The container build-up at China’s Yantian Port could be worse than the Suez Canal blockade in March, experts have warned. The Yantian Port is at the centre of China’s most recent coronavirus containment efforts that are hampering endeavours to reopen the world’s economy.
For some organizations, the disruptions at the port could be worse than that caused in March after the Ever Given ran aground in the Egyptian waterway.
From June 1-15, about 298 container ships with a combined capacity of over 3 million 20-foot equivalent units – the standard measure for the volume of freight containers or TEU – skipped the southern container port in Guangdong, per project44, a shipping and logistics platform.
That marked a 300% monthly increase in blank sailings – when a vessel skips a port lying along the scheduled route or cancels its journey as it is not permitted to load or discharge cargo, said the analysts of project44.
Over two weeks, the seven-day average for the median dwell times – representing the time spent by export containers at the Yantian International Container Terminal – had doubled and reached 23.06 days on June 15.
Although not the ships’ entire cargo was for Yantian, the volume of the loaded export containers that had been left behind resulted in a huge backlog, excessive inventory shortages, and unforeseen transport costs for businesses, per the platform.
Yantian currently has a backlog of nearly 175,000 containers. If the terminal works at, for instance, 70% of its operating capacity, there will still be a TEU/day delay of 12,000.
Yantian port authorities on Tuesday said that its operations need to return to normal by the end of the month as workers have come back and more berths have reopened.
On average, the operating capacity has returned to 70%, but project44 has said that it could take up to some weeks to process the pending clearance of containers.
The world’s largest container line, Maersk, said on Thursday that the damage has been done and that due to the ongoing pandemic and a significant volume push from the end of last year, terminals are increasingly becoming global trade bottlenecks.
The trend is continuing all through the logistics chain – in warehouses and also distribution centres. In this complicated context that has affected worldwide maritime logistics, charter rates have continued rising while the service quality has dropped.
The analyst has also said that the vessel arrival has been in such disarray that shipping lines’ services had been nearly nonexistent. The integrity of schedules in April 2021 had reached 22.2%.
Two shipping lines are now entering the Trans-Pacific route: CU and BAL Lines. Each may be contracting vessels of about 2,400 to 2,500 TEUs.
There are some rumours that more shipping lines will enter business in 2021. With the charter rates at an all-time high, it appears unlikely that new entrants in the Trans-Pacific route will be offering lower rates than the current ones.