Philippine Ferry Death Toll Rises

By Reuters 2015-07-03 02:23:40

The death toll after a ferry capsized in the central Philippines rose to 41 on Friday when rescuers recovered three more bodies, but bad weather was hampering the search for another 12 people still missing, the coast guard and police said.

The motorized, wooden-hulled MBCA Kim-Nirvana was carrying 187 passengers and crew when it rolled onto its side and overturned minutes after leaving the port of Ormoc City on Thursday. There were 134 survivors.

High waves and strong currents on Friday forced divers to postpone efforts to search the sea floor off Ormoc but rubber boats continued to scour the surface for survivors, Philippine National Police Director Asher Dolina said.

Part of the upturned ferry’s hull was still visible above the surface of the water on Friday, a Reuters witness said.

Search and rescue operations continued through the night, with coast guard personnel reinforced by a Philippine navy ship and two air force planes.

A marine casualty investigation into the cause of the sinking will begin on Friday, coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo told Philippine radio.

Survivors said the ferry appeared to turn sharply to the right and was hit by a large wave before it overturned after leaving port in Leyte province, south of the capital, Manila.

“We were given life vests but we were not able to wear them before the ferry sank,” said Rhe-An Garciano, a survivor.

Panicked passengers crowded the right side of the ferry, causing it to tilt slowly before capsizing, Balilo said.

“The ferry was carrying cement and rice but it didn’t appear to be overloaded,” Balilo said.

The number on board was revised down on Friday after it was found two crew members did not board the ferry.

Scores, sometimes hundreds, of people die each year from ferry accidents in the Philippines, an archipelago of 7,100 islands with a notoriously poor record for maritime safety.

Overcrowding is common and many of the vessels are in bad condition.

China Lifts Ban on Vale’s Mega-Ships

By Reuters 2015-07-03 02:13:23

China said on Friday it will allow 400,000-deadweight ton ships to dock at its ports, officially ending a more than three-year ban that had effectively shut out Brazilian miner Vale SA’s giant vessels.

Four domestic ports – Qingdao, Dalian, Tangshan Caofeidian and Ningbo – will be allowed to receive the carriers after they meet technical standards, China’s state planner, the National Development & Reform Commission, said in a joint statement with the Ministry of Transport.

Vale’s Valexmax mega-ships, which were designed to cut the costs of transporting iron ore to China, were banned by Beijing in early 2012 on safety concerns. The ban stalled Vale’s $4 billion strategy in China, the world’s biggest market for the commodity.

A spokeswoman for Vale declined to comment on the rule change.

Signs of a thaw began appearing last September after Vale signed a deal to sell and lease back ships from China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), the country’s largest shipping conglomerate.

China in February issued ship design guidelines recognizing ships of 400,000 dwt. Ports that want to receive Valemaxes will be able to apply for permission if they meet these standards, the NDRC said.

A Valemax previously owned by the Brazilian firm anchored at Qingdao’s Dongjiakou port this week, Reuters mapping data showed. The Yuan Zhuo Hai is now owned by China Ore Shipping, a COSCO joint venture, which it bought from Vale in May.

The ability of Valemaxes to take cargoes directly to China and cut costs, by $4-6 a ton, comes at a crucial time for the firm, with iron ore prices struggling around their lowest since 2009 due to a global supply glut.

While the price collapse has driven higher-cost miners out of the market and increased the market share of giant producers, higher freight charges and longer delivery times means that Vale has not benefited as much as Australian rivals such as Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

Australia alone supplied 241.7 million tons of iron ore to China in the first five months of the year, up 14.8 percent compared to last year and amounting to almost 64 percent of the total. Brazil supplied 70.89 million tons, or 18.7 percent.

Spot prices for ore delivered into Tianjin port dropped 5.3 percent on Thursday to $55.8 per ton, the sixth consecutive daily decline and its lowest rate since April 23.