SYDNEY Feb 25 World trade in iron ore faces
major disruption as an intense cyclone bears down on Western
Australian shipping ports handling nearly half of the global
Ports in Australia's Pilbara iron belt -- handling around
500 million tonnes of ore this year -- have either closed or are
in the process of being shut ahead of tropical cyclone Rusty,
which meteorologists expect to cross the coast by Wednesday with
wind gusts reaching up to 280 km per hour (170 miles per hour).
"Further intensification is likely as the cyclone approaches
the coast on Monday and Tuesday and there is a high risk that it
will cross the coast as a severe tropical cyclone," the
Australian weather bureau said.
Most of the iron ore mined in Australia is contracted by
Chinese steel mills, with Japanese and South Korean mills also
Port Hedland, a major terminal for iron ore exports, has
been closed and all vessels sent out to sea in preparation for
the storm, according to port spokesman Steed Farrell.
Further south, Dampier port is expected to be fully closed
by sunset on Monday, Harbour Master John Fewings said in a
statement emailed to Reuters.
Rusty could strengthen to a category 4 -- on a scale of
one-to five -- by the time its reaches Port Hedland, according
to the Bureau of Meteorology tracking system.
The storm is currently rated a category 2.
BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd
and Atlas Iron Ltd are forecast to ship more than 275
million tonnes of iron ore this year through the port.
BHP said it was monitoring the cyclone's advance.
The ports of Dampier and Cape Lambert, about 200 km south of
Port Hedland are used by Rio Tinto . Australia's
biggest iron ore miner is targeting shipments of 260 million
tonnes of ore through these ports this year.
A weaker category 1 system which passed the Pilbara in
January forced the shutdown of all three iron ore export
terminals, contributing to a 9 percent drop in exports for the
month and a 5.2 rise in spot prices.
Iron ore prices have pulled back to just
under $154 a tonne since hitting a 16-month peak of $158.90 last
Iron ore shipments from Port Hedland in January totaled 22
The region between Port Hedland and Dampier is known among
mariners as "cyclone alley", with the peak season running from
November to April.