The latest curveball likely to have sizeable impact on global supply chains comes from south China, one of the most important manufacturing powerhouses in the world, where new Covid constraints are coming in at many local ports.
Both Ocean Network Express (ONE) and Hapag-Lloyd have warned that may feeder operators will suspend services from late December until mid-February due to strict Covid quarantine rules for crews, threatening the ability of local seafarers to get home in time for Chinese New Year.
“Due to the COVID-19 quarantine requirements for the crews of the coastal feeders running between South China and Hong Kong waters, feeder operators announced their services will be suspended for a minimum of 6 weeks prior to Lunar New Year 2022, which is Feb. 1 -5, 2022. In consideration of this situation, ONE will temporarily suspend the acceptance of the cargo bound for the ports in the South China area that require usage of the domestic feeders to reach the final destination. Any cargo to South China that can be serviced by an ocean vessel is not affected,” ONE stated in an advisory last week.
“This will not directly impact cargo moving directly to/from the major deep-sea ports, but can give rise to a number of ripple effects,” explained Lars Jensen, founder of container advisory Vespucci Maritime, in an update on LinkedIn, suggesting that cargo to and from the smaller ports in south China might see an earlier pre-lunar new year surge than usual.
China’s heavy quarantine rules are seeing Chinese crews – among the most numerous in the global merchant fleet – facing quaratines of up to seven weeks when they return home, while crew changes for foreign seafarers at Chinese ports have become very difficult, exacerbating the crew change crisis that has seen thousands of seafarers work beyond their contract lengths during the pandemic.