Shipper Seeks U.S. Aid To Buy Tankers

  • Company has alleged anti-PE bias
  • Seeking $340 million loan guarantee
  • Blackstone Group is sponsor

American Petroleum Tankers LLC, the shipping company that has alleged U.S. government discrimination because of its private equity ownership, said it would order two new tankers should its $340 million loan guarantee application be approved.

APT, controlled by The Blackstone Group, is trying to reverse a rejection of its financing application by the Maritime Administration at a time when private equity has been thrust into the spotlight as a result Bain Capital LLC co-founder Mitt Romney’s candidacy for president of the United States.

In a move aimed at highlighting the merits of its application, APT said its order to build two new state-of-the-art tanker vessels at the National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. shipyard in San Diego would sustain up to 500 jobs during construction and create some 84 long-term seagoing jobs when the vessels become operational.

“We are looking forward to receiving MarAd‘s approval of the loan so that we may begin construction of these two new vessels without further delay,” Blackstone managing director Sean Klimczak said in a statement.

The Plymouth Meeting, Pa.-based company applied for a government guarantee in August 2010 to refinance debt it took on to construct five petroleum tankers. Its application was turned down in August 2012 as “economically unsound.” MarAd however has agreed to reconsider its decision.

In July, APT sued U.S. Department of Transportation alleging that the government’s stance was based “primarily on the fact that APT is owned by investment funds managed by private equity firms.” APT’s lawsuit did not speculate on why a private equity connection would be an issue for the government.

But the lawsuit comes at a time in which the industry has been thrust into the political spotlight as Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney defends his record as chief of Bain Capital LLC from attacks by President Barack Obama’s campaign. In its rejection of the application in August, MarAd did not cite private equity ownership as a reason.

New York-based Blackstone took over American Petroleum Tankers in 2006 in a $500 million deal. Should the company’s order for two new tankers materialize, it would be the first such order in the U.S. in two years, APT said.