China’s partial closure of a major container port paired with restrictions on air cargo flights is putting pressure on Australian importers.
A key terminal at the Ningbo-Zhoushan port has been closed for eight days after a worker contracted COVID-19.
Ships bound for the world’s third busiest port are being diverted to Shanghai and Hong Kong, worsening congestion affecting shipments to and from Australia.
Australian importers say China’s zero-case COVID-19 strategy means a single infection can close an entire port, while strict regulations covering food products such as dairy transported via cold chain were creating further logistics bottlenecks.
Paul Zalai, Director of the Freight & Trade Alliance, says the port closure comes as importers are still adjusting to delays at Yantian, where similar health concerns resulted in extensive delays for several weeks up until mid-June.
“Even ports at Singapore and Hong Kong that set the benchmark in best practice in normal times are experiencing several weeks of delays in transhipping containerised cargo via their terminals,” Paul says.
“The downstream impact is being felt hard locally, with shipping lines daily advising our industry of port omissions across Australia’s container terminal.”
Lars Jensen, Chief Executive of Consultancy Vespucci Maritime, says the shutdown in Ningbo is due to just a single positive case in a port worker.
“The risk, therefore, remains that other Chinese ports could see the same if we are unlucky. That, in turn, would make a challenging situation even worse,” Lars says.
China this week also tightened requirements for international flight crew and airport staff in a move expected to reduce air cargo movement in and out of the country.