Dry CargoGreater China

Beijing’s new ‘iron ore security’ policy puts Australian miners on edge

China’s decision to construct a raft of new very large ore carrier (VLOC) terminals is being interpreted by some analysts as part of a bigger geopolitical play to cut the nation’s reliance on Australia for its iron ore imports amid a severe souring of diplomatic ties between the two Asia-Pacific nations.

Beijing’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has given the green light for four new VLOC terminals to be built in Rizhao, Yantai and Lanshan in Shandong province, and Sanduao in Fujian province to go alongside the existing seven VLOC terminals. 

“Commentary on the move has speculated that Beijing is seeking to ensure greater ‘iron ore security’ for the future, not only by opening itself to a wider range of of markets, including Brazil, but also to countries where there is less chance of political disagreement,” Alphabulk pointed out in its most recent weekly report. 

Australia, which exports 90% of its iron ore to China, has been a vocal opponent of China’s telecoms company Huawei, and also recently joined the US in opposing China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea. It was also the first country to come out and call for an international enquiry into China’s handling of Covid-19.

China has responded by restricting Australian coal and barley imports. As well as Brazilian miner Vale, Alphabulk suggested African miners could benefit from the long-haul routes made possible by the new terminals. 

Vale would also have a greater operational flexibility as the new terminals would enable it to blend different ores more easily to cater for the individual needs of geographically dispersed steel mills.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. If you want people to get a grasp of what you are saying, then perhaps you should consider explaining what a VLOC is first.
    Sub standard reporting at it’s best.

      1. Australian economy should be the first in any of our government plans of dealing with any country in the world. Our people standard of living must be preserved.

        1. How is preserving our standard of living to dig a hole and make Gina rich them a million people sit on the dole in Australia whilst we import all our goods from China LETS NOT ONE AUSTRALIAN EVER FORGET. THE WE ARE THE OMLY COUNTRY EVER TO OF HADOUR BILLIONAIRES PROTEST IN A STREET RALLY CLAIMING TO BE HARD DO NE By when a forest and g Reinhardt protested

        2. What about the standard of living of the people in concentration camps our iron ore is reinforcing?

    1. I think you should read the article again they had
      very large ore carriers VLOC.
      In the second line.
      Not sure how you missed that!

    2. Did you read the story from the beginning? I doubt. You should have seen the meaning. Go back and read before you criticise

    3. He did say what a VLOC was. What did you think he meant by “Very large ore carrier”?

    4. It is clearly explained in the first sentence and easy to understand if you are perceptive.

      1. Hi all,

        I believed John’s reply, even though was mean was made before the article was edited by Sam to include what VLOC abbreviated.

        And, please don’t be mean. We are all here for the story, not nitpicking.

  2. I’m sorry buddy but you are incorrect!!!

    China created tariffs Immediately after Australia called for an enquiry into CHINAS HANDLING OF Covid-19!!!! LOL


    1. What is the possibility for Vale to ramp up production to displace Pilbra iron ore? Australia iron ore operating costs are the cheapest in the world. Australia should develop their own steel industry using iron ore from the west and coking coal from the east…

      1. Hahahaha, Labour costs , state government regulations and their parasiting costs energy costs environmentalists Costs , you must be kidding. Workers want $200,000 a year to get out of bed , state government want $500,000,000 to approve the steel mill . Dozens of public holidays, scratch your finger off on workers Comp. Holiday leave , sick leave. Spouse leave . Parental leave , pregnancie leave. Funeral leave long service leave , Flexi day leave.
        Anyone want to build business in Australia and employ people is 100% totally MAD . Only government supported business’s survive in Australia today .

        1. Beautifully put Walter.
          Australia is exactly what you describe. Probably the strongest signal that Australia had gone completely ga ga was the closure of the entire vehicle manufacturing industry which is directly linked to your words. FLEXIBLE HRS, DAYS OFF, SORE FINGER, TWO PEOPLE REQUIRED TO DO ONE PERSON’S JOB, MILITANT WORK FORCE.
          The sad thing is that Australia will never recover as it is a nanny country where everyone looks at how to suck the very life out of it, and a government willing to accept this festering demolition job of Australia for a few votes.

        2. Sad but true. Got a mining “friend” on compo now for a sore back from driving on a bumpy road. Been on the mines for years and probably only worked 2 months total. Shes taking the system to the cleaners. Its disgusting.

        3. We have definetly put ourselves in a bad place with the cost of wages etc etc. The cost to run a business is immense. Greed and laziness has taken our country to a negative era. People are happy to work less and work poorly. Also business’s are introducing ways to reduce employment everyday because they want a bigger share of the profits. Where will it end? Somewhere no one will like.

