Greek shipping companies completely dominated the unofficial league table of orders for newbuild LNG carriers in 2018, with exactly twice as many contracts signed than other countries, according to data provider VesselsValue.
Even before year end, Greek shipowners had commissioned no less than 33 tankers during 2018 out of a total 66 new contracts, mostly signed with South Korean shipyards.
That’s nearly five times more than second-placed Norway with seven while third-placed Japan ordered six vessels. The others in descending order were Cyprus with five, Russia (4), Denmark (4), China (3) and other countries combined (4).
In financial terms, orders placed by Greek interests for newbuild LNG carriers reached US$9Bn in value during 2018 as they continued their stranglehold on seaborne LNG supplies.
The dominance of Greece is surprising because it has happened under the radar. Many Greek shipowners are family-controlled and are not obliged to issue public statements about their activities. One of the most active companies is Athens-based Dynacom Tankers Management that has just taken delivery of Boris Sokolov, the first Arc7 ice-class LNG carrier built in China. The vessel will be assigned to the Yamal LNG facility, transporting gas year-round through Arctic waters.
According to some observers, the control that Greek interests have over LNG delivery puts other countries at a disadvantage. A commentator in Germany’s Die Welt newspaper suggested in early December that the country was vulnerable because of the small size of its LNG tanker fleet as well as because German shipping interests were only now beginning to talk about constructing a dedicated LNG terminal for international shipping. Until now, Germany has relied mainly on Russia for gas imports through pipelines.
Greece embraced LNG tankers earlier than most other nations and has continued to influence their design. The country is a key contributor, for instance, to the Space Tech4Sea project developing ultra-light LNG tanks that, predicts the managing director of backer OceanFinance Dr Panayotis Zacharioudakis, will be “a game-changer product that will unlock latent demand for LNG as a marine fuel.”