Further Shipping Delays Possible with Chinese New Year Quarantines Looming


The South China Morning Post reports that feeder operators – who transport goods from smaller ports to larger terminals – plan to suspend service in the southern part of China for at least six additional weeks during the Chinese New Year period. The purpose of the suspensions will be for strict state-mandated quarantine measures meant to stifle any further growth of Covid-19 cases in China, where the government continues to pursue a zero-Covid policy.

Shipping carriers who deal extensively with these feeder operations, including Hapag-Lloyd, Evergreen, and Ocean Network Express (ONE) are preparing customers for a pause in bookings and anticipating further supply chain delays as a result of the quarantine moves. The pause currently will apply for small port cargo shipments in the Pearl River Delta and Fujian province regions.

Typically, port operations were suspended by feeder operators for 2-3 weeks before the Covid-19 era. Now, the delays will definitely be longer, creating another headache for shippers using smaller Chinese ports. The Chinese New Year starts on January 31, 2022.

Lars Jensen, who is a periodic contributor on MoreThanShipping.com, told the South China Morning Post in a statement:

“Clearly the crew want to be able to go home for Chinese New Year”, adding “This will not directly impact cargo moving directly to or from the major deep-sea ports, but can give rise to a number of ripple effects. Cargo to or from the smaller ports might see an earlier surge than usual.”

Shipping carriers seek to avoid further supply chain bottlenecks by allowing cargo to sit idle at large Chinese ports, hence their decision to inform customers about a halt in further bookings at certain destinations. A pile-up of containers has plagued major ports around the world, including the U.S. ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, for a variety of reasons. Carriers don’t want this latest development to add more stress to an already-strained supply chain.

Chinese government quarantine rules require crew members from shipping vessels to spend several weeks quarantining upon their return from vacation, as part of the government’s strict zero-Covid policy.