Port of Ningbo: Meishan terminal reopens but maritime crisis is not yet over

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Now, the Meishan Terminal at Ningbo-Zhoushan Port in eastern China is back in operation, according to the state-owned company that manages the port. Operations resumed at midnight, ending a long two-week suspension, Jiang Yipeng, deputy general manager of the Ningbo-Zhoushan Port Group, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The Ningbo terminal, south of Shanghai, had been closed since August 11 after a dock worker tested positive for Covid-19. This prompted authorities to quickly suspend the container pickup service, citing a “system disruption”.

Peter Sand, chief shipping analyst at the BIMCO shipowners association in Denmark, said it could take up to 60 days for Port operations return to normal as workers and marine pilots return from quarantine. This means retailers around the world will face continued disruption as they rush to stock up ahead of the holiday shopping season.

The closure of the terminal – which accounts for around 25% of containerized freight through the port, according to security consultant GardaWorld – has severely affected global trade. It disrupted other ports in China and stretched supply chains that were already suffering from recent problems at another Chinese port, persistent container shortages, plant closures in Vietnam and the lingering effects of the blockage of the canal. Suez in March.
Major international shipping lines, including Maersk (AMKBY), Hapag-Lloyd (HPGLY) and CMA CGM, have adjusted their schedules to avoid the port of Ningbo and warned customers of delays. Freight that could not be diverted from Ningbo will now start to flow, but it could take weeks to clear the backlog as blockages have also affected trucking and railways, the BIMCO analyst said. Sand.

The closure of Ningbo also added to bottlenecks resulting from the June closure of Yantian, a port about 50 miles north of Hong Kong, after coronavirus infections were detected among dockworkers.

The port of Ningbo-Zhoushan photographed on August 15, 2021, in east China's Zhejiang province.  The Meishan terminal accounts for around 25% of the containerized freight passing through the port, according to a consultant.
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Global supply chains have been disrupted by the fallout from the pandemic, causing shortages of consumer products and making it more expensive for businesses to ship goods to where they are needed.

The port of Ningbo has long played a crucial role. Over the past 12 years, it has been the world’s largest port in terms of freight tonnage, with a capacity of nearly 1.2 billion tonnes in 2020, according to China’s transport ministry.

The ministry also considers it the third busiest port in the world in terms of container traffic, handling around 28.7 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), the standard measure for container cargo volume.

Sand suggested that port authorities would seek a “better balance” between protecting local residents and impact on the economy in the future.

“The ‘zero tolerance’ policy for the imported Delta virus does not work when it comes to a large port,” he said.

– Hanna Ziady and Charles riley contributed to this report.

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