Shipowner names have started to emerge for what look set to be at least 62 LNG carrier newbuildings that QatarEnergy plans to construct under Phase 2 of its huge ship acquisition project for more than 120 vessels and counting.

Qatari shipowner Nakilat’s name features prominently with a total of 35 vessels, along with the names of several Chinese owners, reflecting Qatar’s sales ambitions for its new LNG volumes.

Sources close to the project detailed to TradeWinds that Nakilat has been assigned to all 17 berth slots declared by QatarEnergy at HD Hyundai Heavy Industries.

In addition, Nakilat will build on eight of the 12 shipyard slots booked at Hanwha Ocean.

In February, QatarEnergy said it had awarded 25 of its declared berths at its South Korean yards to Nakilat.

The remaining four slots at Hanwha Ocean are understood to have been allotted to a grouping led by Japan’s K Line, which is working in partnership with South Korean owner Hyundai Glovis.

At Samsung Heavy Industries, where QatarEnergy declared 15 LNG berths under Phase 2 of its newbuilding programme, China’s Shandong Shipping is said to have been given six berths, China Merchants Energy Shipping another six and Malaysian giant MISC three.

In China, QatarEnergy has already declared eight berths at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) for its new generation of 270,000-cbm LNG carriers, akin to but slightly larger than its existing Q-Max vessels.

Sources following the process said the Qatari giant has now “more or less decided” to up its Q-Max-plus-size LNG newbuildings at the Chinese yard to 18 ships.

Of these, Nakilat is said to be earmarked for 10 vessels, Shandong Shipping three, China LNG Shipping — a tie-up between China Cosco Shipping Corp and China Merchants Group — two and Cosco Shipping and Mitsui OSK Lines’ partnership three vessels.

Pricing rumours

Rumours on the price of the Q-Max ships — which will rank as the largest trading LNG carriers globally when they deliver — vary greatly. But those closest to the process price the new vessels at between $305m and $310m apiece, indicating a total spend for the 18 behemoths alone at just shy of $5.5bn.

If the 18 Q-Maxes at Hudong-Zhonghua are confirmed, this will bring Phase 2 of QatarEnergy’s LNG newbuilding programme to 62 vessels in total. Added to the 60 orders firmed up in Phase 1, this will give the Qatari company a whopping 122 vessels under the combined phases of its project.

Those familiar with the huge ship acquisition project said there is the possibility that more LNG carriers may be added.

QatarEnergy is said to still be in talks with South Korea’s big three yards on 270,000-cbm vessels, with up to 10 more Q-Maxes under discussion. However, to date, these shipbuilders have proved resistant to building these larger-sized vessels due to the dry-dock capacity they occupy while under construction.

Hanwha Ocean has proved something of the exception, signing a number of approvals in principles with class for LNG carriers of 270,000 cbm. Talks are also said to be ongoing with HD HHI.

QatarEnergy’s new 270,000-cbm LNG carriers are technically larger than its existing 14 Q-Max vessels of 263,000 cbm and 265,000 cbm — all of which Nakilat owns. At a ceremony with classification societies in Singapore last year, Hudong-Zhonghua referred to the ships as “Q-type” vessels and showed illustrations of the newbuildings emblazoned with the words “LNG Max”.

Expansion plans

Industry players said QatarEnergy will likely have ample demand for a huge raft of new tonnage.

Industry players pointed to the Qatari giant’s February announcement that it is to go ahead with a new liquefaction expansion — “North Field West” — that will add a further 16 million tonnes per annum to its production, boosting this to a whopping 142 mtpa in total before the end of this decade.

The company has made very bullish statements on its expectations for LNG use for many decades to come.

The Doha-headquartered company has also signed a long-term sales and purchase agreement (SPA) with Chinese buyers which would be expected to specify the involvement of owners and yards in the shipping arrangements of these volumes.

In 2022 and 2023, QatarEnergy inked a 27-year SPA with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec) for a total of seven mtpa of LNG from the North Field South expansion project, giving Sinopec a 5% stake in one of the liquefaction trains.