Kimitsu gets first Valemax

Kimitsu has become only the second port in Japan to receive Vale’s new generation of Valemax bulkers.

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A partially loaded 400,000-dwt Vale Brasil (built 2011) arrived at Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal’s facility near Tokyo earlier this week.

The ship had first berthed at the port of Oita where about 200,000t of iron ore was unloaded. It then sailed to Kimitsu to deliver the rest of its cargo.

Nippon Steel, the country’s second-largest steel mill, received its first Valemax delivery at Oita in a trial shipment in June.

Japan has emerged as a potential alternative market for Vale’s Valemax ore carriers, which have been blocked from their intended trading market in China.

JFE Steel Corp has successfully trialled the use of a giant 400,000-dwt bulker at its wholly owned Philippines sinter plant.

The country’s largest steel mill said the trial was successful, although brokers suggest that the vessel may not have been fully laden.

Japan has been looking with interest at the potential of the Valemax for its iron-ore import requirement.

Yet experts suggest it will take some time before Valemaxes become part of the industrial fleet serving Japan.

The country’s main steel mills already have the majority of their import needs met by long-term freight contracts, signed mostly with domestic shipping firms for bulkers ranging between 200,000 dwt and 300,000 dwt.

Although the Valemaxes are cost-efficient because of the depressed state of the dry-bulk market, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives for Japan’s mills to chose from for their spot requirement.

The country’s iron-ore import requirement is not expected to increase over the coming years.

Until now, the Valemaxes have also called at Villanueva in the Philippines, Tubarao and Ponta da Madeira in Brazil, Taranto in Italy, Rotterdam and Sohar in Oman, Oita as well as Vale's floating transfer station in Subic Bay.

By the end of 2013, there will be a total of 35 of these large ore carriers available to transport Vale’s iron ore – nineteen owned and sixteen chartered in.