Shippers face a diatribe as the logistics sector has entered an “era of unprecedented disruption,” with ports paralyzed by acute congestion as the Yantian malaise spreads to others.
Delays to Chinese exports, which have reached 16 days or more for ships that do not cancel their call at Yantian, threaten to have a greater impact than the Suez Canal blockade in March.
According to Alex Hersham, CEO and co-founder of supply chain technology company Zencargo, the repercussions of Yantian, which has been operating at only 20% of its normal productivity due to an outbreak of positive Covid-19 cases, will be felt strongly in the coming weeks by retailers and consumers.
“Container shortages and delays will severely impact companies’ ability to deliver to customers,” Hersham said.
And he warned that industries “will face material shortages, and countries will struggle to source EPI,” and also stated that “we are in an era of unprecedented supply chain disruption.”
Ocean carriers are scrambling to mitigate the impact. Maersk, for example, has confirmed the omission of Yantian from 11 of its services and the ad hoc cancellation of eight others.
The carrier said the Yantian port authority had successfully reopened part of the port, returning productivity to around 45% of normal, but this was far from enough.
He told clients: “While this has a positive impact on gate activity, which is expected to soon reach the same levels as before the incident, schedule reliability will continue to suffer with an average waiting time of 16 days and counting.”
When the pent-up export cargo gets underway, this huge surge of cargo arriving at European and U.S. ports will pose a major challenge for them and their already stretched shore-side operations.
In the U.S., ports are having a harder time coping with the peaks than their European counterparts, but the northern European port of Hamburg has come under intense pressure in recent weeks and today Hapag-Lloyd informed its customers of a tightening of restrictions on export cargo deliveries in Antwerp.
A company notice said that terminal operator PSA Antwerp had been “forced” to implement a “seven-day cargo opening rule” for export containers at its terminals, meaning that shippers will not be able to deliver containers to the quay more than seven days before the confirmed arrival date of the nominated vessel.
“Congestion will increase significantly, which means that ports, and especially those already suffering such as Felixstowe, will be hit hard,” he said. “The scale of the problem in southern China is already greater than Suez.
“Two accurate metrics to measure disruption are days of delay and teu; in both cases, Yantian far exceeds what happened with Ever Given.”