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Coronavirus drags down China's sea port cargo volumes by 6m TEU


CARGO traffic at China's sea ports is expected to have dropped by six million TEU owing to the prolonged Lunar New Year holiday, a move implemented by the Central government to curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to Alphaliner estimates.

The analyst said in its weekly newsletter that the volume contraction is anticipated to cut global container throughput growth by at least 0.7 per cent for the full year, reported World Maritime News.

"The full impact of the Chinese coronavirus outbreak on container volumes will not be fully measurable until ports announce their throughout numbers for the first quarter, but data collected on weekly container vessel calls at key Chinese ports already shows a reduction of over 20 per cent since January 20 2020," Alphaliner's newsletter further states.

Shipping lines continued to blank sailings in February as cargo volumes dived. The voiding of sailings is likely to continue until mid-March, negatively impacting an economic recovery.

Ocean liners are continuing normal cargo loading and unloading operations at all Chinese ports except Wuhan, which is still under lockdown.

Wuhan handled 1.7 million TEU of containerised cargo in 2019, accounting for 0.6 per cent of total Chinese port throughput.

The coronavirus threatens not only the Chinese economy but potentially that of the entire world.

"The Chinese government will need to initiate far-reaching stimulus measures to counteract the economic effects of the virus once it has been contained. China has already halved tariffs, from five per cent to 2.5 per cent, on US$75 billion worth of imports from the US, originally implemented in September 2019," BIMCO predicts.

"Other countries in the region, such as Japan and South Korea - both of which saw low growth in 2019, with Japan's falling by 6.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2019 on an annualised basis - could feel the knock-on effects of the coronavirus crisis. It has the potential to harm both countries' exports and disrupt supply chains, given the interconnectedness of manufacturing in the region."

As factories and offices in China remain closed for prolonged periods BIMCO believes this might also affect the implementation of the phase one agreement between the US and China, especially if China finds itself unable to increase its imports from the US by the amounts outlined in the deal.

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