European and American terminals brace for whiplash effect from latest China Covid outages

Terminals in Europe and North America have been told to brace for another whiplash effect from delayed shipments out of southern China.

Logistics giant Kuehne+Nagel’s digital platform, seaexplorer, has developed what it terms as a Global Disruption Indicator, which tallies the cumulative teu waiting time in days based on container vessel capacity in disrupted hot spots.

The teu waiting days (TWD) indicator works whereby, for example, one vessel with a 10,000 teu capacity waiting 12 days equals 120,000 teu waiting days.

Looking at just Hong Kong and Shenzhen, where Covid cases have hampered port productivity dramatically this month, the TWD at these two neighbouring boxports stands at 1.5m days as of yesterday, versus around 500,000 days two months ago.

Otto Schact, executive vice president of sea logistics at Kuehne+Nagel warned via LinkedIn yesterday, that these delayed vessels will cause problems at their destination ports in the coming weeks.

“The increased TWD will have an effect on lead times, inventory,” Schact warned.

Looking at the numbers, Lars Jensen, CEO of liner consultancy Vespucci Maritime, stated via LinkedIn that the data shows there is more problems coming in the pipeline.

“Shippers are well advised to remain focused on the resilience and flexibility of their supply chains,” Jensen urged.

Data today shows that the queue of ships outside Hong Kong and Shenzhen is the highest in five months with 174 ships anchored or loading off south China and queues also growing off Shanghai.

Shenzhen has just come out of a seven-day lockdown, while the rampant number of Covid cases to the south in Hong Kong has severely impacted trucker availability.

Israeli maritime artificial intelligence platform Windward charted the decline in box handling during this latest Covid scare to hit Shenzhen.

Windward data indicated a decrease of 84% in the volume of container vessel operations in Yantian port, Shenzhen’s largest terminal facility, dropping from 50,163 teu on March 15, to only two port calls and 6,328 teu on March 18, and eventually none on March 20.

Shekou, Shenzhen’s western box facility, went from a daily average of 20 port calls by container vessels, maintained steadily since November 2021, to an average of 12 after the lockdown announcement.

Bjorn Vang Jensen, vice president at liner consultancy Sea-Intelligence, warned last week any closure followed by a reopening at Shenzhen port will create a whiplash effect and lay waste to the progress being made in the US to clear port backlogs.

Copyright 2022

Mr Sam Chambers

Photo: Weiming Xie /