* Port Hedland Dec. iron ore shipments to China up 1 pct
* Rise comes despite weak price
* 2015 shipments up 10 pct year-on-year (Updates to add graphic, no change to text)
By James Regan
SYDNEY, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Iron ore shipments to China through Australia’s Port Hedland rose 1 percent in December despite the spot price for the steelmaking ingredient dropping to its lowest on record and a gloomy outlook heading into the new year.
Shipments to China from the port reached 32.17 million tonnes in December versus 31.73 million tonnes in November, Pilbara Ports Authority figures released on Wednesday showed.
For all of 2015, shipments to China rose to 377.88 million tonnes from 343.41 million tonnes in 2014, according to Reuters calculations of port data.
“The prospects for iron ore are looking darker than ever, but still more keeps coming out of the ground. It’s self-defeating,” said Gavin Wendt, an analyst for MineLife in Sydney.
The port, the world’s largest for exporting iron ore, is used by major suppliers to the sea-traded market such as BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group.
BHP is lifting output by 6 percent to 247 million tonnes by next July, while Fortescue is running at an annual rate of around 165 million tonnes, making them the third and fourth largest producers worldwide after Vale and Rio Tinto
Fueling the dire outlook for iron ore, factory activity in China again contracted in December as surveys across Asia showed the industrial sector struggling with slack demand.
The poor data this week triggered a 7 percent slide in Chinese shares, forcing exchanges to suspend trade for the first time, and only worsening sentiment toward imported raw materials.
Total shipments through the port reached 37.55 million tonnes in December compared with 37.33 million tonnes in November, the figures showed.
The spot price for iron ore slid by as much as 48 percent in 2015, hitting a low of $37 a tonne on Dec. 11, the lowest since at least 2008, when The Steel Index started tracking the price. It stood at $42.10 a tonne on Wednesday..IO62-CNI=SI
Iron ore ended 2015 as one of the worst performing commodities of the year.
Editing by Sunil Nair