Maersk: Significant Labor Shortage at Chinese Ports

Shanghai Yangshan port (file image)

By The Maritime Executive 02-20-2020 06:38:00

On Thursday, Maersk CEO Soren Skou warned that the world's biggest ocean carrier is experiencing significant disruption at Chinese seaports due to the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. 

"We are experiencing huge pressure at [Chinese] terminals because there aren't enough workers at the ports to move the containers around, not enough truck drivers to move the goods, and no one to receive them at the factories or warehouses," Skou said. 

He added that with all of the blanked sailings from Chinese ports, Maersk has many ships idled in Asia, awaiting a return to normal rotations. Ocean freight data company Alphaliner assesses that about 1.7 million TEU of boxship capacity has been removed from the Chinese market since the end of January, and that nearly half of all transoceanic sailings from Chinese ports over the period have been canceled. 

According to Athens-based ship's agency World Marine Corp., the situation at China's ports is slow but stable. All seaports are open except for the port of Wuhan, where the epidemic began. Many standard port services - like crew changes and garbage and sludge disposal - are being suspended in almost all Chinese ports, according to World Marine. 

The health controls at Chinese ports are primarily limited to a written declaration and a list of crew's temperatures sent by the vessel, which does not generally create delays for the ship's movements or cargo operations, the agency advised. No significant delays for quarantine / medical examinations have been reported, but such situations are possible for vessels arriving from Wuhan or for vessels which report coronavirus symptoms among the crew. 

For crew going ashore or for anyone visiting a vessel, masks are required in public areas at all Chinese ports. Guards are stationed at terminals to check the temperature of visitors with an infrared thermometer, and entry will be denied for personnel with a high temperature.