Newbuilding figures reveal 2021 to be record-breaker (source: Tradewinds)

And 2022 is off to a racing start with a good haul of contracts expected and new yards joining the action

Shipowners contracted a record-breaking 90 LNG carrier newbuildings in 2021, the most vessels ordered in a single year.

Celsius Tankers triples LNG fleet in a year as it confirms fresh orders

According to shipbrokers, industry newbuilding data loggers and TradeWinds’ own records of announced orders, at least 75 full-size LNG carriers were ordered in 2021.

On top of this, three midsize or Medmax vessels of about 80,000 cbm were booked at yards during 2021 with all of the vessels destined for use in Asia.

Last year also saw orders inked on 12 small-scale LNG carriers of 45,000 cbm or less. Almost all these vessels were contracted for use as LNG bunker vessels (LNGBVs).

The previous peak years for LNG carrier orders were 2004 and 2018, when contracted vessels of 140,000 cbm and over numbered 68 and 66, respectively, according to Clarksons’ Shipping Intelligence Network data.

South Korea’s big three shipbuilders — Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, Hyundai Group yards and Samsung Heavy Industries — cleaned up on the large-size vessels, with the exception being China’s Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding (Group) that netted seven.

LNG industry hears horror story: the market could run out of ships

Celsius Tankers and JP Morgan Investment interests share the crown for the most active companies ordering tonnage, booking eight vessels each.

Capital Gas is among the first in the speculative stakes, contracting five vessels, none of which had known charters when they were ordered.

The fourth quarter proved particularly active for independent owners that wanted to extend their fleets and snap up any stray berths for 2024 and 2025 delivery dates.

Maria Angelicoussis-led Maran Gas Maritime extended its position by booking two LNG carriers at DSME, after a brief excursion to SHI at the start of the year. BW LNG and GasLog were also among those piling in at DSME for what appear to be speculative vessels.

But 2021 was also the year of price rises with the cost of an LNG newbuilding jumping from about $185m at the start of the year to $210m and over by December, which could have deterred other independent owners still searching for slots.

The new year already has seen LNG newbuilding orders signed at two of the four major LNG shipbuilders — DSME and Hudong-Zhonghua, with Hyundai Heavy Industries and SHI inking contracts just before the year-end and announcing them in January.

Maran Gas was among the first off the blocks confirming a pair of options at DSME in the first week of January and Hudong-Zhonghua unveiled its largest order haul yet with contracts for seven vessels in total.

More orders are in the pipeline for 2022.

The record-breaking tally does not include the 14-plus LNG berths already declared at DSME, HHI, SHI and Hudong-Zhonghua by Middle East producing giant QatarEnergy, as part of its mammoth 151 LNG slot reservations. Contracts on these vessels are expected to be signed this year.

LNG-fuelled newbuildings ordered in 2021 outstrip combined total for last four years

Two Chinese shipbuilders — Jiangnan Shipyard and Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co — are due to ink their first orders for full-size LNG carriers after signing letters of intent for vessels in 2021.

Project enquiry for LNG newbuildings from companies such as Venture Global LNG and Petronas are also circulating.

Consultants continue to flag up the requirement for more LNGBVs to meet the demand from the increase in LNG dual-fuelled vessels contracted in 2021.