* Port is world’s biggest iron ore export terminal
* Iron ore prices soared 80 pct in 2016
* Overall shipments from Port Hedland also hit record (Adds that shipments hit record, detail)
SYDNEY, Jan 6 (Reuters) - December iron ore shipments to China from Australia’s Port Hedland terminal hit a record 37.4 million tonnes in December, boosted as users such as BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group ramped up production.
Overall shipments from the world’s biggest iron ore export terminal also climbed to a record 43.9 million tonnes last month, according to the Pilbara Ports Authority.
The previous record for iron ore exports to China was 35.5 million tonnes, while the overall record was 42.9 million tonnes. Both were set last August.
“We saw records in both categories in December,” a port spokesman said. “It was a very active month.”
Iron ore prices soared 80 percent in 2016 as economic stimulus in China helped sustain steel output. China imports the vast majority of the world’s sea-traded iron ore.
Compared to November, December shipments were up 11 percent to China and 7 percent overall, port figures showed.
Analysts expect both BHP and Fortescue to report near-record quarterly production figures later this month.
Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Joseph Radford