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China ports bracing for Super Typhoon Chanthu

Demand for goods already overwhelming capacity of docks, ships

Two of China’s main ports are preparing for the arrival of Typhoon Chanthu, which dumped heavy rain in the northern Philippines Thursday night and Friday. The powerful storm is headed toward Taiwan and the mainland China coast.

Related: Oh no, not Ningbo! COVID case shuts down container terminal

China’s Maritime Safety Administration has issued a warning for Fujian province, where Xiamen Port is located, asking ships’ crews to adjust navigation plans and leave typhoon-affected waters. The Ningbo Maritime Safety Administration, which covers Ningbo-Zhoushan Port, said Thursday it had started a level IV emergency response.

Taiwan’s weather bureau issued a sea warning Friday for the area south of the island. However, the port of Kaohsiung is operating normally, a port spokesman told Bloomberg News Friday.

Ports in Asia have emerged as one of the bottlenecks for global trade, as European and U.S. demand for goods overwhelms the capacity of docks and container ships. COVID-19 has also affected the ability of shipping companies to operate smoothly, with crews becoming ill and China closing two separate ports in recent months after outbreaks among dockworkers.

Any shutdown due to weather, even a temporary one, could further slow supply chains, which are already stretched thin as exporters attempt to ship more ahead of the holiday season.

(Map: FreightWaves SONAR Critical Events. Super Typhoon Chanthu, Sep. 10, 2 a.m. ET. To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.)

Chanthu first became a tropical depression Monday afternoon, increasing to super typhoon strength within 48 hours. Wind speeds accelerated from 30 mph to 160 mph. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Sam Lillo, only five storms on record have intensified at such a rate.

As of late Friday evening Taiwan time, Chanthu was still a super typhoon with sustained winds peaking at 160 mph, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). This is as strong as a Category 5 hurricane. Gusts were as high as 195 mph.

While Chanthu didn’t directly hit the Philippines, the heavy rain may increase the risk of flooding and landslides in some areas in the extreme north of Luzon island. Destructive winds will prevail Friday night in Cagayan province and Babuyan Islands.

The typhoon is forecast to move parallel to Taiwan’s east coast Sunday, with the center remaining barely offshore. However, a slight shift to the west would result in a direct strike and a much higher chance of major flooding, as well as long-term disruptions to supply chains and freight flows by air and sea.

Related: China bulker pileup dwarfs California container-ship gridlock

The JTWC has Chanthu’s sustained winds near 140 mph Saturday evening as the typhoon approaches southern Taiwan, weakening to only 125 mph by Sunday morning. After that, Chanthu will head toward eastern China, making possible landfall Monday evening near Ningbo-Zhoushan Port, just south of Shanghai. However, on a more westward track, Xiamen Port could take a direct hit first. Sustained winds by that time would range from 60 to 90 mph, with higher gusts.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.