Shippers Hit by Another Round of COVID-19 Disruption at Ningbo

port of ningbo
Port of Ningbo Beilun Phase 4, 2015 (Siyuwj / CC BY SA 4.0)

Published Jan 5, 2022 4:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

Once again, shippers in eastern China are facing COVID-driven disruption at the port of Ningbo. This time, the slowdown is caused by an outbreak in an adjacent neighborhood, where government response efforts are reportedly interfering with drayage.  

Ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics, the Chinese government is implementing strict regional lockdown measures to control the spread of COVID-19. China is one of the few nations still pursuing a zero-tolerance policy for COVID outbreaks, and is still using mandatory quarantines and other movement restrictions in an attempt to limit transmission. 

The outbreak in Ningbo reportedly began with a cluster of six cases at Beilun-based clothing maker Shenzhou International, the largest vertically integrated knitwear manufacturer in China. The firm said in a statement that it has partially shut down operations in order to comply with COVID-prevention measures. 

As of Wednesday evening, 29 cases have been detected in Beilun, deputy secretary-general of the Ningbo Municipal Government Wang Renyuan told Ningbo's Metro Express News. No new cases have been found for four days, a positive sign, but perimeter controls and RNA testing will continue. 

While Chinese government media reports suggest that special truck driver passes and "green corridors" have been set up to ensure continued access to the port through Beilun, freight forwarders told The Loadstar that there is still considerable difficulty processing cargo through the port complex. In part, this is because Beilun is the location of residency for many local truck drivers - and like all other local residents, they have difficulty in getting permission to leave the district.

Shippers with export cargo headed for Ningbo have been advised to divert shipments to the nearby Port of Shanghai whenever possible. Shanghai is already handling record cargo volumes, and this may add to further disruption and freight rate hikes on the already-challenged East-West trade lanes. 

Ningbo-Zhoushan experienced a two-week partial shutdown in August 2021 after a single worker tested positive for COVID-19 at a terminal. Local authorities responded by quarantining close contacts, shutting the terminal and diverting or delaying vessel arrivals.

The Hailung Bay region is home to the busiest cluster of container terminals in the world. The Port of Shanghai handles about 47 million TEU per year, putting it at first place amoung all container ports. Ningbo-Zhoushan - on the other side of the bay - handles about 30 million TEU per year. Together, the neighboring port complexes move more than the entire containerized import and export volume of the United States. 

Top image: Port of Ningbo Beilun Phase 4, 2015 (Siyuwj / CC BY SA 4.0)