John Fredriksen-controlled SFL Corp has added to its fleet with a deal to buy three modern suezmaxes in what it described as a countercyclical play in weak tanker markets.

The New York-listed shipowner provided no details of the vessels or their price beyond saying that the eco-ships were built in 2019 and have scrubbers fitted.

Delivery will be in the fourth quarter.

The ships will enter into charters with a leading commodities trader and logistics company for at least five years, with extension options, adding $140m to the company's backlog.

The charterer can also "develop a sale of the vessels" during the charter period, subject to a profit share mechanism with SFL.

SFL chief executive Ole Hjertaker said the transaction showed the company's ability to achieve sustained growth through new transactions with strong counterparties in multiple shipping segments.

"The spot tanker market is soft currently, and asset values have not moved like several other shipping segments," he added.

Attractive entry point

"From a counter-cyclical perspective, we therefore believe this could be an attractive entry point ... combined with long-term charters," Hjertaker added.

Fredriksen's Oslo-listed Frontline and China's Bank of Communications Financial Leasing (Bocomm FL) and ICBC Leasing are prominent among owners controlling 2019-built suezmaxes with exhaust gas cleaning systems.

One broking source said the vessels are probably three owned by Bocomm FL or ICBC and commercially controlled by trader Trafigura.

Spain's Ibaizabal Tankers also owns a trio of 2019 vessels, but they do not appear to have scrubbers fitted.

SFL, a sale and leaseback specialist that owns two other suezmaxes currently, has so far this year added more than $850m to its charter backlog.

The shipowner pledged to continue to explore new opportunities.

Car carriers ordered

Japan’s K Line has been linked to an order for two dual-fuel pure car/truck carrier newbuildings booked by SFL in August.

Tokyo-based K Line is said to be the charterer of the two 7,000-ceu vessels.

SFL said it had fixed out the two car carriers for 10 years to an “Asia-based transportation company”.

Hjertaker had told Tradewinds in August that the company was expecting to purchase non-liner assets after a quarter marked by containership and car carrier transactions in a rising market.

SFL reported a profitable second three months with a $19.5m bottom line.