Two South Korean shipyards have deferred the delivery dates on 17 LNG carriers originally ordered for the TotalEnergies-led Mozambique LNG project into 2028 and 2029.

Those familiar with the business said agreements have been reached with HD Hyundai Group yards and Samsung Heavy Industries on the vessels, which were contracted by four shipowners against planned long-term project deals with Mozambique LNG.

They said this is the 17th extension agreement on the berths that were originally inked in 2020.

A decision on the status of the slots was due to be made by July but it has been made well in advance of this.

One of those following this business commented that with South Korea’s big yards so full of LNG carrier orders, particularly those for QatarEnergy’s massive shipbuilding programme, it is easy for them to extend the time on these slots.

The next decision deadline on the berths is understood to be in October 2024.

In a new move, the shipbuilders have made formal announcements on the deferrals — to date, on 14 of the berths — which appear to leapfrog what were perhaps less formal interim agreements on the slots.

SHI said it was deferring the delivery of eight LNG carriers from May and August 2024 into a revised handover schedule from July to December 2028.

Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries detailed that it is extending the 2024 delivery dates on two LNG carriers to November 2028 and four more to February and March 2029.

TotalEnergies originally selected Japanese shipowner NYK and Greece’s Maran Gas Maritime to build four ships each at SHI for the Mozambique project.

In the initial line-up, Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines was lined up against five of the berths and K Line four at what is now Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries.

In 2020, the 17 newbuildings were agreed pending a final investment decision on the Mozambique LNG project.

But project watchers said a price hike — the vessels would have been priced below $200m when ordered, where prices are now over $260m — and a design rethink would be needed.

TotalEnergies has been keeping the market guessing on its long-planned 12.9m tonnes per annum first phase of the Mozambique LNG project.

The company and its partners took a final investment decision on the project in 2019 but declared force majeure on it two years later as a rise in attacks by insurgents threatened security in the region.

Since then, TotalEnergies chairman and chief executive Patrick Pouyanne has had to field questions about when the company might return to the project amid continuing reports about fresh attacks and security issues in the country’s Cabo Delgado region where Mozambique LNG would be located.

Pouyanne said in a recent results call that a return to the project is not about costs but whether Mozambique feels the security situation is under control for the major to lift its force majeure. He said he would be meeting the country’s, President Filipe Nyusi, to discuss this.

TotalEnergies is seen as coming under more pressure to move on its East African project after US energy major ExxonMobil said it plans to push ahead with its delayed Rovuma LNG project in Mozambique, which it is developing with Eni. A final investment decision is expected at the end of 2025, the company has said.