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Maersk’s Soren Skou and Matson’s Matt Cox

China lockdowns are not causing shipping chaos

It was predicted that China's lockdowns would cause container shipping havoc. Six weeks into the Shanghai lockdowns, it still hasn’t happened. Two liner CEOs — Maersk’s Soren Skou and Matson’s Matt Cox — explained why.

“The port [of Shanghai] is open and operating,” said Skou. Trucking and warehouse disruptions “are slowing things down somewhat and we are seeing an impact on our volumes out of China, but probably less than we would have expected.

“The purchase orders that our customers have issued in China don’t disappear because we have [a lockdown] so obviously they will come later. But right now, we don’t see a huge build-up of volumes because of the closedown in Shanghai.” Reports

Cox reported during his company’s earnings call Tuesday that “the impact to Matson’s China operations has been minimal. Our terminals are receiving freight and managing empties and our ships are departing Ningbo and Shanghai on time.”

Capacity reallocated after China lockdowns
Some Matson customers have switched departures from Shanghai to neighboring Ningbo and a few have canceled bookings, “but those spots were filled rather quickly,” said Cox. “The bottom line is that Matson’s vessels are sailing full from China.” Not just throughout Q1 2022, but through April as well.

Cox said that some other shipping lines are omitting Shanghai calls and diverting to other ports. “Some carriers and customers shifted to Ningbo. But a number of carriers canceled their sailing from Shanghai [or Ningbo] and went to Busan [Korea] or other Asian origin ports and reallocated that capacity to other markets.”

The overall shipping impact of the Shanghai lockdown, according to Cox, is “a reduction of capacity [out of Shanghai] … largely filled by other load ports for the other carriers.”

Data from project44 confirms a lack of disruption to export operations within the Port of Shanghai. It shows that average wait time for export containers at the Port of Shanghai bound for destinations like the U.S. has actually decreased during the lockdown. In the last week of April, it was down 43% year on year to 2.02 days. Wait time for import containers has risen during the lockdown (due to a shortfall of truck transport inland) but this indicator retreated 15% in the last week of April versus the week before, to 10.75 days.

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