Oil transporter Nordic American Tanker (NYSE: NAT) is all about running a transparent ship. That means there's no Norse code to decipher come earnings season.

This time around, Nordic American's spot rates came in around $27,000 per day, about 10% higher than in the previous quarter. Thanks to the company's low cost structure, higher rates allowed the firm to declare a $0.50 quarterly dividend, which is a 25% sequential hike, though only half the level paid out last year.

Nordic does have one of its 12 suezmax ships on long-term charter, but this is very much a spot market play. These tanker companies come in all shapes and sizes. Frontline (NYSE: FRO) also seeks high spot market exposure, but it has a somewhat more diverse fleet and takes advantage of more debt financing. Overseas Shipholding Group (NYSE: OSG) and Tsakos Energy Navigation (NYSE: TNP) take their diversification even further, in terms of both hiring policy and fleet variety. The key for these companies is to pick a strategy and stick with it. That way, an investor can choose a shipping investment that suits his or her risk tolerance.

Nordic gave a jab to some of its dry-bulk brethren in noting that other companies have strayed from their regular business policies. One example would be DryShips (Nasdaq: DRYS) going off the deep end, and another is the somewhat incongruous conjoining of Excel Maritime (NYSE: EXM) and Quintana Maritime (Nasdaq: QMAR).

This gets back to the matter of transparency. While its quarterly results are unpredictable, Nordic American's business is very easy to understand, and its goals are clearly communicated. In this age of CDOs, SIVs, and Level III assets, there's a lot to be said for this quality.

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Nordic American is rated four out of five stars in Motley Fool CAPS. Think it'll tank? Make your call here.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool has a transparent disclosure policy.