Polaris denies talk Vale is turning away conversions

Speculation Vale no longer using VLOC conversions is described as “big rumour”

The London dry bulk broking community has been rife with speculation that, following the loss of the Stellar Daisy, Vale has stopped using a series of converted VLOCs it has on charter from South Korea’s Polaris Shipping.

The talk is strongly denied by Polaris which described the suggestion as a “big rumour” and said that it has had received no such notification from Vale.

The talk has been triggered by a number of the controversial VLCC to VLOC conversions now in ballast off the coast of Brazil with the suggestion that some expected arrivals have been removed from port lists.

According to AIS data the 298,300-dwt Stellar Magic (built 1994) is heading North after being anchored at Tuburao without loading since May 3. The 266,500-dwt Stellar Fair (built 1990) is at anchor in ballast off Tuburao and the 305,000-dwt Stellar Queen (built 1995) has been anchored fully laden since 7 May  when cracks were found in its hull.

The 301,000-dwt Stellar Knight (1995) and 267,000-dwt Stellar Journey (built 1994) are in ballast and heading for Brazil.

Brokers contacted by TradeWinds were clinging onto the speculation in the hope that might be seen as a positive for the market with around 19 VLOC conversions currently on charter to Vale. 

But no one had firm evidence or notice from Vale that it had stopped using the ships. 

A Vale spokeswoman did not respond to TradeWinds' request for comment.

Asked about rumours, a spokesperson for Brazil's Directorate of Ports and Coasts (DPC) told TradeWinds that all bulkers older than 18 years old are subject to a survey to verify internal structure and watertight conditions.

The talk was enough to prompt a minor uptick in FFA rates yesterday.

The ships are classed by the Korean Register (KR), but safety checks are currently being conducted on the ships jointly by KR and Lloyds Register as a safety measure following the loss of the 266,141-dwt Stellar Daisy (built (1993).

The Polaris spokesperson said that his company still had a strong relationship with Vale, currently holding 20 time charter contracts with the Brazilian mining giant. 

He said negotiations to replace Vale’s time chartered converted VLOC fleet with newbuildings are continuing.

The Stellar Daisy sank at the end of March after it broke up off the coast of Uruguay heading for China fully laden with a cargo of Vale iron ore.

The accident claimed the lives of 22 seafarers.

Last week, TradeWinds reported that the Stellar Queen was laden with iron ore when cracks were found in its deck plating. The DPC spokesperson said Polaris is carrying out repairs, which are scheduled to be complete on 26 May.