The Oman Maritime Transport Company's new LNG vessel Ibri is due to join the company's fleet in June. Its arrival is an indicator of the massive development of specialist shipping that is occurring in the Gulf as a result of the region's development of natural gas resources.
The vessel is able to carry 145,000 cubic metres of liquefied natural gas, and is one of six specialist carriers owned and operated by OMTC.
The whole region is undergoing a transport revolution not least in terms of shipping as the need grows for ever increasing amounts of petrochemicals, oil, as well as gas to be transported to customers across the globe.
Iranian tanker orders
Iran aims to produce and export some 35 million tonnes-a-year of LNG by 2020. As a result, National; Iranian Oil Tanker Company is considering placing orders for ten 150,000 cubic metre capacity LNG tankers in preparation for natural gas extraction from Iran's South Pars gas field..
Up to 17 LNG ships could be built able to transport about half the country's potential gas exports according to NITC's managing director Mohammed Soori. However, such a move depends on long-term delivery contracts, typically of 20 years duration, being signed with potential customers.
The hesitancy is understandable with each major LNG vessel involving an investment of between $200 million-$240 million.
In spite of the cost the number of specialist LNG ships has more than doubled in the last decade and the growth is set to continue. An estimated 180 LNG carriers are presently deployed in global trade. Another 121 vessels are being built or are on order, the bulk of them for Qatar Liquefied Gas Company and Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Company.
Qatari LNG fleet
Qatar will have the world's largest fleet of LNG carriers on order within five years according says Robert Curt, managing director of Qatar Gas Transport Company (QGTC). He points out this will represent the largest fleet of LNG carriers servicing one natural gas producer. By 2010, Qatar could be operating a fleet of 90 energy ships, compared to 20 now.
The emirate is expecting to order LNG carriers from South Korean shipbuilders including Samsung Heavy Industries, Hyundai Heavy Industries as well as Daewoo for a total of some $15 billion. The ships include a new Q-flex class of 200,000 cm capacity vessels. Another Q-max concept able to carry 240,000 cm of LNG is also expected to be built.
Qatar is planning in addition to form a new 30-strong fleet of specialist liquefied petroleum gas carrier vessels. The move is in line with Qatar's ambition to be the largest exporter of LPG in the world in the next 10 years.
Some 5,000 ships are expected to be calling each year at Qatar's ports of Ras Laffan and Mesaieed in the coming years. With this in mind and with so many new ships on order a major expansion of Ras Laffan port is due to take place as well as the building of a $500 million dry-dock and repair yard.