Middle East producer QatarEnergy has lined up the next two shipowners to whom it will assign reserved and declared LNG carrier berth slots at shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea.

Those following the process said shipbuilding and charter contracts are expected to be inked before the end of this month.

Knutsen OAS Shipping will scoop a further eight LNG carrier newbuildings at the yard.

The Norwegian owner has already been signed up to two of the Qatari reserved slots at the yard this month, which would give it a total of 10 LNG vessels under the huge newbuilding programme for QatarEnergy.

In addition, Japanese shipowner NYK Line, which is understood to be operating in consortium with at least one other owner, is expected to sign up to seven LNG carrier newbuildings at the yard that will be fixed against time-charter deals with QatarEnergy.

Observers are now speculating on which owners will be linked to the remaining LNG carrier berths that have been declared by QatarEnergy.

At least one Greek shipowner, which is understood to be TMS Cardiff Gas, is said to be in the frame for the Qatari newbuildings, amid talk that a second owner could also be in the running.

Mitsui OSK Lines, which in May signed up to four out of QatarEnergy’s 16 reserved LNG berths at China’s Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group), is also expected to take more vessels.

Under the huge tender, which is being conducted on behalf of QatarEnergy through compatriot producer Qatargas, up to 45 berths were reserved at each of South Korea’s big three shipbuilders.

Under the overall slot reservation agreements at the three Korean and single Chinese yard, the final tally was 151 LNG newbuilding berths.

In a two-stage process, QatarEnergy declares on the reserved berths and then marries its selected owners to these slots.

At HHI, some 17 slots have now been declared and Knutsen OAS has been assigned to the first two. The Norwegian owner and NYK are expected to absorb the remaining berths.

Currently, there are 14 out of a total of 18 declared slots at Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, to which no owners have been assigned to as yet.

In June, DSME announced that it had signed contracts with a consortium of South Korean shipowners called K3, led by H-Line Shipping and comprising Pan Ocean and SK Shipping, for four LNG carrier newbuildings.

Similarly at Samsung Heavy Industries, where 18 berth slots have been declared, four remain unassigned.

In the last few days, it has emerged that JP Morgan’s interests have inked deals on 12 of the slots, after some intensive discussions over the charter rate on the vessels, and K3 has been assigned to two of the berths.

QatarEnergy’s LNG carrier newbuilding program

Shipyard Reserved berths (including options) Declared berths Shipowners No. of vessels Unassigned declared berths
Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering 45 18 K3 4 14
Hyundai Heavy Industries 45 17 Knutsen 2 15
Samsung Heavy Industries 45 18 JP Morgan 12

K3 2 4
Hudong-Zhonghua (Shipbuilding) Group 16 4 MOL 4 0
Totals 151 57
24 33

Brokers said 2025 is now completely sold out for LNG carriers with very few berth positions remaining for 2026.

While QatarEnergy’s selected owners are paying around $215m per ship for their LNG carrier newbuildings, the most recent price paid for 2026-delivering vessels by Capital Gas is $240m.

QatarEnergy needs the tonnage to serve its planned North Field East expansion project, which will push its LNG production from 77 million tonnes per annum to 110 mtpa.

The Qatari producer has been forging ahead with the project in the last few weeks, inking partnership deals with ExxonMobil, TotalEnergies, ConocoPhillips and Eni. Shell is also expected to come on board at some point.