 1978 to 1984, he served as general manager of Sea Traders. In 1985, he joined S.S.R.S. Ltd., a member of the Manley Hopkins Group of Companies. In 1987 he was transferred to Hong Kong, where he stayed until 1988 as a Managing Director of each of Gapco Trading and Agencies Limited, Bridge Energy ASA and Elf Agriculture. He was relocated to Greece at the end of 1988 as Managing Director of the Greek office of P. Wigham Richardson Shipbrokers and in 1989 he rejoined Sea Traders and Dynacom Tankers Management as general manager where he remained until December 31, 2009. Mr. Dedegian is a graduate of Pierce College (the American College of Greece) and holds a Bsc in Business Administration and Economics.
Alexios Rodopoulos. Mr. Alexios Rodopoulos has served as one of our directors since the closing of our IPO in November 2013 and also serves as Chairman of our Audit Committee. Mr. Rodopoulos is an independent shipping business consultant, operating through his family-owned company, Rodofin Business Consultants Ltd. From 1999 until 2011 Mr. Rodopoulos served as the Head of Shipping (Piraeus) of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Mr. Rodopoulos is a graduate of the Economic University of Athens, Greece.
Evangelos Vlahoulis. Mr. Evangelos Vlahoulis has served as one of our directors since the closing of our IPO in November 2013 and also serves as Chairman of the Compensation Committee. Since 2005, Mr. Vlahoulis has served as Chief Executive Officer of Finship S.A. which provides maritime financing services including to Deutsche Bank in connection with their shipping activities in Greece. From 1984 until 2005 Mr. Vlahoulis served as the representative for Greek shipping of Deutsche Schiffsbank (the predecessor to Commercebank AB). Since October 2015, Mr. Vlachoulis serves as a consultant for the Greek branch of DVB bank. Mr. Vlahoulis is a graduate of London University and holds a BA in Economics.
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Reimbursement of Expenses of Our General Partner
Our General Partner does not receive compensation from us for any services it provides on our behalf, although it is entitled to reimbursement for expenses incurred on our behalf.  In addition, we reimburse our Manager for expenses incurred pursuant to the management and administrative services agreement.  Please see "Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions."
Executive Compensation
Our executive officers, who report directly to our Board of Directors, are provided to us by our Manager under an Executive Services Agreement with retroactive effect from the closing date of our IPO. Under the agreement, our Manager is entitled to an executive services fee of €538,000 per annum, for the initial five year term, payable in equal monthly installments and automatically renews for successive five year terms unless terminated earlier.
B.            COMPENSATION OF DIRECTORS
Our chief executive officer who also serves as our director does not receive additional compensation for his service as director.  Each non-management director receives compensation for attending meetings of our Board of Directors, as well as committee meetings.  Non-management directors receive director fees of approximately $135,000 per year, in aggregate. In addition, each director is reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses in connection with attending meetings of the Board of Directors or other committees.  Each director is fully indemnified by us for actions associated with being a director to the extent permitted under Marshall Islands law.
C.            BOARD PRACTICES
General
Pursuant to the terms of our Partnership Agreement, our General Partner has delegated to our Board of Directors the authority to oversee and direct our operations, management and policies on an exclusive basis, and such delegation will be binding on any successor general partner of the Partnership. Our General Partner is wholly-owned by our Sponsor. Our executive officers, who are employed by us, manage our day-to-day activities consistent with the policies and procedures adopted by our Board of Directors.
Our board consists of five members, two of whom are appointed by our General Partner in its sole discretion and three of whom are elected by our common unitholders. Our Board of Directors has determined that all of the directors, other than Mr. George Prokopiou and Mr. Tony Lauritzen, satisfy the independence standards established by the NYSE, as applicable to us. Directors appointed by our General Partner serve as directors for terms determined by our General Partner.  Directors elected by our common unitholders are divided into three classes serving staggered three-year terms: the Class I Elected Director shall be elected to serve for a one year term expiring on the date of the succeeding annual meeting, the Class II Elected director shall be elected to serve for a two-year term expiring on the second succeeding annual meeting and (c) the Class III Elected Director shall be elected to serve for a three-year term expiring on the third succeeding annual meeting.  At each annual meeting of unitholders, directors will be elected to succeed the class of directors whose terms have expired by a plurality of the votes of the common unitholders. Directors elected by our common unitholders will be nominated by the Board of Directors or by any limited partner or group of limited partners that holds at least 15% of the outstanding common units.
