Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Coronavirus Update as Trade from China Slows and Container Sailings Cancelled

New Year Holiday Period Extended Again
Shipping News Feature

CHINA – WORLDWIDE – Fears that the Coronavirus would spread unchecked seem to be somewhat unfounded after action by the authorities designed to contain the disease have had some limited success. The virus has however now been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation and it is having its effect upon the container trade and other branches of shipping.

After declaring an extension to the Chinese New Year holiday the authorities have now announced a further delay from the original 10 February to 13 February 2020 in the Hubei Province (including Wuhan) and to 17 February 2020 in Wenzhou (Zhejiang Province). Offices and factories in the PRC and in Hong Kong, already closed to the 10th, are liable to remain so after that date.

All this is having the expected effect on shipping with numerous cancellations with Force Majeur declared by many ports and such as Maersk Line suspending operations. Maersk announced its latest tranche of cancellations yesterday, namely:

  • FEW1 and FEW2 sailings between China and West Africa starting Westbound Shanghai on 20 Feb and 13 Feb, respectively
  • FI3 and FI2 sailings between China and India/Pakistan starting Westbound Dalian and Shanghai on 8 Feb and 11 Feb, respectively
  • M-Express sailing between Far East Asia and Mozambique and Indian Ocean islands starting Westbound Singapore on 23 Feb
Maersk says many of its staff continue to work from home and it is only in Wuhan that it has suffered any serious disruptions.

Around the globe different nations have announced the tactics they mean to adopt to prevent the spread of a disease for which the death toll is already in the hundreds, with tens of thousands of others suffering its effects. In the US the Coast Guard has put in place new US port arrival procedures, effective immediately for vessels that have called Chinese ports (excluding Hong Kong and Macau). The incoming vessel must report to the US Coast Guard Captain of the Port on the crew’s health. As long as there are no sick crew members on board, vessels will be allowed to berth normally.

Canada has introduced a new policy for foreign-flagged ships arriving at the country’s ports. As part of Canada's 96 hour Pre-arrival Inspection Notice (PAIR) and 24 hour PAIR, respectively, the vessel’s master must now advise Transport Canada Marine Safety and Security of any crew or passengers with Coronavirus symptoms.

In Australia, after the criticism from the country’s maritime union, the Port Authority of New South Wales has advised that it will delay pilotage services to ships that have transited directly from China, which have been at sea for less than the 14-day quarantine period.

In the air we have no reports of problems with freighter services, but the cancellations of a huge swathe of passenger flights means belly hold cargo cannot move in or out of China. All British Airways flights are cancelled until March at least, American Airlines have suspended all operations to 27 March and Virgin Atlantic Cargo will not be moving to or from Shanghai before 14 February.

Air France/KLM have terminated all direct flights to most destinations, at least until next week, and other airlines are severely cutting, or cancelling services completely.

Photo: Courtesy of Maersk Line.