BEIJING (Reuters) – China's top container ports are relieving cargo jams on their docks as workers return to their posts after coronavirus travels that kept them away and blocked global supply chains were eased.
The flu-like epidemic that started in Wuhan City, an inland logistics center in Hubei Province, has killed more than 2,700 people in China alone and infected over 78,000 lands.
China is the largest container handler – handling around 30% of global traffic or around 715,000 containers per day in 2019 – and the fight against viruses has affected supply chains from sneakers and machine parts to technology components and food.
(Graphic: Overloading of container ships in the outer Pearl River Delta of China – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/7/8733/8714/ContainerCongestionPearRiverDelata.png)
The average waiting time for container ships in Zhoushan (SS 🙂 in southern China – the third largest container port in the world in terms of annual handling capacity – rose to more than 60 hours in the week from February 11th to 17th when the lane was restricted over workers Returning from the extended New Year holidays forced the ports to work with skeleton personnel.
(Graphic: China's port in Zhoushan begins to revive business as virus restriction wanes – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/7/8728/8709/Zhoushan.jpg)
According to the Shanghai International Shipping Institute (SISI), this was around 15 hours longer than the week before the holiday and almost 20 hours more than the average at the beginning of January before the travel restrictions.
However, lead times in Zhoushan and other ports are beginning to improve as more and more container crane operators, customs officials, tug pilots and other key logistics connections are reused.
(Graphic: Chinese ports recorded fewer container loads when the virus broke out – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/7/8725/8706/port.jpg)
"The turning point has come … We see that the congestion of the ports has subsided and the logistics are reviving," said Xu Kai, director of the Institute for Shipping Information Research at SISI.
A lack of truck drivers transporting containers to and from the port has led to crucial bottlenecks.
According to the port authority of Ningbo-Zhoushan, 24,000 registered container truck drivers are registered in the city of Ningbo, which also includes Zhoushan, 95% of whom come from other regions.
According to the port authorities, only 800 truck drivers were employed in the city on February 12, which was not enough to cope with the normal port throughput.
After the port authorities offered food and lodging assistance to the returning drivers, and chartered buses to bring them back, Ningbo reported nearly 7,000 truckers back to work by February 21.
As a result, processing rates increased in Zhoushan with up to 13,235 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit) containers on February 22, compared to only 5 TEU on February 16, according to SISI data.
While processing rates in 2019 are well below the daily average of the port of just over 75,000 TEU, the improved flow is noticed.
"We have seen much less logistical stress since last week when the ports in southern China were put back into operation," said a manager at the port of Yingkou in the northeastern province of Liaoning.
(Graphic: Map of the most important container ports in China by volume in 2019 – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/7/8741/8722/ChinaContainerports.png)
Some ports have even managed to exceed the processing rates of the previous year to eliminate the backlog.
The port of Shanghai, Yangshan, the largest deep-water container port in China, handled 59,800 TEU on February 20, exceeding the average daily volume of 54,200 TEU in 2019.
In the Chinese ports, fewer ships will be diverted to other destinations due to the backlog. Last week, 61 container ships were diverted from China after peaking at 144 in early February.
(Graphic: Fewer container ships skipped China in view of falling new virus cases – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/7/8726/8707/vessels.jpg)