China celebrated no new cases of Covid-19 yesterday for the first time since making public daily figures on the outbreak. In the process of suppressing the virus, Beijing has detailed a huge raft of new rules limiting foreigners accessing the country, something that Splash can reveal also has potentially seismic dimensions for the shipping industry, especially the intra-Asia trades.
China has dramatically tightened quarantine control on international cargo ships calling at the country’s ports with Splash understanding many major ports – including the largest two, Ningbo-Zhoushan and Shanghai – have instituted a 14-day restriction for any ship or person onboard calling from the worst affected coronavirus-hit countries.
China’s current worst affected list includes the UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Holland, Denmark , Austria, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, France , Spain , Germany and the US, a set likely to expand as the pandemic spreads to less developed countries around the world.
In terms of ships travelling time, the ruling would not hugely effect vessels coming from Europe or the US at the moment, but could see intra-Asia loops have to rejig how they call at South Korean and Japanese ports.
The 14-day ruling was something first instituted by Australia towards ships coming from China last month.
Yang Xinzhai, deputy director of China’s Maritime Safety Administration (MSA), said in a press conference that there are an average number of about 500 cargo ships with about 7,000 crew onboard calling at Chinese ports per day during the current epidemic control period, and the ports have taken a series of measures to strengthen the monitoring of these ships.
According to Yang, several major ports have started adopting technologies including big data to identify the historical destinations of the ships and categorise them into different risk levels for quarantine control.
Other ports to have instituted the 14-day ban in China, include Fuzhou according to some media reports. However, container operations are running as per normal according to Singapore operator PSA.
“We would like to confirm that operations at Fuzhou Container Terminals is business as usual and cargo vessels can berth in Fuzhou port as per normal. Necessary precautions are already in place to protect the vessel crew and terminal staff from the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus in the port. There are no plans to quarantine vessels before they are allowed to dock in port,” a PSA Fuzhou spokesperson told Splash.
For liners on the main east-west trades, Andy Lane from Singapore-based CTI Consultancy, suggested alliances might have to start making one weekly call in South Korea and Japan and all other strings in an alliance would then focus on the non-affected ports plus China and tranship their way out of Southeast Asia.
“There will be some additional costs, loss of connectivity for Korea and maybe Japan, but limited impact on the deepsea trades. Intra-Asia routes will need to be replanned with either Korea after China or skip Korea,” Lane told Splash.