In a conference call with investors, management said it would need $100m by the end of 2013 and indicated the cash would likely come from the sale of shares in Nasdaq-listed drilling spin-off Ocean Rig.

“Based on time charter rates estimates we will need to raise $300m through 2014,” said CFO Ziad Nakhleh, adding: “These numbers assume no changes in current newbuilding capital expenditures [and] commercial bank repayment schedules.”

Unlike many of their peers, the executives said they don’t believe Chinese lenders will fill an industry-wide funding gap created by commercial banks that are scaling down exposure to the shipping sector or pulling out of the segment altogether.

“As we said in the past, we are working with the shipyards to optimize our newbuilding programme,” Nakhleh continued. “Discussions with the yard include deferral of payments and deliveries, discounts and seller's credit, among other items.

“At the same time, we have seen some interest in the sale-and-purchase markets for our vessels. We are actively working on reducing our newbuilding capex (capital expenditures) and expect to make some announcement when we finalise the agreements.”

Economou said DryShips cannot simply walk away from the orders and told investors the company is seeking a “win-win” solution in an effort to maintain strong relationships with  lenders and shipyards but admitted it’s going to be a “tough, drawn-out affair”.

Looking forward, the Greek tycoon pointed out that two thirds of the Athens-based operator’s fleet is exposed to the spot market, noted tanker rates are currently below cash breakeven and warned that a meaningful market recovery is unlikely to materialise before next year.

According to its fourth-quarter earnings presentation, which can be accessed by clicking on the link located under the Related Media media section to the right, five of its dry-bulk newbuildings are due for delivery this year. The remaining five are scheduled to hit the water in 2014.

Dryships made headlines in January when it wrote a $21.4m cheque to an unidentified third party to take the 158,000-dwt tanker newbuildings Esperona and Blanca off its balance sheet. Today, analysts say the sale of bulkers its building in China may result in similar penalties.

Economou said only two of the ten could be delayed further down the road and hinted that an about update about the future of the unfunded chunk of its orderbook could be made by the end of the second quarter or even sooner.

The commentary failed to put Natasha Boyden of Cantor Fitzgerald and many others at ease. In a note to clients, the equity analyst warned investors that the $500m worth of unfunded capex would continue to cause what she described as “major near-term uncertainty” going forward.

“Given the difficulties in the ship loan markets and the fact that most of these ships do not have charters attached, we anticipate the company could seek further delays or even walk away from some of the contracts if no financing can be arranged,” she added.

The database believes DryShips’ capesize and panamax newbuildings to be worth around $42.7m and $21.4m a piece, respectively, in today’s market. The figures are slightly higher than estimates from a leading US sale-and-purchase broker.