Yantai CIMC Raffles Shipyard (CIMC Raffles) has won a contract from Australia’s Global Energy Ventures (GEV) to build up to eight compressed natural gas (CNG) carriers.

The contract includes a definitive order for four CNG Optimum 200 million standard cubic feet ships, as well as an option to construct four further vessels.

Each ship is expected to cost $135m to $140m, subject to the final terms of the contract being finalised.

CIMC Raffles was selected out of three shipyards meeting comprehensive technical specifications that employed the CNG Optimum design, which has been approved by the American Bureau of Shipping.

Global Energy Ventures non-executive director Jens Martin Jensen said: “In my 30 years of new ship builds, CIMC Raffles has proven to be a highly credible and very capable yard for new builds and they are without doubt an investment-grade shipyard for GEV’s first marine CNG project.

“Executing our first letter of intent with a respected shipyard to deliver our first CNG optimum contract is, indeed, a key milestone for GEV representing a major de-risking event.

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“Together with our advisors Clarksons and SeaQuest, we continue to focus on our preferred shipyards to refine their technical specification and capital cost improvements, and work towards a final draft contract.”

Under the agreement, the Chinese shipbuilder will deliver the first vessel after a two-and-a-half-year construction period and then every four months for the following three ships.

Global Energy Ventures chief executive officer Maurice Brand noted that the completion of 12 months’ work by its shipping team would now speed up GEV’s regional gas supply agreements that are being undertaken across multiple regions.

She said: “Our target projects are either seeking to commercialise stranded gas assets, commercialise associated gas production, or provide a transport solution to high growth markets with bankable long-term off-take customers in place.”

CIMC Raffles is a subsidiary company of CIMC Group. It manages four offshore and marine research and development centres, three offshore construction bases and three operating companies with almost 10,000 employees.