17 January 2012

Brazilian iron ore ship heads for Philippines

SINGAPORE­ -- A giant iron ore vessel owned by Brazil’s Vale, a multinational mining company, is on its maiden voyage to the Philippines and is expected to dock at Subic Bay in early February, Reuters data and shipping sources said on Monday.

The 400,000-deadweight-ton (dwt) Vale Brasil would be the second of the company’s so-called Valemaxes, which are very large ore carriers, to sail to Asia.

The first vessel, the 388,000-dwt Berge Everest, unloaded at Dalian Port on Dec. 28, 2011, ending months of delays in getting the world’s biggest dry bulk ships into China, Vale’s top market.

The cargo, estimated at 350,000 tons, has yet to be sold, however, and is sitting in storage, traders said.

Vale is banking on a fleet of 35 Valemaxes to slash shipping costs to China and better compete with Australian rivals BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

Reuters Freightviews and independent shipping data showed Vale Brasil is scheduled to arrive in Subic Bay on Feb. 11. Draught measurements indicated the vessel was fully loaded with cargo.

Vale Brasil was supposed to be the first of Vale’s huge ships to arrive in Asia, but was diverted last June to Italy after the Chinese government failed to provide permission for the ship to dock at Dalian Port.

A source at Subic Bay Freeport said they had not yet been advised of the Vale Brasil’s arrival.

“But we are ready anytime to accept the ships,” the source told Reuters, adding the port is deep enough to accommodate Valemaxes.

Vale aims to turn Subic into an iron ore transshipment center, where it can dock its Valemaxes, transfer cargo to smaller vessels and then use these to supply its clients in other parts of Asia.

Sources at Subic Port had said they expected the transshipment operations to start in late January or early February, as soon as Vale’s ship arrives.

The Philippine facility would be the first of at least two transshipment centers Vale is planning to open in Asia.

The Brazilian miner in October broke ground for a $1.3-billion iron ore distribution center in Malaysia’s northern Perak state which would be ready to handle the Valemaxes by 2014.

The China Shipowners Association has opposed Vale’s fleet, worried that the vessels will give the miner monopoly on both the shipping and iron ore markets at China’s expense.

The influential group has also raised concerns about the safety of the huge ships after Vale Beijing, the newest member of the Valemax fleet, developed cracks in its hull on its maiden voyage last month. (Reuters)