China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has signed an agreement with Bohai Shipbuilding Heavy Industry to build two 320,000t very large crude carriers (VLCC) with an additional option for two more.

Industry players estimate each VLCC could cost CNPC nearly $100m based on a tanker priced $140m in 2008.

The Chinese petroleum company expects the first vessel be delivered in 2012, according to Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao.

CNPC planned to set up its own tanker fleet two years ago.

In 2009 China imported 240 million tons of crude oil, of which 17% was bought by CNPC.