Carriers, faced with increasing congestion, low productivity and a mounting backlog of exports in southern China have been forced to omit port calls, extend gate-in times and, in Ocean Network Express (ONE)’s case, added a $1,000 surcharge on reefer cargo to Yantian.

ONE and Maersk are omitting calls at Yantian terminals in an effort to maintain schedules, as congestion and delays in Europe, the US and Asia build, – the Pearl River Delta region of particular concern.

The lines are reducing arrival times for export cargo in some ports to three days before the vessel’s estimated time of arrival from seven, and Maersk expects the situation to deteriorate, given that some terminals are operating at around 30% of normal productivity.

ONE explained its $1,000/box congestion charge on reefer boxes arriving in Yantian was “to cover additional costs related to the unexpected but necessary arrangement of shipments and associated plug-in charges, monitoring fees etc. If change of destination (COD) is requested to discharge inbound reefers from Yantian to other alternative ports, congestion charges and COD administration fees can be waived”.

The carrier blames low productivity at Yantian for the surcharge and is encouraging shippers to find alternative ports for time-sensitive and reefer cargo.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reports that “operators of most of the ports in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, including Yantian, Shekou and Nansha, plan to keep stringent disinfection and quarantine measures in place at least until next week”.

These measures will delay cargo operations further and result in more freight rate increases. They are expected to reach record levels in the second half of the year.

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