This sure is an interesting story, both the sie and number of the Valemaxes, the apparent political and economical tug-of-war between Brail and China over control over the trade routes, and the problems with "Vale Beijing".
While many newsstories have cast doubt over the decision by Vale to order all these ships, and at quite high prices, the broader picture seems to be less appreciated. Tradewinds brought an interesting angle yesterday, citing a shipbroker at ICAP Shipping who said that any loss from selling the ships at a discount 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.” http://www.tradewindsnews.com/drycargo/661582/vale-vlocs-a-lossleader
Think about it: Vale ordered the ships after high transport costs during the shipping boom put them at a disadvantage to Australia. Now the market is down and Vale has through the Valemaxes secured cheap transport on mega-ships for the next 25 years, and ensured it can compete with Australia no matter if the bulk market is up or down. After all, Vale has no shortage of cargo.
So Plan A is to gain the Valemaxes access to China, if necessary through selling the vessels to Asian owners with charters back to Vale.
Plan B is to use the Valemaxes to the hub Vale is building in Malaysia, and use smaller VLOCs to ferry the cargo to other Chinese and Asian ports. They are also converting the 300,000 dwt VLOC "Ore Fabrica" to a transhipper in China these days. It apparently will be employed as a storage and transhipment vessel in Subic, Phillippines:http://antipodeanmariner.blogspot.com/2011/12/ore-wars-vale-vs-china.html
It will be interesting to follow the story in the weeks and months to come.