Chinese port congestion eases further amid soaring global reefer prices

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Chinese port congestion eases further amid soaring global reefer prices

Severe congestion at Chinese ports is easing, although a logjam of refrigerated containers has disrupted supplies of fresh and frozen food, and pushed up freight rates outside China, Reuters reports.

Officials and industry participants say that thousands of refrigerated containers carrying meat, seafood and fruit from around the world to China have been stuck for weeks at the country's ports following free movement restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.

“There were staff shortages everywhere, at berths, among inspectors, truck drivers and at downstream companies. But it’s getting much better now, as people are coming back,” Zhang Ruxing, secretary general of the container division at the China Ports & Harbours Association, was quoted as saying.

German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd told Reuters in a statement that Chinese port congestion has eased, berthing operations have improved and terminals have resumed normal working conditions.

About 18,000 twenty-foot-equivalent unit (TEU) reefers were still at Shanghai and Tianjin ports as of March 6, the port association said this week, down from 27,000 in mid-February.

And with many containers still tied up in Asia and shipping lines canceling sailings, a large imbalance in reefer supply around the world is also pushing up freight rates, said Frank Madsen, global director of reefer and marine logistics at Danish freight forwarder Blue Water Shipping.

Spot, or short-term, freight rates have increased as much as 200%, he said, and are set to rise further.

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