This week’s most intriguing news story concerns the planned tie-up between Qatar Petroleum’s gas-producer subsidiaries, Qatargas and RasGas – and what this means for shipping company Qatar Gas Transport Co, better known as Nakilat.
Together, Qatargas and RasGas exported 76.8 million tonnes of LNG last year – almost a third of total global volume. Nakilat delivered those cargoes to market.
Qatar created the shipping company in 2004. Super-producers Qatargas and RasGas agreed 25-year contracts with Nakilat to ship their LNG around the world, cannily ensuring that Qatar Inc controlled its own global supply chain.
The state of Qatar launched a huge investment programme, creating an US$11 billion fleet. Today, Nakilat controls 63 wholly owned and part-owned LNG carriers with a total capacity of 13 million m³ and four large LPG carriers.
Qatar Petroleum (QP) announced this weekend that the two LNG producers are to merge, creating a single entity to be known as Qatargas. The merger, QP acknowledged, aims to cut costs – shielding Qatar from the prolonged downturn in international oil and gas prices.
Nakilat is already scrutinising its own costs. The company has started to take in-house the management and operation of its fleet from Shell International Trading and Shipping Co (STASCO), with which it signed a 12-year deal in 2008.
The deal is the largest handover of its kind, transferring management of 25 large carriers that have delivered more than 320 million m³ of LNG to more than 20 countries. By the end of November, Nakilat Shipping Qatar had taken over management of seven LNG carriers and four LPG carriers. It will complete the handover in three phases.
Meanwhile, the global LNG market continues to evolve towards shorter-term, more flexible deals. Both RasGas and Qatargas have agreed smaller, more flexible supply deals this year, in France, the UK and in Germany.
In October, QP held top-level talks in Japan, the world’s largest buyer of LNG and the market doing most to shift supply deals towards more flexible contract terms. Shortly afterwards, QP announced that it will invest in future LNG supply overseas and launched a new entity, Ocean LNG, to market gas sourced overseas.
Can Nakilat position itself to lift that overseas supply and to benefit from the shift towards shorter, more flexible deals to become a global shipping player?
The answer may lie with partner Maran Gas, which has ordered 12 newbuildings for delivery by 2019 and whose 32-vessel fleet includes 13 owned by the joint venture company Maran Nakilat. Nakilat’s large fleet is largely tied to long-term deals, but its partnerships may help it to evolve and grow in a changing market.