Dampier Port Shuts as Cyclone Olwyn Nears Australian Coast

Image via Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
Image via Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology

By Phoebe Sedgman

(Bloomberg) — Two ports in Western Australia closed as a strengthening tropical cyclone approached the coast. The system isn’t affecting Port Hedland, the biggest-bulk export terminal that handles iron ore from the world’s top exporter.

The port of Dampier, used by Rio Tinto Group, closed at 10 a.m. local time on Thursday, the Pilbara Ports Authority said in an e-mailed statement. Anchorages are closed to new arrivals with the exception of vessels proceeding to cyclone moorings and small vessels seeking safe haven. The port of Ashburton shut at 8 a.m., it said. There’s no significant impact on operations at Port Hedland, according to the authority.

Category 2 Tropical Cyclone Olwyn is expected to strengthen into a category 3 storm as it approaches the Western Australian coast, the Bureau of Meteorology forecast. Apache Corp., an energy producer with oil and gas assets in Australia, said Wednesday that it was evacuating non-essential personnel from offshore operations in the area. Australia’s cyclone season runs from Nov. 1 to April 30, with an average of four storms crossing the coast, according to the weather bureau.

“Olwyn continues to intensify as it moves toward the Northwest Cape and is expected to reach Category 3 before landfall,” the bureau said on its website. Olwyn is located 335 kilometers (208 miles) northwest of Karratha, it said.

The ports will remain closed until further advice from harbor masters, according to the authority. Exports through Dampier totaled 176.7 million tons in the year ended June 30, 2014, with about 83 percent comprising iron ore, port data show.

Condensate, liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas are also loaded at Dampier, accounting for almost 14 percent of exports in the year to June, according to port data. About 73 percent of imports were petroleum, the data show.

Cargoes expected to be shipped through the rest of March include Australian North West Shelf condensate from Chevron Corp., Woodside Petroleum Ltd. and BHP Billiton Ltd., according to two equity producers with knowledge of the preliminary loading schedule, who asked not to be identified as they aren’t authorized to speak publicly.

–With assistance from Serene Cheong in Singapore.

Copyright 2015 Bloomberg.