Major shipping companies have warned their customers of worsening congestion at the Yantian port of Shenzhen, southern China, following the discovery of several asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 in the city.
Yantian International Container Terminal (YICT), one of China’s busiest container ports with an annual handling volume of over 13 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), has imposed strict disinfection measures and quarantine since May 21, when the virus was discovered among the Personal ports.
More than 40 container ships were anchored in open water outside the terminal, Refinitiv vessel tracking data showed on Thursday.
Major international container companies have said they will skip some stopovers in Yantian to ease the pressure, while shipping sources added that some ships may be rerouted to other destinations.
“The overall productivity of operations at YICT has been negatively affected, and we expect the current ship berthing delays and port congestion situation to likely continue for at least a week,” said the world number one. MSC 2 lines said Wednesday in a customer notice.
Global container shipping rates have hit record highs in recent months due to bottlenecks caused by increased demand for consumer goods.
Even before the disruption in Yantian, global supply chains struggled to clear container backlogs, a ripple effect of the week-long blockage of a major trade route through the Suez Canal in March. Read more
Container freight rates from China to Europe FREIGHTOS-CN-EU hit a record high of $ 10,627 (per 40ft container unit) this week.
The port of Yantian temporarily suspended the acceptance of loaded container ships for export at the end of May, causing a large backlog in the container yard and congestion outside the port.
By the time Yantian partially resumed processing on Monday, more than 23,000 containers were waiting to be exported.
The world’s leading container line Maersk (MAERSKb.CO) warned in a letter Thursday that traffic jams and delays could last 12 days, longer than its previous expectations of 7-8 days.
Maersk estimated that operations in the eastern area of the Yantian Terminal, where larger ships mainly dock, would remain at around 30% of their normal level.
Other major shipping companies, including COSCO Shipping (601919.SS), Hapag-Lloyd (HLAG.DE) and ONE, have also alerted their customers to increasing delays and traffic jams and the possibility of not calling at Yantian.
“The local government is paying great attention to disinfection measures in Yantian, as it is currently the busiest season for exports and Yantian is one of the biggest transportation hubs for European and American lines,” said said a person close to the port of Yantian, who is not authorized to speak to the media.
Chinese shipping companies and authorities have advised ships to divert to nearby ports, including the west port of Shenzen and the Nansha port of Guangzhou, which are operating normally despite sporadic cases of coronavirus in the region.
“There aren’t as many cases (of the virus) in Yantian as in neighboring towns. But more rounds of nucleic acid testing will need to be done. So it will be some time before the port fully resumes. its activities, ”said the person close to the Port.
The port of Yantian did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
The recently expanded YICT has become a critical gateway to China with around 100 ships calling each week, 60% of which operate on European and American routes, according to a recent note from the Shenzhen regional government.
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