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China's Yantian port resumes full operations, normalcy next on agenda


Weeks before normalcy returns

Knock-on effect causes port congestion across globe

In what will come as a relief to stakeholders across the global logistics value chain, China's Yantian Port has announced it has resumed full terminal operations from June 24. As the port resumes normal operations, a return to complete normalcy is next on the agenda, with the port tackling a severe backlog and a long queue of vessels waiting to be serviced.

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Full operations at the port resumed nearly a month after an outbreak of coronavirus cases in Shenzhen affected several port workers and led to several restrictions.

As per the update issued by Yantian International Container Terminals (YICT), all berths (including the West Port area) will essentially resume normal operations, and the arrangements of accepting export laden containers will resume normal within seven days of the vessel's expected time of arrival.

The measures to control the spread of the virus resulted in severe congestion and consequent delays at the port over the last month. These issues have now trickled down to the neighboring ports of Nansha and Shekhou and further down to key Southeast Asian ports.

Already dealing with the supply shortages and delays left by coronavirus and the Suez Canal blockage, the congestion at Yantian has created the perfect storm in the Asian containers market -- which is now also being felt across Europe and America.

German carrier Hapag-Lloyd has terminated calling Rotterdam on the Eastbound rotation of its Far East Loop 4, or FE4, for seven consecutive weeks. With the first FE4 voyage omitting the Rotterdam port scheduled for the week starting July 14 (Week 28), it said June 21.

Sources have also said similar congestion issues are being witnessed at Singapore port and in Indonesia, where "carriers have started to omit calls."

"We are approaching a point where 'shippers' are actively looking at air freight as a viable, more economical substitute for transporting their cargo," the freight forwarder based in Singapore said. "As a direct consequence of this even air carriers are beginning to hike their prices."

The cascaded impact of supply shortages, congestion, new surcharges, and a general imbalance in the container market has seen spot rates reach new highs in June.

Platts Container Rate 5 (PCR5) -- North Asia to East Coast North America -- was assessed at $7,100 per forty-foot-equivalent unit, or FEU, on June 23 and PCR13 -- North Asia to West Coast North America -- at $5,800/FEU.