Chinese ports are currently experiencing a serious congestion brought on by a number of factors.
Bad weather such as fog and problems related to the establishment of new shipping alliances will soon pass. However in order to overcome other issues, implementation of some strategic planning will be required.
On the surface it looks like Chinese main ports’ workload has been lightened as there aren’t as many ships coming into the ports. However – for economical and environmental reasons – there is a tendency to build bigger than ever ships. In general, the deployment of bigger ships results in lower frequency services and greater volume peaks which stretches the manpower and yard capacities of ports and terminals. As fewer terminals are able to accommodate the bigger ships, the operational difficulties get progressively more localised.
Another theory indicates that Chinese ports are experiencing a sudden peak in traffic because shippers want to move cargoes ahead of expected rate hikes and higher annual contract terms to Europe and North America.
Chinese government has been putting a lot of effort to re balance the nation towards more consumer driven import economy. The efforts have only just paid off. In 2016 imports to Greater China outpaced exports for the first time lowering the export-to-import ratio. The fast growing intake of imports could well be putting an unseen pressure on terminals in China that they yet have not adapted to.
According to Drewry (Maritime Research Services) ports and terminals around the world are being challenged by carriers to adapt to their new demands. In order to keep the products moving without delay further investment and de-fragmentation of neighbouring terminals will be required.