Shipowner K Line and Petronas have exercised an outstanding option for a midsize LNG carrier newbuilding at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) in China.

Newbuilding sources said the 79,960-cbm ship is the third vessel of this specialised size contracted by the Japanese shipowner against time charter deals with Malaysian state-owned energy company Petronas.

A spokesman for K Line declined to comment when contacted by TradeWinds.

There has been a considerable gap between this contract and the original order duo.

K Line confirmed its first pair of so-called Medmax LNG carrier newbuildings in early 2020 after Petronas had inked contracts with the yard on the two ships weeks earlier. The Japanese owner is assumed to hold a major stake in the ships but any ownership split has not been made public.

These first two vessels were reported as costing around $120m each and are listed for delivery dates in December 2021 and June 2022.

The company said at the time that it had signed long-term charters on the vessels with Petronas for 12 years, plus an option to extend for a similar period of time.

The ships will be used to transport gas from Petronas' production in Bintulu, Malaysia, to Shenergy Group in China under a 1.5m-tonne supply deal the Malaysian producer signed with the Chinese buyer.

Cargoes will be shipped into China's Wuhaogou LNG import terminal.

Hudong-Zhonghua described the shallow-draught vessels as China's first "river-sea combined" LNG transport ships.

The orders have signalled something of a revival in this niche sector for LNG carriers.

Currently, the trading midsize LNG carrier fleet is very small at just five vessels, with the three most modern ships built for shipping cargoes across the Mediterranean.

But the ships are also useful for accessing draught-restricted terminals or import facilities with smaller storage, such as some of those in South America and China.

Hudong-Zhonghua is also building a similar-size vessel for domestic energy company Shenzhen Gas.

Compatriot shipbuilder Jiangnan Shipyard also has one 79,800-cbm LNG carrier on order for Chinese trader Jovo Energy.

Existing LNG carriers in the 74,000-cbm to 89,000-cbm size range
Ship Size (cbm) Built year Owner
Global Energy 74,130 2006 Total
Cheikh El Mokrani 74,354 2007 Hyproc Shipping
Cheikh Bouamama 75,558 2008 Hyproc Shipping
Polar Spirit 89,880 1993 Teekay LNG
Arctic Spirit 89,880 1993 Teekay LNG

Jonathan Boonzaier contributed to this article.