Cyclone Heidi forces Port Hedland iron ore terminal closure

Tropical cyclone Heidi is lashing the West Australian coast forcing the closure of the world’s biggest iron ore export terminals

By Rebecca Byfield | January 13, 2012

Tropical cyclone Heidi is lashing the West Australian coast with winds up to 120km an hour, forcing the closure of the world’s biggest iron ore export terminals.

"We’re certainly feeling the brunt of Cyclone Heidi as she crosses the coast," says Port Hedland Mayor, Kelly Howlett.

Port Hedland exports around 140 million tonnes of iron ore a year. The closure could cost the industry millions of dollars.

Port Hedland Port Authority spokesperson Steed Farrell last night told the media: "We’re still closed. It’s not possible to say when we will be able to go in and assess any damage or start to reopen."

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the Pilbara region can also expect up to 250 millimetres of rain and dangerously high tides.

Ports in the region began closing on Tuesday night as the storm swept across the Indian Ocean.

Rio Tinto also halted all loading at its Dampier and Cape Lambert ports, 250 kilometres south of Port Hedland.

Woodside Petroleum, Australia’s largest oil and gas company, also shut down production from several offshore fields.

Weather has always been a factor but the last twelve months has seen a dramatic increase in the number of natural disasters impacting global supply chains.

Take the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan last March, which caused major supply chain disruptions and shortages for auto makers, electronics manufacturers, freight companies and many more associated industries.

"The disaster made companies more aware of the fragility of supply chains," says DHL Vice President Consumer, Retail, Healthcare & Transport Robert Sutton in Tokyo.

Then there were the recent floods in Thailand, which according to Goodyear, could result in a potential global shortage of aircraft tyres.

It also forced the world’s leading hard disk drive producers – Western Digital, Hitachi and Toshiba – to close shop for months, which the International Data Company research group believes could see a 20 percent drop in personal computer shipments in the first quarter of 2012.

The Icelandic volcano eruption caused major disruptions to both passenger and freight flights in and out of Europe.

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