March 9 - The National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (NSCSA) has signed four shipbuilding contracts, plus two additional optional contracts with Hyundai MIPO of South Korea.

The contracts' value including the two optional contracts amounts to SAR1,543 million (USD411.4 million) and comes as the line seeks to expand in the general cargo sector covering ro-ro and project cargoes to maximize shareholders' returns and support the national economy of Saudi Arabia.

The delivery of the ships is expected to start towards the end of 2012 until the end of 2013. If NSCSA exercised the option for the two additional ships; delivery would take place in 2013 for the first, and during the 1st quarter of 2014 for the second.

The ships specialise in carrying general and project' cargoes, as well as various ro-ro cargoes and are equipped with heavy lift cranes.

The first four ships will replace NSCSA's current aging fleet in this sector which are planned to leave service between 2012-2013.

The new ships will be deployed in a liner service between the US East Coast to the Middle East (Red Sea-Arabian Gulf) and to the Indian Subcontinent via Europe.