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Yantian to return to full operations from midnight, box backlog expected to take many weeks to clear

Yantian Port is set to resume normal operations from midnight tonight after a month-long cut in productivity brought about by a Covid-19 outbreak. Shippers have been warned it will take many weeks to clear up the immense container backlog in south China that has brought further strain to global supply chains over the past four weeks.

A note sent to clients yesterday from Yantian International Container Terminals states: “Currently, COVID-19 has been effectively under control in the port area, and the operation capacity of the terminals have steadily recovered. It is now decided that from 00:00 on June 24, YANTIAN will resume full operations.”

All berths will resume normal operations while the number of laden gate-in tractors will be increased to 9,000 per day, and the pickup of empty containers and import laden containers will return to normal.

The arrangements of accepting export laden containers will resume normal operations within seven days of a vessel’s ETA.

Lars Jensen, CEO of container consultancy Vespucci Maritime, has predicted that it will take Yantian more than two months to clear the more than 700,000 teu queuing outside its quays along with all the cargo that is scheduled to call at the key export gateway in the coming weeks.

Peter Sand, chief shipping economist at BIMCO, said it would take weeks to get land-based operations back to normal around Yantian.

“Getting the cranes to operate may be the easy part, but moving the boxes around inside the clogged-up port perimeter and getting ships to berth as a part of a normal routing takes days and weeks,” Sand told Splash.

As Yantian begins the process of clearing backlogged ships and containers, carriers are also contending with growing congestion in the major European ports of Hamburg and Rotterdam. 

“Port officials point to late and unpredictable arrival times as the culprit for the congestion, providing another sign of how interconnected ocean freight is: delays elsewhere from other causes – like the Suez and now Yantian – throw off operations at other ports leading to further delays and disruptions as they have done for the past year,” commented Judah Levine, research lead at container platform Freightos.

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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