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Shipping delays not expected to recover soon

Despite Yantians gradual restoring port operations, improvements would not be immediate

Yantian, the world’s third-largest port, suffered a week’s closure after detecting COVID-19 cases. Local authorities implemented preventive measures to contain the outbreak, and it appeared to have paid off. However, industry experts warn not to expect immediate restoration to previous efficiencies.

Backlog blues at hand
Its world-class efficiency is not enough to create miracles. Just like US and European ports suffering severe congestion, Yantian too has a line of vessels to process. The outbreak did not merely puncture the port’s operations; it also caused labour shortage. Yes, understaffed ports can also result in traffic jams – similar to what the UK ports are dealing with now.

Industry expert, Lars Jensen, told the media: “The Chinese authorities are attempting to crack down hard on the smallest outbreaks. It only takes a few single cases to shut down large areas. We could see larger impacts.” Doing the maths for Yantian port, Jensen recalled Yantian took on 13.3 million TEU in 2020, translating to 36,400 TEU daily. The recent outbreak, which drastically slowed down operations, was reduced to just 25,000 TEU daily (operating at 30 per cent capacity). The highest record TEU was 45,800 a day in 2020.

Leslie Wang, a clothing manufacturer in Guangzhou labelled this episode a nightmare as the goods are piled up at the freight company and cannot be shipped at all. Nevertheless, Wang has got all her workers tested and kept the production units functional.

Otto Schacht, Executive Vice President of Sea Logistics at Kuehne+Nagel, believes the disruption at Yantian terminal is particularly unfortunate given it took place during the peak season. Schacht added that it would take 6-9 months to return to pre-COVID’s supply chain reliability. As it is now, several major ports are suffering from congestion due to the outbreak, attempts to contain it, plus labour shortages from quarantines. It would not be an unrealistic projection for things to return to normal only in 2022.


Marine Online News Team
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