Ningbo Port: Meishan Terminal will reopen, but the shipping crisis is not over yet

Now, the Meishan Terminal in Ningbo-Zhoushan Port in eastern China is back in operation, according to the state-owned company that manages the port. Operations resumed at midnight, ending a two-week suspension, Jiang Yipeng, deputy general manager of Ningbo-Zhoushan Port Group, told a news conference on Wednesday.

The terminal in Ningbo, south of Shanghai, has been closed since August 11 after a dock worker tested positive for Covid-19. This led to the fact that the officers quickly suspend the collection service for containers, citing a “system malfunction”.

Peter Sand, senior shipping analyst at the shipping association BIMCO in Denmark, said it could take up to 60 days Operation in port to normalize when workers and sea pilots return from quarantine. That means retailers around the world will face persistent disruption as they look to their purchases ahead of the all-important Christmas shopping season.

The closure of the terminal, which according to security advisor GardaWorld accounts for around 25% of the container freight through the port, had a major impact on world trade. It disrupted other ports in China and stretched supply chains already suffering from recent problems in another Chinese port, ongoing container shortages, factory closures in Vietnam and the ongoing effects of the Suez Canal blockade in March.
Major international shipping lines, including Maersk (AMKBY), Hapag-Lloyd (HPGLY) and CMA CGM, adjusted their schedules to bypass the port of Ningbo and warned customers of delays. Freight that could not be diverted out of Ningbo will now flow, but it could take weeks to clear the backlog as the blockades also affected truck and rail traffic, BIMCO analyst Sand said.

The Ningbo closure also contributed to the bottlenecks resulting from the June closure of Yantian, a port about 80 kilometers north of Hong Kong, after coronavirus infections were found among dock workers.

The port of Ningbo-Zhoushan, pictured August 15, 2021, in east China's Zhejiang Province.  According to an advisor, the Meishan Terminal accounts for an estimated 25% of the container freight through the port.
Global supply chains have been disrupted by the effects of the pandemic, creating shortages of consumer goods and making it more expensive for companies to get goods where they are needed.

The port in Ningbo has long played a crucial role. For the past 12 years, it has been the world’s largest port by cargo tonnage, with a capacity of nearly 1.2 billion tons in 2020, according to the Chinese Ministry of Transportation.

The ministry also describes it as the third largest port in the world in terms of container traffic with around 28.7 million TEU, the standard measure for freight container volume.

Sand suggested that in the future, port authorities would try to strike a “better balance” between protecting local residents and the economic impact.

“The ‘zero tolerance’ policy for imported delta viruses doesn’t work when it comes to a large port,” he said.

– Hanna Ziady and Charles Riley contributed to this report.

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