On 24 May 2011, Vale Brasil received her first cargo at the Brazilian port Terminal Marítimo de Ponta da Madeira, 391,000 tons of iron ore bound for Dalian in China. However, the ship turned back towards the Atlantic Ocean in June after rounding the Cape of Good Hope and was rerouted to Taranto, Italy. There had been speculation that Vale Brasil was not allowed to enter the Chinese port fully laden, but according to Vale the destination was changed due to commercial, not political reasons.
The ship arrived at the port of Taranto on 14 July 2011 to discharge her cargo. Since then, fully laden Valemax vessels have unloaded at various ports, such as Dalian in China, Sohar in Oman, Rotterdam, Ōita in Japan, Dangjin in South Korea, and the transshipment hub Vale has constructed at Subic Bay in the Philippines.
On 5 December 2011 it was reported that Vale Beijing, operated by STX Pan Ocean, had suffered structural damage during her first cargo loading and was in danger of sinking at the port of Ponta da Madeira in Brazil due to sea water entering ruptured ballast tanks and cargo holds. The South Korean-built Valemax ship, partially loaded with 260,000 tons of iron ore, was towed away from Pier 1 by tugboats in the following day and as a precaution against environmental damage, the Brazilian authorities requested her fuel tanks to be emptied. Since there are no facilities to unload iron ore from the ship at Ponta da Madeira and no large shipyards in the region, emergency repairs had to be performed by divers and the cargo redistributed while the ship was anchored offshore before it could be towed to a shipyard.