Qatar Goes Big Reportedly Ordering World’s Largest LNG Carriers from China

Qatar LNG carriers
Hudong-Zhonhua released this rendering when it announced the design concept in 2023

Published Jan 11, 2024 4:05 PM by The Maritime Executive


QatarEnergy is reported to be moving forward with the expansion plans for the LNG carrier fleet with an agreement reached for the construction of the world’s largest carriers. According to reports from China, Hudong-Zhonhua Shipbuilding has reached terms with Qatar for eight of its QMAX designs. 

China is reporting that the deal will involve eight of the massive carriers with a capacity to transport 271,000 cbm. Confirmation of the contract and full details were not provided but it is believed the ships would be delivered in 2028 and 2029 using a new design developed by the divisions of China State Shipbuilding Corporation.

Hudong-Zhonhua Shipbuilding released details on its design last fall reporting the ships would have the same overall dimensions as the current largest ships but an increased carry capacity. By keeping the vessel at 1,128 feet (344 meters) in length, the yard highlighted that it would be able to dock at more than 70 terminals around the world. 

Qatar has been rumored to be wanting to add several of the giant carriers to its overall fleet expansion program. The majority of the vessels in the program so far have been the standard size of 179,000 cbm. In addition to the eight mega-sized vessels to be built in China, reports are a second tranche will be ordered in South Korea. Qatar has been splitting its orders between China and Korea as part of an overall program started in 2020 that reserved spots for up to approximately 100 new ships.

The contract would be an extension of a relationship between Qatar and CSSC. The Hudong-Zhonhua yard already has orders for a dozen LNG carriers tied to Qatar. Chinese media highlights a large order backlog at the yard and the all-out effort to build LNG carriers. Historically, China has been a distance second to the Korean shipyard as a builder of LNG carriers.

There is no word yet on who the charterer or operator would be for these giant vessels. Qatar currently has agreements with many leading shipping companies including Mitsui, NYK, K Line, and MISC. While most of the current vessels are standard size, Qatar starting in 2008 also introduced a total of 14 of the larger QMax carriers. The largest of the current carriers by comparison has a capacity of 266,000 cbm.

Earlier this week, Qatar's LNG transport operator, Nakilat, reported that it had ordered two standard-sized LNG carriers and four very large ammonia/LPG carriers from South Korea’s HD Hyundai Industries.  It expanded on the 17 LNG carriers already on order at Hyundai tied to Qatar. Additional orders have been expected but reports in the Korean media said the talks with both Samsung Heavy Industries and Hanwha Ocean have become bogged down over price. 

All the orders are timed to coincide with Qatar’s expansion with the development of the massive North Field. When the new region goes online, it will be the largest LNG field in the world. Qatar has said between 2025 and 2027 it will ramp production to 126 million tonnes per annum (mpta) up from the current 77 mpta.

Qatar looks to secure its position as the largest exporter of LNG. Last year, the U.S. held the leadership passing Australia and while U.S. production is expanding it will not be able to keep pace with Qatar.