Australia's iron ore export hub clears port as tropical low approaches

FILE PHOTO: Ships waiting to be loaded with iron ore are seen at the Fortescue loading dock located at Port Hedland, in the Pilbara region of Western Australia December 3, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Pilbara Ports Authority said on Thursday it has started to clear large vessels out of Port Hedland, the world’s biggest iron ore export hub, as it issued a cyclone warning.

A tropical low located some 740 km (460 miles) southeast of Christmas Island, off Australia’s northwest coast, is forecast to bring gale-force winds and significant swell as the cyclone approaches the Pilbara region, the port authority said in a statement.

The weather system is forecast to cross the east Pilbara coast on Friday, most likely in the afternoon, Australia’s meteorology bureau said.

The bureau has a “severe weather warning” in place for parts of Pilbara for potential damaging winds and heavy rainfall, in addition to flood warnings, it said.

Port Hedland is the world’s biggest export point for iron ore and is used by BHP Group, Fortescue and billionaire Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting, while Rio Tinto exports out of Port of Dampier.

Reporting by Melanie Burton, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips