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New port rules still hurdle for VLOCs

Keywords: Tags  China port, VLOC, very large ore carrier, iron ore, ore transport, Yang Huaxiong, China Ministry of Transport

SHANGHAI — New port regulations on berthing released Feb. 11 by China’s Ministry of Transport continue to pose a setback for larger vessels like very large ore carriers (VLOCs).

The new rules establish a capacity limit of 250,000 deadweight tonnes (dwt) for fully loaded dry bulk carriers to ports of the same berthing capacity. But dry bulk carriers with a capacity of more than 250,000 dwt can dock at Chinese ports only if their load doesn’t exceed the 250,000-dwt limit, according to the ministry announcement.

The regulations are slated to become effective July 1.

The new rules will also help to check and monitor Chinese ports’ berthing capacities, Yang Huaxiong, the ministry’s deputy director of water transport, was reportedly quoted as saying recently by Chinese media.

Market participants see the new regulations as a reaction to Rio de Janeiro-based Vale SA’s 400,000-dwt VLOCs docking at Chinese ports several times without government approval.

"Theoretically, VLOCs are able to dock at Chinese ports now if they reduce their load to within 250,000 dwt," a source at a shipping company in Jiangsu province told AMM sister publication Steel First.

"But Vale aims to reduce shipping costs by introducing the VLOCs. The trouble with unloading before docking at Chinese ports is that it would only offset the benefit of using VLOCs," he said. "In a way, China is indirectly refusing entry to VLOCs."

Some other market participants consider the new regulations a good sign, as the Chinese government had previously never approved bulk carriers larger than 250,000 dwt for docking in the country’s ports.

"At least larger carriers get to enter China now. For VLOCs, they can unload in Japan or the Philippines," another shipping source in Fujian province said.

A version of this article was first published by AMM sister publication Steel First.

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