Shipping Corp, GAIL in talks for $3-bn LNG ships deal

Shipping Corporation of India and GAIL (India) Limited are currently in discussion to forge a tie-up under which the latter will acquire nine LNG ships with almost $3 billion and the former will run them, a senior official of the SCI said.

SCI Director (liner and passenger services) Sarveen Narula said the shipper will have an option to pick up stake up to 25 per cent once a joint venture company is formed for the purpose and talks are held through respective ministries.

'We are trying to buy nine LNG ships, not through SCI but through GAIL. SCI will run those ships in partnership with GAIL. We are actively working with GAIL in selection of (other) partners. We may have the right to take up to 25 per cent of the stake in that (venture).

'The Memorandum of Understanding is being finalised. We are already in talks with them. Very soon it will be done. It is brokered through the government,' Narula said.

SCI is currently running four LNG ships through joint venture companies with Japanese partners among others, in which the Indian PSU holds 26 per cent stake.

'That is why we are tying up with GAIL. We will have the technical expertise. The funding will be through GAIL. So this becomes a new business for us. Each ship would cost around $300  million to $350 million,' Narula said when asked about the capital requirement for buying the vessels.

He spoke on the sidelines of the flagging off ceremony of SCI's direct container services to Yangon from Krishnapatnam port container terminal on 3 October.

The shipping company has already approached the Central government seeking permission to start an overseas subsidiary in Singapore for LNG shipping to India, he said. According to the latest annual report of GAIL, the total Indian LNG imports required to meet the demand-domestic supply gap was 10.79 BCM (29.56 MMSCMD) in 2008, which further rose to 17.8 BCM (48.8 MMSCMD) in 2013. 


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