Shipments of iron ore to China from Port Hedland, Australia, which handles a fifth of the world's seaborne trade, fell 17.6 percent in January from the previous month after a tropical cyclone closed the port temporarily, port data showed.
Tropical Cyclone Stan made landfall as a Category 2 storm early Sunday about 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Port Hedland. The storm closed the port for 48.8 hours, Pilbara Ports Authority, which operates the facility, said in a statement on Wednesday.
The disruption occurred as the appetite for iron ore in China, the top consumer of the steelmaking raw material, has declined amid a slowdown in the country's economic growth and a sharp downturn in its property sector.
Shipments from the port to China retreated to 26.52 million tonnes last month from 32.17 million tonnes in December, the Ports Authority said.
Overall throughput fell 9 percent from the same month a year earlier to 34.1 million tonnes.
The slump in China iron ore exports coincides with the iron ore price <.IO62-CNI=SI> lingering near multiyear lows because of caution about future demand from Australia's biggest export partner China.
The commodity hit a low of $39.30 per tonne during January, little more than half its $71.20 level of the same month a year earlier, when 30.15 million tonnes of iron ore moved through Port Hedland to China.
Overall iron ore exports from Port Hedland fell 8 percent in January, the authority said.
Reporting by Byron Kaye