Port Hedland Officers, Deckhands Settle as Engineers Strike

port hedland capesize bulk carrier
Bulk carrier departing Port Hedland, Australia. Photo courtesy Port Hedland Port Authority

By Jasmine Ng

Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) — Tugboat masters and deckhands at Australia’s Port Hedland, the world’s largest bulk export terminal, voted to accept a new labor agreement, said Teekay Shipping (Australia) Pty, just as engineers prepared to strike.

The accord includes a 2 percent salary increase in the second, third and fourth years and 28 days more annual leave, said Teekay, which is contracted by BHP Billiton Ltd. to run tugboats at the port. The deckhands confirmed the agreement. Robert Coombs, a spokesman for the officers, didn’t answer a call and an e-mail seeking comment after the Teekay statement.

While engineers still plan a four-hour stoppage on Nov. 12, the agreements lessen the risk of disruption to iron ore supplies from BHP and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. Iron ore is Australia’s biggest export earner. Shipments through Port Hedland represented 55 percent of the country’s iron ore exports last year and more than 80 percent of cargoes go to China, port and government data show. Shipments climbed to a record in October as mine production expanded.

“The deal received unanimous support,” said the Maritime Union of Australia representing deckhands. “The MUA has been able to sit down with Teekay and reach an agreement that is in both the national interest and the interest of workers.”

Iron ore with 62 percent content delivered to Qingdao in China ended at $75.84 a dry metric ton on Nov. 7 for a 4.7 percent loss in the week, the biggest weekly drop since May, according to Metal Bulletin Ltd. Prices fell to $75.38 the day before to the lowest level since Sept. 4, 2009.

Engineers Strike

Members of the Australian Institute of Marine & Power Engineers plan to strike from 6 a.m. local time on Wednesday. Teekay was disappointed that they decided to take the action at a time when the MUA and the Australian Maritime Officers Union had endorsed agreements “in substantially the same terms,” according to an e-mailed statement on Nov. 6.

The market needs to absorb a surplus of about 110 million tons next year, almost double the 60 million tons in 2014, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a report on Oct. 23. The glut will push prices lower to average $78 a ton next year from $98 in 2014, according to Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.

“Large, low-cost producers are more interested in securing dominant market share,” Mark Pervan, ANZ’s head of commodity research, wrote in a report today. “A prolonged global surplus position late into the decade suggests prices are unlikely to breach $100 a ton again.”

Copyright 2014 Bloomberg.