China’s new port rules still pose hurdles for VLOCs

China’s Ministry of Transport’s new port regulations on berthing released on Tuesday February 11 continue to pose a setback for larger vessels like very large ore carriers (VLOCs).

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The new rules put 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 of more than 250,000 dwt capacity can dock at Chinese ports only if their load does not exceed the 250,000-dwt limit, according to the announcement.

They will take effect on July 1.

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

Market participants see the new regulations as a reaction to Vale’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 said.

“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.

“In a way, China is indirectly refusing entry to VLOCs,” he added.

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

“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.

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