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China’s VLOC design guidelines hint at end of restriction to valemaxes

China’s VLOC design guidelines hint at end of restriction to valemaxes
China may soon allow valemax bulk carriers to call at Chinese ports following a recent statement released by the ministry of transport on guidelines for the design and scale of such 400,000 dwt mega-sized VLOCs.

The statement, titled ‘Ship scale provision for 400,000 dwt dry bulk carriers’, spelled out the measurements of the giant bulkers as having 362 metres in length, 65.6 metres wide, draught of 30.5 metres, ballast water load of 23 metres and capacity of 403,844 dwt, fitting the measurements of valemaxes.

An analyst from Shanghai International Shipping Institute (SISI) was reported as saying that the transport ministry’s next step would be to determine which ports can accommodate the berthing of the 400,000 dwt VLOCs according to the measurement guidelines, and ultimately allow valemaxes to dock at Chinese ports.

SISI also believed that Beijing knows full well that the upsizing of ships is an irreversible trend in the industry, and future ports will need to expand and accommodate bigger and bigger ships.

Back in December 2012, the first valemax Berge Everest called at Dalian port, and triggered a backlash from the powerful China Shipowners’ Association (CSA). The association, led by Zhang Shouguo, argued that the large valemaxes did not meet China’s operational safety and port regulatory standards, and criticised Brazil’s mining firm Vale for trying to monopolise the seaborne transportation of iron ore sold to China.

But relationships between Vale and Chinese shipowners appeared to have thawed in recent months as Vale struck a deal to sell four of its valemaxes to Cosco and will long term charter them back.

Cosco, China’s largest state-owned shipping conglomerate, would also order 10 more VLOCs for charter to Vale. Furthermore, China Merchants Energy Shipping will also order 10 VLOCs for charter to Vale.

Late last year, Vale’s port terminal Ponta da Madeira signed a cooperation agreement with China’s Qingdao port for an increase in the handling of iron ore between the two terminals. The cooperation is also a positive sign for Vale to eventually operate valemaxes in Chinese ports.