Nordic American in talk of suezmax orders at Samsung

Two firm tankers and additional options are in the frame with a rumoured price of $56m to $57m apiece.

US-listed Nordic American Tankers (NAT) is reportedly in the process of ordering a series of suezmax tankers at Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) in South Korea.

The ships will be built to a new design for delivery from late 2014 onwards,

Sources say NAT is going for two units with additional options but company president Herbjorn Hansson declines to comment.

The ships are expected to cost between $56m and $57m each.

NAT has a fleet of 20 suezmaxes, all operating spot (see story, page 9), of which 10 were built at SHI.

In 2011, the yard delivered the Nordic Breeze and Nordic Zenith, which NAT had ordered for $64.5m to $65m apiece.

The suezmax-tanker market is otherwise illiquid in sale-and-purchase (S&P) terms but one deal is now surfacing.

Connecticut-based Principal Maritime appears to have shelled out $55.5m for the SHI-built, 158,000-dwt Four Tide (built 2013).

More suezmax deals

There are also reports suggesting Principal is buying three suez­max newbuildings at Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) from Almi Tankers of Greece for the same price. They are set for delivery this year.

However, this is denied by Costas Fostiropoulos of Almi. A call to Principal’s headquarters was not returned.

One US-based S&P broker suggests Almi was looking for in excess of $60m per ship as recently as December. He also says it is debatable how much capital Principal still has available for additional purchases.

The Apollo-backed company is widely seen as having entered the market too soon, having made similar buys at levels from $65m to $69m. Principal was set up in 2010 and has bought 12 suezmaxes, including the Four Tide.

Meanwhile, US-listed DryShips has disposed of two suezmax-newbuilding contracts at SHI for delivery this year. The company is paying $21.4m to get out of the contracts for the 158,000-dwt Esperona and Blanca. The ships were ordered for $70m each and are probably worth $55m apiece today. DryShips moved into tankers in late 2010 with orders for six suezmaxes and six aframaxes at SHI costing $770m in total.

The plan was to spin off the tankers from the dry-bulk company with a separate listing in 2011 but that has not happened. It is believed that the Esperona and Blanca have been sold to private companies controlled by DryShips boss George Economou. The owner holds a number of suezmaxes privately.