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RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Brazilian miner Vale's mega-ships have been able to dock at five ports in China, the firm's head of investor relations said on Thursday, as a ban that had been in place since 2012 is relaxed.
"The issue ... of the obstruction, that's overcome," investor relations chief Rogerio Nogueira, said at a conference in Rio de Janeiro.
"We are in the process of working to increase the number of ports at which we can dock," he added.
The comments mark the clearest statement yet from the company that restrictions on the ships are being rolled back.
Chinese ship owners had opposed access for Vale's mega-ships of 400,000 deadweight tons, known as Valemaxes, saying they could worsen a shipping glut. In 2012, China's Ministry of Transport banned the ships from the country's ports, citing safety concerns.
But the miner struck a deal with China Ocean Shipping Co (Cosco) in September, which analysts said would likely pave the way for the Valemax to dock at Chinese ports.
A month later, one of the ships docked at a port in Qingdao in eastern China.
Vale's inability to dock its iron ore carriers at Chinese ports had stymied its efforts to reduce freight costs and to compete with Australian based-rivals like BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, which are closer to China. (Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)