Shanghai and Ningbo-Zhoushan Brace for Typhoon Chanthu

Chanthu heads north towards Zhoushan, Sept. 12 (Chinese Meteorological Agency)

Published Sep 12, 2021 9:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Sunday, Chinese disaster-response officials prepared for Typhoon Chanthu to turn towards the northwest and head for the eastern coast of Zhejiang - and possibly Shanghai. The area is one of the busiest shipping hubs, home to two of the world's-top five container ports. 

Chanthu skirted the eastern coast of Taiwan on Sunday, dumping rain and creating large power outages but causing no fatalities. According to Sunday's forecast from China's Central Meteorological Observatory, Chanthu will likely make a slight turn north-northwest, just enough to take it over Zhejiang, Hangzhou Bay and Shanghai. It may pass near or land on Shanghai's eastern coast by Monday evening, bringing hurricane-force winds of up to 90 miles per hour. 

The area has the densest concentration of container port infrastructure on earth. Taken together, the terminals at Shanghai and Ningbo-Zhoushan handle more than 70 million TEU worth of container traffic every year. Shanghai alone sees 43 million TEU of annual traffic, making it the world's busiest container port. 
The recently-built Shanghai Yangshan island port expansion is located about 20 miles offshore in the middle of the bay, with limited protection from storm surge or winds. 

By tonnage, Ningbo-Zhoushan is the busiest port in the world, handing about 1.2 billion tons of cargo every year, and Shanghai follows right behind in second place. A substantial portion of that cargo volume is oil, and the region is dotted with giant tank farms. 

At Zhoushan, state media reported that large container ships were relocating from exposed berths to head for sheltered locations. In Ningbo alone, some 4,000 potentially vulnerable vessels are in port, according to the Ningbo Maritime Safety Administration, including more than 1,100 merchant ships. 

It is the second major disruption in the region within a month. Ningbo's Meishan container terminal, which handles about a quarter of the box volume in Ningbo-Zhoushan, was shut for weeks in August after one worker came down with the Delta variant of COVID-19. The resulting congestion spread to other nearby ports as shippers readjusted their logistics flows.