With a new spike in cases of COVID-19 hitting the major Chinese city of Shanghai, maritime trade routes and activities are experiencing a repeat of the challenges that presented themselves at the height of the pandemic. Let’s look at the latest data on the impact of this renewed health crisis on worldwide shipping patterns.
The current restrictions implemented by the Chinese government in Shanghai are the strictest since the start of the pandemic, with mass lockdowns and COVID testing aimed at stopping the renewed spread of the virus. Total or partial lockdowns are affecting 193 million people in 23 Chinese cities, with Shanghai being the most impacted by the protective measures, and Dalian, Tianjin, Ningbo, Xiamen, Dongguan, and the Guangdong province following close behind.
Initially, the new spike in COVID-19 affected internal Chinese markets more than it did international shipping, but with multiple sources citing between 18 and 26 thousand confirmed cases in the Shanghai area alone, the patterns are beginning to resemble those seen in 2020: shipments are being delayed, and if the restrictions are not eased soon, the immediate consequence will be a decrease in maritime traffic in the area, which will then spike again once things are back to normal, possibly causing a new bout of congestion.
At its highest, Bloomberg estimated a queue of 477 container ships waiting to gain access to the Shanghai international port, a figure which saw something of a decrease as soon as ships began to be redirected to other, less affected locations. As the largest hub of maritime commerce in the country, however, Shanghai boasts more advanced and efficient facilities than most alternate destinations.
Between the congestion causing up to two weeks of delay and the possibility of additional costs for rerouting or warehousing, shipping to China is currently challenging on multiple levels: the port itself is still partially operational, with workers living on site to bypass the need to commute back and forth from their homes, but the restrictions are impacting more than just the ships going to and from the city.
Trucks are prohibited from leaving or entering the city without a temporary special permission that is only valid for a few select routes, which, combined with the lack of available truck drivers, makes moving goods inland from the port especially challenging.
Warehouse space is also at a premium: traders in need of shipping perishable cargo, in particular, may find that it is currently difficult to access electrical outlets in Shanghai to keep the goods refrigerated.
If the Shanghai lockdown is directly or indirectly affecting your business, keep following us for updates: we at Global Shipping pride ourselves on keeping you informed on the way current events are shaping the trading and shipping sector.