        4. Maybe you would prefer we take the example of china and pay our workers slave rates , whilst working them 7days p/w… There will be always some developing country willing to exploit its workers.; you shouldnt be so eager to concede our hard won rights.

        5. Spot on VLPP very large pay packets. I worked in industry (well I was there no one works hard) What they don’t want and get is beyond reasonable.

        6. Time to cut the head off the threating snakes.nature is trying its best to destroy ccp with floods.its a shame lots of innocent people are affected as well.
          This is a world struggle against one greedy group.time to fix the problem and get on with life after the event.

      2. Its about time aussie got there heads together and built a steel smelting plant in the pilbara your country has verythi g it needs why was money carting product half way around the world ,be cime the power house not the kitchen bitch

        1. Cannot really understand you. I think you should go back th school and learn to spell.

        2. Totally agree, but most of our politicians are lazy self serving and corupt and unfortunately above the law, take sam dastyari and all the other politicians who in the last four years have been caught involved with the Chinese government and taking bags of money, have they been charged with anything, no, should have been jailed for treason at the least, Australia should be one of the richest country’s in the world our citizens should not be struggling to own a home, yes wages are high for some while most of the construction industry is payed a third to half what the union sites earn, why because of labor hire company’s making a fortune cutting rates and using backpackers instead of Australian citizens

      3. When you have the makings at home, why would you not export the value-added product? Iron ore + coal = steel.
        Did Australia not do this in the past? Why simply tax the export of raw materials when we could sell the steel?
        Start an industry – build some ships to move Australian steel around the world. Make some rails from our steel and put Australian trains on them. Ignore aviation as a lost, super-expensive industry and focus on a different method of moving people and goods around this huge country.

        Don’t do it the easy way – develop Australian industries.

        This great nation should now loosen the shackles of “global trade” and do things our way.

      4. Vale are much cheaper in respect to labour costs, even the USA is around 25% cheaper than Australian the US drive in and out of site being domiciled close too, we fly in and out and have as it were hotel costs on top re site based crews
        Africa would be cheaper regarding labour but like Brazil the haulage costs are more expensive due to distance
        China seek to control!

  3. Economy versus security interest of Australia.
    Until American goes to election Australia should be doing not much.
    Trump and Secretary of the state are two warmongers, Pompeo doing it, because that’s what Pompeo do,Trump would do it to try score political point to regain President.

    1. LEVEL PLAYING FIELD, is what it’s all about. Trump and Pompeo are trying to push China to understand that they like the rest of the world must be responsible or they will lose all respect. China want’s to be God over the entire world, and will happily achieve this by either money or the gun.
      Under communism, your life is similar to a minor insignificant cog in a machine. You have ZERO RIGHTS. I don’t want that life, for me, my kids, grandchildren, and Australians as a people.

      1. Garry,
        Your comments are clearly of someone how has been brainwashed and the propaganda machine has gotten to.

        Have you asked how’s those rights in the USA working out for the people? The disadvantage?

        We should all take a step back and look at things objectively.

        Your comment and “feelings” is the exact message the US government has been pushing around the world since the Vietnam War, Korean War, Soviet Cold War. That some how you would lose your “rights” and “freedoms”. It’s us or them mentality. From my prospective, it is you who has lost your freedom of thinking, as clearly you have not had your own for a while now.

      2. They might have the guns but without surport from other countries they’ll get wiped from the map, they are only one country when you got a World against them it adds up to a lot of guns and many many more people then China’s got so they can stick Communist government were the sun don’t shine!!!

  4. if my supplier and his boss wanted a war with me, i think most of us would try to divest our purchases elsewhere.

    1. Go for it Karen. Buy it from a supplier whose shop is closed due to plague contacted from you. It is expensive and unreliable and at the other end of the world. The other shops are in the feasibility stage. Clean the cobwebs when they are ready to supply.

  5. So Out of all this biggest looser is us Australians. We want Chinese money, Chinese investors, Chinese international students. But we are not willing to work with them.
    If we keep dancing to whatever the tune USA playing then we absolute morons and we deserve it. Americans only have permanent interest, they never had a permanent enemy. Trump will do all most anything to win the election and once he win he could become China’s best friend again which will leave us looking like absolute dumb wits.

      1. Its not ideal but we dont have the military strength to defend ourselves so we have allies that protect our interests for us. Without U.S. bases in the region we would have been invaded long ago. Its a necessary evil. Chinas coming and we’ve been asleep at the wheel

    1. If you keep dancing with the world’s largest totalitarian regime for money, you would pay an even higher price than COVID-19…in fact, we and the entire world are already paying the heavy price for dancing with the CCP over the past 40 years if not longer…appeasing a regime which is worse than Nazi Germany (both in terms of the number of people it has skilled and the way it kills or tortures people physically and mentally) will bring you to a level that is far lower than the worst politicians in the US…and you should open your mind, eye and ear to learn more a lot more about China, CCP, the US, Trump, and the world before you make any comments that do not do any good to this works other than make you feel good about yourself

      1. Exactly Adam,
        YOU should open your mind, eye and ear to learn more a lot more about China, CCP, the US, Trump, and the world before you make any comments that do not do any good to this works other than make you feel good about yourself.

