Taiwan’s U-Ming Marine Transport has placed a $202m bulker order at Qingdao Beihai Shipbuilding Heavy Industry at it aims to sell off older ships in a fleet renewal effort.

The company has contracted the state-owned shipyard to build two 210,000-dwt newcastlemax bulkers. The deal includes options for two additional vessels.

A U-Ming official said the shipowner has booked the newbuildings as part of its fleet replacement programme.

He confirmed that the Taiwanese shipping company recently sold the 175,800-dwt Cape Mars (built 2003), which was reported to have gone to the Moundreas family of Greece for $10m.

And the executive added that the company has plan to dispose more older vessels, though that would depend on market conditions.

As for the the company's latest newbuildings, U-Ming said it is scheduled to take delivery of the two firm vessels between the last quarter of 2022 and first quarter of 2023. The company declined to disclose the costs of the 210,000-dwt bulker newbuildings, citing contract confidentiality.

Shipbuilding sources familiar with U-Ming’s bulkers order at Qingdao Beihai said the shipping company is paying around $50.5m apiece. The 210,000-dwt bulk carriers will be running on conventional fuels.

“U-Ming has not decided if it will be fitting scrubbers on the newcastlemax vessels,” said the company executive. “But it holds the option to install them if it wants.”

Shipbuilding sources said U-Ming has landed a good deal on the newbuildings.

“Shipyards are increasing their shipbuilding prices due to rising materials and steel plate costs and weak dollar,”said a shipbroker. “Some [shipyards] are quoting around $53m for conventional fuel run newcastlemax bulker.”

TradeWinds is told that U-Ming started the newbuildings discussions with Qingdao Beihai in the autumn, before shipbuilding prices increased.

“A letter of intent was signed in December,” said the broker. “At that point of time, the newbuilding prices and delivery schedule were all agreed.”

The last time that U-Ming ordered newbuildings at Qingdao Beihai was in 2018.

At that time, the company ordered two 325,000-dwt VLOCs on the back of a 25-year contract of affreightment (COA) from with Vale International of Switzerland, part of Brazilian mining group Vale. It has since taken delivery of the pair — the Grand Pioneer and Grand Wisdom (both built 2020).

In November, U-Ming also signed up for four dual-fuelled, 190,000-dwt bulker newbuildings at Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding for delivery in 2023. It has ordered the quartet, which cost a reported $65m, against a 10-year charter to mining giant Anglo American.