Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) has booked a series of LNG carrier newbuildings at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding on the back of charters to a Chinese energy company.

The shipping giant disclosed that through its subsidiary, it has inked a long-term charter contract for three new LNG ships with ENN LNG Singapore — a wholly owned subsidiary of ENN Natural Gas.

MOL did not disclose details of the charter but said the ships will be constructed by Hudong-Zhonghua and that the Chinese yard is slated to deliver the trio by 2028.

Hong Kong-listed ENN is a leading privately owned Chinese energy company. Headquartered in Langfang city of Hebei province, the energy major has a presence in more than 20 provinces in China and supplies 10% of natural gas consumed in the country. It operates a large LNG terminal in Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province.

“The contract was concluded based on ENN’s high evaluation of MOL’s track record in the LNG carrier business for China, its extensive experience in building LNG carriers in China, and its performance in safe cargo transport and safe operation of vessels,” said MOL.

“China is increasingly shifting its energy sources from coal and oil to natural gas in response to growing awareness of the need for a low-carbon, decarbonised society, and in 2021 became the world's largest LNG importer for the first time.”

MOL said China’s LNG demand is expected to grow in the future.

Shipbuilding sources believe MOL is paying Hudong-Zhonghua less than $250m each for the 174,000-cbm newbuildings that will be built with GTT’s Mark III Flex membrane-type containment systems.

News of ENN planning to charter a series of LNG carrier newbuildings was first reported in TradeWinds in June.

At that time, ENN was reported to be seeking to charter four firm ships plus options for an additional two vessels.