• Global shipping disruptions could cause delays in goods for the holiday season, experts say.
  • A COVID-19 outbreak at a Chinese port has resulted in a backlog of shipments, exacerbating a maritime crisis.
  • “Heaven knows what’s going to happen in August or September,” an expert told the BBC.
  • See more stories on the Insider business page.

Global shipping disruptions could lead to a shortage of goods for the holiday season, industry experts say.

A recent coronavirus outbreak in southern China’s Guangdong Province prompted authorities to introduce strict COVID-19 measures, causing congestion at four major ports, Reuters reported on Friday.

This is exacerbating a global shipping crisis that has driven up costs and led to shortages of semiconductors, chicken and other commodities, as Insider’s Rachel Premack reported.

“Supply chains are more complex and delicate than ever,” Tom Fairbairn, engineer at middleware firm Solace, told Insider. He recommended that customers use real-time data – for example, from Unilever Database – to see if there would be any disturbances.

“Retailers using this approach can confidently say whether or not their Christmas inventory will be delayed,” he said. Otherwise, he said, retailers could “waste existing stock, incur unnecessary late fees, miss opportunities and delay deliveries.”

The new restrictions at the Chinese port, which include disinfection checks and limits on the number of ships, have triggered a delay in shipments to the ports of Yantian, Shekou, Chiwan and Nansha, Reuters reported.

Yantian, “one of the largest ports in China, practically closed its doors for almost three weeks,” said Nils Haupt, communications director of German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd, told the BBC on Sunday. “They have a few berths in service, but far from sufficient.”

Delays are also “piling up” at the other three ports, Haupt said.

James Baker, container shipping editor for industry publication Lloyd’s List, told the BBC that retailers are already placing orders for the holiday season because they know how slow shipping is in this moment. He said it caused more congestion.

“Traditionally, peak season for container shipping begins in the third quarter with everyone refueling for the holiday season in the west, but this year we are already in a permanent peak season, and God knows this. that’s going to happen in August or September, ”he said. “It could get crazy.”

Baker told the BBC he expected the shipping delays to last at least a year. Until then, customers in North America and Europe will continue to wait longer than usual for orders, he said.

More than 50 container ships were waiting to dock in the outer Pearl River Delta on Friday, up from around 20 ships at the same time last year, according to Refinitiv data cited by Reuters. It was also more than in February 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic halted China’s shipping activities, according to the report.

The industry still suffers from the backlog of 400 ships caused by the arrival of the container ship Ever Given in the Suez Canal in March. The ship was released in early April, but Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, said it could take months to resolve the delays.

“We were just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel” after the Suez Canal was blocked, Haupt told the BBC. “But unfortunately, we encountered this situation in Yantian.”

The COVID-19 crisis created several problems for the shipping industry – customer spending habits fluctuated during the pandemic as people stayed at home, shifting demand for shipments and destabilizing the industry.

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