A price fight over the first in a series of LNG carrier newbuildings has resumed between South Korean shipbuilders and QatarEnergy as the Middle East producer tries to forge ahead with its huge haul of vessels.

Those following the business said QatarEnergy, which has been running a tender process through compatriot producer Qatargas after reserving up to 151 LNG carrier berths, believed that it had locked in prices with Korean yards on the at least 20 slots it has already declared.

But they said South Korea’s big three shipbuilders — Hyundai Heavy Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Samsung Heavy Industries — are arguing that there is a percentage of the price that was not agreed.

“They are fighting each other like hell,” one source said.

Another said this latest price spat is expected to set shipbuilding and shipowner charter contracts on the berths back by several weeks.

TradeWinds has previously tipped three South Korean shipowners for DSME’s Qatari berths, with other owners rumoured as hot contenders for the slots at the HHI and SHI.

In contrast QatarEnergy has signed shipbuilding and charter contracts with Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) and Mitsui OSK Lines for a first four newbuildings.

LNG carrier newbuilding prices have risen sharply in the first four months of 2022.

Clarksons’ Shipping Intelligence Network lists the price of a 174,000-cbm LNG carrier at $211m in the first week of January and $223m in the seven days ending on 22 April.

Prices are up from $186m per vessel from when QatarEnergy first confirmed its huge slot reservation deals with the three Korean yards and China’s Hudong-Zhonghua in April and June 2020.

QatarEnergy had originally said it would sign its first contracts by the end of 2020. But yard newbuilding prices rose in 2021, on the back of steel and equipment price hikes, sending the two sides back to the negotiating table.