Reuters has reported that Iranian shipbuilder SADRA said it would build 10 ships for Belgium's Exmar to export Iranian liquefied natural gas (LNG) although Iran's efforts to produce the fuel are deadlocked.
The total value of the 10 high-technology vessels would be $2.4b, Iran's Industry Minister Alireza Tahmasbi told state television. He told the ISNA students news agency that SADRA might sign a another deal for four more ships.
High-value energy deals with Iran put companies at risk from U.S. sanctions. Washington accuses Iran of seeking nuclear arms, a charge Tehran denies.
Iran has lacked the investment and technology to develop its reserves for export.
Qatar, which draws its gas from the same reservoirs as Iran, has long been an established exporter of gas supercooled to liquid for loading onto carriers.
Iran is only pencilled in to start production of LNG, billed as the cleaner energy of the future, in 2009.
But commercial and political complications have weighed on the projects to develop LNG, in part because of the involvement of foreign contractors such as Shell, Total and BG.