Maersk Tankers confirmed on Friday that it was behind an order for up to 10 very large ammonia carriers (VLACs) as it grows its footprint in gas shipping.

Four firm orders were placed by a new company affiliated to the Danish pool operator with trading company Mitsui & Co as a joint investor, the company said.

TradeWinds last month reported the deal that brokers say is worth about $1.1bn with South Korea’s Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries.

The 93,000-cbm newbuildings will be among the largest ammonia carriers in operation, said Maersk Tankers.

The first four are due to be delivered from late 2026, with options for a further six in two tranches.

The trade in ammonia is expected to increase. New green and blue production is planned in the US, with the Middle East and Japan among those expected to be buyers.

The company said it is working with ammonia producers and customers on how the ammonia carriers will be used and they could enter time charters on delivery.

The vessels have been ordered to run on conventional fuels.

Maersk Tankers is working on engines that run on clean ammonia with MAN Energy Solutions and Hyundai Heavy Industries’ engine machine division but is awaiting “regulatory and customer support”.

Maersk Tankers chief executive Tina Revsbech said: “Concrete actions are needed for the tanker industry to progress the energy transition, and in Maersk Tankers, we want to play our part in making transportation of clean energy a reality.

“With this initiative, we will be able to service clean ammonia producers and users in many parts of the world with highly energy efficient and safe ships.”

Brokers said pricing on the VLACs is between $110m and $112m per ship.

Promising options

Kensuke Kubota of Mitsui & Co said the company sees ammonia “as one of the promising options for sources of next-generation energy”.

Maersk Tankers was involved in gas shipping from 1972 until it sold the business in 2013.

It re-entered the business in April and currently provides voyage management services for a fleet of nearly 30 VLGCs. Maersk Tankers is not involved with chartering VLGCs, unlike the 130 ships in its tanker pools.

Revsbech was named CEO in May after a series of management changes when its tanker pool was cut by about one-third from 220 since the start of 2022, largely because of structural changes within the industry following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It now has 160 vessels either in pools or under voyage management.

Shipbroker Affinity said at least 12 VLAC newbuildings have been contracted to date this year.

None have been specified with an ammonia dual-fuel two-stroke engine, as these have yet to be made commercially available.

In September, Evangelos Marinakis’ Capital Maritime & Trading and Idan Ofer-led Eastern Pacific Shipping ordered two 88,000-cbm VLACs each at HHI for 2027 delivery dates.