China’s largest private shipyard enters VLEC construction market

China’s largest private shipbuilder, Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Group, has officially entered the Very Large Ethane Carrier (VLEC) construction market with a new order.

According to Trade Wind news, SP Chemicals, a chemical manufacturer-turned-shipowner based in Singapore, has ordered three 99,000 m³ VLECs in Yangtze River Shipbuilding, marking the success of Yangzijiang Shipbuilding in opening up a new market and becoming a “newcomer” in the field of VLEC construction.

The three VLECs contracted by Yangzijiang Shipbuilding are designed by Marine Design & Research Institute of China (MARIC) using a B-type liquid cargo tank solution, shipbuilding industry sources said.

Details of the contract, as well as the value of the order, have not yet been released, but shipbrokers said the new vessels are expected to be delivered between 2027 and 2028.

According to the official website, SP Chemicals was founded in 1995 and currently produces ethylene, propylene, styrene, vinyl chloride monomer, caustic soda, chlorine gas, hydrogen and other chemical raw materials.

SP Chemicals currently operates one to two VLECs leased from Pacific Gas, a subsidiary of Shandong Marine Energy, including the 99,000 m³ VLEC “Pacific SP Mineral”, which will be completed and delivered by China State Shipbuilding Group’s (CSSC) Jiangnan Shipbuilding on Feb. 29, 2024, which is also the first VLEC to be delivered by the shipbuilder in 2024, said industry sources.

Clarkson data shows that the VLEC newbuilding market had seen a small peak for orders in 2023, with a total of 28 new VLECs ordered. The current VLEC handheld order book stands at 41, of which 31 are built by Jiangnan Shipbuilding and the other 10 by South Korea’s HD Hyundai Group’s shipyards.

It is reported that only one VLEC newbuilding has been placed globally this year, which was ordered from HD Hyundai Heavy Industries by UK shipping company Purus Marine and is scheduled to be delivered to the owner in March 2027. If Yangzijiang Shipbuilding’s three VLECs are officially announced, it will be the largest VLEC contract so far this year and the first VLEC order undertaken by Chinese shipyard this year.

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding, which made its first foray into the liquefied natural gas (LNG) market in 2022, has been looking to expand its product portfolio into large liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carriers and ethane carriers. According to previous news, Yangzijiang Shipbuilding announced on October 26, 2022 that it has signed an order with a European ship owner for two 175,000 m³ LNG carriers, which will be equipped with GTT Mark III Flex membrane containment system and are scheduled to be delivered from 2025 to 2026. The order marks that Yangzijiang Shipbuilding has become the fourth shipyard and the first private shipyard in China to receive an order for large LNG carriers.

In terms of clean fuels, Yangzijiang Shipbuilding has signed a contract with Danish shipping giant Maersk for six 9,000 TEU methanol dual-fuel containerships in June 2023, which means that this private shipbuilding enterprise has officially entered the market of methanol-powered containership construction.

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding

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