Losses Brazilian mining giant Vale may suffer from selling its 19 very large ore carriers (VLOCs) might be a small price to pay to gain access for the behemoths to Chinese ports, according to ICAP Shipping’s James Leake.

The broker’s research managing director says Vale may have come in for unfair criticism from many commentators for its move into industrial shipping.

Attention has focused “purely on the shipping dimension and citing the likely thumping discount of current market values to original purchase prices,” says Leake.

But, he says the ”contrarian” view suggests that even in a worst-case scenario any loss would be “covered by the profit from the sale of iron ore from only one or two shipments in these vessels, even at current depressed ore prices.”

Added Leake:”Ultimately, this may be a small price to pay for the political capital that could be achieved by transfer of ownership to Chinese interests, with the endgame being the acceptance of these behemoths in Chinese ports.

“Vale, after all, is in the iron ore business first and foremost—this could prove to be the most extravagant loss-leading strategy of all time.”

Leake says the announcement that Vale plans to sell off its VLOCs with long-term charters back comes as no surprise.

Those vessels already delivered have not received approval to enter China’s ports.Also, one of the newbuildings, the 400,00-dwt Vale Beijing (built 2011), developed cracks in the hull while being loaded at Ponta da Madeira, northern Brazil.

Vale placed orders in 2008 for 12 of the so-called Valemax vessels for construction by Jiangsu Rongsheng Heavy Industries in China, plus seven more in 2009 at Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.

A further 16 similar-size vessels have been ordered in China and South Korea for other companies for long-term charter to Vale.All are set to enter service by 2013.