The Vale Beijing, only a few months old, is one in a series of 400,000 dead weight ton (dwt) Very Large Ore Carriers (VLOC) ordered by Vale (pronounced "Valley") of Brasil. She had just arrived from the builders yard, and taking on her first load of iron ore, at Vales massive Ponta da Madeira Iron Ore Terminal near São Luís, Brasil.
Vale's Estrada de Ferro Carajás (EFC) railroad delivers iron ore from Vale's mining complex at Carajás. A state of the art Heavy Haul corridor extends 892 kilometers (554 miles) to Vale's Ponta da Madeira (PDM) maritime terminal complex facilities located near Sao Luis.
The Vale Beijing berthed at Ponta da Madeira, Pier 1, Vales Deepwater berth, last Friday at 09:28 local. She was scheduled to load 384,300 metric tons of iron ore, and depart today (Dec 6th) at 10:00 local.
Instead, it was discovered there was an apparent leak in the ballast system. Fearing a repeat of the disastrous Trade Daring incident, tugs were summoned, and the Vale Beijing was towed clear of Pier 1. Pier 1 is utilized by the new generation 400,000 dead weight tonners, and the Europort shuttle runner, Berge Stahl.
The OBO (Oil Bulk Ore) Trade Daring broke her back - literally snapped in half - whilst loading iron ore at Ponta da Madeira (PDM) on November 11, 1994. Their deepwater pier was obstructed for more than six weeks while the wreckage was removed. The vessel ended up in two sections, which were scuttled off the coast of Brazil.
According to Jan Berghuis, "250 kilograms (550 pounds) of explosives were needed to sink the broken bulk carrier. Unusual job for Heerema / Retriever crew. What you see on this picture is not the actual explosion. It is ore coming out of the collapsing hatches during sinking."
Det Norske Veritas (DNV), a global risk management organization, classified the Vale Beijing, as an "Easy Loading" vessel. This refers to ballast pumps and piping of dimensions sufficient to cope with this synchronized system of moving ballast while loading or discharging iron ore at very high rates (13,500 tonnes per hour is standard) in any one of the ship's seven vast cargo holds.
In other words, the weight of ballast water discharge has to equal the weight of iron ore being loaded in the holds, to prevent destructive stresses and forces on the hull. This is referred to as "loading tons per hour" specification.
Because PDM is an export only terminal, there are no ship unloaders on the quay. If she needs to be partially or completely unloaded to affect repairs, barge mounted clamshell excavator will be required to off load and lighter her cargo to shore.
A late report in Brazil's O Globo newspaper states that water is being pumped from the ballast system, and that a team of technicians from South Korea's STX Pan Ocean are enroute to PDM.
A late report in O Globo Wednesday afternoon states: "The situation is very serious. For the time being, we do not have a final solution for this. We really want to understand what happened. Cracks in two tanks of the ballast have affected the stability of the boat."
Video EFC ore train courtesy Fernando Cunha.