Three shipowners are on the brink of signing shipbuilding and time-charter contracts for eight LNG carrier newbuildings as QatarEnergy nears the end of phase 1 of its enormous vessel procurement plan.

Newbuilding sources said the eight berths at South Korean yard Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering will be split between Malaysian shipowner MISC, Japan’s Meiji Shipping and George Economou-controlled TMS Cardiff Gas.

It was not immediately clear how the eight vessels, which are expected to be contracted for 2026 delivery dates, would be divided between the three shipowners. But contracts are due to be signed this month.

MISC has already teamed up in consortium with NYK Line, K Line and China LNG Shipping (Holdings) on seven QatarEnergy LNG berths at Hyundai Heavy Industries.

Meiji Shipping has been named as a likely recipient of berth slots for the Qatari charterer, and TMS Cardiff Gas was previously named as being among those competing for the business.

Those following the colossal shipbuilding project closely said the orders, which will be booked against berths that have been pre-reserved by QatarEnergy and time-charter contracts with the Middle East liquefaction giant, will largely bring this first, and somewhat delayed, phase of the newbuilding programme to an end.

A week earlier, DSME scooped seven LNG carrier newbuilding orders. Shipbuilding sources said the vessels were contracted by the South Korean shipowner grouping known as K3, which is led by H-Line Shipping and includes Pan Ocean and SK Shipping for pre-reserved Qatari berths.

This upped DSME’s Qatari tally to 11 vessels. The incoming eight would give the yard 19 vessels.

Separately, both HHI and Samsung Heavy Industries have seen 17 and 18 LNG carrier berths firmed up and shipowners assigned to them.

QatarEnergy, which used compatriot Qatargas to run its tender business on LNG carrier newbuildings, signed berth reservation deals for up to 45 vessels with each of the three main shipbuilders in South Korea.

In China, Mitsui OSK Lines has booked four LNG carriers at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) against QatarEnergy reserved slots. The yard put aside up to 16 newbuilding slots for the Qatari giant. MOL and possibly another grouping are expected to ink more Qatar-backed orders with the Chinese yard in October.

Along with the incoming eight newbuilding orders at DSME, QatarEnergy looks set to wrap up its first phase of LNG carriers at South Korean yards at 54 vessels.

Existing and expected Chinese orders will raise the phase 1 tally to more than 60 ships.

The newbuildings are understood to be priced at around $215m.

QatarEnergy is expected to start work on phase 2 of the project in 2023 as it moves to fulfil its anticipated chartering needs for both its North Field Expansion project, US liftings out of Golden Pass and fleet-renewal needs.