Belgian gas shipping and infrastructure specialist Exmar has swung firmly back into profit in the first quarter of 2023 on the back of the sale and charter of its two barge-based LNG liquefaction and regasification units.

Giving details for their deployments in its first quarter results statement, Exmar said its 25,000-cbm barge-based floating storage and regasification unit Eemshaven LNG (built 2017) has been performing with 100% commercial uptime in the three months to March.

Since then the unit, which is employed on a five-year charter with Dutch gas company Gasunie, is fully operating with shore power and heat for its regasification operations, Exmar said.

The Antwerp-headquartered company said Eni’s Marine XII project, which bought Exmar’s 0.5 million tonnes per annum floating LNG (FLNG) production barge Tango FLNG (built 2017) and chartered in the company’s 138,000-cbm LNG carrier Excalibur (built 2022) for the project, had its first stone-laying ceremony on 25 April.

Exmar said its teams are working in Antwerp, Houston and Dubai on the engineering, procurement and conversion of the units for deployment late 2023 in the Republic of Congo.

In April, the Saverys family announced that its investment vehicle Saverex intends to acquire the 51% it does not already own in Exmar, offering to buy out other shareholders at €12.1 for each of their stock in cash.

The proposal is on the agenda of an extraordinary general meeting scheduled for 16 May.

Exmar, which appointed new chief financial officer Laurent Verhelst on 1 May, dramatically turned around its first quarter 2023 figures, reporting a positive result of $19.2m compared to a loss of $7.7m in the same three months of the previous year.

Revenue more than doubled to $65.7m during the January to end-March period, up from $24.3m in the first quarter of 2022.

“The different contracts concluded in 2022 and favourable market circumstances are reflected in the Q1 results,” Exmar said.

The company, which has three VLGCs, said: “The VLGC market continues to perform well and prospects for the remainder of 2023 are promising with expected production and export.”

Exmar said the midsize gas carrier market — the sector in which the company has traditionally operated the largest fleet — remained firm during the first quarter of 2023.

“While demand remains stable some uncertainties remain with the substantial newbuilding orderbook due to be delivered for the remainder of this year,” Exmar commented.

It said the International Maritime Organization regulation may bring “some downward pressure” on charter rates for older units.

The company boosted its newbuilding book in March declaring options to build two 46,000-cbm LPG and ammonia carriers.

The vessels will be equipped with dual-fuel propulsion and the contracts come with the possibility to have them ammonia-fuelled, Exmar said.

During the quarter, Exmar sold its 34,000-cbm midsize gas carrier Bastogne (built 2022) and delivered the vessel to its new owners in February.

Exmar said the pressurised gas carrier market continues to see “gradual recovery” after the hit to refinery production from the Covid pandemic.

The company said: “.. prospects are positive due to expected increased volumes and low newbuild orderbook.”

It described the first quarter performance of Exmar Offshore as “very strong”, with engineering services ongoing for the hulls of several semi-submersible floating production systems.