(Reuters) - Iron ore shipments to China from Australia's Port Hedland rose by 17 percent in May from the previous month, according to port authority data released on Thursday.
Demand for imported iron ore in China has softened due to slowing domestic economic growth although some steel producers were still willing to buy cargoes to replenish restock inventories, according to commodities analysts.
High port and bonded warehouse inventories masking "very tight consumer stockpiles," Australia & New Zealand Bank said in a report.
Also, there has been particularly strong demand for higher-priced Australian iron ore which contains fewer impurities than those from other countries.
The shipments to China climbed to 17.42 million tonnes from 14.84 million tonnes in April, the data showed.
Total iron shipments from Port Hedland were 22.5 million tonnes in May versus 20.7 million tonnes in April.
BHP Billiton is the port's biggest user, followed by Fortescue Metals Group Ltd.
Japan imported 2.73 million tonnes in May versus 2.75 million tonnes in April, the data showed.
May shipments to South Korea totaled 1.80 million tonnes against 2.14 million tonnes in April.