ContainersPorts and Logistics

Chinese boxport congestion grows in wake of Ningbo closure

Container port congestion has spread across China in the 12 days since a terminal in Ningbo-Zhoushan went offline following a worker catching Covid-19.

Data sent to Splash today by Danish liner consultancy eeSea highlights how global boxport congestion has grown over the past fortnight in China and neighbouring nations, yet has momentarily eased in Europe.

The two bubble maps carried below show congestion today versus two weeks ago.

Today’s map shows 48 boxships waiting at Ningbo-Zhoushan and a percentage of 65% of vessels waiting versus in port. Shanghai is inching upwards, at 52%, and Yantian (68%), Hong Kong (55%) and Shekou/Chiwan (67%) are also on an upwards trend. Busan, usually quite low, is now at 70%, with 14 vessels waiting outside.

It’s really a moving target right now

Outside of east Asia, there has yet to be a major spill over from the Ningbo closure into other Asian ports. The port authority in Ningbo-Zhoushan is slowly implementing a reopening of its Meishan terminal, a facility which accounts for around 20% of the approximate 30m teu that pass through the port annually.

Discussing the fast changing global congestion scene, eeSea founder Simon Sundboell commented: “The picture of course changes daily, and my impressions from speaking to our port customers is exactly that; it’s really a moving target right now – with a multitude of variables, not just Covid – and incredibly hard to plan for.”

Lars Jensen, founder of container consultancy Vespucci Maritime, estimated last month that as much as 10% of the world’s liner shipping capacity has been taken out due to port congestion issues.

It’s not just the container sector that has had to contend with port congestion in recent months. Splash reported on Friday that more dry bulk ships are tied up by port congestion than ever before with around 16% of the global dry bulk fleet forming queues outside terminals, principally off China.

Global boxport congestion today – click to enlarge
Global boxport congestion a fortnight ago – click to enlarge

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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