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Key Shenzhen foreign trade port resumes operations

Updated: Jun 25, 2021 By ZHONG NAN in Beijing,ZHOU MO and PEI PEI in Shenzhen, Guangdong CHINA DAILY Print
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Yantian Port in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, bustles with activity in April. [Photo by He Shaoping/For China Daily]

The resumption of normal operations at Yantian Port in Shenzhen, southern China's Guangdong province, will help stabilize electronics prices and address supply shortages of commercial goods in many parts of the world, government officials and experts said on Thursday.

They made the remarks after the world's fourth-busiest container port resumed operations on Thursday, following a monthlong cut in productivity caused by a COVID-19 outbreak.

Coronavirus cases among dockworkers at Yantian Port have caused serious disruptions to the port since late May.

Shipping companies, including Maersk, COSCO Shipping Lines and CMA CGM Group, have all warned customers that it would take several weeks to clear up the immense container backlog in the region that has put strains on global supply chains over the past four weeks.

The impact of this congestion on China's overall foreign trade is limited and controllable, said Gao Feng, a Ministry of Commerce spokesman, adding that the Guangdong provincial government has already taken effective measures to reduce shipping backlogs at its ports.

"For the next step, we will continue to strengthen the collaboration between central government branches and local governments to create better conditions for foreign trade and international logistics services," he said.

Yantian Port resuming normal operations will help restore the global supply of electronic consumer goods, electrical machinery, household appliances, medical equipment, auto parts and furniture, much of which is manufactured in China's Pearl River Delta region, said Zhao Ying, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Industrial Economics in Beijing.

As one of China's major container shipping ports, Yantian Port serves more than one-third of Guangdong's foreign trade and one-fourth of the country's trade with the United States, according to the district government of Yantian, Shenzhen.

"Currently, there are 23 ships conducting loading operations at the port," said Lawrence Shum, managing director of Hutchison Ports Yantian, the operator of Yantian Port.

The number of workers at the port has soared from 360, after the outbreak occurred in late May, to the current 4,462, and all of the berths at its central and western areas where confirmed COVID-19 cases were discovered have resumed operations, with their total throughput reaching 33,000 twenty-foot equivalent units.

"Many shipping companies are confident in our efforts to resume operations in a steady manner and have planned and prepared to berth their ships at the port again," Shum added.

Yuan Huyong, deputy head of the Yantian Port command center for COVID-19 control and prevention, said the government will continue to impose strict COVID-19 prevention and control measures on high-risk personnel working at the port to ensure its safe and efficient operation.

The terminal of Yantian Port serves 100 vessels per week. Its container throughput reached 13.35 million containers in 2020, up 2.13 percent year-on-year, accounting for 50.28 percent of the container throughput of Shenzhen's port areas, according to the Yantian Maritime Safety Administration.

"With the easing of the pandemic in Europe and the US and the continuous introduction of consumption stimulus plans, global demand has picked up, and the demand for shipping logistics has gradually increased. However, the recovery cycle of shipping capacity has not been realized as quickly," said Wang Guowen, director of the Center for Logistics and Supply Chain Management at the China Development Institute, a think tank based in Shenzhen.

"Due to Asia-wide COVID-19 flareups, we have seen a return of manufacturing to China for products normally produced elsewhere to take advantage of China's relatively stable manufacturing base," said Ditlev Blicher, managing director of Maersk Asia Pacific, a part of A.P. Moller-Maersk, the Danish shipping and logistics giant.

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