400,000 tonnes dead weight – Vale's massive ore carriers suffer new setback

Steel Guru reports according to vessel tracking data compiled by Bloomberg, two of Vale's massive Valemax ore carriers – Vale China and Vale Brasil – were idle in Subic Bay, Philippines for just under a month  transferring cargo to smaller ships to carry iron ore onto China.

Vale, the world's number one iron ore producer,  explained that its "floating transfer station, which allows partial or total transfer of iron ore cargoes from ship to ship, is ramping up and not operating at full capacity yet.”

Vale's massive dry bulk carriers were designed to service China, where some 45% of the Brazilian company's ore exports are destined.

But at the moment the 362-metre-long and 65 metre wide vessels that can carry 400,000 dead-weight tonnes of iron ore and cost just under $110 millions a shot are barred from China.

Vale told Reuters earlier this month it expects to receive the go-ahead "within months" to unload the company's massive Valemax vessels at Chinese ports.

Brazil-based Vale has so far received 8 of the 35 it has ordered from Korean and Chinese shipbuilders, but they have been drifting aimlessly since May because China, by far Vale's biggest customer, has so far only granted one vessel port entry and has since banned anything over 300,000 tonnes.

In December, one of the ships – rather unfortunately called the Vale Beijing – ruptured its hull and temporarily blocked a port from where Vale ships more than 130 million tonnes per annum.

Chinese shipowners are saying the carriers will worsen overcapacity and depress freight rates, while steelmakers are also against the leviathan-size ships, which are described as “each almost as large as the Bank of America tower in New York,” because they will give Vale even more control over pricing and delivery.

Bloomberg reports according website VesselsValue.com, the latest Valemax to be received by the company is already worth 36% less than what it cost.

The Vale Malaysia's worth is now pegged at only $68 million because a "slump in values of dry-bulk ships that were ordered before returns plunged is getting worse as shipyards lower contract prices for new vessels."

80% of the world's iron ore is borne by so-called Capesize vessels which can only carry a third of the cargo of a Valemax. The value of these ships has declined even more – "new Capesize ships worth $69.9 million in April 2010 are assessed at $39.9 million today," according to a VesselsValue analyst.

Vale, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto completely dominate the 1 billion tonne seaborne iron ore trade – Vale alone controls a quarter of world supply.