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FMG’s iron ore armada: see Andrew Forrest’s huge carriers take shape

In a Chinese shipyard, Andrew Forrest’s iron ore armada is taking shape.

The yard, spread over one and a half million square metres, is where the Fortescue Metals Group founder and chairman’s dream is about to come true.

It has been the job of 6000 workers to turn millions of pieces of steel into some of the world’s biggest ocean vessels.

As the head of shipping at the WA mining giant, Mark Davidson is overseeing the construction of eight new iron ore carriers.

“We looked at shipyards around the world including Australia but because of the size and scale of the vessels we were limited to a number of shipyards in China or Japan or Korea, eventually we chose China,” Mr Davidson told Today Tonight’s Mark Gibson.

Side by side, the FMG Sophia and Sydney are under construction, named after two of Mr Forrest’s children.

Mr Davidson said construction of the ships took between 12 and 14 months.

Building and owning the $90 million ships will put FMG in the same league as its two bigger rivals, BHP Billition and Rio Tinto.

The FMG Grace, named after the eldest of the three Forrest children, is just about finished.

“This is around $US550 million of total investment across the eight ships,” FMG chief executive Nev Power said.

“And this represents a very significant investment for Fortescue and one that we’re very excited about.”

Fortescue’s first fully completed ore carrier, the Nicola, is already in service. It is 57m wide and 327m — standing upright, it would be taller than the Eiffel Tower, and almost as big as the Empire State Building.

“For us it’s the completion of the supply chain from the ground to the steel mills,” Mr Forrest said.

It was a risky move. Fortescue committed to building the ships three years ago, when the outlook for iron ore was bleak, but ship building costs were also low.

“Now, of course, after the event everyone’s a hero but at the time you know it was scary and all thanks to the vision of (chief executive) Nev (Power) and the shipping team,” he said.

“We saw an opportunity when the shipping market became very quiet over the last few years to build these ships while the construction costs were at a low ebb and to have them for the next 20 or 30 years irrespective of what the shipping index rate does,” Mr Power said.

Iron ore tops $US90 a tonne for first time in 2 years

The second completed carrier, the FMG Grace, is due to arrive in coming weeks.

The Sophia and Sydney will follow over the next few months, with four unnamed vessels still to be built.

All up, it’s a $720 million Fortescue fleet.

“It’s a dream which has absolutely come true. I haven’t felt this optimism, this emotion, this elation inside my heart, my spirit since we sailed that first ship in,” Mr Forrest said.
Source: The West

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