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Dry bulk finds positive in US soyabeans as Vale declares iron ore force majeure

The battered dry bulk market has been given a ray of hope as China orders a substantial amount of soyabeans from the US, an indication of an improving trade relationship. This comes as iron ore volumes from Brazil slump owing to a force majeure by Vale on some contracts after the fatal dam disaster at the end of January

The US has announced 2.6m tonnes of new soyabean export sales to China in the marketing year that ends in September

THE dry bulk market is trying to find positives in the form of rising US soyabean exports to China amid lower volumes of iron ore moving from Brazil to China.

According to reports, the US announced export sales to Chinese buyers in the region of 2.6m tonnes for delivery within the marketing year that ends in September. 

BIMCO chief shipping analyst Peter Sand said that although the volumes are not seaborne yet, it was an indication of an improving trend that was “positive” for the dry bulk market, especially for the mid-size segment, because it equates to some 35 panamaxes, or 52 supramaxes.  

In the first four weeks of January, 800,000 tonnes were said to be sold to China, with 600,000 tonnes contracted a week later. This follows months of disruption owing to trade tensions between the US and China.

The average weighted panamax time-charter earnings on the Baltic Exchange have been dropping since December 19 when it was at $11,944 per day. It has since stabilised at about the $4,442 per day mark as of the close on Tuesday.

Separately, the Baltic Exchange said it would be holding a working group meeting next week to talk about the next steps in the retirement of the 74,000 dwt assessment to focus on the 82,000 dwt that has been working successfully since January last year.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s mining giant Vale has declared a force majeure on some of its iron ore and pellet sales contracts after a court forced it to halt operations at the Brucutu mine in the Minas Gerais region. 

The suspension, although deemed temporary by Vale, would equate to an annual production loss of some 30m tonnes.

Last week, Vale said it would curtail output of 40m tonnes of iron ore in order to dismantle 10 waste-holding dams in the wake of the fatal Brumadinho disaster at the end of January in which more than 130 people are thought to have lost their lives.

The miner also said that its Guaiba terminal operations had resumed after a temporary shutdown following the dam collapse, its second in three years.

Following the force majeure announcement, iron ore prices rallied to about $90 per metric tonne, the highest since March 2017, and surging prices could put pressure on steel margins, Arctic Securities said in a note. That may limit China’s buying appetite for Brazil’s high grade ore.

The average weighted capesize earnings have slumped 34% to $8,757 per day at the close on the Baltic Exchange on Wednesday versus January 25, when news of the dam collapse hit the market.

The Baltic Dry Index, a market barometer, was at 629 points on Tuesday, the lowest level since May 2016.

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