SYDNEY – Vessels may be cleared from Australia's Port Hedland, the world's biggest iron ore export terminal, as early as Thursday as a safety precaution because of a tropical storm, port manager Pilbara Ports Authority said on Wednesday.
The authority said Port Hedland may start clearing vessels on Thursday morning if the tropical low builds overnight into a cyclone off the Western Australia coastline.
Port Hedland is used by three of Australia's top four iron-ore miners- BHP,, Fortescue Metals Group and Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting.
A significant risk remains that it might become a severe tropical cyclone early on Friday, bringing destructive wind gusts up to 130km per hour (80 miles) to coastal areas in northwestern Australia, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said.
The region is home to many of the world's largest iron ore mines, with Port Hedland last month accounting for over 41 million tonnes of exports, almost all bound for Chinese steel mills.
On average, there are 10 to 13 tropical cyclones between November and April in the Australian region, four of which typically cross the coast, data from the bureau shows.
Each year, cyclones close shipping lanes and disrupt mining of millions of tonnes of iron ore, as well as coal, sugar and other commodities that are crucial for Australia's export-reliant economy.