Middle East producer QatarEnergy has signed up to its first LNG carrier newbuildings in South Korea under its huge shipbuilding programme and inked charter contracts on the vessels with at least two separate shipowner groupings.

TradeWinds understands two of QatarEnergy’s pre-reserved and declared LNG berths at Hyundai Heavy Industries have been confirmed and Knutsen OAS Shipping has been assigned to these slots.

Those following the business said JP Morgan has been married to four similar slots at Samsung Heavy Industries. But talk was swirling around the industry on these vessels and it is not yet clear if the charter deals on them have been signed.

Sources told this publication previously that both JP Morgan and Knutsen are expected to win business covering 10 LNG newbuildings each.

At Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, the South Korean shipowner grouping dubbed K3 comprising H-Line Shipping, Pan Ocean and SK Shipping has secured four of the Qatari LNG newbuilding berths.

In an announcement on Tuesday, DSME said it had won an order worth a combined KRW 1.07 trillion ($850m) to build four LNG carriers as part of a deal with a Qatari state oil firm.

DSME chief executive Park Doo-seon said the four 174,000-cbm LNG carriers would be delivered to the H-Line-led consortium by the first quarter of 2025.

He said the ships, which will be fitted with ME-GA low-pressure propulsion systems and reliquefaction facilities, will be used in Qatar Energy’s North Field Expansion project.

“This contract is the first ship to be built according to the advance reservation agreement, and additional orders are expected in the future,” DSME said.

The shipbuilder’s exchange announcement prices the vessels at $212.5m each, which is substantially less than the $230m-plus prices being reported on the most recently ordered LNG newbuildings and resales.

QatarEnergy had been expected to firm up these first South Korean LNG newbuilding deals two months earlier.

But a row broke out with Qatargas, which is handling the process, over pricing as the cost of the ships had risen substantially since QatarEnergy — then Qatar Petroleum — first reserved the berths for these contracts in June 2020.

QatarEnergy signed its first shipbuilding and charter contracts with Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) and Mitsui OSK Lines for four LNG newbuildings in March.

In total and including optional slots, QatarEnergy set aside up to 151 LNG carrier berths with South Korea’s big three shipbuilders and China’s Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding.

The liquefaction giant needs the vessels for its North Field Expansion project — which will boost its production from a nameplate 77 million tonnes per annum to 126 mtpa — the Golden Pass LNG development in the US and for fleet-renewal purposes.