Port woes persist for West Australian iron ore exports

  • : Metals
  • 21/06/08

Port issues for Australian iron ore producers Rio Tinto and BHP continued to weigh on shipments from the four largest producers in the Pilbara region of Western Australia (WA) in the week to 5 June.

The four largest WA producers — Rio Tinto, BHP, Fortescue Metals and Roy Hill — loaded vessels with a combined 16.57mn deadweight tonnes (dwt) of capacity in the latest week, down from 17.09mn dwt in the week ending 29 May. Loadings were 5pc below the average of 17.25mn dwt/week over the past year, with Rio Tinto not shipping anything from its East Intercourse Island (EII) berths at Dampier for the second week in a row and BHP experiencing issues at its Finucane Island terminal at Port Hedland.

The deadweight tonnage is the maximum capacity of the vessel and overestimates actual shipments by around 5pc.

Rio Tinto loaded vessels with 5.6mn dwt capacity in the week to 5 June, down from 5.77mn dwt the previous week and stood 17pc below its annual rolling average of 6.71mn dwt/week. The firm has not loaded iron ore at its 45mn t/yr EII terminal since 20 May but has declined to disclose the reason.

BHP shipped 4pc below average in the most recent week at 5.61mn dwt, down from 6.02mn dwt the previous week, despite its usual ramp-up ahead of the end of its financial year on 30 June. BHP has not shipped from its Finucane Island A berth since 31 May. This follows a pause in shipping from the Nelson Point A berth during 23 May-1 June. The firm has been upgrading port facilities to increase its operational flexibility.

Roy Hill shipped 1.38mn dwt, up from 1.19mn dwt in the week to 29 May and 20pc above its rolling average of 1.15mn dwt. Fortescue continued its seven-week run of above-average exports at 3.88mn dwt, down from 4.11mn dwt the previous week but 9pc above its weekly average of 3.57mn dwt. Fortescue had a very strong May and is likely to continue to push exports ahead of the end of its fiscal year on 30 June.

China was listed as the destination for 73pc of shipments in the latest week, up from 70pc a week earlier. After including shipments with unconfirmed destinations — most of which are probably headed to China — the percentage was 81pc, up from 77pc a week earlier and close to the average of around 82pc.

Argus assessed the ICX iron ore price at $202.80/dmt cfr Qingdao on a 62pc Fe basis yesterday, down from $209.30/dmt on 1 June and from a high of $235.55/dmt on 12 May. Yesterday's assessment increased from $167.45/t on 1 April and $159.90/t on 31 December.

WA iron ore loadings mn dwt

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