South Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industries has received its biggest order in its 50-year history — a KRW 4.57trn ($3.45bn) contract to build 15 LNG carriers.

While the Koje-based shipyard would only disclose that the customer is a Middle Eastern shipowner, multiple shipbuilding sources named LNG producer QatarEnergy as the counterparty.

TradeWinds first reported details of QatarEnergy’s plans to order 15 carriers of 174,000 cbm each in January.

Based on SHI’s announcement, the company is paying $230m per ship.

The order is part of the second phase of QatarEnergy’s wider 100-plus ship acquisition programme.

The company needs the haul of new LNG carriers to support LNG production capacity from the North Field LNG expansion and Golden Pass LNG export projects, as well as its long-term fleet replacement requirements.

QatarEnergy kicked off the first ship acquisition project with orders for 60 LNG carriers at shipyards in South Korea and China.

The second phase launched last year with orders for 17 LNG carrier newbuildings at HD Hyundai Heavy Industries.

With the latest 15-ship deal at SHI, QatarEnergy has a total of 92 LNG carriers on order. The contract also puts SHI in the lead on LNG carriers among Asian shipbuilders, with a total of 86 in its orderbook, according to Clarksons’ Shipping Intelligence Network.

HHI is in second place with 69 orders, while Hanwha Ocean follows with 66 orders.

HHI’s sister company Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries has 43 orders for LNG carriers.

The largest order SHI received before this was inked in July when Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine signed up for 16 methanol dual-fuel 16,000-teu neo-panamax container ships.

That contract was valued at between $2.88bn and $3.34bn.