Coronavirus: Shippers allowed shipside loading and pickup amid packed port storage yards


Several major Chinese container ports are letting shippers go to ships at berth to load or pick up cargo directly, as storage yards are overcrowded as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

A pilot run will start from March 1 at the port of Shanghai, the world’s busiest of its kind, according to a notification on Friday by the Shanghai International Port Group.

The state-owned operator has told its subsidiary terminal firms to prepare for the operations, which must comply with security requirements.

It added that clients should apply for the services in advance for their qualified export and import boxes, and they will need to arrange the trucks on their own.

SIPG said the move is part of the efforts to “continue improving the convenience of cross-border trade at the port of Shanghai”.

Elsewhere in the country, ports in Guangzhou and Tianjin have announced similar plans.

The direct pickup model has already been used by some Chinese harbours, such as Ningbo, for imports of anti-virus goods in order to speed up the logistic process and save cost.

Ports under strain

The method is expected to help ease the congestion at storage yards as many ports in the country are still struggling to bring trucker drivers back to their positions.

The clogged reefer box movement appears a particularly big challenge as reported by carriers that have started to impose surcharges on such shipments.

Ports are under strain to hit throughput targets because of the impact of the virus, and are now forced to find solutions to increase traffic, according to an operating manager at one of the affected Chinese ports.

 “The blank sailings have reduced vessel calls as well as the workload at berth,” he said. “Hence the spare capacity can be used to alleviate some pressure from the storage space.”

He added that some ports were even planning to add storage space by building new yards.