SCF negotiates extra time on Yamal quintet



DSME berth slots will be held open despite South Korean yard’s headlong rush for gas carrier orders Russian owner SCF Group (Sovcomflot) and the partners in Russian liquefaction project Yamal LNG have agreed to postpone the date by which they had planned to sign five pending orders worth $1.6bn for specialised LNG carrier newbuildings with South Korean shipbuilder DSME.

A postponement until the end of the year has been agreed, says one project source. Previously, SCF had been aiming to sign the contracts on the 172,400-cbm Arc7 units in October.

Two of the planned newbuildings — which form part of a massive 15-vessel, $5.5bn fleet that will ship cargoes from the Arctic-based project — are pencilled in for delivery dates in the second half of 2017, with the three others to follow in the latter part of the following year.

Securing finance is said to be at the heart of the delay in confirming the vessels.

Competition is mounting for LNG carrier berths as shipowners and gas buyers start to focus their attention on securing tonnage for the new gas volumes due to be exported from the US. DSME is being widely highlighted by brokers and owners as adopting a particularly aggressive attitude on LNG contracting, with the yard hoovering up a large tranche of orders and berth reservations in recent weeks.

Yamal secured its position at DSME on the Arc7 ships in mid-2013 and SCF inked the first pilot vessel of the 15 units with the yard early this year. In July, Teekay, paired with CNOOC-China Merchants joint venture China LNG Shipping (Holdings) CLNG, inked six of the icebreaking vessels and Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL), working with China Shipping Development Co (CSDC) arm CLNG, a further three.

This week, Russian president Vladimir Putin told Leonid Mikhelson, the chairman of Yamal lead project partner Novatek, that he supported an initiative to name one of Yamal LNG carriers after Christophe de Margerie, fellow Yamal partner Total’s chief executive, who died in a plane crash in Russia last month. But in the interim, Europe’s imposition of sanctions against Russia over the country’s moves into Ukrainian territory and the later missile strike on a Malaysian civilian airliner has forced international financiers to back away from Russian business.

“All the banks want to be married to a Russian project,” one project player commented sarcastically. In addition, Putin has said the project’s ships should be built by domestic yards despite the fact that Russian shipbuilders do not currently have the capability to build LNG tonnage. Despite the Yamal newbuilding hiccup, the project is said to be progressing.

An announcement is expected to be made shortly on the choice of a transhipment hub for the cargoes, which will be shipped out of Sabetta port during the winter months and transferred onto conventional vessels for their onward journey. Novatek holds a 60% stake in Yamal LNG, with Total and CNPC on 20% each. The shareholders have said the 16.5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) from the project’s three trains has been sold.