Shenzhen drivers fret as shipping containers are stuck abroad

By Zhang Dan in Shenzhen Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/20 20:33:40

Containers carrying goods for the third China International Import Expo wait at Yangshan port in Shanghai on Sunday. The port has welcomed its peak season as the fair approaches, and thousands of items for the exhibition from countries such as Finland, Italy and Germany have entered the port. Photo: cnsphoto

As China continues to churn out and deliver healthcare goods needed by the world amid the coronavirus pandemic, drivers at Shenzhen's Yantian Port in South China's Guangdong Province are anxiously waiting shipping containers. 

Many containers heading overseas full of medical supplies, household appliances and other exports have not returned. Due to the shutdown of factories and the approaching Christmas holiday, there is little for foreign countries to ship, several freight drivers told the Global Times at the port zone over the weekend. 

"Some drivers waited for six hours for just one container, but it is still possible that they got nothing at the end of the day," a freight driver surnamed Hou, who delivers shipping containers, told the Global Times, after waiting at the port for more than an hour for a container. 

Out of every five or six containers shipped abroad, only one returns, Hou noted. 

Yantian Port, known as the "barometer of Shenzhen's foreign trade," is the port that boasts the most intensive international routes in South China. Mainly handling exports to Europe and America, the port used to deliver nearly 90 percent of Shenzhen's exports via about 100 routes, said the Securities Times. 

Unlike previous scenes at the Yantian Port of piled-up containers, the port is now full of empty trucks and irritated drivers. Limited shipping space and surging ocean freight rates have worsened the container shortage, according to Hou. 

The spot rate for containers from Asia to North Europe surged 200 percent in early December year-on-year, according to industry websites. 

The overheated container market prompted French container major CMA CGM to close bookings from Asia to North Europe until the end of December, the company said in an update to its customers early this month. 

Together with the upcoming Christmas holiday, the shortage of containers is expected to last until next year, Li Guoliang, a freight driver at the port, told the Global Times, predicting the situation won't improve until March. 

The container shortage also shows that the world needs Made-in-China products amid the ongoing pandemic. 

"After China contained the coronavirus, many orders placed abroad were shifted to our country, which brought the monthly container throughput of Yantian Port to a record high," Hou said. 

In September, Yantian Port's monthly container throughput broke the world record with 1.46 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs). This reflected China's flourishing export market. 

In November, China's exports jumped 21.1 percent year-on-year, stronger than October's growth rate of 11.4 percent, according to data from the General Administration of Customs. This brought November's exports to a record high of $268 billion.

Newspaper headline: Shenzhen port grapples with shortage of containers


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