Iron ore shipments from Western Australia's (WA) Port Hedland rallied in December, although 2023 exports were below 2022 as increased sales to India and Vietnam were offset by reduced deliveries to China and Japan.
Port Hedland shipped 49.88mn t in December, up from 44.94mn t in November and 49.27mn t in December 2022, according to Pilbara Ports (PPA) data. Total exports in 2023 were 1pc lower than the record high of 559.7mn t set in 2022 but higher than 546.05mn t achieved in 2021.
Shipments to Japan from Port Hedland fell by 16pc in 2023 compared with 2022 to 20.41mn t and were 28pc below 2021. Port Hedland shipments to Japan had trended downwards from a peak of 28.59mn t in 2007 to 18.46mn t in a Covid-19-ravaged 2020. They rebounded strongly in 2021 on restocking but have returned in 2023 to the downwards path prior to the pandemic.
Port Hedland also shipped 2pc less iron ore to China than in 2022 at 474.61mn t in 2023 but this was 5pc more than in 2021. South Korean shipments were up by 3pc to 37.19mn t but remained off the peak of 44.06mn t set in 2021.
India returned to consistent buying of ore from Port Hedland users Fortescue Metals and Roy Hill in the second half of 2023, with the port dispatching 3.01mn t in June-December that was up from 193,000t in all of 2022. India last consistently bought ore from Port Hedland in 2018 when it took 7.89mn t.
Shipments to Vietnam increased by 43pc from a year earlier to a record 6.17mn t in 2023. Those to Indonesia increased by 3pc to 6.57mn t, staying about 6mn t for the third year in a row.
WA's Port Dampier shipped 12.66mn t of iron ore in December, up from 12.32mn t in November but down from 13.27mn t in December 2022. Total shipments of 141.86mn t for 2023 were 4pc higher than 2022 and at the highest level since 2018.
BHP, Fortescue, Roy Hill, Hancock Prospecting and Mineral Resources export iron ore through Port Hedland. Rio Tinto has four independent shipping terminals split across Cape Lambert and Port Dampier.
The Argus ICX iron ore index was assessed at $128.90 /dry metric tonne (dmt) cfr Qingdao on a 62pc Fe basis on 15 January, down from $113.45/dmt on 10 October last year and off an 18-month high of $144.25/dmt on 3 January. Argusmetal
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