THE Tung family's private and public shipping companies are continuing their fleet renewal programmes with a series of newbuilding deals worth about US$120 million to Asian shipyards. Locally-listed Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) has signed a letter of intent with Korean shipyard Samsung Shipbuilding for one feeder container vessel for about $45 million. At the same time, the privately-owned Island Navigation Corporation International (INCI) has placed firm orders for two 98,000 deadweight-tonne (dwt) Aframaxes plus one option from China Shipbuilding Corp (CSBC) of Taiwan. Both orders are expected for delivery in 1996. OOCL's decision to order the 30,000-dwt/2,200 20 foot equivalent unit (TEU) container vessel under negotiation from Korea follows on from the massive batch of orders earlier this year for larger container vessels. In March, the parent company, Orient Overseas (International) Ltd (OOIL) announced it had placed a $484 million order for six 4,950-TEU container vessels with Japanese and Korean shipyards. These are scheduled for delivery in late 1995 and 1996. According to OOCL spokesman Niels Kim Balling, the price for the latest order for a small feeder container vessel was still under negotiation. He added that OOCL had still not decided where the vessels would operate. However, its size made the vessel suitable for the smaller Asian trades. Meanwhile, the Tungs' private interests have placed their first orders with the Taiwanese shipbuilding company CSBC since the orders for two 49,000-dwt container vessels, OOCL Hope and OOCL Honour in 1989. The two Aframax tankers will be built at the Taiwanese shipyard in preference to other Asian yards because the price is cheaper, says INCI general manager for technical division, T S Chien. INIC had initially planned a project for the construction of four Aframax tankers, he said. However, because of capacity constraints at the Taiwanese shipyard in Keelung, which has been winning a bounty of orders recently from Hong Kong and Chinese owners, it had been decided to scale down the project. The last time Island Navigation embarked on an Aframax newbuilding project was in the early 1980s when six of the tankers were built in Japan. This was just before the economic downturn of the shipping industry which nearly sent the Tungs into liquidation. The family will be hoping the timing of the latest batch is much better, and have proceeded without partners like mainland China-backed Ming Wah Shipping. In addition, the ships would not be built with a charter attached to them, Mr Chien said. The new tankers are part of the company's own design. They will be double-skinned, which makes them eligible to trade in the United States. Island Navigation is already involved in a newbuilding project in China with two Capesize bulkers at the Chinese shipyard of Dalian. The orders are part of the ongoing fleet renewal programme of the Tungs' private and public shipping interests. This comes alongside the improved financial position of the Hong Kong-listed group. Last week, OOIL announced that profit attributable to shareholders for the first six months of the year had risen to $30.3 million, compared with a loss in the previous period of $5 million. This was due to the sale of its stake in the British port of Felixestowe and the sale of two ships. In addition, earlier this year it said it had been able to obtain the financing for the six large container vessels for 80 per cent of the contract price. These larger vessels will be placed into operation on the transPacific route. According to chairman C H Tung, the container operations were affected by the excess capacity in certain trades and the weakness of the US dollar. However, he predicted that with the stronger half of the year to come and some signs of economic recovery in parts of Europe, OOCL would turn in an improved operating performance in the second half of the year.