Winning orders first VLOCs as Guinea bauxite trades leap

Singapore-based Chinese capesize specialist Winning International Group has placed an order at CSSC yard Qingdao Beihai Shipbuilding for the construction of two very large ore carriers to facilitate the company’s West Africa to China seaborne trade. 

The so-called WinningMax 325,000 dwt newbuilds, classed by the China Classification Society and DNV, will be nearly 330m long, methanol-ready with 12,000 cu m fuel storage tanks, have a speed of 13.9 knots and are designed to meet the EEDI Phase 3 requirements. Compared with traditional capes, the WinningMax is expected to reduce energy consumption per tonne by nearly 50%. The price tag and delivery dates have not been disclosed.

Winning owns one of the largest bulk carrier fleets in Singapore, with over 40 vessels, and is currently the world’s top bauxite shipping company. It is mainly engaged in the development of bauxite in Guinea, with an annual shipment of more than 50m tons.

Global seaborne minor ore exports rose 7% year over year in the first seven months of 2023, driven by continued growth in demand in China, according to the world’s largest shipping organisation BIMCO. Accounting for 51% of that, exports of bauxite, the only minor ore transported by capesizes and an essential mineral for aluminum, also led to year-to-date growth with a 9% increase. 

Chinese aluminium production has rapidly increased since the start of the Ukraine war, and nearly 80% of all seaborne bauxite export volumes now head to China. Due to the Indonesian export ban starting in June, Guinean exports have gradually replaced all Indonesian bauxite exports, rising 26% year over year in July.

“Capesize bulk carriers have benefited from an increase in bauxite shipments and now account for 11% of capesize demand. On top of the additional tonnage, sailing distances for bauxite shipments are 71% longer than the average capesize distance,” noted Filipe Gouveia, shipping analyst at BIMCO.

Winning is also involved it the Simandou iron ore project, located in the Simandou mountain range area in southeastern Guinea, which is one of the largest untapped high-grade iron ore deposits in the world. 

The northern half of the mining area is owned by Winning Consortium Simandou (WCS), led by Winning, while the southern part of the mining area project is owned by Simfer, led by Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto. Last year, WCS and Rio Tinto Simfer agreed to start the construction of a 650 km railway, a deep-water port, and other infrastructure needed to support mining operations, with a view to starting production by 2025.

“Winning International Group will build a fleet of VLOCs in the future to be responsible for the ocean transportation of bauxite and iron ore in Guinea, and increase continuous investment in green fleets to achieve its core strategic goal of sustainable development,” the company said.

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