Cyclone closes one of world's busiest ports in Shenzhen

TOKYO • The number of vessels waiting to enter one of the world's busiest ports has jumped to the most since August, threatening to further snarl up global supply chains strained by a surge in consumer demand for everything from cars to computers.

China's Yantian port in Shenzhen suspended pickup and drop-off of containers as tropical cyclone Kompasu approached the nation's southern coastline. The number of ships waiting outside the port rose to 67, the most since Aug 26, according to shipping data compiled by Bloomberg.

Located near China's tech capital of Shenzhen and the manufacturing belt of the Pearl River Delta, Yantian is one of the world's busiest ports, with a cargo throughput of 13.34 million twenty-foot equivalent units last year, according to figures from the Shenzhen Transportation Bureau. It typically serves about 100 ships a week.

Kompasu is the second tropical storm to affect southern China in the last few days, after Lionrock brought flooding to some low-lying areas of Hong Kong over the weekend. The damage from Kompasu could be more severe, based on its current track and intensity forecasts, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Steven Lam wrote in a note on Monday.

Bottlenecks at container terminals around the world have added to pressure on supply chains already struggling to keep up with demand. Covid-19 outbreaks at ports, along with shortages in shipping containers and labour, have exacerbated the problem, with China - the world's biggest manufacturer - seeing a number of port disruptions this year.

The country has a zero-tolerance approach to the coronavirus, and has shut down port operations on single cases in the past. An outbreak at Yantian in June saw it closed, resulting in falling volumes as far away as the Port of Los Angeles. The Ningbo-Zhoushan port shut for two weeks in August because of a Delta variant infection.

Weather has also played havoc, with Shanghai's container port, the world's biggest, halting some operations last month amid a typhoon.

Logistics disruptions were already hurting global supply chains even before the port shut down.

According to intelligence firm IDC, computer sales have grown at the slowest rate since the start of the pandemic due to component shortages and logistics snarls.

The key United States market shrank for the first time since sales cratered in the first quarter of last year with the coronavirus outbreak, IDC said. Shipments there fell 7.5 per cent in the third quarter of this year relative to the year before.

Since the pandemic, demand has pushed sales up by double-digit percentages every three months until the most recent period, which has been marked by an intensifying shortage of basic components and delays in securing orders and production capacity.

"The PC industry continues to be hampered by supply and logistical challenges and, unfortunately, these issues have not seen much improvement in recent months," said IDC research manager Jitesh Ubrani.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2021, with the headline 'Cyclone closes one of world's busiest ports in Shenzhen'. Subscribe