A fire at a shiploader early on Jan. 14 at Vale's main iron ore export terminal at Ponta da Madeira in northeast Brazil – from where it ships high-grade Carajas ore – was brought under control by the fire services and the terminal remains operational, Vale said.
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The company gave no information on the potential impact on exports or any damage sustained.
However, ship chartering sources expected cargo loading delays as a result, with one reporting early on Jan. 14 that the berth where the shiploader caught fire was closed, while other berths at the terminal continued to operate. A shipowner with a vessel loading at PDM told S&P Global Platts that the fire had been at PDM's 4S shiploader – in the main VLOC (Very Large Ore Carrier) berth – at about 0200h local time.
"Vale informs that an incident occurred in the early hours of this Thursday, January 14, in one of our ship loaders at the Ponta da Madeira Maritime Terminal, in São Luís, Maranhão," the company said in an e-mailed statement. "The fire brigades and the fire department were activated and the fire contained, without any victims or environmental damage. The terminal continues to operate. The affected site will undergo an assessment. The causes of the incident are under investigation."
A shipbroker source noted that another berth at Ponta da Madeira had already been closed because of a collision recently but there are another three berths working normally.
Seaborne iron ore prices rebounded Jan. 14 on supply concerns. Some sources expected the high-mid grade spread to widen further, on expectations of tightening supply from Vale due to potential supply disruptions caused by the fire at Ponta da Madeira and further logistical difficulties during Brazil's current rainy season.
Platts assessed the 62% Fe Iron Ore Index at $171.45/dry mt CFR North China on Jan. 14, up $2.45/dmt from Jan. 13.
According to Brazilian iron ore producers and exporters' association Sinferbase, Vale exported 16.58 million mt of iron ore from Ponta da Madeira in November 2020, including 415,000 mt of pellets.
This compared to the company's southeast and southern system shipments from Tubarao port in Espirito Santo state of 2.83 million mt in November, including 402,000 mt of pellets, and located at Sao Luis in Brazil's Maranhao state, and 4.4 million mt of iron ore exported from Guaiba port in Rio de Janeiro state.