Fire at Vale iron ore terminal could cut shipments by 32m tonnes – sources

Credit: Joerdson Rodrigues Youtube Channel

A fire at Vale’s pier 4S shiploader at Ponta da Madeira maritime terminal (TPPM) in Maranhão state – where it ships high-grade Carajas ore – could impact the company’s iron ore shipping capacity.

Ponta da Madeira is one of Vale’s main assets and one of the most important iron ore and manganese loading terminals in the world. The terminal has a loading capacity of around 230m tonnes per year and is also one of the only ports in the country suited for the ultra-large Valemax ships.

Vale has 5 piers with loading capacity of around 230m tonnes at Ponta da Madeira. Only one pier was hit by the fire and it may remain out of service for several months.

The fire broke out on January 14, and Vale said it was contained, with no casualties or environmental damage and that the terminal continued to operate.

A source at Ponta da Madeira – Vale’s main port – told MINING.COM the shiploader boom used on pier 4S was hit and may have to be replaced, which could take over six months to arrive from China. The work is to be conducted by Vale and Danish engineering company FLSmidth.

A halt could limit Vale’s iron ore shipment capacity by 32 million tonnes from Ponta da Madeira in 2021, sources say.

The company told MINING.COM that the terminal continues to operate, with no impact on monthly ore shipment schedules.

“There are now more questions than answers, but clearly there could be some ramifications for iron ore markets and prices going forward”, said BTG Pactual in a note.

On Tuesday afternoon, TPPM was operating with a shipment capacity of 13-14 mt/month.

Source: Marine Traffic

Vale expects annual production of between 315 and 335 million tonnes for 2021.

Price rally

Iron ore was the best performing commodity last year with an 80% rise over the course of 2020, on a combination of undersupply from Brazil and unprecedented demand from China’s steel industry which forged more than 1 billion tonnes for the first time last year

The rally in iron ore price continued into the new year with prices reaching their highest level since September 2011 this week.

Benchmark Chinese import prices (Fastmarkets MB 62% fines CFR Qingdao) are trading above $170 a tonne while high-grade Brazilian index (65% Fe fines) reached a record high of $195.30 a tonne on Monday. 

Customs data last week showed that China imported 1.17 billion tonnes of iron ore, beating its previous record of 1.075 billion tonnes in 2017, despite a decline in December shipments.