Each outstanding common unit is entitled to one vote on matters subject to a vote of common unitholders. However, to preserve our ability to be exempt from U.S. federal income tax under Section 883 of the Code, if at any time, any person or group owns beneficially more than 4.9% of any class of units then outstanding, any such units owned by that person or group in excess of 4.9% may not be voted on any matter and will not be considered to be outstanding when sending notices of a meeting of unitholders, calculating required votes (except for purposes of nominating a person for election to our board), determining the presence of a quorum or for other similar purposes under our Partnership Agreement, unless otherwise required by law. The voting rights of any such unitholders in excess of 4.9% will effectively be redistributed pro rata among the other common unitholders holding less than 4.9% of the voting power of all classes of units entitled to vote. Our General Partner, its affiliates and persons who acquired common units with the prior approval of our Board of Directors will not be subject to this 4.9% limitation except with respect to voting their common units in the election of the elected directors.
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Committees
We have an audit committee that, among other things, reviews our external financial reporting function, engages our external auditors and oversees our internal audit activities and procedures and the adequacy of our internal accounting controls.  Our audit committee is comprised of two directors, Mr. Evangelos Vlahoulis and Mr. Alexios Rodopoulos.  Our Board of Directors has determined that Mr. Vlahoulis and Mr. Rodopoulos satisfy the independence standards established by the NYSE.  Mr. Rodopoulos qualifies as an "audit committee expert" for purposes of SEC rule and regulations.
We also have a conflicts committee comprised of two members of our Board of Directors.  The conflicts committee is available at the board's discretion to review specific matters that the board believes may involve conflicts of interest.  The conflicts committee will determine if the resolution of the conflict of interest is fair and reasonable to us.  The members of the conflicts committee may not be officers or employees of us or directors, officers or employees of our general partner or its affiliates, and must meet the independence standards established by the NYSE to serve on a conflicts committee of a Board of Directors and certain other requirements.  Any matters approved by the conflicts committee will be conclusively deemed to be fair and reasonable to us, approved by all of our partners, and not a breach by our directors, our general partner or its affiliates of any duties any of them may owe us or our unitholders.  The members of our conflicts committee are currently Mr. Levon A. Dedegian and Mr. Alexios Rodopoulos.  For additional information about the conflicts committee, please see "Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions—B. Related Party Transactions—Conflicts of Interest and Fiduciary Duties."
We also have a compensation committee comprised of two members of our Board of Directors. The members of our compensation committee are currently Mr. Evangelos Vlahoulis and Mr. Levon Dedegian. The compensation committee is responsible for carrying out the Board's responsibilities relating to compensation of our executive officers and for providing such other guidance with respect to compensation matters as the Committee deems appropriate.
Please see "Item 16G. Corporate Governance."
D.            EMPLOYEES
As of December 31, 2015, we did not employ any onshore or offshore staff. Our Manager has provided and continues to provide us with commercial and technical management services, including all necessary crew-related services, to our vessel owning subsidiaries pursuant to the Management Agreements.  Please see "Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions — B. Related Party Transactions — Vessel Management." The services of our executive officers and other employees are provided to us by our Manager pursuant to an Executive Services Agreement and an Administrative Services Agreement, in return of a monthly and an annual fee, respectively. Please see "Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions — B. Related Party Transactions — Administrative Services Agreement & Executive Services Agreement."
E.            UNIT OWNERSHIP
"Item 7. Major Unitholders and Related Party Transactions—A. Major Unitholders."
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ITEM 7. MAJOR UNITHOLDERS AND RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS
A.            MAJOR UNITHOLDERS
The following table sets forth the beneficial ownership of our common units and subordinated units as of April 15, 2016 by each person that we know to beneficially own more than 5% of our outstanding common or subordinated units. The number of units beneficially owned by each person is determined under SEC rules and the information is not necessarily indicative of beneficial ownership for any other purpose:
   
