Chinese Port Congestion Approaching Record Levels

Singapore freight forwarders – Star Concord

Chinese port congestion is approaching record levels due to burgeoning demand, bad weather and slower operations because of Covid-19 protocols.

It is estimated that seven percent of the global capesize fleet is currently stuck in ports, a number that is double the level compared to a few years ago. At the start of this week, the volume of laden capesize tonnage waiting to discharge in China reached 14 million dwt – the highest level recorded, representing a near four-fold increase on average congestion during July 2019. This translates to 71 ships, or about four percent of today’s trading fleet.

The congestion in China has also resulted in capesize rates remaining much higher than anticipated. Of the capesize iron ore voyages which have completed discharges in China this month, vessels spent on average almost four days waiting on arrival before coming alongside, according to Braemar ACM. This compares to an average of around 1.5 days over July 2019.

Torrential rains seen in the south of the country – about 20 percent higher than normal for this time of the year – and forecast to continue for a few more days has also added to the slow movement. Congestion is especially acute along Yangtze River ports, according to analysis from Singapore-based Eastport Maritime.

The congestion issue in China is also keenly felt in the tanker trades, as Beijing has gone on a buying binge of cheap oil in recent months. As of July 23, about 120 million barrels of crude were waiting off Chinese ports to discharge, up from around 80 million barrels in early July, according to data from Refinitiv.

Refinitiv estimates the average waiting time for tankers to discharge is three to four weeks for vessels in the Qingdao-Rizhao area and around two weeks in Ningbo-Zhoushan and other major ports, against normal discharge times of around a week.

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