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Yantian Slowly Recovers but Delay Could Impact Christmas Shipments

Yantian China recovers with delays in shipping and containers
Yantian International Container Terminal

Published Jul 7, 2021 2:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

Two weeks after declaring that the international container terminal at Yantian was resuming full operations, there are signs that some of the disruption and backlog are easing across the global supply chain. However, experts continue to warn that the repercussions and delays are continuing and are likely to persist for months to come, possibly even impacting the seasonal Christmas shipments.

The disruptions began in mid-May with the outbreak of cases of the COVID-19 in and around the southern Chinese port city. During late May, Chinese officials greatly restricted and later suspended container traffic through the port in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Container lines began skipping calls in Yantian as boxes pilled up in the yard. Dwell times skyrocketed to over 25 days according to project44, a platform for shippers and logistic services.

Two weeks after announcing that the port was resuming normal operations, the Yantian International Container Terminal reports traffic is back to normal. All 20 berths at the port are open and they said that volumes are back to normal levels of approximately 40,000 TEU daily and 20,000 trucks passing through the gatehouse. As a further demonstration of the port’s recovery, officials said that over 20 new international services began from the port in June with calls on over 100 weekly global routes.

The shipping lines are also reporting signs of recovery in the operations at Yantian. Maersk advised customers at the beginning of July that yard density is down to 65 percent, with overall productivity has increased to 85 percent of normal levels. While the carrier is resuming calls at Yantian for more of its routes, they are however warning that neighboring ports remain impacted. Maersk warned clients at the beginning of the month that the yards at Shekou, Nansha, and Hong Kong were near capacity and waiting times were between three and four days.

“While we can see that cargo is moving through Yantian again, this event is shaping up to be one of the most disruptive of the year,” said Josh Brazil, Vice President of Marketing at project44.

Based on an analysis of data from its platform at the beginning of July, project44 reports that the rolling seven-day average dwell times at Yantian were 12.9 days for outbound (Port of Loading) and 4.2 days for inbound cargo (Port of Discharge). “High port of lading dwell times suggest that port workers are still working their way through a massive backlog of cargo that has built up over the last month both at the port and in factories and warehouses across the region,” says project44.  

Blank sailings figures are also on the rise heading into July reports project44, reaching 17 on July 1, and 12 on July 2. While these figures are well below last month’s high of 26 blank sailings, which occurred on June 11, even in the teens, these blank sailings represent 189,203 and 107,326 TEU of total vessel capacity skipping Yantian on the 1st and 2nd respectively according to project44’s analysis.

“The data suggests that disruptions related to China’s COVID-19 quarantine efforts could extend well into the year, impacting seasonal shipments as far out as Christmas,” cautions project44. Despite the port operating at full capacity again, project44 reports that the backlog is affecting the region’s manufacturing sector presenting a headache for shippers that will persist for the immediate future.