Storms shut Australian iron ore ports
By James Regan, ReutersSYDNEY -- A tropical storm intensifying off Australia's northwest coast brought nearly half the world's iron ore trade to a halt on Tuesday, idling huge ports used by miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton
January 23, 2013, 4:40 pm TWN
Port Hedland, Dampier and Cape Lambert ports were in the process of closing on Tuesday as the tropical storm gathered strength in the Indian Ocean, sending dozens of vessels in search of safe harbors.
Port Hedland is used by BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group and Atlas Iron which expect to ship more than 200 million tons of ore this year, accounting for a fifth of global seaborne trade in the steel-making raw material.
It will close at 1900 local time (1100 GMT), the Port Hedland Port authority said in a statement.
Rio Tinto, which ships more than 200 million tons of iron ore through Dampier and Cape Lambert, is also due to shut down port operations, the company said.
“Harbor masters are expected to close Port Walcott (Cape Lambert) and Dampier ports later today to allow ships to move outside of the system area,” Rio Tinto said in a statement.
“Operations are continuing at this stage, but preparations are commencing to secure port and associated coastal infrastructure ahead of expected deteriorating conditions this evening,” it said.
At 0600 GMT, a tropical low was estimated to be 130 km (80 miles) northeast of Port Hedland moving west at a speed of 11 kph, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
Iron ore prices have gained support from concerns that Australia's cyclone season, which runs from November until April, will reduce supplies.