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Chinese port volumes stabilising

A swathe of data published in recent days suggests the worst is over for now in terms of plunging port volumes at Chinese ports in the wake of the coronavirus, an illness that saw the nation’s manufacturing index plummet to record lows in February.

Data from US-based CargoMetrics, which tracks shipments across the globe, shows that both Chinese imports and exports are getting back to where they ought to be at the start of March.

Yesterday, Scott Borgeson, the CEO of the big data firm, posted a coronavirus update on LinkedIn, stating: “CargoMetrics data show Chinese seaborne supply chains are trending back to ‘normal’. Keep calm and carry on.”

Data from Clarkson Research Services published on Friday shows Chinese port calls in recent days are now at a higher level than this time last year.

Writing in the latest issue of Clarkson’s Shipping Intelligence Weekly, Stephen Gordon, the company’s research head, stated: “Coastal ports have remained open and while the trend suggests activity is stabilising, a second dip is possible once initial backlogs are cleared. Operational challenges are also impacting, e.g. crew changes, acceptance of ships at ports, deliveries and activation of contractual clauses.”

Container shipping analysts at Copenhagen-based Sea-Intelligence noted yesterday that the past week saw the least amount of extra blank sailings.

“[T]his is clearly a slow-down compared to the previous two weeks, and hence signals a stabilisation of the situation,” Sea-Intelligence noted in its latest weekly report, adding: “When this is also seen in the light of the relatively low amount of blank sailings beyond week 10/11, this provides a good indication that the carriers believe demand will begin to come back to normal levels in a few weeks from now.”

Nevertheless, Chinese box ports continue to grapple with far higher volumes of containers in their storage yards and from ships queued up than normal as the below graph, updated today, from Capital Economics indicates.

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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