Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction (HHIC) is about to make its debut order for ultra large containerships (ULCs) with French CMA CGM giant, as the company looks to book several 20,000-TEU units at the shipyard.

The South Korean shipbuilder — which is currently constructing boxships of up to 11,000 TEU — is reportedly in close discussions with the third-largest liner company in the world regarding the building of three vessels.

Industry players have said that talks have reached their letter-of-intent (LOI) stage.

They also further add that the company is seeking a delivery date for the ships sometime in 2017 and that HHIC is to manufacture them at its Subic yard that is located in the Philippines.

If the order is to be truly scheduled, HHIC is to become the fifth yard to join the jumbo boxship league of vessels that are over 19,000 TEU. The other four companies in the list happen to be Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI), DSME and the Japanase Imabari Shipbuilding.

HHIC officials have declined to give any comments related to the company’s newbuilding activity.

Informed observers comment that the three major Korean yards are quoting in excess of $155m per vessel for 20,000-TEU ships.

SHI recently managed to acquire an order for four 20,150-TEU newbuildings from Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) for the amount of $620m.

According to various sources HHIC will provided cheaper offers than its rivals due to the fact that the vessels will not be constructed in Korea.

“There is definitely a price difference when you compare the different offers,” one commented. “We heard that the 20,000-TEU newbuildings from HHIC will cost in the mid-$140ms per vessel.”

ULC demand is on the rise and companies that are looking to place orders for these leviathans include ones such as Maersk Line and Orient Oveserseas (International) Ltd (OOIL).

Imabari is making a ¥40bn ($335m) investment in a new drydock located at Marugame in Kagawa prefecture in order to construct ULCs.

As of yet it has managed to contract a pair of 20,150-TEU ships for Shoei Kisen Kashei that are going to be chartered to MOL, 11 units of 18,000 TEU and 10 of 14,000 TEU from Evergreen and K Line respectively.

Being a partner in the Ocean Three (O3) alliance along with China Shipping Container Line (CSCL) and United Arab Shipping Co (UASC), Rodolphe Saade, CMA CGM vice-president, has plans for the further expanding of the company by exploiting the benefits of a stronger freight market.