NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- About half a decade after the first maritime shipping concerns sold shares to the public on U.S. stock exchanges, another fleet of IPOs is preparing to set sail into the capital markets of New York.Kicking it off on Wednesday is the expected pricing of two new issues -- an owner of dry-bulk vessels called Baltic Trading and an oil-tanker outfit called, straight-forwardly enough, Crude Carriers. Both names have established provenances. Baltic, which will trade under the symbol BALT, was formed by Peter Georgiopoulos, the impresario behind the tanker operator General Maritime ( GMR) (the first shipping company to go public on the New York Stock Exchange, back in 2001), as well as the dry-bulk ship owner Genco Shipping & Trading ( GNK) and the ship-fuel transporter Aegean Marine ( ANW). Crude Carriers, which will trade under the ticker CRU, was formed by Capital Maritime & Trading, a privately held Greek company that owns and manages tankers as well as dry-bulk carriers. Capital Maritime is the baby of Evangelos Marinkais, who also took public Capital Product Partners ( CPLP) in 2007 on Nasdaq. Capital Product owns 19 of the kind of tankers that carry wet cargoes other than petroleum, known in the industry as "product tankers." Yet another shipper filed a prospectus in February: Scorpio, an Italian shipping group, hopes to float shares of its fleet of three Panamax chemical tankers under the name Scorpio Tankers. Some observers have wondered at the timing of this latest IPO push. The first wave occurred during boom times, when global trade was brisk and shipping rates high. Not so in early 2010; only a year ago, the marine transport business had fallen to its lowest ebb in decades. Rates cratered and share prices in the sector have yet to recover. The second item on Baltic's list of risk factors makes note of this: charter rates for drybulk carriers "are currently at relatively low levels as compared to recent historical levels and may further decrease in the future." Meanwhile, much of the industry remains concerned about potential oversupply, with hundreds of new ships -- ordered pre-crisis when companies were flush -- scheduled for delivery this year and next.
Baltic, based with Georgiopoulos' other companies in New York though incorporated in the shipping tax haven of the Marshall Islands, will offer 16.3 million shares at $14 to $16 apiece, with an over-allotment option of about 2.4 million shares. The company thus hopes to raise about $300 million. Baltic's lead bankers on the deal are Morgan Stanley ( MS) and the boutique firm Dahlman Rose. Georgiopoulos has been traveling for the better part of the last two weeks, conducting the Baltic road show. Baltic's business model is simple: All of its ships (of which, as of yet, none are in the water) will operate on the spot the market -- or have full exposure to it through the kinds of long-term charters that track moves in spot-market shipping rates. DryShips ( DRYS) started life in the public markets similarly, as a near-pure-play spot-market shipping stock. In some ways, then, Baltic is less a company than a wagering vehicle with which investors can play the spot market and the volatile fluctuations that characterize short-term ocean-going dry-cargo freight rates. Genco's management will serve as Baltic's management and fleet administrator -- with Baltic paying its parent company a fee for the privilege. Baltic does intend, however, to distribute all of its net income to shareholders via a quarterly dividend. As for its initial fleet, Baltic will use proceeds from the offering to buy four Supramax and two Capesize vessels. It won't take on any long-term debt to make the purchases, according to its prospectus; one of the company's aims is to keep leverage low, a lesson perhaps learned during the financial crisis, when many shipping concerns used cheap credit to aggressively expand their fleets, only to see those loans go underwater. Baltic's ships -- all newbuildings -- are scheduled for delivery in April, except one of the Capesizes, which will hit the water in October. Crude Carriers, meanwhile, hopes to sell 13.5 million shares for $19 to $21 each, raising as much as $310.5 million. The Piraeus, Greece-based company, also incorporated in the Marshall Islands, will buy three ships from its parent company -- one Suezmax and two very-large crude carriers, or VLCCs -- which will constitute Crude's initial fleet. -- Written by Scott Eden in New York