Commodities giant Trafigura has jumped into the VLCC newbuilding market with an order for two 319,000-dwt crude carriers in China.

They will be the trader’s first owned VLCCs.

The order also marks Jiangsu New Hantong Ship Heavy Industry’s debut in the VLCC sector.

Shipbuilding sources said the pair will be fitted with scrubbers, for delivery in the third quarter of 2026.

No price has emerged, but shipbuilding brokers think they will not cost more than $120m each.

Trafigura declined to comment.

A Jiangsu New Hantong manager confirmed the contract, describing it as a breakthrough for the shipyard. However, he declined to disclose details of the deal, such as the price and fuel type.

The privately owned yard, which was established in 2007, has so far delivered aframaxes, LR2s and bulk carriers up to capesize.

In December 2023, Jiangsu New Hantong entered suezmax construction when Greek shipowner George Economou commissioned it to build two conventionally fuelled 157,000-dwt tankers.

Jiangsu New Hantong said the Trafigura order demonstrates its capability in the international shipbuilding arena, strengthening its position in the global market.

The suggested pricing by brokers on the Trafigura duo would appear to be in line with recently concluded orders in China.

This year, John Fredriksen’s Seatankers ordered six firm scrubber-fitted VLCC newbuildings at CSSC Tianjin Shipbuilding — a subsidiary of state-owned Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co — at about $120m per vessel. The sextet will be delivered between 2026 and 2027.

Prices at South Korean yards are higher. On 23 February, Hanwha Ocean announced an order of two scrubber-fitted, 300,000-dwt crude carriers for 2026 delivery at about $128m each.

Trafigura is one of the world’s largest charterers of vessels, clocking up more than 5,000 shipping and chartering voyages each year. Last year, it traded an average of 6.3m barrels per day of oil and petroleum products, including gas and LNG.

Clarksons’ Shipping Intelligence Network lists the trader with a fleet of 17 ships under its ownership: two suezmaxes, one LR2 and two LR1 tankers, a VLGC, four midsize LPG ships and seven asphalt and bitumen carriers.

Trafigura joint venture Impala Terminals Group bought the HES Hartel Tank Terminal in Rotterdam port last year as part of an upgrade plan. It did not reveal the price of the VLCC terminal but said it will be renamed Impala Energy Infrastructure Netherlands.

Impala will provide additional investment of between €90m and €100m ($98m and $109m) over the next two years to complete its upgrade, which will involve more than 50 tanks, berths capable of loading tankers up to VLCCs, plus nine barge jetties.

The venture plans to turn the site into an important asset for the region, with 1.3m cbm of storage capacity for bulk liquid, strengthening the port’s role as a hub for the international trade of essential commodities.