Shenzhen truck drivers increasingly worried about containers stuck abroad
Published: Dec 20, 2020 11:25 AM

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

Many containers heading overseas from China, 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 on Saturday. 

“Some drivers have waited for six hours just for 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. 

Photo: Courtesy of Li Guoliang

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 serving exports to Europe and America, the port used to deliver nearly 90 percent of Shenzhen’s exported goods via about hundred shipping routes, said the Securities Times. 

Unlike previous scenes at the Yantian Port of piled up containers, the wharfs are now filled with empty trucks and twitchy drivers. Limited shipping space and surging ocean freight fees have also worsened the container shortage, according to Hou. 
The spot price of containers delivered from Asia to North Europe surged 200 percent in early December year-on-year, according to industry websites. 

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

Photo: Zhang Dan/GT

Together with the upcoming Christmas holiday, the shortage of shipping containers is expected to last till next year, Li Guoliang, a freight driver at the port, told the Global Times, predicting the situation will improve next March. 

The container shortage, from another perspective, 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 brings 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 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs). This echoed 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 brings November's exports to a record high of $268 billion.