The partial closure of a China port is expected to cause delays at the Port of Long Beach, which already is facing a backlog of ships amid one of the busiest cargo months of the year, according to port executives.
Operations at the Meidong container terminal at the Ningbo-Zhoushan Port in China were halted Wednesday after a worker tested positive for the coronavirus, Bloomberg reports. The terminal accounts for 25% of cargo that passes through Ningbo, according to security consultant firm GardaWorld, which stated “ the suspension could severely impact cargo handling and shipping.”
Meidong is part of the Meishan Bonded Area at Ningbo. The port zone offers reduced taxation on foreign imports and exports, encouraging free trade, according to the city’s website. Moving more than 28.7 million twenty-foot equivalent units (the standard measure of shipping containers) last year, Ningbo is the third-busiest port in the world, according to statista.
The shutdown is expected to cause further delays at the Port of Long Beach, which has struggled to keep up with an onslaught of containers throughout the pandemic, Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a phone interview Friday.
“The impact … will be reduced volumes and delays,” Cordero said, saying he expects a similar pattern to when China’s Yantian Port shut down for three weeks in May and June. The port halted operations due to a coronavirus outbreak.
“Then, once they get back on course, we’re going to have another surge from that particular port,” he said.
Officials at the Port of Los Angeles declined to comment, adding that Executive Director Gene Seroka will address the closure in a press briefing Tuesday morning.
Currently, there are about 34 container vessels anchored off the Long Beach coast waiting to be offloaded at the Long Beach port, Cordero said, noting that August through October are generally busy months at the port due to back-to-school and holiday preparations by retailers.
A fresh surge out of Ningbo could mean even more ships sitting idle, Cordero said.
The shutdown at Ningbo has fostered concerns within the sector that coronavirus cases or outbreaks could see other port operations closed or reduced, especially as the delta and other variants spread quickly around the world, including Long Beach. Locally, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have surged over the last two months.
Long Beach officials have reported four deaths and over 900 new cases so far this week. Hospitalizations have spiked to 136, the highest point since February. Los Angeles County is facing similar trends.
Cordero, however, said he does not think the current surge poses a threat to port operations in Long Beach.
“We do have concerns overall with regard to the delta variant, however, I do not believe it’s going to impact the dockworkers like we’ve seen in China,” Cordero said, citing the high vaccination rate in the U.S. and the effectiveness of the vaccines used in the U.S. compared to Chinese-made vaccines.
“Our dockworkers are all, for the most part, vaccinated,” Cordero said.
In the U.S., about 51% of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Our World in Data. In China, meanwhile, about 15.5% of people have been fully inoculated.
Further exacerbating the situation in China is the effectiveness of its vaccines. In April, China’s top disease control official Gao Fu acknowledged that the country’s vaccines offer low protection against the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with updated coronavirus data.