Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding Group of Shanghai may become the first mainland shipyard to build super-sized container vessels with a capacity of 8,500 20-ft equivalent units (teu). The largest mainland container vessels so far have been less than 6,000 teu. Hudong signed a preliminary agreement with China Shipping Group to deliver eight 8,500-teu vessels by 2008, according to Bloomberg, quoting a report from Oslo-based shipbroker Fearnleys. However, a spokesman for Hudong said the deal had yet to be finalised. 'We've been in talks for quite a while and we're waiting for the firm order,' the spokesman said yesterday. 'We completed the research and development. We'll work on the project only after we get the order.' It is estimated that a vessel of that size sells for about US$100 million. Although China is the world's No3 shipbuilding country, most technically demanding vessels, including the 8,500-teu ships, are built in South Korea and Japan - the largest shipbuilding nations. Tim Huxley, managing director of shipping consultancy Clarkson Asia, said the domestic order may help Hudong to attract export orders. When the orders come in they will prove 'the shipyard is capable of building these ships', said Mr Huxley yesterday. 'The most technically challenging part will be building the very big engine. We would expect that the engine would be imported from South Korea.' China this year received orders for 11.9 million compensated gross tonnes, a unit of measure for shipbuilding, compared with 24.4 million for Japan and 34.2 million for South Korea, Mr Huxley said. 'China is still a long way behind South Korea and Japan,' he said.