Ore Odyssey: Port Hedland's Iron Ballet

Port Hedland
Port HedlandImage Source: Pilbara Port


In December, iron ore shipments from Western Australia's Port Hedland surged to 49.88 million metric tons, witnessing a rebound. Despite 2023 exports being 1% lower than the 2022 record, increased sales to India and Vietnam balanced reduced deliveries to China and Japan.


The rhythmic dance of iron ore shipments from Port Hedland, Western Australia, saw a December crescendo, reaching 49.88 million metric tons. A notable uptick from November's 44.94 million, this rebound showcased the port's resilience amid market dynamics. However, the annual exports for 2023 settled 1% below the previous year's record, standing at 559.7 million metric tons in 2022.

Shipments to Japan witnessed a 16% dip in 2023 compared to 2022, reaching 20.41 million metric tons, aligning with a trend that predates the pandemic. Meanwhile, exports to China slightly receded to 474.61 million metric tons, a 2% decrease from 2022 but a 5% increase from 2021.

India emerged as a key player, consistently purchasing ore from Port Hedland's Fortescue Metals and Roy Hill in the second half of 2023. The port dispatched 3.01 million metric tons from June to December, a significant surge from the 193,000 tons in the entirety of 2022. This marked India's return to substantial ore acquisitions since 2018.

Vietnam and Indonesia also played notable roles, with shipments to Vietnam spiking by 43% to a record 6.17 million metric tons in 2023. Concurrently, Indonesian shipments held steady at around 6 million tons for the third consecutive year.

Port Dampier, another key player in WA, shipped 12.66 million metric tons in December, maintaining a robust performance. Despite this, the total shipments for 2023, standing at 141.86 million metric tons, reflected a 4% increase compared to 2022, reaching the highest level since 2018.

BHP, Fortescue, Roy Hill, Hancock Prospecting, Mineral Resources, and Rio Tinto orchestrate this iron ballet, contributing to the global iron ore supply chain.


In conclusion, Port Hedland's iron ore saga unveils a nuanced narrative of global trade dynamics. The rebound in December shipments, coupled with diversified destinations, underscores the port's adaptability. While challenges persist in specific markets, the overall performance signals resilience and adaptability in the face of fluctuating demand and evolving trade patterns.

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