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Stringent COVID measures worsen congestion at Chinese ports

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Combating the largest COVID wave ever since the initial outbreak in early 2020, shanghai towards the end of last month initiated a city-wide lockdown which left the Chinese port with 477 bulk cargo ships waiting to deliver resources from metal ore to grain into the country.

The lockdown has resulted in a jump in the number of queues of vessels carrying raw materials. More than two weeks on, the congestion has expanded to nearby Ningbo-Zhoushan as ship-owners desperately divert ships to other ports in the country to avoid the trucker shortage and warehouse closures in Shanghai.

According to Bloomberg shipping data, 222 bulkers were waiting off Shanghai as of April 11, 15% higher than a month earlier. At Ningbo-Zhoushan there were 134 carriers, 0.8% higher than last month, while further north, the combined ports of Rizhao, Dongjiakou, and Qingdao saw a 33% increase to 121 vessels.

Adding to the snarl, there were 197 container ships either loading or waiting to load in Shanghai’s combined anchorage with Ningbo, a 17% increase from a month ago.

Shipowners and traders say that shortage of port workers in Shanghai is slowing the delivery of documentation needed for ships to unload cargoes.

The city’s current controls are affecting the logistical chain on land, as drivers from neighboring provinces are reluctant to enter over quarantine fears. With trucks unable to transport goods from port to processing mills, the vessels carrying metals like copper and iron ore are left stranded offshore.

Some of that congestion is rippling out to other ports, with ships being diverted further north to ports in Qingdao and Tianjin where trucking services haven’t been as impacted, the people said. At Tianjin, 54 ships were waiting on April 11, a 29% rise in a month.

The compulsory mass testing of truckers and workers has hampered trucking in Hebei and Liaoning provinces, lowering congestion in the region. Ship queues were 36% lower than last month at Liaoning’s Dalian port and 35% lower in Hebei’s Tangshan.

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