The Antipodean Mariner is in Japan this week, where wi-fi access has been hard to find and postings have been a bit sparse.
Earlier this week, AM had the opportunity to have a look (from a respectable distance) at Vale's trans-shipment station Ore Fabrica in Subic Bay. She is awaiting the arrival of Vale Brasil on the 12th of February and commencement of ore distribution operations to China.
Sea Duchess as a VLCC before conversion
Ore Fabrica (fabrica means factory in Portuguese) began life as an oil tanker, Sea Duchess in 1993. Tankers make good candidates for conversion to ore carriers due to their centre tank hull construction and as a single hull VLCC her days of carrying crude oil were over. The conversion turns the centre tanks into ore holds and the wing tanks as ballast. Heavy stengthening is added to the under-deck structure to support the Liebherr cranes on the starboard side and travelling ship loader on the port side.
The cranes are configured to be capable of plumbing the centre of Vale Brasil's holds and then back to the deck-mounted hopper. The conveyors are covered to control dust and the shiploader is mounted on rails to traverse the length of the deck. The conversion also incorporated upgrades to her accommodation and generating capacity.
Starboard side, five Liebherr cranes
Although she is anchored in the inner harbour, it is expected that the ship-to-ship mooring and unloading will take place in the outer bay. Ore Fabrica will be capable of three discharge modes - direct trans-shipment, discharge into her own ore holds and loading out of her holds to a receiving vessel. Vale Brasil will arrive with just under 400,000 tonnes of ore while Ore Fabrica has a corresponding deadweight of 280,000 tonnes. At least one, and up to three Capesize are going to be needed to take the full cargo if Vale is going to minimise the number of times the ore is handled.
Ship Loader with transfer conveyors
With the planned Malaysian land-backed trans-shipment terminal years away, Ore Fabrica is Vale's only Asian discharge port for the Chinamax VLOC's. With the remainder of the VLOC's entering service in the next two years, Ore Fabrica will working at capacity as the 35 ships haul ore eastward. Although a clever technical solution to the current political impasse, the AM doesn't believe that Ore Fabrica will be capable of keeping up with the relentless pace of Chinamax arrivals - one every three days? The AM still belives that a commercial solution, albeit with Chinese Owners snapping up some or all of Vale's ships at a discount, will see them discharging in Chinese ports as they were designed to do.
The Antipodean Mariner