A Covid outbreak that has partially shut one of the world’s busiest container ports is heightening concerns that the rapid spread of the delta variant will lead to a repeat of last year’s shipping nightmares.
It seemed as if things were just starting to calm down, “and we’re now into delta delays,” Emmanouil Xidias, partner at Ifchor North America LLC, said in a phone interview. “You’re going to have a secondary hit.”
The shutdown at Ningbo-Zhoushan is raising fears that ports around the world will soon face the same kind of outbreaks and Covid restrictions that slowed the flows of everything from perishable food to electronics last year as the pandemic took hold. Infections are threatening to spread at docks just as the world’s shipping system is already struggling to handle unprecedented demand with economies reopening and manufacturing picking up.
Ningbo-Zhoushan Port said in a statement late Thursday that all other terminals aside from Meishan have been operating normally. The port is actively negotiating with shipping companies, directing them to other terminals, and releasing information on a real-time data platform, it said. To minimize the impact, it’s also adjusting the operating time of other terminals to make sure clients can clear their shipment.
A spokesman for the port said there were no further updates when contacted Friday.
Ningbo city is still considered a low risk virus area, according to the city’s health commission, although flights to and from the capital Beijing have been canceled.
The Baltic Dry Index that serves as a global benchmark for bulk shipping prices is up more than 10% since a month ago as the delta variant began to spread rapidly. While there haven’t been significant effects on U.S. ports, the problems in China could hurt companies that rely on container exports from the nation.