Rerouting freight to avoid the extended lockdown in Shanghai, where daily confirmed COVID cases topped a record 17,000 this week, is becoming more difficult and expensive as cargo facilities in other Chinese cities become overcrowded, logistics companies and carriers warn.
The logistics challenges for ocean and airfreight in Shanghai are extreme.
More than 90% of truck capacity is out of service. Trucks are prevented from moving in and out of the city without a special permit, which is only valid for 24 hours and only on specific routes. “Even with this arranged, it is possible for booked trucks to be commandeered by the government to transport aid supplies,” Seko Logistics said in an update for clients.
Most warehouses in the city are closed. Pactl, the large airport cargo terminal operator, only has skeleton operations.
Limited truck access to Shanghai port terminals is causing shipping containers to pile up and slowing ship transfers. Seko said its team in Shanghai has seen an 80% decrease in container pickups from outside the lockdown area because of driver shortages and restrictions, with drivers requiring a special pass and negative COVID test results.
Mediterranean Shipping Co., the world’s largest container vessel operator, on Thursday said it will begin offloading refrigerated containers at other ports because there are no available power plugs to connect to in Shanghai. Unless customers request a specific change in destination within seven days, reefers will be discharged at intermediate or alternate ports of the carrier’s choosing. Additional freight charges for transshipment, storage, equipment rental and electrical connection may apply.
“If the situation does not improve soon it may be necessary to abandon the voyage and advise you from where your container may be collected,” MSC said in a customer notice.
Ocean Network Express also said overcrowding at two Shanghai container terminals might prevent its vessels from discharging reefer boxes.
Several ocean carriers have announced they will skip berthing at Shanghai due to traffic restrictions, which Seko said will intensify congestion at the terminals once restrictions are lifted.
Meanwhile, terminals at the Port of Ningbo are filling up and facing equipment shortages as more freight is diverted from Shanghai, freight forwarders report. Freight rates from Ningbo are rising as a result.
AIT Worldwide, based in Itasca, Illinois, notified customers that cargo terminals at other airports are now reporting delays of their own with Shanghai Pudong International Airport effectively out of action.
In Zhengzhou, for example, inbound and outbound air shipments can take up to seven days to get through a queue and another three to four days to be processed. Import operations at the Nanjing airport are suspended. And authorities are requiring all imported cargo in Qingdao to be stored in the terminal for 10 days following disinfection.
Logistics providers are also redirecting cargo to airports in Wuhan, Hangzhou and Nanchang.
International passenger and cargo airlines have responded by canceling the majority of flights in and out of Shanghai Pudong airport. Delta Air Lines, for example, said this week it won’t process cargo there until at least April 18. Most international cargo flights are now being operated by Chinese airlines, said Itasca-based Seko Logistics, which has moved more than 10 tons of airfreight through alternate airports since the Shanghai restrictions began nearly two weeks ago.
Seko also reported that an outbreak in Quzhou is spreading, with shipments scheduled for departure in the coming weeks needing to be postponed until the government settles on a course of action.
Nick Bartlett, director of CBIP Logistics in Hong Kong, told FreightWaves cases of infection are increasing in Suzhou and all of Jiangsu Province and that Zhejiang is likely to next feel restrictive measures.
“We have cargo stuck on trucks, in warehouses and container freight stations,” in Shanghai and no new containers are able to reach the port there, he said via email.
The lockdown in Kunshan, an important electronics manufacturing hub next to Shanghai, is supposed to end by the end of the week. Truck movements in and out of the city are severely restricted, except for pandemic relief supplies approved by the local government, Seko said. Trucks can only shuttle within the city between warehouses and factories with special approval. The restrictions are impacting the Wuxi Logistics Park and Seko clients with suppliers in the city.