Due to COVID Disruption, Congestion at the Port of Ningbo Has Increased
The never-ending battle with COVID continues to haunt the shipping industry as China’s Ningbo port is facing severe congestion as a result of recent outbreaks and lockdowns. The more contagious omicron variant is making its way across the globe in a “second wave” of COVID, forcing several ports, carriers, and shippers into difficult situations.
COVID Restrictions Impede Cargo Flow at Ningbo
When cases began to rise in the Beilun District in China, the government implemented lockdown measures to contain the spread. As a result, truck entry into the port has become more difficult as restrictions are being instituted. This includes the temporary ceasing of operations at some container freight stations at the port.
There are over 20,000 local container truck drivers, however, only around 6,000 have received passes to enter and leave the port via five designated routes. While decisions are being made to help prevent the spread and avoid major lockdowns in the future, these new guidelines impede the flow of containers out of the port and cause gridlocks on port grounds. Due to the near three fourths cut in available container drivers, shipment delays are inevitable.
Beilun has labeled the terminals at the Ningbo port as high-risk COVID areas, which deters the already small fleet of available truckers from entering the port. Doing so could invoke quarantine requirements on these truckers in other Chinese cities. Also, many truckers that are trapped inside of Beilun are unable to apply for port passes to deliver cargo.
Effects Extend Beyond Port Grounds
Congestion issues extend beyond the immediate effect on port grounds. Additionally, many warehouses and factories have halted pickup and delivery of goods due to the COVID restrictions. This comes with unfortunate timing as it is peak season for exports in preparation for Chinese New Year.
Most shippers remember the mid-August shutdown of a major terminal in Ningbo’s Meishan Island due to a COVID outbreak. While the lasting effects of the congestion then were severe, this recent congestion at the Chinese port is even worse. Outside of the two ports of Shanghai and Ningbo-Zhoushan, 120 ships, carrying over 600,000 TEUs, are still at anchor off the port grounds.
Proactive Measurements Being Taken
While a lot of this is going to be a waiting game for restrictions to be lifted, the port officials are taking measures to prevent future outbreaks and maintain efficient operations. More than 5,300 people are on duty and no infections have been found within the port area. They are all working and living in a closed loop isolated from the outside community. Additionally, all staff receive swab tests every two days.
Also, despite the whitelist system for trucks, more rail or barge services are being arranged to increase the flow of cargo out of and into the port.