Greek shipowner TMS Cardiff Gas appears to have returned to ordering LNG carrier newbuildings by booking two vessels at Samsung Heavy Industries priced at over $230m each.

Newbuilding sources in South Korea and Europe are linking TMS Cardiff to the vessels that were announced by SHI on Thursday.

A stock exchange announcement details the ships as contracted at $230.7m each and due for delivery by March 2026.

One South Korean broker described the price on the vessels as “quite remarkable”, while another said the price is a record level for a conventional LNG carrier.

Several market watchers appeared surprised that TMS Cardiff had managed to nail down LNG berth space at the yard.

TradeWinds has asked TMS Cardiff for confirmation and comment on the LNG order.

The Greek owner was quick to the table in the last burst of LNG carrier orders, signing up to a whopping 11 speculatively ordered newbuildings — four at SHI and seven at Hyundai Heavy Industries.

The company, which took delivery of the last of these vessels in 2021, pipped many of its rivals to the post and locked all of its so-called X-carrier series vessels away on charters with big names such as TotalEnergies, Cheniere Energy, Shell and Vitol.

In 2020, the company said it was looking to expand its vessel portfolio from 2022 to 2023.

TMS Cardiff Gas’ 174,000-cbm LNG carrier La Seine (built 2020) is on term charter to Total. Photo: TMS Cardiff Gas

But while TMS Cardiff’s return to the market may not be a surprise for many, it is the reported price paid that is sending a shock wave through the LNG market.

Prices for all newbuildings have been rising but those for LNG carriers have seen a sharp hike in 2022.

At the start of 2021, LNG carriers were being contracted at just over $185m each. This crept up, hitting the $200m mark in September that year.

Clarksons’ Shipping Intelligence Network lists the price of a 174,000-cbm LNG carrier at $211m in the first week of January 2020. But this had risen to $225m in the seven days ending on 13 May with TMS Cardiff’s orders setting what appears to be an all-time high.

The price rise is being played out in QatarEnergy’s ongoing discussions with yards over its mammoth LNG newbuilding programme for which it set aside up to 151 berths at four shipyards.

While the Qatari giant has confirmed its first vessels at Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding in China, an intense row has broken out with South Korean yards where the original slot reservation deal of 2020 was said to centre on prices around the $190m-plus mark.

The two sides are set to thrash out the pricing issue during meetings at the upcoming World Gas Conference in South Korea next week.

Competition for spare LNG berths was already intense with the Qatari and other project business soaking up space. But the global gas crisis and the scramble for LNG to replace Russian pipeline gas has sent shipowners scurrying to the market for tonnage.

One yard boss this week spoke of LNG carrier owners lining up for spare slots.

This is the second set of the LNG carrier orders announced by SHI this week.

On Tuesday, the shipbuilder said it had netted a KRW 860bn order for three LNG carriers pricing the ships at just under $224m each.

These are widely understood to be ships contracted by domestic owner H-Line Shipping against long-term business with Malaysian giant Petronas.

SHI said that with the addition of these latest five vessels it has achieved 38% of its annual order target.