Iron ore shipments to China from Australia’s Port Hedland ended the year on the up after a sag in November.
Shipments rose by 16% in December from a month earlier, despite a short weather-related shutdown, according to monthly the Pilbara Ports Authority report on Friday.
Iron ore exports to China rose to 39.962 million tonnes from 34.44 million tonnes in November. That was just above the average monthly tonnage to China of 39 million tonnes but short of the all-time high of 46.186 million tonnes reached in June
Total iron ore exports from Port Hedland rose a strong 11.7% to 46.5 million tonnes from 41.61 million tonnes in November.
The 16% surge in shipments last month from the world’s largest iron ore export port came despite the port of Port Hedland being closed for 26 hours from December 10 to due to bad weather generated by a tropical low.
Prices for iron ore hit a record high at $US175 a tonne in December, extending a rally powered by a bullish demand outlook for 2021 and growing concerns about supply with a shortfall from Brazil’s Vale crimping shipments into China.
Over the first week of the new year, iron ore prices rose – the price of 62% Fe fines delivered to northern China was up nearly 8% at $US173.06 a tonne on Friday. The price of 65% fines (from Brazil) did better, jumping 11% to end Friday at $US192 a tonne.
Port Hedland is used by three of Australia’s top four iron ore miners: BHP Group, Fortescue Metals Group and Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill. Rio Tinto uses Dampier and its own port of Cape Lambert where it has two export terminals.
Exports through the port are a proxy for the strength of steel sector demand for iron ore in China, Japan and South Korea.
Total ships for the year rose 4.4% to 538.73 million tonnes, from 515 million tonnes in 2019.
Exports to China from the port were up 7.1% at 467.937 million tonnes from 436.720 million tonnes in 2019.
Chinese iron ore import figures and crude steel production data will be issued this week. Both will top the billion-tonne level and end at record levels.