Common Units
Beneficially Owned
   
Subordinated Units
Beneficially Owned
   
Percentage of Total
Common and
Subordinated Units
 
Name of Beneficial Owner
 
Number
   
Percent
   
Number
   
Percent
   
Beneficially Owned
 
Dynagas Holding Ltd.(1)
   
610,000
     
3.0
%
   
14,985,000
     
100
%
   
43.9
%
Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors LP(2)
   
3,928,533
     
19.2
%
   
     
     
11.1
%
Clearbridge Investments, LLC(3)
   
1,235,900
     
6.0
%
   
     
     
3.5
%
Zimmer Partners, LP(4)
   
1,177,668
     
5.7
%
   
     
     
3.3
%
All executives, officers and directors as a group(5)
   
*
     
*
     
     
     
*
 
___________________
(1)
Dynagas Holding Ltd. is beneficially owned by the Prokopiou Family, including George Prokopiou and his daughters Elisavet Prokopiou, Johanna Prokopiou, Marina Kalliope Prokopiou, and Maria Eleni Prokopiou, which collectively have a business address at 23, Rue Basse, 98000 Monaco.
(2)
Based on information contained in the Schedule 13G/A that was filed with the SEC on January 11, 2016 by Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors LP and the other reporting persons named therein.
(3)
Based on information contained in the Schedule 13G that was filed with the SEC on February 16, 2016 by Clearbridge Investments, LLC.
(4)
Based on information contained in the Schedule 13G/A that was filed with the SEC on January 23, 2015 by Zimmer Partners, LP, and includes ownership information of other reporting persons therein.
(5)
Neither any member of our Board of Directors or executive officer individually, nor all of them taken as a group, hold more than 1% of our outstanding common units apart from Mr. George Prokopiou, whose ownership interests are separately presented in the above table.

