'Vale Brasil' Juggernaut Iron-ore Ship En-route to China Powered by Wärtsilä

By George Backwell at May 28, 2011 21:37
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Vale Brasil, the world’s largest ore-carrier, this week en route from the NE coast of Brazil on her maiden voyage to Darien, China, is loaded with 391,000 tons of iron-ore. A juggernaut seen by market analyst Erik Nikolai Stavseth, of Arctic Securities ASA in Oslo, as one of a breed of ‘sea monsters’ (more of the same are on order by Brazilian mining conglomerate Vale) that will change the way iron-ore flows to satisfy China’s enormous appetite for the commodity.

Why build such gigantic iron-ore carriers, bearing in mind the design challenges? Simply in order to make Brazilian iron-ore competitive in price with the Australian delivery to the Chinese market, despite the commodity having to travel almost double the ocean distance; Vale Brasil offers lower freight costs gained through economy of scale.

The good news is that this ship will be flexing green power muscles with a carbon footprint of 34% less per tonne of cargo carried than traditional Capesize vessels – due to its Wärtsilä RT-flex 82T engine.

Wärtsilä  RT-flex 82T Diesel Engine

Vale Brasil is fitted with a low-speed 7-cylinder engine (each cylinder with 820 mm bore) and a maximum continuous power of 29,400 kW at 76 rpm. Wärtsilä RT-flex technology eliminates the mechanical camshaft and its gear drive, fuel injection pumps, exhaust valve actuator pump and reversing servo-motors of other slow-speed two-stroke engines. Instead there is an electronically controlled 'Common-rail' system for fuel injection, exhaust valve actuation and air starting.

The Common-rail technology brings direct benefits in terms of greater flexibility in engine setting for lower fuel consumption, lower minimum running speeds, smokeless operation at all running speeds, and better control of other exhaust emissions to accord with IMO Tier ll limits.

Norwegian conference Nor Shipping’s inaugural ‘Clean Ship Award’, with 40 competitors, was recently presented to the ore carrier’s owners, Vale S.A., for setting a new standard for long-distance dry bulk carriers with their new ship.

Vale Brasil: Photo credit Rogerio Cordeiro

Safety Concerns for Very Large Ore Carriers (VLOC’s)

In the 1990's alone almost a hundred bulk carriers were tragically lost at sea, sinking as one might expect, like stones, without identifiable cause. Many experts thought hull loading stress the cause.
 The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) addressed the problem, recommending continuous monitoring at loading/discharging terminals in order to synchronize ballasting operations with the rapidly changing disposition of cargo and thus avoid such dynamic local and longitudinal stresses in the hull;  findings that were to lead to the publication of IMO and SOLAS guidelines.

Classification society DNV, proficient in this specialised field, classed Vale Brasil, adding the ‘Easy Loading’ notation, which in the main 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. Additionally, longitudinal strength scantlings have been beefed up in the 365m LOA design.

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