Idan Ofer-led Eastern Pacific Shipping is said to have added a near $1bn order for up to 12 car carriers to its vast newbuilding programme of 80 vessels worth more than $6bn.

Industry sources said the Singapore-based company has contracted two shipyards in China — Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding and China Merchants Jinling Shipyard — to build the series of LNG dual-fuel 5,500-ceu carriers.

It has booked up to eight newbuildings at Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding — four firm vessels with the option for four more — while Jinling was contracted to build two firm ships with the option for an additional two.

Eastern Pacific declined to comment on its newbuilding activities.

One car carrier player confirmed the deals, adding that Eastern Pacific had lined up employment for some of the newbuildings with Spanish ro-ro car carrier operator Suardiaz Shipping Lines.

The charter period and rates have yet to emerge.

A car-carrier specialist said the midsize pure car/truck carriers that Eastern Pacific has ordered are likely to be deployed between China and Japan, the US, Oceania, or in intra-Europe.

He added that these vessels are needed as not all ports can accommodate larger ships of 9,000 ceu to 10,000 ceu.

“The 5,500-ceu newbuildings were ordered with the intention of having a fleet renewal for regional trade … the orderbook for midsize PCTCs is very low, unlike the bigger vessels,” the market specialist said.

Clarksons’ Shipping Intelligence Network shows the global orderbook for PCTCs stands at 201, of which 96% are larger ships of between 6,500 ceu and 10,800 ceu.

The remaining seven newbuildings comprise four 4,200 teu vessels, two of 3,000 ceu and one of 2,450 ceu.

“For now, the Carbon Intensity Indicator and FuelEU are yet to be fully introduced, but I assume when it does after 2026, there will be probably a new contracting wave of PCTCs of this size,” the specialist said.

He thinks shipowners may face a challenge in getting shipyards to build midsize PCTCs as the vessels take up the same berth space as larger car carriers of between 9,000 ceu and 10,500 ceu.

“Once again, Eastern Pacific is ahead of the [newbuilding] curve but it is paying as much as the large PCTCs that it had ordered,” he said.

$80m a piece

Eastern Pacific is said to be paying about $80m each for the midsize ships, or about $960m for the dozen vessels.

With the spree on 5,500-ceu vessels, the company is calculated to have splurged almost $2.5bn in ordering 30 car carriers including 18 LNG dual-fuel 7,000-ceu newbuildings between 2021 and early this year at an average price of about $83m apiece at yards under China Merchants Jinling Shipyard.

The yard has so far delivered five vessels.

Eastern Pacific is said to have chartered out eight of the new 7,000-ceu car carriers at “very healthy levels, which covers the cost of investment over five years”.