China: Zero-Covid strategy delays air cargo in Shanghai

Stricter hygiene regulations also affect the handling at the Port of Ningbo.

The Chinese government's zero-Covid strategy is massively hampering air and sea freight traffic. "Due to stricter hygiene rules, air cargo at Shanghai Pudong International Airport is currently experiencing delays of 12 to 24 hours," reports Limin Wang, Managing Director at a. hartrodt Shanghai Logistics. Since the Delta variant of the coronavirus began spreading in China, stricter controls have been in place for local ground handling agents at the country's second largest air cargo hub after Hong Kong. For Ningbo-Zhoushan, China's second-largest port after Shanghai, Wang puts the delays at "one to two weeks".

Ground handling agents must remain in quarantine for 14 days

Wang does not expect the loading/unloading situation at Shanghai Airport to improve by the end of August. The tightened hygiene measures require ground handling agents after their 14-day shift to remain in quarantine for the same length of time. This results in a shortage of staff. In addition, to reduce the risk of infection, cargo may no longer be flown on seats of passenger aircraft when imported into China. "This cuts capacity in the market significantly," says Wang.

Five out of six container terminals in Ningbo operate normally

Despite difficult conditions in combination with high airfreight volumes, a. hartrodt finds solutions. "The earlier the customer informs us, the more space we can reserve," says Wang. Because of the high demand, however, airfreight rates are expected to rise, he says. For sea freight, the manager estimates the situation as "quite positive" after stricter Covid guidelines caused restrictions at the Port of Ningbo. "Of the six container terminals, five are operating normally," Wang informs. The temporarily closing of Meishan Island International Container Terminal will last until end of August , while the other five are still in a backlog, he adds.

Wang and his team keep sea and airfreight customers constantly informed about the current situation in China. There may also be "slight delays at smaller airports". According to Wang, this mainly affects charter flights.