The Vafias family of Greece has joined the flurry of activity in the MR product tanker market with a newbuilding order in South Korea.

Private Vafias vehicle Brave Maritime has moved on a $108m brace at Hyundai Mipo Dockyard in Ulsan, TradeWinds understands.

The deal extends a strong relationship between the shipowner and shipyard, which spans tanker and gas markets.

HMD parent HD Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering revealed an order for two MR newbuildings on Monday.

It said a shipping company based in Oceania had signed a contract to build two vessels for KRW 149.5bn ($108m) or $54m per ship.

HD KSOE did not disclose the identity of the buyer or the size of the tanker, but said HMD would construct them for delivery by March 2027.

Shipbuilding brokers said that based on the price, they believe these are 50,000-dwt product carriers.

Greek shipowner Harry Vafias has a long history with HMD, and the vessels mark the 10th and 11th ships he has ordered at the yard.

The previous contracts have spanned gas carriers and ammonia carriers. However, Vafias also previously bought an MR tanker and an aframax as resales at HMD.

The Vafias family is known to favour South Korean yards, having turned away from Chinese shipbuilders in 2010.

The family has a fleet of 86 vessels that includes bulk carriers, LPG ships and tankers.

The MR newbuildings deal at HMD is part of Brave’s fleet expansion and renewal programme.

The Greek company currently owns seven MRs — five built in 2008 and one each in 2009 and 2011.

In the bulker segment, the family has been growing its fleet by acquiring secondhand vessels. It bought six ships this year and seven in 2023.

On the sales front, it has taken advantage of 16-year-high tanker prices to offload two aframaxes.

It sold the New Times-built 112,900-dwt Gstaad Grace II (built 2009) for $42m and the sister ship Afragold (built 2009) for $41m.

The orderbook of MR newbuildings stands close to 230, of which 114 were ordered last year and some 70 this year, according to Gibson.

The newbuildings represent 13% of the existing fleet.

The UK shipbroker said the order surge would not be enough to replace the fleet’s ageing ships, as nearly 30% are between 15 and 19 years old, and 13% are over 20 years.