Chinese shipyards are aiming to take some $10 billion in orders for new LNG tankers over the rest of the decade, part of a plan to restructure the country's ailing shipbuilding sector and secure China's energy supply chain.
The push to build its own natural gas delivery vessels will boost China's capability in high-tech ships and pose a challenge to South Korean and Japanese shipyards that have been the main suppliers of large gas tankers for 30 years.
Up to 50 liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers, or more than 20 percent of the 225 LNG vessels expected to be added worldwide by the end of 2020, are set to be built in China to deliver gas to its ports, according to estimates from ship safety agency the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS).
Relying on home-built vessels for gas deliveries - which China needs to serve new import terminals coming online - gives it greater control over its supply chain and snags a bigger share of the high-value end of the shipbuilding business.
"Regardless of the availability in the market for LNG carriers, China will ship the bulk of its cargoes through its own project dedicated vessels," said Andrew Bridson, business development manager at transport and energy consultant BMT Asia Pacific in Singapore.
The global shipping industry is emerging from a five-year downturn, the worst in 30 years, and China - the largest shipbuilding nation and long the leader in basic vessels - sees a growth opportunity in developing the skills and technology to build more sophisticated ships.
Beijing last year laid out a plan for domestic shipyards to target a quarter of the global market for high-tech ships, including LNG tankers.