Norwegian oil major Equinor is said to have closed its huge tender to charter in four new methanol-fuelled MR tankers, with investors linked to JP Morgan tipped to have won the race.

Sources said several companies had been keen to participate in the charter tender and shipyards in China and South Korea were asked to offer quotes.

After initial publication of this article, it emerged that instead of JP Morgan, the contract went to French shipowner EuroGreen Maritime.

TradeWinds reported in January that Equinor was seeking two firm 50,000-dwt vessels, with two options, for seven-year terms.

The oil company was said to be requesting high-grade marine coatings for the product carriers to enable them to transport hazardous cargoes.

It also wants them fitted with shaft generator motor systems.

One industry source told TradeWinds that Equinor is likely to be paying a charter rate of around $26,500 per day for the vessels.

This would involve a payout of $271m for all four over seven years. Delivery has been specified as in 2026 and 2027.

London shipbroker Alibra quotes five-year rates for conventional MRs down to $24,000 from $24,500 per day previously, in what is described as a very, very competitive market.

Three months ago, these deals could have cost $25,000 per day, or even up to $26,000.

Sources priced methanol MR newbuildings at anywhere from $56m to $60m, with top-quality coatings potentially increasing the cost by an additional 20%.

TradeWinds is told the breakeven for such ships would be between $25,000 and $26,000 per day.

High breakeven cost

At these levels, one observer said it was hard to see how an owner could make the charters pay.

JP Morgan declined to comment. Equinor has been contacted for comment.

Earlier in January, Cosco Shipping Energy Transportation ordered one 50,000-dwt methanol-ready MR tanker at Cosco Shipping Heavy Industry Dalian for delivery by November 2026. It was reported to be paying around $49m.

The orderbook for methanol MR tankers stands at 11 units, or 6% of the total 177 newbuildings on order.

Existing ships fixed

The limited adoption of methanol propulsion for this type of ship is attributed to their less predictable trading routes and the still questionable availability of fuel supply, especially when compared to larger tankers like the LR2s, which operate on more settled routes.

JP Morgan-linked Oceonix Services has six methanol MRs on order, with Hafnia having another four and Mitsui OSK Lines one.

But Oceonix and Hafnia’s tankers are fixed out to TotalEnergies, while MOL’s newbuilding was ordered against a charter contract from Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co.

Equinor does not own any ships. A major charterer, it employs around 170 vessels, including tankers and anchor-handling units.

This story has been updated since first publication to reflect confirmation of the contract going to EuroGreen Maritime.