        Take advice from your own and learn a bit more before speaking

    2. We want Chinese money and investment but we dont want them owning us or telling us what to do. Thats why we dont live up their ass. If you understood china you would know that “working with them” isnt how it works. They believe they are the world power and little countries like us , hong Kong, Taiwan, etc should stfu and follow orders. Maybe thats what you want but not me

    3. Well, while the Chinese people are lovely, the CCP is not. People are going missing, Hong Kong citizens rights are being stripped away, they are trying to strip smaller nations of their territory, endlessly threatening the sovereignty of Taiwan…….
      If communist China was a business, you’d be making a Fair Work claim against it immediately.
      “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept”.

    4. I think Milroy may not be Australian and maybe stirring the pot a little. I would like Australia to be stronger and independent in a lot of ways. Produce our own everything, meet tariff with tariff, not accept things that are not in our own best interests from any country.

      1. Catrina, I’m as Australian as you are and just because I don’t jump in the “let’s blame China” band wagon does not make me any less Australian than you are. I’m also a small business owner that coping the the full wrath of current economic downward spiral. We can keep blaming China for everything as a escape goat because it’s easier to do so. But constantly ignoring the fact that we were also bullies once and now crying for a fair play since the table has turned on us. 15 -2 years ago We didn’t care about human right violation etc etc when China was just a labour hire country supplying our consumer demand. But now China has turned the tide against us while we fell a sleep at the wheel. Americans are as much if not bigger bully than China.
        Trump is trying to make America great again and if you for second think that Australian will benefit from it to prosper then you are still sleeping at the wheel. We need to be independent and a sovereign nation that make decisions what best for us. Not because another country tell us to do so. I don’t want Australia to be a puppet for USA or China. Because our politicians seem to be telling us that we have to choose between the these two options.

        1. Milroy, I do agree the we need to think independantly but unfortunately most of our decisions are being made for us.
          By our ignorance we have help to create a monster directly in front of us. Our arrogance to think that we are a big player in the World affairs has prospered this.
          If we really think America or China has our best interest at heart, think again! If America really cared at all about others they would level up the senseless discrepancy in the value of money, so that we are all on a level playing field and possibly they could both play fair instead of a group of tyrants forcing the World into yet another war!
          Brad James

    5. you don’t even know what you talking about..I repeat what the other people’s comment..we should ignore stooges like you…

  6. We need the Asian countries but almost totally depending on other countries is absolute madness. The oil refineries, car production, heavy industrial products all gone. It feels very sad when one visits some historical sites, did Australia actually make these 100 years ago. Governments made lazy people. If there is a situation elsewhere, we don’t get enough supply (say oil), we are as we usually say.

  7. LEVEL PLAYING FIELD, is what it’s all about. Trump and Pompeo are trying to push China to understand that they like the rest of the world must be responsible or they will lose all respect. China want’s to be God over the entire world, and will happily achieve this by either money or the gun.
    Under communism, your life is similar to a minor insignificant cog in a machine. You have ZERO RIGHTS. I don’t want that life, for me, my kids, grandchildren, and Australians as a people.

    1. Garry,
      We working class people are minor insignificant cog in western world under democracy as well. Have you been living under a rock for last 3 decades?

      1. My opinion of Chinese behaviour is not for printing. God help the Chinese people who actually think.

  8. The reason Trump’s started trade war with China because he’s wanted China to buy more goods from the US (i.e. to balance the trade deficit).

    The US has pressured Australia to be vocal to achieve this goal. By doing so, Australia has turned away our largest customer (36% of our export), hence reducing or possibly totally eliminating Australian trade surplus with China.

    With less revenues (from China) and now Australia has agreed to purchase $270bn of weapons from the US (the next decade). This will mean only one thing, Australia will be much poorer for the coming years.

  9. I think Milroy may not be Australian and maybe stirring the pot a little. I would like Australia to be stronger and independent in a lot of ways. Produce our own everything, meet tariff with tariff, not accept things that are not in our own best interests from any country.

  10. Sam, will these VLOC terminals be like ghost towns of China? I don’t see the benefit of making a 10 car garage when I have only three cars, that have been declared untrustworthy.

    1. They are targeting potentially Brazilian iron ore, haven’t done a check of late, but I remember Vale has the world’s largest fleet of the world’s largest iron ore transport ships. Which require specialised terminals.

