Trafigura is said to be making a big push into the VLCC sector by extending a newbuilding series in China.

Sources said the Swiss trader has ordered three more vessels at Jiangsu New Hantong Ship Heavy Industry, where it entered VLCC ownership in February through an order for two vessels.

Trafigura declined to confirm the latest three-ship order.

However, Andrea Olivi, head of wet freight, said the company “is confident that this segment of the market is growing, driven by the need to replace an ageing fleet with new vessels”.

The five 319,000-dwt tankers that Trafigura is said to have ordered at New Hantong are conventionally fuelled vessels fitted with scrubbers. They will be dual-fuel ammonia-ready. Two are due for delivery in 2026 and three in 2027.

Shipbuilding brokers believe Trafigura is paying more than $120m each for the ships.

Privately owned Jiangsu New Hantong was established in 2007 and has to date delivered aframaxes, LR2s and bulk carriers up to capesize.

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

There was a resurgence in VLCC ordering in the middle of last year, with 18 newbuildings booked compared with three in 2022, according to Clarksons’ Shipping Intelligence Network.

The demand for VLCC newbuildings has continued this year: 30 have been ordered, excluding Trafigura’s latest trio.

Dynacom Tankers, Seatankers, Ray Car Carriers, DHT Holdings, Magni Partners, Mercuria and Capital Maritime & Trading are among the names contracting VLCCs.

In April, Tankers International said the resurgence in ordering was unlikely to derail the sector’s recovery, as the ageing fleet will outnumber new arrivals.

More than 200 VLCCs will reach the age of 20 or older over the next five years.

Last month, Trafigura splashed out $286m in ordering four 45,000-cbm ammonia-fuelled LPG carriers with South Korea’s Hyundai Mipo Dockyard for delivery in 2027.

Trafigura has previously said it will have at least six ammonia-fuelled gas ships operational by 2030.

The trader is one of the world’s largest charterers of tankers and bulkers, conducting over 5,000 shipping and chartering voyages annually and controlling an average of 400 vessels at any given time.

Last year, it traded an average of 6.3m barrels per day of oil and petroleum products, including gas and LNG.

Clarksons lists Trafigura with a fleet of 18 ships under its ownership, including suezmaxes, VLGCs, four midsize LPG carriers, LR2 and LR1 tankers, plus asphalt and bitumen carriers.

But Trafigura has said it owns 30 vessels.

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