The Valemax Megaship, Rio de Janerio, was this week sighted at Rotterdam.

Vale is a Brazilian mining company which is building its own fleet of megaships to deliver its iron ore product to Europe and China. “Mega” is short in the media for very, very, very big. The Vale Brasil, the largest bulk carrier in the world and the largest ship in the Valemax fleet, measures up as below:

  • At 65m across it is as wide as a football pitch
  • A height of 56m makes it as tall as a 22 storey building
  • At 362m, it is longer than if you laid the Eiffel Tower and measured it end to end
  • The ship can carry up to 400,000 tons of cargo, the equivalent of 11,150 trucks

Vale is buying 19 of the ships for $2.3 billion and will control a further 16 under long term contracts. The first – Vale Brasil, was delivered last year, and three sister ships the Vale Rio de Janerio, Vale Italia and the Vale Beijing are so far also in service.

Undoubtedly Vale’s move has produced big waves in the shipping industry. The company has effectively hedged its bets that the cost of shipping will be high in the future.

Some critics say that the ships are too big to dock at many ports in the world and that the company is wrong to try and control the shipping market. However Vale says that using its Valemax fleet not only reduces its transportation costs but also reduces the CO2 footprint of shipping its iron ore per tonne by 35%.

It’s difficult to dispute the logic of economies of scale, but you do wonder just how big a “megaship” can get before it becomes unsustainable commercially and from an engineering perspective.

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