Australia’s Fortescue is prowling shipyards with a mixed newbuilding enquiry covering bulk carriers and very large ammonia carriers worth almost $900m.

Newbuilding sources said the company, formerly Fortescue Metals Group, is in the market for five newcastlemaxes and a quintet of VLACs in business being worked under the codename Project Consul.

Chinese yards are pricing newcastlemaxes at $80m plus, depending on specifications and fuelling, with the VLACs coming in at $120m or over.

Market observers said Fortescue had sought traction on its unusual enquiry but had been moving between shipowners and yards so often that some have become reluctant to engage with the business.

Shipyard berths for early delivery slots are in short supply and, if the company is looking at ammonia dual-fuelling for its bulkers, this may limit its options on yards and owners.

A major broker is now said to have taken up the project and is trying to progress the enquiry.

A spokesperson for Fortescue declined to comment when contacted by TradeWinds.

Fortescue, and its high-profile executive chairman and founder Andrew Forrest, have spoken out about the company’s planned use of ammonia as a marine fuel as it moves to decarbonise its operations.

The company ditched plans to build LNG-fuelled bulkers and has expressed concerns about the availability and use of green methanol.

In 2021, Fortescue revealed it was planning to begin converting its fleet of eight Chinese-built VLOCs to run on ammonia.

Two years later, it gave a timeline for this, saying its technology arm FFI had developed the first engine testbed for burning ammonia for propulsion in a four-stroke engine.

In February, Fortescue completed the world’s first use of ammonia, in combination with diesel in the combustion process, as a marine fuel on board its Singapore-flagged ammonia-powered vessel, the 2,874-gt FFI Green Pioneer (built 2010) — a former offshore supply vessel — in the Port of Singapore.

These moves on shipping are just one aspect of the company’s decarbonisation and transformation plans for its business outside the mining sector.

Fortescue, which produces around 190m tonnes of iron ore annually, has set ambitious targets to achieve carbon neutrality for Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030 and net zero Scope 3 emissions by 2040.

It boasts that no other mining company is taking similar action to eliminate emissions.

Fortescue now describes itself as an “integrated green technology, energy and metals company” and operates a separate arm, Fortescue Future Industries.

It said the company is progressing about 80 projects globally, including in Australia, to produce hydrogen that can be used as a carrier for green ammonia and wants to supply both the shipping and power sectors.

“We are rapidly diversifying our business to become an integrated, global green energy and resources company,” Fortescue said.

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