Chinese Container Terminal Reopens After Two-Week COVID Closure

China reopens container terminal after two week COVID related closure
Meshian container terminal reopened after two weeks (file photo)

Published Aug 25, 2021 3:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

Local government officials from the Chinese city of Ningbo confirmed that operations have resumed at the Meshian trade zone and the container terminal in the Ningbo-Zhoushan port complex in southern China. The officials cited success in containing the recent outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in the region but urged continued measures to prevent the reoccurrence while also continuing strict testing regimes as part of China’s zero-tolerance policy for the virus.

“All units in the zone must comprehensively do a good job in epidemic prevention and control, as well as resumption of work and production,” a government official said in a statement broadcast on state TV. 

Port officials confirmed that yard operations had begun shortly after midnight on August 25, two weeks after they had been ordered by the health authorities to suspend all operations after a single worker in the terminal complex tested positive for the virus. Vessels began t move on and off the terminal in the past few days. Gate in and out operations resumed this morning and are reported to be running normally while the port is urging businesses to prioritize the loading and unloading of stranded trucks. 

Maersk advised customers in a notice sent out earlier today of the terminal’s reopening saying that it would work with them to manage their supply chains. The shipping company also reported that the Ningbo Bluedragon LongFei warehouse operation has also resumed and they said that it is expected that it will be completely back to normal on September 1.

No firm estimated have been provided though on how extensive the bottleneck is across China how long it will take to work down backups across the supply chain. Peter Sand, chief shipping analyst at BIMCO predicted to the South China Morning Post that it “could take up to 60 days for operations at the port to return to normal as workers and maritime pilots return from quarantine. That means retailers around the world will face continued disruption as they race to stock up ahead of the vital holiday shopping season.” Sand highlighted to the newspaper that the backlog steamed beyond the port complex with railways and trucks also backed up and holding goods that were headed to the port for shipment.

The Chinese news outlet Caixin is citing data from a tracking company Oceanbolt saying that the congestion and backups have spread to many of China’s major ports. They reported that double the number of ships are waiting to access China’s 60 major ports.

“Lingering delays are most likely to impact shipping services from Cosco, CMA CGM, and Evergreen, which primarily use the terminal,” wrote security consultant GardaWorld in its advisory issued today. “However, companies that have operations or store cargo in the Meishan free port area may continue to experience delays. Increased congestion is also likely to persist at nearby ports due to previous ship diversions.”

During the closure, many of the major shipping lines announced blank sailings to Ningbo on their schedules in August. Many ships also diverted to other terminals while a large number are also waiting in the anchorage outside the Ningbo-Zhoushan port complex.