Rising covid cases could cause major service disruptions at the port of Ningbo

The latest wave of novel coronavirus infections, which emerged within the Beilun District of Ningbo on January 1, 2022, has raised concerns with the global supply chain industry. Though the local government has initiated quarantine and disinfection action for the district, the port of Ningbo, the world’s third-largest container port, is doing its best to ensure normal operations. The container handling capacity at Ningbo-Zhoushan Port has exceeded 30m TEU for the first time in 2021.

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Though three of Ningbo’s container terminals are bordering the Beilun district, where the infections are rising, no positive cases are reported yet in the port itself. Over 5000 port employees are staying within the port area and are reportedly conformed to tests every alternate day.

Shipping giant Maersk Line has put out an advisory stating, “Container load and discharge operations keep normal in the three terminals.” In contrast, some restrictions have been imposed on the gate-in and out operations since the beginning of this year. Maersk further notified approximately 20% of truck drivers had been permitted to operate, as of now, with trucking services outside the Beilun District being suspended to contain the spread of infections. Its intercontinental rail, sea-rail, and barge services were all available alternatives in the short term.

However, many forwarders have started shifting volumes to the more congested port of Shanghai to avoid any landside delays. With many truckers living in Beilun, where Covid-19 control policies are pretty complicated, the possibility of bringing containers in or out might get more challenging. This is mainly because truckers entering the area have to undergo a mandatory quarantine of 14 days. The quarantine and fewer “approved” drivers might also give rise to a driver capacity shortage issue.

Moreover, there is rising speculation that shipping lines may soon decide to omit Ningbo, leading to another significant supply chain disruption as the Chinese New Year is just a few weeks away. However, though no carriers have announced any blank sailings for Ningbo yet, it is advisable to reroute cargo to alternative ports. But there is another major challenge rising for shippers looking for alternatives – the feeder services to the alternative ports are minimal as quite a lot of them are already in suspension.