The idle vessels are costing government-owned Qatar Gas Transport (Nakilat) as much as $50,000 per day for each ship in operating and finance costs.
Some of the world"s most expensive vessels remain unemployed off the coast of Khor Fakkan since delivery from South Korean shipyards earlier this year, and have yet to transport any cargoes.
Liquefied natural gas project delays have idled at least three Q-Max carriers, purpose-built to support the $13.2bn Qatargas II production joint venture between Qatar Petroleum and ExxonMobil.
The idle vessels are costing government-owned Qatar Gas Transport (Nakilat) as much as $50,000 per day for each ship in operating and finance costs, according to estimates from brokers in London and Norway. The costs were paid by one state entity to another.
The idle Q-Maxes, built at a cost of $250m each with 260,000 cu m capacity, join a further eight Q-Flex LNG carriers off the United Arab Emirates. One of these Q-flex vessels, the Nakilat-owned 2008-built, 216,200 cu m Mesaimeer, has yet to transport LNG either.
The Q-Flex and Q-Max LNG carriers are included in a tally of 30 inactive LNG carriers from the global fleet of 328, according to Lloyd"s Marine Intelligence Unit"s Global LNG trader. This covers vessels with no AIS movement for more than 35 days.
Brokers said new LNG carriers were leaving yards each month. All are backed by long-term charters of 20 years. But LNG project owners are paying charters to keep vessels idle as the gap widens between ship deliveries and project start-up.
There are 60 LNG carriers ordered until 2011, with half of these expected to leave yards this year, in the largest ever expansion of the global gas carrier fleet.
Fourteen Q-Max and 31 Q-flex vessels worth $12.2bn were ordered for the Qatargas project. The first Q-Max vessel was delivered in January. A Lorentzen & Stemoco analyst said they should begin work in mid-August when a fifth train is scheduled to being operating.
Delays to the Yemen LNG project, operated by French energy group Total, into the fourth quarter mean at least six LNG carriers would remain idle for another two months, said the Lorentzen & Stemoco analyst.
Malaysia"s MISC-owned Seri Balhaf and Seri Balqis, both delivered this year, were associated with the Yemen LNG project, according to LMIU. They have been idle since delivery in March and May respectively.
Total also has chartered the 2008-built Maersk Arwa and Maersk Marib, chartered for the plant"s exports, which remain unemployed.
There are two 2008-built Korea Gas-operated ships, Hyundai Ecopia and K Mugungwha, ready to transport Yemeni gas, which also do not have work.