When I penned my first article on Nordic American Tanker (NYSE:NAT) back in May 2007, I was somewhat shocked to see the article receive a massive outpouring of recommendations. By now, I've come to understand: This company has legions of fans, and for good reason.

Very little has changed for Nordic American since the world's "first truly global bubble" -- as identified by money manager Jeremy Grantham around that time -- burst.

Back in early 2007, the firm's cash breakeven level for its oil tankers was $9,500. Spot rates, meanwhile, hovered around $42,000 per day.

Fast-forward to the fourth quarter of 2008. Nordic American's breakeven level remained less than $10,000, and its fleet of Suezmaxes earned a touch more than $40,000 per day on the spot market. How delightfully dull.

But is there a leak in the hull? There's certainly no evidence of any trouble just yet. Nordic reports that rates have remained "sound" through to the present day. The unusual state of the oil markets provides some explanation.

Hurry up and wait
Players ranging from Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS-A) (NYSE:RDS-B) to Citigroup's (NYSE:C) commodity trading arm have reportedly hired out crude tankers just to store the oil offshore. This is basically a low-risk time arbitrage: Buy cheap oil today, agree to sell it at a significantly higher price in six months, and then just sit. The steep upward shape of the futures curve, called contango, makes these profits possible.

So when Frontline (NYSE:FRO) and other Very Large Crude Carrier operators have a fair amount of their vessels sitting around storing crude, that does a great deal to tighten up tonnage available for transport. Another factor worth noting is that operators, feeling no pressure to deliver crude promptly, are avoiding the Suez canal -- which charges high fees -- and instead sailing around the Cape of Good Hope.

There is a potential threat of oversupply in the form of newbuild tanker deliveries, but this may be offset somewhat by financing difficulties, order cancellations, and scrapping of older vessels.

This stuff is tough to predict, which is why Nordic American doesn't bother. The company instead chooses to keep its costs ultralow and accept whatever spot prices the market throws its way. That's a sensible approach, and I don't blame Fools for flocking to this stock.

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