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COVID-19: Business activities at Shanghai port back to normal after crisis

…Lines race to reposition empties in China

Cargo throughput at Shanghai’s Yangshan Deepwater Port, China’s single largest container processing port is nearing pre-COVID-19 levels as business activities returns to the port.

Yangshan Port said that in the last week, it cleared 52,000 twenty-foot equivalent Units (TEUs) of containers a day on average, nearly 95 percent of levels in pre-COVID-19 days.

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According to report, on 4 March 2020, 19 ships run by mainline operators berthed at its premises for loading and unloading. “The vessels included six ultra-large container ships that can carry at least 18,000TEUs each. The ships will then sail on to Europe, North America and the Mediterranean.”

Yangshan Port estimates that in the past week, there were at least 22 daily arrivals and departures of ships on long-haul routes, an increase of 36.5 percent two weeks before.

Furthermore, there were around 32 daily arrivals and departures of feeder vessels, up 20 percent from what it was two weeks earlier. The feeder vessels transport containers between Yangshan and ports along Yangtze River.

Chinese ports have begun clearing of their cargo backlog on their docks as workers resume work, after the prolonged Lunar New Year holidays that were implemented in a bid to curb the COVID-19 outbreak.

Although the holidays have ended, businesses remain cautious and have asked employees to resume work in batches. This also caused a shortage of truck drivers to ferry containers to and from the ports, exacerbating the supply chain bottleneck.

Shanghai is the world’s busiest container port and Yangshan contributes 40 percent to its throughput.

Caused by a novel coronavirus, surfaced in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, but has since spread around the world, resulting in nearly 100,000 infections and more than 3,000 deaths.

Shanghai port, like many Chinese ports, are minimising the risks of infections by reducing face-to-face meetings and physical contact, with operations carried out remotely where possible.

Meanwhile, the impact of the Covid-19 virus on the supply is waning fast according to Sea-Intelligence’s latest Spotlight newsletter, with the race now on to meet the expected increase in demand from China.

The incidence of new blank sailings is falling and the backhaul freight rates are beginning to increase as shipping lines prefer to reposition empties rather than concern themselves about the comparatively limited backhaul cargo.

“The bulk of the blank sailings were announced during weeks 7 and 8. Weeks 9 and 10 have seen a clear tapering off in terms of new blank sailings, and the level of new announcements of blank sailings is back to the normal level. This means that carriers are seeing demand ramping up back to normal levels over the next few weeks as well,” said the Spotlight report.

The race is on, according to Sea-Intelligence to reposition empty containers to take advantage of the expected increase in Chinese exports.

AMAKA ANAGOR-EWUZIE with agency report

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