China partly shuts world's third-busiest port on Covid-19 case in threat to global trade

All inbound and outbound container services at Meishan terminal in Ningbo-Zhoushan port were halted on Aug 11, 2021.
All inbound and outbound container services at Meishan terminal in Ningbo-Zhoushan port were halted on Aug 11, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (BLOOMBERG) - China partly shut the world's third-busiest container port after a worker became infected with Covid-19, threatening to further disrupt global trade.

All inbound and outbound container services at Meishan terminal in Ningbo-Zhoushan port were halted on Wednesday (Aug 11) until further notice due to a "system disruption", according to a statement on the port's electronic data platform.

A container terminal worker at the port tested positive for coronavirus, the eastern Chinese city's government said in a WeChat statement.

This is the second recent shutdown of a Chinese port due to the cornavirus after the closure of Yantian port in Shenzhen from late May for about a month.

The fear is such disruptions strain international shipping and supplies of goods, already hurt by the pandemic’s squeeze on manufacturers. An extended shuttering at Ningbo could be especially damaging for the world economy because commerce usually rises toward the end of the year as companies ship Christmas and holiday products.

"There may be far-reaching downstream consequences going into Black Friday and holiday shopping seasons" and the next 24 hours will determine whether there is a large outbreak or not, said Mr Josh Brazil, vice-president of marketing at project44, a supply-chain intelligence firm. "One of the few givens in 2021 is endemic delays, and the fact that conditions can change almost overnight."

In addition to the closed terminal, containers for shipment through the other terminals will likely slow down. The port will now only accept containers within two days of a ship's estimated arrival time, according to a statement from shipping and logistics firm CMA CGM.

All the close contacts of the infected worker have been identified and are in quarantine, according to Ningbo city's statement. A port spokesman who declined to give his name said there was no new information when contacted on Thursday.

The suspension means there would be a delay in sailings, according to a statement on Wednesday from Hapag-Lloyd.

The shuttered terminal accounts for about 25 per cent of container cargo through the Ningbo-Zhoushan port, according to a statement from security consultant GardaWorld, which said "the suspension could severely impact cargo handling and shipping".

The port was the third-busiest globally in terms of container shipments last year and the second busiest in China after Shanghai, according to maritime publication Lloyd's List.

The discovery of a port worker that tested positive for Covid-19 shows virus-prevention measures in Ningbo city still have loopholes, the local government said in a statement on its website on Thursday. It urged officials to implement quarantines, disinfection and closure of affected areas to prevent the virus' spread.