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Ship queues lengthen at major Chinese ports as Covid cases escalate

The number of Covid-19 cases continue to accelerate across China leading to more lockdowns, greater stock market volatility at the nation’s bourses and reduced factory output.

On Tuesday authorities in Langfang city which borders the capital Beijing, as well as Dongguan in the southern province of Guangdong, also imposed immediate seven-day lockdowns joining the likes of Shenzhen city and the entire province of Jilin in complete lockdown in keeping with the government’s strict zero-Covid policy.

Covid cases doubled in the past 24 hours across the nation with plenty of attention turning to Shanghai where 106 flights have been diverted, children are back to online schooling and some lighter lockdown measures are in place.

In Shenzhen the ports are still operating, while the vast majority of the city’s 17.5m population have been told to stay at home through to next Sunday.

Shenzhen is home to the fourth largest container port in the world. A similar Covid incident last year saw throughput nosedive by around three-quarters for a three-week period leading to massive snarl-ups at gateway ports in Europe and North America when the facilities eventually reopened.

Currently, operations at DaChan Bay Terminals to the west of Shenzhen remain normal according to a spokesperson, as there have been special arrangements made for frontline staff.

At Yantian, to the east of the city, home to the largest Shenzhen terminals, a spokesperson for Hutchison Ports said operations are continuing normally also.

“Since the strengthening of epidemic prevention policy in Shenzhen, Yantian has been maintaining normal and smooth operations. At present, all operations in Yantian and surrounding trailer business are operating normally,” the spokesperson told Splash.

Sunny Ho, who heads up the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council, said that while Shenzhen terminal operators report operations as normal, the main cargo consolidation centres and warehouses in Shenzhen have suspended operations, although smaller warehouses and cargo collection points outside Shenzhen still function as normal.

“Factories are mostly outside Shenzhen and loading of export goods can still be performed, but road traffic has reduced substantially and container haulage will be affected significantly as well,” Ho told Splash.

With reduced workforces and limited truck availability, ship queues – not just for container vessels – are also beginning to manifest at many key Chinese ports this week including Shanghai, Ningbo-Zhoushan and Qingdao.

Below is vessel tracking data provided to Splash for the past four days of vessels heading in and out of Shenzhen.

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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