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Vale Ore-Shipping Costs More Than Double as Miner’s Fleet Grows

Brazilian miner Vale SA more than doubled spending on maritime freight in the fourth quarter as it shipped more of the steel-making commodity on its own expanding fleet of the world’s biggest iron-ore carriers.

The largest iron-ore exporter’s spending on maritime freight rose to $387 million, $242 million more than the prior three months, the company said late yesterday in a statement.

Of the 39 million metric tons of iron ore and pellets sold in the fourth quarter, 46 percent was shipped on a so-called CFR basis, Vale said. Under CFR contracts, the final price includes the cost of freight, with Vale paying to deliver the commodity to the buyer. That compares with 40 percent for all of 2012.

Vale is spending $2.3 billion to build its own 19 Valemaxes, the world’s biggest-ever ore carriers that each hold 400,000 tons, more than twice as much as conventional ships, to manage its shipping costs to Asia, its biggest market. The miner will control a fleet of 35 of the vessels under long-term deals including a 25-year contract valued at $5.84 billion with STX Pan Ocean Co., a Seoul-based shipping firm.

Three new Valemaxes started trading in the last quarter, with the fleet of 26 ships used to transport iron ore from Brazil, data from IHS Fairplay compiled by Bloomberg show. The first vessel dates back to May 2011.

Vale paid about $158 million more than necessary for shipping in the 19 months through December by using the largest carriers, Alphabulk, a Paris-based marine consultancy, said in a report that month. The amount reflects the difference in price between using the Valemaxes, which are restricted from calling at ports in China, and smaller ships that are cheaper to hire, Alphabulk said.

Ten of Vale’s second-hand ore carriers were sold to Polaris Shipping Co. in South Korea in August, according to Vale.

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