As of April 15, 2016, we had two unitholders of record located in the United States, which held an aggregate of 19,895,000 common units, representing 97.0% of our outstanding common units. We believe that the units held by CEDE & CO., a nominee if the Depository Trust Company and one of the two aforementioned United States unitholders, include common units beneficially owned by both holders in the United States and non-U.S. beneficial owners.
According to a Schedule 13G/A filed with the Commission on January 11, 2016, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, LP reduced its holdings in us from 3,134,183 common units, as of February 2015, to 351,196 common units.
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B.            RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS
From time to time we have entered into agreements and have consummated transactions with certain related parties.  We may enter into related party transactions from time to time in the future. In connection with our IPO, we established a conflicts committee, comprised entirely of independent directors, to evaluate any transaction or other matter referred or disclosed to the conflicts committee in which a conflict of interest or potential conflict of interests exists or arises.
Omnibus Agreement
On November 18, 2013, we, and certain of our subsidiaries, entered into the Omnibus Agreement with our Sponsor and our General Partner.  On April 12, 2016, we amended and restated the Omnibus Agreement, to, among other things, include as Optional Vessels our Sponsor's minority ownership interest in the five entities that respectively own each of the Additional Optional Vessels. References herein to the "Omnibus Agreement" refer to the Omnibus Agreement as currently in effect. The following discussion describes certain provisions of the Omnibus Agreement.
Noncompetition
Under the Omnibus Agreement, our Sponsor has agreed, and has caused its affiliates (other than us, and our subsidiaries) to agree, not to acquire, own, operate or contract for any LNG carrier operating under a charter with an initial term of four or more years. We refer to these LNG carriers, together with any related contracts, and our Sponsor's ownership interest in the Additional Optional Vessels, as "Four-Year LNG carriers" and to all other LNG carriers, together with any related contracts, as "Non-Four-Year LNG carriers." The restrictions in this paragraph will not prevent our Sponsor or any of its controlled affiliates (including us and our subsidiaries) from:
(1) acquiring, owning, operating or chartering any Non-Four-Year LNG carriers;
(2) (i) acquiring or owning one or more Four-Year LNG carrier(s) (other than with respect to the Sponsor's ownership interest in the entities that own the Additional Optional Vessels, which is covered in (ii) below) if such Dynagas Holding Entity (as defined in the Omnibus Agreement) offers to sell such Four-Year LNG carrier to us for the acquisition price plus any administrative costs in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Omnibus Agreement (and we do not fulfill our obligation to purchase such Four-Year LNG carrier in accordance with the terms of the Omnibus Agreement) and (ii) owning any Optional Interests (as defined in the Omnibus Agreement) in the entities that own the Additional Optional Vessels at any time on or after the time at which such interests are treated as a Four-Year LNG carrier pursuant to the Omnibus Agreement, if the related Dynagas Holding Entities (as applicable), offer to sell such Optional Interests to us for the pro rata portion of the acquisition price relating to the corresponding LNG carrier owned by such entity plus any administrative costs in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Omnibus Agreement (and we do not fulfill our obligation to purchase such Optional Interests in accordance with the terms of the Omnibus Agreement);
(3) operating or chartering an LNG carrier under a charter with a term of four or more years if such Dynagas Holding Entity (other than in the case of an Additional Optional Vessel) offers to sell such LNG carrier to us for fair market value (i) promptly after the time it becomes a Four-Year LNG carrier and (ii) at each renewal or extension of that charter if such renewal or extension is for a term of four or more years, in each case in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Omnibus Agreement;
(4) acquiring and owning a controlling interest in one or more Four-Year LNG carriers as part of the acquisition of an interest in business or package of assets that owns, operates or charters such Four-Year LNG carriers; provided, however; if a majority of the value of the business or assets acquired is attributable to Four-Year LNG carriers, as determined in good faith by our Sponsor's board of directors, the Dynagas Holding Entity must offer to sell such Four-Year LNG carrier(s) to us for their fair market value plus any administrative costs  in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Omnibus Agreement (for the avoidance of doubt, nothing herein shall prohibit the acquisition and owning of one or more Four-Year LNG carriers as part of the acquisition of a minority interest in a business or package of assets that owns, operates or charters Four-Year LNG carriers);
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(5) acquiring a non-controlling interest in any company, business or pool of assets;
(6) acquiring, owning, operating or chartering any Four-Year LNG carrier if we do not fulfill our obligation to purchase such Four-Year LNG carrier in accordance with the terms of the Omnibus Agreement;
(7) acquiring, owning, operating or chartering any Four-Year LNG carrier that is subject to the offers to us described in paragraphs (2), (3) and (4) above pending our determination whether to accept such offers and pending the closing of any offers we accept;
(8) providing vessel management services relating to any LNG carrier;
(9) acquiring and owning any Four-Year LNG carrier as part of a financing arrangement, including by way of a sale leaseback transaction, which is accounted for as a financial lease under United States generally accepted accounting principles; or
(10) acquiring, owning, operating or chartering any Four-Year LNG carrier if we have previously advised our Sponsor that we consent to such acquisition, operation or charter.
If our Sponsor or any of its controlled affiliates acquires, owns, operates or contracts for Four-Year LNG carriers pursuant to any of the exceptions described above, it may not subsequently expand that portion of its business other than pursuant to those exceptions.
Under the Omnibus Agreement we are not be restricted from acquiring, operating or chartering Non-Four-Year LNG carriers.
Upon a change of control (as such term is set forth in the Omnibus Agreement) of us or our General Partner, the noncompetition provisions of the Omnibus Agreement will terminate immediately. Upon a change of control of our Sponsor (as such term is set forth in the Omnibus Agreement), the noncompetition provisions of the Omnibus Agreement applicable to our Sponsor will terminate at the time that is the later of (1) the date of the change of control of our Sponsor and (2) the date on which all of our outstanding subordinated units have converted to common units. In addition, on the date on which a majority of our directors ceases to consist of directors that were (1) appointed by our General Partner prior to our first annual meeting of unitholders and (2) recommended for election by a majority of our appointed directors, the noncompetition provisions applicable to our Sponsor shall terminate immediately.
Rights to Purchase Optional Vessels
The Omnibus Agreement provides us with the right, subject to certain conditions, to purchase the Initial Optional Vessels and our Sponsor's ownership interest in the entities that respectively own the Additional Optional Vessels, from our Sponsor at a purchase price to be determined pursuant to the terms and conditions of the Omnibus Agreement. These purchase rights expire 24 months following the respective delivery of each Optional Vessel from the shipyard (or in the case of the Clean Ocean and the Clean Planet, until March 31, 2017, and in the case of our Sponsor's ownership interest in the entities that own the Additional Optional Vessels, within 24 months following the expiration, without acceptance, of our 30-day option to purchase such interests pursuant to the Omnibus Agreement, so long as such Additional Optional Vessels are employed under a long-term charter of four or more years upon their respective delivery dates). If we are unable to agree with our Sponsor on the purchase price of any of the Initial Optional Vessels or our Sponsor's ownership interest in the entities that respectively own the Additional Optional Vessels, as the case may be, the respective purchase price will be determined by an independent appraiser, such as an investment banking firm, broker or firm generally recognized in the shipping industry as qualified to perform the tasks for which such firm has been engaged, and we will have the right, but not the obligation, to purchase such assets at such price. The independent appraiser will be mutually appointed by our Sponsor and our conflicts committee. Please see "Risk Factors—Our Sponsor may be unable to service its debt requirements and comply with the provisions contained in the credit agreements secured by the Optional Vessels. If our Sponsor fails to perform its obliga