Japanese shipowner NYK has inked a long-term LNG time-charter contract with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec).

NYK detailed that the deal is for a period of up to 23 years starting in 2024 or later.

But the company gave no details of what or how many vessels would be used for the business or how and where they may be deployed.

“NYK will build a good partnership with Sinopec through stable transportation and contribute to the global energy transition from coal to natural gas,” the company said.

“China has declared its intent to be carbon neutral by 2060, and this time-charter contract will support China’s energy transition toward carbon neutrality.”

NYK has built up a huge LNG carrier newbuilding orderbook, largely in South Korea but also in China and had more than 35 vessels on order at the end of September 2023.

The company has fixed some of these to charterers including Germany’s EnBW, Kyushu Power Co, EDF, Novatek Asia and, in joint venture with other owners, QatarEnergy.

Company executives have said NYK plans to boost its LNG carrier fleet to more than 120 vessels by 2027 from the 85 in its fleet at the end of the third quarter of 2023.

NYK flagged up that this latest deal with Sinopec is its third time-charter contract concluded with energy companies based in China.

In April 2022, NYK sealed a deal with CNOOC Gas and Power Singapore Trading & Marketing for six 174,000-cbm LNG carrier newbuildings, which have been ordered at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) Co.

The X-DF2.1 six vessels are scheduled to be delivered in 2026 and 2027, and will be mainly engaged in LNG transportation to China.

NYK will jointly own and manage the vessels with China Merchants Energy Shipping Co.