Containers line up at China's sea ports, showing foreign consumers' appetite for Chinese goods
Congestion reveals foreign consumers’ appetite for Chinese goods
Published: Feb 08, 2021 08:06 PM

Cargo containers are piled up at the Yantian port in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province. Photo: VCG

A massive line-up of containers at Yantian Port in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, has reached its limits and led to serious congestion there. 

The port, which handles one-third of Guangdong's foreign trade shipments and one-quarter of China's exports to the US, said that slow operations of foreign ports amid the COVID-19 pandemic and earlier shipment of exports ahead of the Spring Festival caused the backlog.

Since Wednesday, vehicles have been lining up to enter the port and return containers. A trailer driver surnamed Hou who has delivered containers at the port for years said that it took nearly 10 hours to return a container on Saturday. 

In a Thursday statement sent by Yantian International Container Terminals (Hutchison Ports Yantian) to the Shenzhen Container Trailer Association, obtained by the Global Times, the terminal said that "nearly 300,000 containers have been stockpiled at the port, hitting a record high with the stockpiling density reaching its limits."

"Due to the pandemic, foreign ports are operating slowly, affecting the normal running time of ships. This has pushed container storage periods at our company from 3-5 days up to 9.5 days," Yantian International Container Terminals said. 

Yantian port mainly serves routes to Europe and the US. 

In addition, robust exports from South China left factories in the Pearl River Delta region eager to ship large volumes of goods in advance ahead of the Spring Festival holiday, the company told the Global Times on Monday. 

"Containers that should have been delivered to the port after the holidays arrived in advance, putting huge pressure on the terminal yards and traffic in the port."

As a result, Yantian International Container Terminals announced on Monday plans to suspend container exports that were scheduled to leave the port a week later, starting from Tuesday.

The port has also added machines to facilitate the container handling capacity and staff to support traffic dispersion. 

"Considering the trailers that are waiting to enter the port, we have sent beverages and food to drivers stuck on the roads," Yantian International Container Terminals said. 

Yantian port is not alone. A person close to Northeast China's Dalian port told the Global Times on Monday that Dalian port has the same problem, with shipments piling up and no way to export them.

Shanghai port told the Global Times that the port had not seen container stockpiling, but some container yards near the port had encountered the same problem.

Spring Festival holiday used to record peak shipping season for ports in China, but the surge came earlier this year as factories in China churned out goods needed by the whole world, with some export orders placed earlier than in previous years, Wu Minghua, a Shanghai-based independent shipping industry analyst told the Global Times on Monday. 

Container shortfall left over from the second half of 2020 had exacerbated the problem, Wu said.

 "With more staff asked to stay put during the Spring Festival to stem virus spread, it is expected that the handling capacity for shipments at the ports will be improved. The boom season is expected to end earlier than past years, when traffic will ease up in late February," Wu said.

Qi Xijia, Shen Weiduo and Xie Jun contributed to the story