02 March 2020
More than 7,000 drivers serving the world’s third-largest container port have gone back to their positions as of last Friday, providing some relief from the virus-led congestion at container storage yards
Container truck drivers are quickly returning to Ningbo, home to the world’s third-busiest box port, following policy support to help unclog the port traffic amid the fallout from coronavirus.
The number of drivers back in position has topped 7,300 as of February 22, up from about 1,700 a week ago, according to a release by the Ningbo government.
The city has 21,000 container trucks with 25,000 drivers under its registration.
Daily pickups had also reached more than 3,000 boxes, compared with just 600 “during the initial stage” after the port resumed work on February 10 from the extended Chinese New Year holidays, the release added.
The results suggest that measures introduced by the local government last week, including a conditional removal of the compulsory 14-day quarantine period for non-local drivers, have started to bear fruit.
These moves come as the viral outbreak has significantly disrupted shipping and port operations, with increased blank sailings and reduced port calls.
Sea-Intelligence estimated in a new report that there would be a shipping volume loss of 1.7m teu — equivalent to 1% of the global total in 2019 — based on the current level of void sailings by carriers in relation to the coronavirus.
The shortfall also means that ports worldwide can be expected to suffer a throughput loss of 6m teu to 6.8m teu, as the shipment of one container generally gives rise to 3.5-4 handling moves in the terminal.
It added that the carriers’ mass service cancellations will also affect the post-virus recovery because many containers had already been shipped out of China during the pre-Chinese New Year rush.
“With all the blank sailings, it will be a challenge for carriers to repatriate them quickly enough to meet a sudden post-virus surge out of China,” the consultancy said. “The virus has — metaphorically speaking — started the toppling of a line of dominoes for the container shipping industry, and the repercussions will be here for several months even in a rapid recovery scenario.”
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