China shipowners assn raise safety concerns over Vale's mega ships

Chinese shipowners association urged its government to carefully review the safety of Vale's new mega iron ore carriers before allowing them access to domestic ports, the gateway to the Brazilian firm's main market.

China Shipowners' Association said the 400,000-tonne Valemaxes, the world's largest dry bulk ships, have not been thoroughly tested and could pose a safety threat.

The industry group's comments come a week after a leak was found on the Vale Beijing while it was preparing to set sail on its maiden voyage.

"Such mega ships have been newly built ... and it is not yet certain whether they can withstand various sea conditions," the group said in an email to Reuters.

"If there is any leaking of fuel oil, the pollution will be catastrophic."

The Vale Beijing is one of the first of 35 huge bulk carriers commissioned by Vale, which is betting on the ships to slash shipping costs so it can better compete with Australian rivals BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

China, however, hasn't opened up its ports to the ships.

Influential Chinese shipowners are lobbying the government to keep the vessels out of the country's ports, fearing Vale will use the fleet to monopolise the dry bulk shipping market at their expense.

[Source: Reuters, Shanghai, 13Dec11]

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