Iron Ore Cargoes From Port Hedland Drop on Weather Disruption

  • Bad weather hurt loadings after strong December, ANZ says
  • Prices retreat 39% last year as global supplies top demand

Iron ore shipments from Australia’s Port Hedland declined in January after loadings were disrupted by bad weather and bumper volumes were dispatched from the world’s top bulk-export terminal the month before.

Total exports fell to 33.78 million metric tons from 37.55 million in December and 36.77 million in January 2015, according to port authority data. That’s the lowest since June 2014. China-bound cargoes dropped to 28.91 million tons from 32.17 million in December and 30.15 million a year earlier, said the authority, which revised the figure for Chinese shipments on Thursday after releasing initial data on Wednesday.

Cargoes from Port Hedland have risen to a record in recent years after miners expanded low-cost operations, helping to spur a global glut and hurt prices as steel demand in China fell. The volumes in December were boosted by inaugural shipments from Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill project, which didn’t dispatch any cargoes last month. Port Hedland was shut on Jan. 29 as Cyclone Stan approached, reopening on the final day of the month.

‘Weak’ Exports

“When you consider the strong volumes in December, it’s really no surprise that January exports were weak,” Daniel Hynes, senior commodity strategist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Sydney, said after revised figures were issued. “Weather-related disruptions in Western Australia have also taken their toll. ”

Port Hedland, a gateway to the ore-rich Pilbara region of Western Australia, handles shipments from BHP Billiton Ltd. and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. The facility will also be used by Rinehart’s Roy Hill, which plans to boost volumes this year. Australia is the world’s largest iron ore exporter ahead of Brazil.

“Roy Hill’s exports will pick up as the year goes on, and eventually play a bigger factor in the seaborne trade,” said Jeremy Sussman, an analyst at Clarksons Platou Securities Inc. in New York. 

Iron ore plunged 39 percent in 2015 and extended losses in January before rebounding this month before China’s Lunar New Year break. Ore with 62 percent content at Qingdao rose 1.8 percent to $44.63 a dry ton on Wednesday, according to Metal Bulletin Ltd. data.

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