At least half of the deliveries for the 17 LNG carrier newbuildings set aside for the TotalEnergies-led Mozambique LNG project have been shunted out by another six months.

Several sources following the business closely said the delivery dates on the eight LNG carrier newbuildings being built at Samsung Heavy Industries have been put back to handovers scheduled between March 2026 and March 2027.

One said they had been informed that the change had been made to align the newbuildings with a new expected start-up for the project, with some shareholders hinting that a final investment decision (FID) on it could be taken in 2023.

The situation surrounding the nine LNG berths being held for the project at Hyundai Heavy Industries is a little more blurry, with some suggesting a similar alteration to the delivery dates had been made at the shipyard.

But yard officials said there has been no change.

The 17 LNG carrier newbuildings for Mozambique have been preoccupying industry minds.

The project’s shareholders provisionally booked the 17 berths towards the end of 2020, with the ships due to be delivered in 2023 in time for the development’s planned start-up of 12.9 million tonnes per annum.

Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines was signed up to five vessels and K Line four at Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries, while compatriot NYK Line and Greece’s Maran Gas Maritime have reserved four each at SHI. However, the confirmation of the vessels was dependent on Mozambique LNG taking an FID on the project.

But the security situation — in northern Mozambique where the planned liquefaction facility is to be sited — deteriorated and TotalEnergies declared force majeure on the project on 26 April 2021. This effectively put the facility’s sanction on ice along with a planned final decision on the newbuildings.

In the intervening period, the two shipyards have agreed to several extensions on the project’s newbuilding berths and pushed the deliveries further out.

Most recently, shipbuilders had given TotalEnergies, which is a 26.5% stakeholder in the two-train onshore liquefaction development, and the project team until late November to decide on the berths.

But the difference this time is that all the major LNG carrier shipbuilders, along with some of the emerging new ones, are largely full with their next available delivery slots for dates in 2027.

In addition, they have to set aside a certain number of pre-reserved LNG newbuilding berths for QatarEnergy for its massive newbuilding programme and have a queue of independent shipowners and liquefaction project developers beating on their doors for available slots.

Observers pointed out that the cost of an LNG carrier newbuilding is considerably higher now than when Mozambique LNG first booked its berths. When the vessel slots were first set aside, LNG newbuildings were priced at about $185m each. This compares with a price of close to $250m for the most recent vessels contracted by independent owners.

QatarEnergy, which also set aside its LNG berths for up to 151 ships in 2020, was forced to renegotiate on pricing with its chosen owners and is now believed to be paying around $215m per vessel.

There has also been talk that Mozambique LNG may need to refresh the design of its LNG carriers.