Arab Petroleum Investments Company (Apicorp) has signed deal with National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (Bahri) to launch a $1.5bn that could buy up to 15 very large crude carriers (VLCCs).

The 10-year closed fund will be seeded with $500m on three occasions with Apicorp’s ownership reaching 85 per cent and Bahri holding 15 per cent.

Apicorp will be the manager of the fund and responsible for arranging finance, while Bahri will be he technical and commercial manager of the tanker fleet. The first phase of fundraising is expected to take place in the third quarter of 2016.

Naser al-Abdulkareem, Bahri’s president of oil sector, said at the signing ceremony that the company is planning to increase its fleet to around 46 ships by the end of 2016, Reuters reported.

This figure would likely make the group – the exclusive oil shipper of Saudi Aramco – the world’s largest operator of VLCCs, said Al-Abdulkareem.