Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) is said to have signed up for six LNG dual-fuel, 7,900-teu container ships at Hyundai Heavy Industries as it looks to order up to 28 of the compact neo-panamax vessels in total.

Shipbuilding sources said the Swiss liner giant is the “Middle Eastern buyer” of a series of neo-panamax boxship newbuildings that Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (KSOE) announced on 15 April.

KSOE is a subsidiary of HD Hyundai — previously known as Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings — and is the holding company for HHI, Hyundai Mipo Dockyard and Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries.

MSC was reported to have paid a total of KRW 989.5m ($802m) or close to $134m each for the LNG dual-fuel boxships. HHI is scheduled to deliver the sextet in the first half of 2025.

MSC’s deal at HHI brings the total number of the “compact middle-of-the market class” vessels that it has ordered to 20.

Neither HHI nor MSC was available for comment.

The other 14 vessels were recently inked with China’s New Times Shipbuilding.

Shipbuilding sources said MSC is paying the Chinese shipbuilder slightly more than $120m each for LNG dual-fuel, 8,000-teu ships. The vessels will be fitted with type-B tanks and are slated for delivery in 2025.

As for the remaining eight newbuildings, shipbuilding sources expect a contract will be placed with China’s state-owned Qingdao Beihai Heavy Industry as MSC has already inked a letter of intent with the yard.

MSC’s order at HHI shows that the shipbuilding price for container ships has continued to rise.

The most recent comparable newbuilding deal was carried out by Cido Shipping of Hong Kong. The tonnage supplier was reported to have booked four LNG dual-fuel, 7,900-teu boxship newbuildings at Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries in early April for $121.75m each. It is scheduled to take delivery of the quartet by the second half of 2024.

On 1 March, Singapore’s Eastern Pacific Shipping was reported to have ordered three units of a similar ship type at Hyundai Samho for $118.33 each, to be delivered in the second half of 2024.

MSC’s order for the neo-panamax boxship newbuildings will lift the orderbook for vessels of between 7,000 teu and 8,000 teu booked by shipping companies to more than 100 vessels.