      This effectively reduces their costs to the buyer, putting them on even terms with say Australia.

      Now to answer your question, why build a 10 car garage? Well clearly the plan is to have 10 cars parked there at all times, maybe I don’t have 10 cars now, but I don’t have 10 car garage right now either. But I want 10. Cars, so I build the garage first.
      That is the entire premise of the article.

      1. Clay you are contradicting yourself, when you say “targeting potentially Brazilian iron ore”. Remember last year when the Vale dam burst, FMG share price that was languishing at around $3.50 shot up to $8. Vale has not recovered production since then. With this pandemic, Brazil is one of the worst affected countries. It will take years to recover and get production back on line.
        I have spent years in shipping and the same ships that ferry iron ore from Brazil are ferrying iron ore from Port Hedland, WA. BHP, FMG and Rio, all are expanding their capacity by dredging the port deeper and making more wharves. China has to rely on solely on Australia for Iron Ore but Australia is at liberty to export to any other country including India.
        I agree that Australia has high labour costs but that is due to shortage of labour. Imagine the Macdonald manager in Pilbara earning $2300 per week in 2012~13 in its hay days. The union power is decreasing. This is the best chance to change the economy by producing locally by increasing Automation or using the Singapore model of importing expatriate labour from Pacific Islands or others in the region. The other option is having the Australian producers to produce steel in other countries. India is welcoming such moves.

  11. People never mind the wording or the reading of this information worry about when China stops importing Australia’s ore .. we are we have the highest labour rate and minimum wage in the world thus our good living standards .. it this all goes no more FIFO no more $30 – $40 bucks an hour mate it will be more like $15 – $20 an hour for sparkies and the likes … why are worried about the South China seas .. Why do we ha e to be the first country to ask China about COVID 19 .. I agree raise the question then step back as always Australians think they know everything and are the best in the world just as they think AFL is the best sport globally yet only watched by say 2 million Australian viewers really Australia don’t puff your chest like a NANDOS Chicken and don’t bite the hand that feeds you .. we are way out here in the middle of the pond .. we don’t manufacture anything for export think about it NZ is a more industrial nation look at all the merchandise they make and export … so Australia your not bullet proof AFL is not a world wide sport .. you depend on China as it counts for about 48 % of our National GDP AND STOP BEING SO POLITICAL CORRECT ..

  12. MILROY VIEW widely shared including by Kerry Stokes, but not reported. We instead run with bungling Queensland pollies who want to save us. Love to dance with the yanks but they keep changing the tune. China stable for 2000 years, never was a threat, never will be

  13. Australia needs to grow up NOW. We need strong Leadership. Stop being a puppet to Trump. He sadly = America. WE need to tell the Republican Senate Commitee to remove Trump from office immediately. He lacks the mental capacity in Law to be President. He is a loose canon. He sucks us in to his insanity. China punishises us when he mentions we are “with America on this”.
    So cut the umbilical cord! Stand on our own feet.
    Save our iron ore exports. They ARE under threat.
    A caretaker President in the USA and we make it known to the world that WE will no longer have a relationship with the States while Trump is in power. He is too unstable and a threat to the future of the world. A person responsible for the deaths of 100,000,s of his citizens. Yes, crimes against humanity!
    China is far from perfect, nor are we, but Trump is the root cause of global insecurity, political unrest, and decimation of the global financial system.
    America has to take a good hard look at itself. How can a political system be allowed to continue that allows an incompetent and mentally unstable president to remain “untouchable” when all around him know he must be removed?
    Impeachement wont work. That process is flawed. Republicans have the numbers.
    So come on Australia. A leader not a follower be.
    Take a stand! Other western nations will join us and demand Trump is replaced NOW. China will also respect our strength. But we are not doing this for China. We are doing this because we are saying “Enough is enough. We are Australia. We speak for ourselves. We are nobody’s puppet”

  14. The CCP is a massive problem for the whole world, including the Chinese people. China would have risen as a democracy, they had a chance to lead the world in an awesome and peaceful way but Xi has hijacked the whole country and will start a war to keep his grip on power. The difference with America is that they have a balanced system where voters, presidents and Senate can effect change. The CCP has Xi. He is start g fights everywhere to distract his people from Covid.

    We need to stop buying Chinese products so the Chinese economy stalls and then Xi wil be vulnerable and the CCP can at least regain control of their system. Even Mao put a limit on dictators power’s so this wouldn’t happen.

  15. aust is facing bankrupt
    Morrison destroyed all relationship with China
    by sucking up to America。
    Morrison have just committed $250b buying military equip from US to help US economy。 This money could have used for extending job keeper。
    How we going to keep the job keeper going while exports businesses are being destroyed by Morrison govt??

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