Iron Ore Shipments to China From Port Hedland Rise to Record

  • Shipments in August increase 15% from previous month
  • Goldman says supply set to diverge further from demand

Iron ore exports to China from Australia’s Port Hedland climbed to a record last month as suppliers increased output through the world’s largest bulk-export terminal.

Shipments rose 15 percent to 33.9 million metric tons from 29.5 million tons in July and compared with 32 million tons a year earlier, according to data from the Pilbara Ports Authority. Total iron ore exports reached 39.2 million tons, also an all-time high, from 35.3 million tons a month earlier and 37.4 million tons in August 2014, the data showed.

Low-cost producers in Australia including BHP Billiton Ltd., which routes its cargoes through Port Hedland, are intent on expanding output to boost sales and cut costs while smaller mines shut. Iron ore tumbled in early July to the lowest level in at least six years as the jump in supplies coincided with faltering demand from China. Supply will probably diverge further from demand in the coming months, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said Aug. 14.

“The increase in Australian iron ore supply has been quite remarkable,” Ralph Leszczynski, head of research in Singapore at Banchero Costa & Co., a Genoa-based shipbroker, said before the data were released. “They’ve managed to drive out of the market many of the smaller producers.”

Ore with 62 percent content at Qingdao increased 0.2 percent to $56.70 a ton on Wednesday, according to data from Metal Bulletin Ltd. The raw material climbed 5.2 percent in August, having bottomed at $44.59 a ton on July 8.

China Restocks

Prices were supported last month by restocking from Chinese steel mills and lean inventory levels, according to Singapore Exchange Ltd., a clearer of iron ore swaps. Inventories at Chinese ports fell for three consecutive weeks to 80.45 million tons at the end of August, the lowest in two months, according to Shanghai Steelhome Information Technology Co.

The record August exports may have been in part to compensate for a drop in July cargoes. Shipments that month fell 9.6 percent from June to the lowest level since November.

Exports from Australia and Brazil disappointed in the past four months and scheduled maintenance of ship loaders was the latest culprit behind erratic volumes, Goldman Sachs said in the Aug. 14 report. Supply growth was set to resume in the short term as producers put operational issues behind them, the bank said.

Port Hedland handles cargoes from BHP and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., Australia’s largest producers after Rio Tinto Group. The country will probably ship 748 million tons of iron ore this year and 824 million tons in 2016, according to a forecast from the Department of Industry & Science.

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